Thursday, December 4, 2008

Da New School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Derrick Rose sure is great. I mean that with all sincerity. He shows signs of becoming a HOF, MVP type of superstar. Very few point guards in the last twenty years can say that. How many point guards were MVP contenders? There was Chris Paul, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, John Stockton, Kevin Johnson, Gary Payton, Tim Hardaway. I don't think Anfernee Hardaway ever rose to MVP level, playing alongside Shaq. Deron Williams is good, but he hasn't been transcendent yet.

And notably, none of the PGs above won a championship. Not one! OK, Payton won a title in 2006 as an ornery backup on Miami, but his luminescent days were long past. The last superstar point guard to lead his team to a title was Isiah Thomas back in 1989 and ’90. Looking at the last 18 championships, the lesson seems to be: If you don't have Shaq, Hakeem, Jordan, Duncan, or Garnett (i.e. a top 15 all-time player), you're out of luck. The Pistons of ’04 were the exception that proved this rule: they were able to prevail only after Duncan, Shaq and Garnett destroyed each other in the West playoffs.

Look at the point guards of all those champions: Rajon Rondo, Tony Parker (well, he was good in 2007, but mediocre in ’05, and so bad in ’03 that Speedy Claxton spelled him), Jason Williams, Chauncey Billups, Derek Fisher, Ron Harper, Avery Johnson, Ron Harper again, Kenny Smith, John Paxson. A serviceable point guard, plus an all-timer and an all-star, is all you need to bring home a title.

(Incidentally, applying that formula, which teams are legitimate championship candidates this year? Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, New Orleans, San Antonio could all qualify. I hesitate to put Orlando in there, because I don't think Dwight Howard has yet proven that he can hang with the Russells and Chamberlains. I don't think Houston has an all-time legend on its roster, and neither does Denver or Utah. Phoenix and Dallas have O’Neal and Kidd, but they are past their expiration date.)

So Rose is exciting, and his rookie performance thus far is spectacular, but I don't know yet if he can restore glory to the Bulls. As I observed previously, he may be the lure to bring in a marquee free agent in 2010, such as Stoudemire, Bosh, James, or Wade. That would certainly put the Bulls in the mix for the gold.


H.O.S.S. said...

How many point guards were MVP contenders? Magic Johnson wwon the award 3 times.

Bhel Atlantic said...

Well, Nash won it twice. Kidd was runner-up in 2002. Chris Paul was runner-up in 2008.

Payton was third in '98 voting; Tim Hardaway was fourth in '97 voting; and Penny Hardaway was third in '96 voting. None of those three seriously challenged in terms of first-place votes, though.

The voting history can be found here (click on the "V" next to the name of each award winner).