Thunder Positioned For A Historic Playoff Run

The Oklahoma City Thunder are positioned for a historic playoff run. Over the last 13 seasons, there have been three teams from the Western Conference to play in the NBA Finals. The Thunder may get the chance to eliminate each of these three powerhouses in their 2012 playoff run toward the NBA Finals. This postseason, the Thunder has already extinguished the Mavs, Lakers, and now they have a 3-2 advantage against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.

The Dallas Mavericks have played in the finals twice; both times against the Miami Heat, loosing once in 2006, and winning in 2011. The LA Lakers have played in seven NBA Finals, all under the leadership of Kobe Bryant; going 3-1 with Shaq and 2-1 with Gasol and Bynum.

The Spurs have been to four NBA finals, and won each time. Their wins were against four different teams: against the Cavs in four games (2007), against the Knicks in five games (1999), against the Nets in six games (2003), and against the Pistons in seven games (2005).

If the Thunder were to defeat the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, a feat of this nature, for the NBA or any sporting league in North America, would signal the changing of the guard from the old dominate teams to the young lions. This caliber of pressure-filled playoff winning over teams that represent the most recent success of the NBA would be momentous for a young team like the Thunder.

If Oklahoma City can meet the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals after beating the Mavs, Lakers, and Spurs, then their championship would deserve to be ranked as high in quality as any team from any sport that has accomplished winning a title. A championship would signal a new regime of superiority for the NBA.

Their rise to the top should be celebrated because GM Sam Presti has built this team from the ground up using the draft, a feat that is rare in this modern day age of sports.

In this modern era of sports, continuity has ended. There has been so much change that it has become hard to follow and identify with a team, loyalty has been fragmented, and the price of becoming a champion has been cheapened by some teams having multiple all-stars on the same team. 

This modern era has made the Thunder much more appreciable. The team isn’t just Durant, Westbrook, and Harden, it is the supporting cast around them that has given the Thunder their texture, and has made following them all the more interesting. 

We will see championship teams in the future, but the question remains, will we see teams that endure the way the Thunder has endured?

 

Some Hidden Gems In The 2012 NBA Draft

Some jewels can be found in the NBA Draft after the lottery selections. In 2011, Kawhi Leonard, Iman Shumpert, Kenneth Faried and MarShon Brooks were all taken outside of the lottery. With the exception of Brooks, who made the All-Rookie Second Team, they all made the First Team. One player that can seemingly develop into one heck of a player in a few years is Moe Harkless from St. John’s. Some basketball pundits and novices of the game have deemed him the best player to come out of New York City in the last 15 years.

The team that takes a chance and drafts Harkless from St. John’s will not regret it. Harkless has been compared to Kevin Durant and the Big East Freshman of the Year is years away from where Durant was at this time, but you can see parallels between the two.

Harkless is 6’8″, but his 7’0″ wingspan allows him to play menacing defense against an array of positions. During his only year with the Johnnies, Harkless blocked 1.4 shots and racked up 1.6 steals per game. Harkless has all the tools that make NBA scouts drool. He’s got an explosive first step, can attack the basket off the dribble, and has a solid mid-range jump shot.

In his Big East debut, he scored 32 points and 13 rebounds against Providence College, which set a Big East record. Additionally, Harkless scored 30 in Cameron Indoor Stadium, against the Duke Blue Devils.

The offensive side of the ball is what will kill his draft stock. Harkless shot just 20 percent from long range, and while he is effective at getting inside and scoring from under the hoop, he must improve his outside shot. He’s going to need to shoot the rock much more consistently from long-range if he wants to play on the perimeter on the NBA. Harkless went 1-for-19 from deep during a ten-game stretch beginning in late January, and completely lost confidence in his shot.

Like many freshmen, he was inconsistent at times and disappeared in games when his shot wasn’t falling. He had six games in which he scored fewer than ten points–which should not happen given his talent level. Harkless has the potential to be the next big thing in the NBA, but only time will tell.

Another non-lottery pick that can be a hidden jewel is Syracuse guard Dion Waiters. According to some NBA scouts, Waiters has been shooting up several draft boards because of his ability to score the ball.

One anonymous NBA GM was quoted as saying, “There are really only two potential superstars in this draft. One is a sure thing, freshman Anthony Davis. The other one is Waiters. He can be an electric scorer in the NBA. There’s some Dwyane Wade in him”.

However, there are some deficiencies in Waiters’ game. He has a decent mid-range jump shot, but as soon as the defense forced him to shoot beyond the college three-point line, he struggled mightily. He shot 36 percent from three in 2011-2012, which is average, but he struggled from the NBA three-point line. One thing that separates Waiters from most of the other prospects is his ability to penetrate the lane and score almost at will, but NBA teams will be able to contain his scoring abilities by forcing Waiters to make a jump shot.

Another inquiry for Waiters is his defense. He has the athleticism to play solid defense, but he doesn’t always put out a full effort on that end of the court. Additionally, during college he exclusively played in Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone. It will be intriguing to see him play in a new defensive scheme. Overall, Waiters is a terrific talent and will likely be a first-round pick in the 2012 NBA draft. However, due to the depth in this year’s draft, he will likely not be a lottery pick.

Austin Rivers, the son of current Celtics Coach Doc Rivers, could be another draft steal. His inexperience in the college ranks may cause him to fall beyond the lottery, possibly into the late first round, but his game is tailor-made for the NBA. Rivers’ numbers last season were solid; nothing fancy, but solid. He averaged 15.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists while primarily playing the shooting guard spot for the Blue Devils. However, he also averaged 2.3 turnovers per game. Notching more TO’s than assists is rarely a good sign for a guard. Rivers has a solid handle but would sometimes make a flashy play instead of a smart one, which resulted in unnecessary turnovers.

Defensively, he improved as the season went on, but he still has major strides to make before becoming a top notch NBA defender. He needs to add some bulk to his frame to guard NBA shooting guards, especially since he is a bit undersized at 6’4″. He is quick enough to guard most point guards, but he has to keep his intensity level high and not just gamble for steals.

Offensively, he can take his man off the dribble pretty effectively and certainly has range out to the three-point line. However, he sometimes did not know when to refer to a teammate instead of calling his own number, and while a 36.5 percent three-point clip is solid, it does not put him in the category of an elite shooter, or even that of his teammates Andre Dawkins (39.2 percent) and Ryan Kelly (40.8 percent). He needs to improve his ability to run an offense and make the smart play in order to be a success at the NBA level, as it is very unlikely he will be the first option next season.

Rivers has the heart and the talent to be a star, but he needs to be under the tutelage of a savvy NBA veteran and coaching staff that can help take his game to the next level.

The Continued Evolution Of Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard entered the 2011 NBA Draft with relatively little fanfare. A majority of the attention was directed towards Kyrie Irving, who went first overall to the Cavaliers, while Derrick Williams, Kemba Walker, Jimmer Fredette and the Morris twins were nice secondary stories.

Leonard had been projected by many to be drafted in the top 10, but he slipped to the 15th pick when the Pacers selected him. He was then traded to the Spurs for George Hill.

On the podium, minutes after his draft selection, Leonard appeared confused about the type of role he would play in Indiana until he was informed that he was traded to the Spurs.

“I had a meeting with them, and I got a great vibe from them”, Leonard said of the Spurs last June. “Just any team I’m on, I’m happy with right now. I’m just going in, trying to do whatever the coach wants me to do to make the team successful.”

On December 26, Leonard earned the trust of Gregg Popovich by scoring six points and six rebounds against the Grizzlies in 14 minutes. Since then, his playing time has steadily increased. He averaged 28.2 minutes in March, and 21.2 in April while contributing 11.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.7 steals.

He is far from an offensive threat, but in true San Antonio fashion, they haven’t asked him to step outside of his comfort zone. He fits very nicely into what Popovich has done this season, but there may come a time when his stature will be a problem. Leonard is too small to bang with a traditional power forward, and if asked to score more as a power forward, he won’t be nearly as efficient.

An injury to Manu Ginobili opened up a spot in the starting lineup in early January, and Leonard has handled the promotion well. He was featured a bit more offensively as a starter, attempting more shots (8.0 compared to his previous 4.9) in eight more minutes of playing time.

This new role involved playing tougher defense, hitting a few perimeter shots and crashing the boards. Leonard grabs a higher percentage of offensive rebounds than Tim Duncan (8.4% to 7.7%), rarely turns the ball over, and has a low usage rate for someone with an above-average PER (17.0). Leonard also has the second best defensive rating among San Antonio’s starters.

In this year’s playoffs, Leonard is averaging 8.2 points and 4.2 rebounds in a reserve role for the Spurs. His impact was felt in the series against the Clippers, in which he averaged 10.6 points and 6.3 rebounds. During that series, he was often matched up against Chris Paul for defensive purposes. Paul struggled with Leonard guarding him, averaging only 8 points and 8 assists; 9.7 points less than his averages against the Grizzlies in the first round, which stood at 17.7 points.

If the evolution of Leonard continues at this current rate, he can potentially be seen as this generation’s Bruce Bowen.

Under Popovich’s leadership, Leonard is on his way to NBA stardom, and continues to validate why he was the steal of the 2011 NBA Draft with each passing game.

Garnett’s Remarkable Resurgence

LL Cool J once said, “Don’t call it a come-back. I’ve been here for years, rocking my peers and putting sucka’s in fear.”

Well, the same could be said for Kevin Garnett, who has enjoyed a resurgence in the playoffs. 

This postseason, Garnett’s player efficiency rating has improved to 23.82, compared to last season’s 17.3.  In the first round series against the Atlanta Hawks, Garnett averaged 18.7 points, and 10.50 rebounds. These numbers are reminiscent of his days on the Minnesota Timberwolves, when he was affectionately known as The Big Ticket.

So far, Garnett has produced on par with his 2008 playoff campaign with Boston, which was above his career averages.

Since Doc Rivers shifted Garnett to center, he has played like he is 25, as opposed to the 35-year-old veteran with bad knees. As a center, he is posting up more in the post, rather than shooting jump shots on the perimeter.

Since the All-Star break, Garnett has failed to reach double digits in points scored in only two games. To put this into a broader view, in the first week of the season, Garnett had two games in which he failed to reach double digits in points.

Also worth noting, Garnett recorded thirteen double digit rebounding outings after the break and he pulled down eight or nine boards in nine other games.

The defense that Garnett provided on the opposing team’s center proved to be just as much of a nightmare as it was for the opposing team’s center trying to cover Garnett and his mid-range jumper.

One downside to Garnett playing center on a consistent basis is injuries; in particular his history of knee injuries. He has the length but not the girth to defend the likes of Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum, day in and day out. The continuous banging in the paint would take a toll on him and that would make him less effective in every aspect of his game. Furthermore, it would wear him down a lot faster. For example, former Celtic center, Kendrick Perkins suffered numerous shoulder injuries due to the constant battles in the paint. His shoulder was a problem by the end of the year, almost every season, due to the pounding of being backed into the post or from backing into the post. Garnett, with his small frame, would be back on the injury report sooner than expected.

The consensus around the NBA from writers and fans is that it is a two-horse race, between the Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Andrew Bynum, for the best center in the NBA. Statistically, Howard has a strong case. But anyone who knows anything about basketball knows that the stats sheet does not tell the whole story of Dwight Howard. In his eighth season in the NBA, Howard has yet to develop a true offensive post game and simply does not hit free throws; making him nearly impossible to go to late in games. He has, to this point, unsuccessfully run two campaigns: one for being traded out of Orlando, and another to have head coach, Stan Van Gundy fired.

Garnett’s defense is undeniable, but the health concerns he faced this season, the drama off the court, and his inability to close out games makes him a more viable option at the center position. Garnett just capped off his sixth consecutive season shooting over 80% from the line, has a well-established offensive game on the block or from the elbow, and has a certain fire that Howard does not seem to possess.

Most importantly, Garnett’s team feeds off of his fire while it looked like Howard’s team was feeding off of his childish antics at times. The advantage goes to Kevin Garnett today. It was like a switch was turned on and the Kevin Garnett of old came back for one last run as the big men went down one by one for the Boston Celtics. Only this time, Garnett is doing it in a different role but with the same mindset.

It’s time for the certifiably insane, chest-pounding, lockdown-defending, 6’11” big man to get the love he deserves; this time, as the best center in the NBA.

What’s Next For The New York Knicks

As the Knicks’ season mercilessly came to an end in Game 5, there is an abundance of questions and uncertainty that surrounds this franchise.

Carmelo Anthony followed up his 41-point explosion, from Game 4, with a 35-point barrage. He went 15-31 from the field, while also grabbing eight rebounds.

“Next year we’ll be better,” Anthony said.

Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, the team’s captains and stars, are now 0-2 in playoff series in their two postseasons with the Knicks. They have three more years, apiece, on their contracts; so there’s still time for them to deliver greater postseason success. Anthony finished this series averaging 27.8 points on 41.9 percent (52-for-124) shooting. He was atrocious in games 1-3, then exceptional in games 4-5.

Whether the Knicks like it or not, they will have to go through Miami in order to get to a place they haven’t been in 12 years – the NBA finals. Like Jordan and the Bulls or Isaiah and the Pistons, the Knicks will have to go through growing pains to achieve postseason success. For starters, they are going to have to re-sign their own free agents; Jeremy Lin, Steve Novak, Jarred Jefferies and JR Smith.

Additionally, they will need depth at the point guard position. With Jeremy Lin and Baron Davis battling injuries all season, the infrequent play of Toney Douglas, and the advanced age of Mike Bibby, their lack of big, point-guard play down the stretch proved to be one of the main reasons for their early postseason exit.

With Baron Davis’ career likely to be over, one short-term solution for their point guard problems will be to sign veteran point guard, Jason Kidd, to back up Jeremy Lin. Even at Kidd’s age, he can be an asset to this team. He can defend younger guards effectively, get his teammates involved in the game, rebound the ball, and make open three point shots.

While JR Smith can either shoot you into or out of a game, he provides depth and scoring off the bench. He can be a hot head at times, but his edge brings the Knicks something they haven’t had in a while – toughness.

Depth at the wing positions is also important, which is why re-signing Steve Novak is important. He was the NBA’s best three-point shooter this season, at 47%; his shooting is an asset because it spreads the floor.

Another aspect that needs to be looked at is whether Anthony and Stoudemire can co-exist together. The spacing on the court seemed to be an issue when they played together, and in the grand scheme of things, they are the same kind of player. Both are, essentially, power forwards that seemed to be devoid of playing any kind of consistent defense.

Removing the interim coaching tag from coach, Mike Woodson would be another step in the right direction. With Mike Woodson at the helm, the Knicks are 18-6 and their defense was ranked in the top 10 in the NBA. He holds players accountable and isn’t scared to get in a star player’s face; the total opposite of Mike D’Antoni.

While the Knicks don’t have a first round draft pick this year, the draft class is deep and they can find a productive player in the second round of the draft; just as they did with Landry Fields. Guards such as Dion Waiters or Maalik Wayns could add depth at the guard position, where the Knicks are weak.

What does the future hold for the Knicks? The future seems bright as the lights on Broadway. With a head coach and an intact coaching philosophy, two superstars, and a roster full of players who have to proves themselves, the sky is the limit for this team.

Catching Up With Dwight Hardy

Many legendary ball players has emanated from the Bronx NY. Players such as Rob Strickland, Kenny Satterfield, and countless other have made their way from the playgrounds, and ultimately to the major arenas of professional Basketball.

Dwight Hardy is one of those players who, like his predecessors before him, is proud to be from the Bronx and is ready for his shot at basketball stardom.

After a stellar standout career at St. Johns University, located in Queens NY, where he averaged 18.3 points under Head Coach Steve Lavin, Hardy took his talents to Italian club Pistoria where he averages 22.6 points per game.

I recently sat down with Dwight to talk about life and basketball.

Tell me a little about yourself:
I was born and raised in the Bronx, went to John F. Kennedy High School then attended Indian Hills Community College before landing at St. John’s.

How has your upbringing prepared you for life as a professional basketball player?
My upbringing has prepared me a lot. Growing up in a rough neighborhood really gave a strong mind set on becoming successful and handling things on my own, so the transition to being a professional basketball player wasn’t that hard.

How has your family adjusted to living in a different country?
My family has adjusted well. When they first arrived, it was a little difficult because of the language but they are happy here and are having a great experience along with myself.

How have you adjusted from playing at St John’s, to playing for Giorgio Tesi?
The adjustment from St. Johns to Giorgio Tesi was huge in terms of the style of play and tempo. I think at the college level, the game is faster and more players are athletic. Overseas, the game is much slower. Most teams like to execute more instead of an up and down type of tempo.

What are some of the teachings you learned from Steve Lavin that you applied to your pro career?
Steve Lavin has thought me a lot; how to carry myself on and off the court. Also, he has showed me how to be a pro on the court, not just playing, but how I talk to my teammates and officials; also off the court, how to stay in the right shape and the right foods to be the best player that I can be.

What was going through your body after you made the game winner against Pitt in the 2011 NCAA BB season?
After I hit that game winning shot against Pitt, my body felt numb. It was one of the best feelings in my life, and the best shot I’ve made in my career. Everything just went blank after that shot. All I could see was me and my team.

??Do you still keep in contact with your former SJU teammates?
I keep in contact with all of my former teammates on a weekly basis.

How would you compare playing at MSG, to playing in your current home arena, Palasport Fermi?
There is no comparison between MSG and the Palasport. MSG is the best arena in the world and I hope to play there again!

?What were your expectations for yourself when you first arrived in Italy? Have you exceeded those expectations?
When I first arrived in Italy, my expectations were to do well individually, first for myself, but at the same time, have a successful season and win as much as possible. I think I have achieved those goals.

What are your goals for your team as you head into the playoffs?
My goal for my team as we head into the playoffs of course is to try and win it all. That is the one and only goal!

?What are your basketball plans for the summer?
As for the summer, I plan to make a summer league NBA team and hopefully earn my way on a roster for the 2012-13 season.

Jackson Poised For A Return To New York

In the spring of 1973, the New York Knicks won their second championship in three years, with the help of a long-haired, long arm, skinny, defense-oriented sixth man by the name of Phil Jackson.

After winning six championships with the Bulls and five with the Lakers, Phil Jackson may find himself back in the place where he won his first two championships as a player – the mecca of basketball: Madison Square Garden.

Jackson is already one of the greatest coaches in North American sports history, but if he brings the Knicks their first title since he himself was a player, he would be on the Mount Rushmore of New York sporting figures.

The end of this impending Eastern Conference playoff sweep on Sunday has the Knicks on the apex of reaching out to the man who can potentially bridge a thirty-nine-year gap between championships. What would it take to lure the Zen Master out of retirement? For starters, Knicks’ General Manager, Glen Grunwald, must put together a roster that is conducive to Phil Jackson’s coaching style. Phil Jackson has always had a roster with at least one superstar, and a supporting cast willing to pay the price to win a championship. Offering Jackson a contract within the three year, $40 to 50 million dollar contract would be a step in the right direction in removing the blockade that separates him from the basketball kingdom he helped build 40 years ago.

A potential road block in the way of Jackson’s MSG return is his age. He is 66 years old, and his health has always been a major concern. Ever since Larry Brown and Lenny Wilkins left the organization, the Knicks has gained a reputation of being a team where great coaches come to ride off into the sunset; and owner James Dolan wants to kill that reputation.

Other roadblocks include both the on- and off-court issues of unpredictable players such as Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith. Since entering the league in 2003, Carmelo Anthony has the worst playoff record in the NBA with a 16-36. (.308) If anyone can rectify this and bring Carmelo’s game to a new level, it’s Phil Jackson.

According to sources, Phil Jackson isn’t thrilled with the Knicks personnel, but hasn’t ruled out considering the job. If he does take the job, it isn’t going to be a manageable task considering all the pressures associated with playing in Gotham City.

This city will either make you or break you, and in Phil Jackson’s case, if he brings a championship to the Knicks, he would be looked at as the greatest NY sports figure in history.

A Look At The MVP Candidates

Now that this compressed NBA season commenced, there are a plethora of players that deserve the regular season MVP. Theoretically, an MVP is defined as a player who has the most importance to his respective team. Players like Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love and Derrick Rose can all win it this year, but just like the tag line to previous NBA playoffs has been, there can be only one.

Lebron James – Miami Heat

Based on his Player Efficiency Rating, he is having the best single season in NBA history. His season averages are 27. 1 PPG, 7.90 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.8 steals, and just under 1 block per game. His stats are not the biggest or best ever seen, but his efficiency is on course to be the best of any NBA player in any single season in history.

To put this in perspective, Wilt Chamberlain averaged a career high of 31.84 PER in the1962-63 season. Michael Jordan reached 31.8 in the 1987-88 season. Lebron is currently at 32.4 PER, and is well on track to surpassing probably the consensus top two players to ever play in the NBA.

To make this more unique, with the help of Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, he has helped the Heat clinch the second best record in the Eastern Conference. On offense, James can post like a power forward on one possession and then handle the ball like a point guard on the next possession. On defense, he can guard four positions: the point guard, shooting guard, and both forward positions.  

These qualities are enough for Lebron to become a three-time MVP, but when he joined forces with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, two of the top-10 players at their positions, he automatically disqualified himself from the MVP discussion.

Kevin Durant –  OKC Thunder

Kevin Durant is one of the fastest rising Superstars in the NBA, and is on the cusp of becoming one of the greatest players of his generation. Durant, along with Russell Westbrook and James Harden, has turned the small market OKC Thunder into one of the hottest teams on the planet; and possibly the first dynasty of the 2010’s.

Durant has led the OKC Thunder to the second best record in the Western Conference with a 47-19 record. His season averages are 28.03 points, 7.98 rebounds, 3.50 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game.

This season, Kevin Durant averaged a career high, in rebounds, assists, and blocks. He is also the first three time scoring champion. This season, Durant has had grueling duels with fellow MVP candidate, Kobe Byrant .  These scoring duels have been reminiscent of Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins, or Isaiah Thomas and Bernard King.

One devalued aspect of Kevin Durant’s 2012 campaign is his ability to share the limelight and the shots with his All-Star teammate, Russell Westbrook. Throw in Durant’s bewildering ability to deliver in the clutch, something James has yet to do, all of these components make a very strong case for Durant to win this year’s MVP.

Chris Paul –  LA Clippers

Chris Paul is one of the top Point Guards in the NBA. This season’s turnaround in Clipper land is reminiscent of the impact Jason Kidd had on the Nets in the 2001-2002 season. Although the Clippers are seen as the JV team in LA, the gap has been considerably closed between Clippers fans and Lakers fans for basketball superiority in LA.

Since Paul’s arrival in the offseason, he has changed the culture of the Clippers from a perennial looser into a contender. 

Paul’s season averages are 19.8 points, 3.55 rebounds, 9.05 assists, and 2.5 steals; and his 26.82 Player Efficiency Rating is only second to Lebron James.  Paul’s contributions have been brilliant and his ball distribution has taken his teammates from marginal players to above average players.

For a guy who only stands 6-feet tall, he makes an impact on the defensive end of the ball as one of the league leaders in steals. His well-rounded game separates himself from past MVP’s at the point guard position, such as Steve Nash and Allen Iverson.

Kevin Love – Minnesota Timberwolves

What’s love got to do with it? Believe it or not, Kevin Love is making a strong case for MVP.

His improved play has given him the label as the best power forward in the league. He is putting up numbers not seen since the days of Moses Malone. When you look at his season averages you would think they came straight out of a video game. His season averages are 26.04 PPG and 13.36 rebounds. 26.06 PPG is a career high for Kevin Love; some season stand out games include a 42-point, 10-rebound game against the Spurs, and a 51-point game against the OKC Thunder. 

One of the factors that will affect Kevin Love’s MVP status in a negative way is his team record, as they are not in the playoff hunt. They made tremendous strides to improve their overall team record. For a franchise that has been dead in the water since they traded Kevin Garnett in 2007, they are on their way back to relevancy in the NBA due to the stellar play of Kevin Love.

Derrick Rose –  Chicago Bulls

The defending NBA MVP is having an impactful season just as he had last season. The Chicago Bulls are the number one team in the Eastern Conference for two consecutive years and this season Rose averaged 21.8 PPG, 7.87 assists, and 3.36 rebounds per game. His points are down by 3.16 from last season and he has played in fewer games this season due to injury but his impact on the team remains the same.  He is the team scoring and emotional leader, and without Rose, the Bulls are just a middle-of-the-road team.

Lamentably, there can be only one winner for this prestigious award. Only the truly great, and impact players have won this award.  For players to justify winning this award, they have to take their teams and level of play to a higher plateau, and most importantly win games.

As the late Al Davis famously said, “Just win, baby. Just win”.