NBA MVP prediction: Kobe Bryant


BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant may win the 2011-2012 NBA MVP after leading the league in scoring for almost the entire year. Photo by: Aaron Frutman / Flickr

With the NBA regular season winding down, some hardcore fans may already be pondering about who will win this year’s MVP award.

Certainly, there is a handful of superstars deserving of the honor, but the award is about more than just leading the league in scoring, rebounds or assists. An MVP has to truly be a leader, who would change the whole dynamic of their team if they were absent from the starting lineup. Think about when Michael Jordan retired from the NBA to pursue a baseball career. The following season, Scottie Pippen definitely didn’t get any MVP love and the Chicago Bulls simply weren’t the same.

So when I look at this year’s field of possible deserving candidates (in terms of what they do for their teams) for the 2011-2012 MVP award, there is really only three players — Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Kevin Love — who fit that profile. The only problem is, Love’s Timberwolves have already been eliminated from playoff contention, so don’t expect him to even sniff at the trophy until Minnesota is better. And Dwight Howard’s absence from the Orlando Magic because of back spasms has only proven that he is the heart and soul of that team after Orlando slowly slipped further and further down the Eastern Conference standings once Howard started to miss more and more time.

So that leaves Kobe. Will he run away with the MVP award? Maybe not. After all, right behind him are superstars Kevin Durant and LeBron James, who rank No. 2 and No. 3 in the league, respectively, for points per game. But how much would Durant’s Thunder and James’ Heat be suffering if they weren’t there? Miami certainly could hold its own with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh running the show and you have to believe Oklahoma City could do the same with its depth. 

Now don’t get me wrong, the Lakers have actually been playing not too bad (5-3) in Bryant’s absence. And L.A. also has a lot of depth behind Bryant. However, they could never win a championship without him. He literally is the modern-day Michael Jordan. Bryant isn’t afraid to take game-winning shots unlike LeBron, which is what should separate those two from MVP consideration. And what makes Bryant a better candidate than Durant is his passing and leadership. Those attributes will come to Durant and so will more MVP awards. I just think, hands down, Black Mamba is the best player this season.

He has led the NBA in scoring for the entire year, still holding the No. 1 spot with a remarkable 28.1 points per game. And he does so, playing the exact same minutes per game as Durant, who averages 27.8 points per game.

Durant does have Bryant beat in rebounds, 3-point percentage, field-goal percentage and the Thunder have more wins, but again, Durant also has point guard Russell Westbrook, who ranks fifth in the NBA for scoring at 23.9 points per game. The Lakers, arguably, only have Kobe. Yes, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are nice pieces, but they don’t chip in like Westbrook does for the Thunder, leaving Bryant as the main key to victory.

If Bryant has an off game, it’s likely the Lakers lose. If Durant doesn’t put up, he has Westbrook and even James Harden, who scored 40 points last night, to pick up the slack.

To me, the MVP comes down to how much that one player means to their team. Sure, the full name of the award is NBA MVP, indicating that the winner should be the best player in the league. But being the best is about more than just statistics. There’s no doubt that Durant is a more complete player right now in terms of overall statistics. Yet he really isn’t the X-factor in Oklahoma City. Kobe is exactly that in L.A. And because of that simple fact, he should be your 2011-2012 league MVP.

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