D-Rose and Iverson

With Derrick Rose‘s 2011 MVP looking like a foregone conclusion, it seems only natural to compare his campaign to that of Allen Iverson in 2001, the year another popular guard won the MVP despite not being the game’s most talented player.

Here’s the numerical tale of the tape for A.I. and D-Rose, with Rose extrapolated to 82 team games: (Glossary)

Player G MP ORtg %Pos DRtg OSPM DSPM SPM
Iverson 71 2979 106.3 33.8 99.2 6.79 0.07 6.86
Rose 81 3025 111.5 32.6 102.2 6.16 -0.96 5.20

Statistically, the two players are incredibly comparable. If you translate Iverson from the 103.0 league-ORtg environment of 2001 to the league ORtg of 107.1 in 2011, his ORtg/%Poss/DRtg becomes 110.5/33.8/103.0, production that is basically equivalent to Rose’s after adjusting for usage.

Offensively, both A.I. and Rose were roughly +6.5 SPM players (Rose is probably closer to +6, Iverson is closer to +7, but for the sake of argument let’s call them even) on teams that were barely above-average offensively. The 2001 Sixers’ offense was +0.6 relative to the league average; the 2011 Bulls are +0.9. Their styles differed, with Iverson scoring more (especially at the rim) and Rose placing more emphasis on passing, but the overall offensive impact was very nearly the same.

Iverson and Rose offered similar production on defense as well — if you give equal weight to DSPM and DRtg, that is. SPM says Iverson was a 0.0 player on defense in 2001, dead on the league average, while it considers Rose a -1.0 defender (a sentiment shared by on/off +/-). But if you convert DRtg to its +/- equivalent, Rose looks like a +1.0 defender, while Iverson is +0.75. With equal consideration given to each metric, Rose would be a 0.0 defender while Iverson would be a +0.4 defender, a slim margin at best. And for what it’s worth, Rose’s Bulls (+7.2 on defense) outpace Iverson’s Sixers (who check in with “only” a +4.1 D). In that light, I think it’s fair to call them equal on defense as well.

All told, Rose and Iverson’s MVP campaigns are almost eerily similar. Each player was worth approximately 6-7 points of on-court offensive rating above average for a middling offensive team, and each was essentially an average defender on a very strong defensive squad. Each man’s role was to carry the offense (almost single-handedly — with apologies to Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, & Aaron McKie) and let his surrounding role players handle their defensive duties.

Both Iverson and Rose also capitalized on down years from more physically gifted MVP competitors, rivals who should have beaten them on pure talent but were diminished in the voters’ minds for various reasons. When LeBron James is producing at a +12 level, as he had done in 2009 & 2010, an MVP snub is borderline indefensible; the same goes for Shaquille O’Neal, who was a +8 player in his dominating 2000 MVP campaign. But when James dropped to +8 in 2011 (a down year by his ridiculous standards), after committing the horrible basketball atrocity of choosing his next team on national TV, he basically disqualified himself from the MVP race. Likewise, O’Neal fell to +7 in 2001, and the media discounted him after he and his Laker mates got off to a slow start.

Enter the little guy (by NBA standards, at least), the underdog, the scrappy guard, all of which MVP voters find endearing. Enter the lone offensive threat on the unexpected #1 seed in the East. Enter the best story of the season. Whatever the reason, a decade after Iverson’s MVP honors, history is repeating itself with the Derrick Rose campaign. I’ll leave it up to others to argue the merits of his candidacy, but whatever your opinion, you can’t say that his victory is without precedent.

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About Neil Paine

I work for Sports-Reference.com. I've been a freelance writer for ESPN, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, and Basketball Prospectus.

Posted on March 23, 2011, in Analysis, Awards, History, Statgeekery, Statistical +/- and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 183 Comments.

  1. Sean, these things are always relative. Who are the other players putting up big numbers? Are their teams winning? Are their stats down from previous years? Are their teams exceeding the preseason expectations or underperforming? All these factors matter to voters, and the answers change from year to year.

  2. AYC (151)-

    I agree with you; these things are always relative, and several factors should be weighed. Are you claiming that Hakeem would have been considered the runaway winner a month before season’s end in your hypothetical case? Becasue that’s what’s happening with Rose this year. And I am claiming that to be unfair. Rose is a valid MVP candidate, but he’s basically already been anointed and that’s a travesty.

  3. Another thing on the “making his teammates better” idea…

    His teammates include Carlos Boozer, former all-star and a player I think we can agree has been a better-than-average offensive player throughout his career, in multiple offensive systems. They include Luol Deng, who I think we can agree has been (at worst) an average offensive player throughout his career. The other players are debatable if I’m not allowed to used advanced stats (Brewer was this efficient in Utah, and Noah was more efficient next to a rookie Rose), but I think conventional wisdom would say Deng and Boozer were solid offensive players, especially with Rose supposedly making them so much better.

    Yet, even though we’re led to believe Rose has been arguably the best offensive player of the season, even though he’s playing with two solid offensive players who are made that much better by his passing and leadership, even though he has other options who have generally been efficient players in the past, the Bulls are still just 12th in offense on the full 2011 season, less than a point of ORtg better than average. If you want to “challenge your assumptions”, think about that.

  4. Now, to play devil’s advocate with myself, Boozer and Noah missed a great deal of games earlier in the season, and their offense has been better since they arrived at full strength. But the idea of a bare cupboard to work with seems… odd.

  5. its a shame there offense is barely average with all of that talent huh?

  6. That’s not playing devil’s advocate with yourself. That’s covering your ass after realizing you just wrote a weak argument.

  7. We’re all thinking out loud here, Jake, trying to rationally make sense of the Bulls’ season. Or were we not supposed to “challenge our assumptions” anymore?

  8. makes me think the coaching is kinda weak

  9. Kobe’s MVP was truly a life time achievement award, Chris was Paul was having a ridiculous season. Rose leading the MVP race is not an outrage, what’s an outrage is that no one else is whithin reasonable striking distance, at least according to the media. One reason i think Rose isn’t a lock for the MVP is because he’s only a 3rd year point guard whose offensive numbers have taken a spike because he developed a jumpshot. What this means to me is that if you give him an MVP this year then you surely must next year, because i’m quite positive his numbers will take another spike like they did from last year to this year. What this does is discount that others are having better seasons this year. OK, maybe im prematurely giving him next years’ MVP, but who really doesn’t see him getting better numbers next year.

  10. Nobody’s been anointed. There are plenty of people out there making the case for LBJ, and the chorus for Howard is growing louder and louder. Rose is the frontrunner because his play, and that of his team, has far exceeded expectations. This despite a lot of games missed to injury by their 2nd and 3rd best players. LBJ and the Heat have underperformed relative to expectations; the Magic have too. Dirk is seen as soft because of the Mavs postseason woes. In other words, Rose is leading a weak field. He isn’t facing MAgic and Jordan in their primes, like Hakeem in 1990

  11. Neil, which team leads the NBA in MOV? Yes, they are “just one point” above average in ORtg (but improving).

    Let me put it to you this way. A week ago they were 16th. Two weeks ago they were 20th. If they finish in the top 10 is that enough for you? Where would they have to finish for you to be happy?

    And where did I say Rose was the best offensive player this season?

    Based on the way the Bulls have been playing since January the Bulls could finish well within the top ten on ORtg.

  12. AYC (160)-

    “Rose is the frontrunner because his play, and that of his team, has far exceeded expectations.”

    This is the type of simplistic MVP reasoning that I think misses the full picture. It does and should factor in; but there are many advanced stats (not all – hat tip to Kelly) that suggest Rose’s impact may be overstated by the media. But I will agree with you that your quote above is pretty indicative of how MVP voting has gone in the past.

  13. Andy, I think that’s where a lot of the conversations are people talking past each other. No one is arguing that Rose deserves it based on his numbers. The argument is he’s led the team to the best record in the Eastern Conference in spite of the fact that Noah and Boozer have missed the majority of the Bulls games combined (and yes 53 games is the majority).

  14. Kelly (163)-

    “Noah and Boozer have missed the majority of the Bulls games combined (and yes 53 games is the majority).”

    I think you’re exaggerating the missed games. Noah has missed 31 of 70 games (44%). Boozer has missed 23 of 70 (33%). I don’t know how many were the same games. Let’s assume none of them were. In that case, you could say “Noah OR Boozer has missed the majority of the Bulls games combined”, but not and. Small word, but big change in meaning. Or, let’s assume they missed all of the same games. Then the statement is false, using either ‘and’ or ‘or’.

  15. I have made the case for Rose using stats, while acknowledging the fact that stats and the various metrics out there don’t tell the full story. What’s “simplistic” is thinking that one number, be it SPM, WS or PER, tells us everything we need to know about a player.

  16. AYC (165)- Where has anyone on this board suggested that “one number…tells us everything we need to know about a player”?

  17. #161 – “Where would they have to finish for you to be happy?”

    I’m not sure I have an answer for that. If a top-10 or better offensive finish happens because Rose’s production rises to a + 7-8 offensive level by SPM (which would correspond to + 3-4 RAPM), then he would certainly have a better MVP case.

    This whole debate is about accounting, anyway. If we had perfect knowledge, we could assign accurate credit for Chicago’s point differential to every member of the team (and the coaches, for that matter). The sum of the players’ offensive credit could be no greater than the team’s offensive performance, and ditto for defense.

    We don’t have perfect knowledge, but in our own way we’re all trying to estimate the “credit” system I outlined above. Some are using stats, some are using feel. No doubt both styles are going to be inaccurate. With the Deng/Boozer comment, I just wanted to make sure the non-stats accounting is as internally consistent as the stats accounting is.

    That is, if Rose is an MVP-level player, Boozer is an all-star level player, Deng & Noah are above-average players, and Brewer is an average player, how bad do you have to set the other players to make sure it still adds up to a +1 offense?

  18. Sean, I see the confusion. My meaning is that Rose has had to play the majority of the season without Boozer and/or Noah in the lineup. (I believe its’ about five games without either).

  19. I have to call out this absurd statement that on one else did from #140.

    “On the other hand Howard is surrounded by three point shooters to open up the lane to give him an opportunity to score. Howard needs his cast to make him better offensively, Rose makes his cast better.” (Since when did Bass become a 3 point shooter?)

    What Kelly is saying here is that if Howard were replaced with any other center in the league, that new center would put up similar offensive numbers because he’d be playing 1 on 1 in the paint the whole game.

    You (Kelly) are the one who says we should watch the games, and it’s obvious that you do not in the case of Orlando and Howard. Those 3 point shooters are getting their shots because teams send the double team and that starts a passing drill until Orlando gets a good 3 point look. That would not happen with any other center in the league. When Howard is guarded 1 on 1 in the paint (i.e. by Perkins), the Olrando O sputters because the defense can stay home on the shooters.

    So, he’s the focal point of their offensive attack. They’re not great, but they’re also above Chicago in that respect. If this were such an easy system to run, every other team in the NBA would be trying it out.

    Next, he’s the focal point of the defense. Orlando has now moved up to the 3rd on defense, but Chicago has far more defensive talent on their team than does Orlando. Their great D all stems from hardly anyone even thinking about challenging Howard at the rim these days.

    Couple this with the roster upheaval Orlando has had (equally as challenging for Howard as Rose missing 2 starters for stretches) with Olrando’s expected Pythagorean wins of 51 to this point (since wins in close games are random and Orlando has been on the short end of that one this year) and with the fact that Howard is both the best, most productive, and most value offensive and defensive player for his team, and that smells MVP to me.

    Against that, Rose has no real argument.

  20. There are at least 4 players in the NBA who are better than Rose on both offense and defense. Him being the MVP is a joke. That said, I’ll gave 4 to 1 odds to anyone that he’ll win it anyway.

  21. Matt, close, but I’m not dismissing Howard from the equation. I wouldn’t say that any other center could put up the exact same numbers. I don’t challenge that Howard is the best center in the league either. He is.

    I am saying that there’s more to what he’s getting from his teammates than some seem are implying. He’s not surrounded by “scrubs.” He has some pretty good teammates offensively, and their talents are particularly established to help him.

    And no, Brandon Bass was not the player I was referring to obviously, but let’s not pretend that Jason Richardson or the rest don’t make threes. The Magic lead the NBA in three pointers made. That helps Howard’s game and it is by design.

  22. I forgot to mention, Magic not named “Howard” have one more 20 point game than Bulls not named “Rose.” Only eight of the Magic’s 42 such games came from departed players (Carter) too.

  23. This is a chicken and egg argument, but you are being disingenuous by suggesting that the offense is designed to allow Howard be more effective offensively instead of the offensive being designed to take advantage of his talents. You are the only one who will argue the former.

    And surrounded means on all sides. If one isn’t a 3 point shooter, then he must not be surrounded.

  24. Honestly Kelly, Rose is not special enough for you to be raving about. Enough, he’s mediocre compared to recent MVP winners.

    Your arguments are terrible and at no point have you proved Rose is anything more than Deron Williams level on a great defensive team. The 2001 Lakers also only won 56 games and Shaq owns Derrick Rose.

    #135

    Rose is not dominating counterpart PER anyway, Neil. He is doing solid, but that metric would not vault him to the top either. It is still a useful stat.

  25. “Honestly Kelly, Rose is not special enough for you to be raving about. Enough, he’s mediocre compared to recent MVP winners.”

    That’s too ridiculous to merit a response.

    “This is a chicken and egg argument, but you are being disingenuous by suggesting that the offense is designed to allow Howard be more effective offensively instead of the offensive being designed to take advantage of his talents.”

    If it’s chicken or egg how am I being disingenuous? The point isn’t what comes first, it’s that he plays within a system that accentuates his talents and those players around him are designed to fit that system. Therefore he does benefit from the players around him.

  26. Howard could be getting 30+ points per night, but the system is designed for the team to get lots of open 3 pointers, many of which he doesn’t get an assist for because of swing passes. That’s taking advantage of his talents. They benefit from him, and he benefits in the form of wins, but no individual offensive stats, which MVPs are apparently built upon.

  27. Here was Dan LeBatards take on it in the Miami Herald

    For Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose, winning alters all numbers

    BY DAN LE BATARD

    DLEBATARD@MIAMIHERALD.COM

    These are the numbers/facts without manipulation:
    Through Saturday, Player X has averaged 22.2 points on .444 shooting with 4.6 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 1.8 steals. He has been his conference’s player of the week four times.
    Player Y has averaged 24.9 points on .439 shooting with 4.2 rebounds, 7.9 assists and 1.0 steals. He has been his conference’s player of the week twice.
    They are essentially the same player, in other words. Player X is more efficient and a better rebounder and thief, but Player Y scores one more basket per game. Yet Player X isn’t even considered the most valuable player on his own team. And Player Y is about to be named the most valuable player of the entire league.
    Why Y?
    Perception is not reality. Reality is reality. Player X (Russell Westbrook) isn’t viewed like Player Y (Derrick Rose) because winning alters all, even facts, even if one team is 53-19 and the other is 47-24. Exceed our expectations, and we’ll give you trophies you don’t deserve instead of admitting that our expectations were, um, wrong.
    ROSE HAS THORNS
    The Bulls’ offense is statistically mediocre; Rose is that offense’s best player. The Bulls’ defense is best in the league; Rose might be that defense’s least important piece. But throw all the ingredients together in the Winning Pot, make a stew with a flavor that surprises us and you, too, can taste like MVP.
    Rose benefits from the greatness of his teammates, but Westbrook is harmed by the greatness of his more famous one (Kevin Durant). Would Westbrook be MVP if he simply had Chicago’s defense? Would he be a bigger scorer than Rose if he didn’t have to share with Durant? The only reason Rose scores 2.7 points more than Westbrook per game? He has taken 200 more shots.
    They should just rename the MVP trophy The We Didn’t Expect To See Rose Sitting Atop LeBron In The Standings Award.
    A million variables go into winning, but baseball is so much better at isolating and measuring those variables than basketball. Felix Hernandez won Cy Young with a 13-12 record in last place because baseball voters understand, after a mathematical paradigm shift called sabermetrics, how much Hernandez can and can’t control. And baseball is an individual sport masquerading as a team sport anyway. Albert Pujols is alone in that batter’s box, and it doesn’t matter if he listens to his manager or likes his third baseman. Hernandez controlled that baseball only when he held it; he couldn’t do anything about how terrible his teammates were at scoring.
    GROUP EFFORT
    But basketball’s five are linked like fingers in a fist, and isolating performance is next to impossible, especially on defense. So intangibles get assigned to the winning instead of facts or data, and Rose has in his favor the Hey-I-Didn’t-Expect-The-Bulls-To-Be-Good metric that LeBron or Dwight Howard or Kobe or any of the Spurs or Mavs or Celtics can’t have. It is absurd that he will soon have as many MVPs as Shaquille O’Neal, but not as absurd as Steve Nash having twice as many as Shaq.
    The Bulls aren’t exceeding expectations because Rose is a “leader” or “knows how to win” or is “clutch.” They are exceeding expectations because no team in the league strangles the opponent better on defense. You want to give the Bulls coach of the year for that? Cool. Defensive player of the year? Fine. But MVP for the league’s 20th-ranked offense? The one scoring less than Indiana, Toronto, Philadelphia, the Clippers and Sacramento?
    Rose has been named the best player in his conference two weeks this season. Two. So, too, has LeMarcus Aldridge. How can you be the most valuable for the entire season when you were only the most valuable in your conference two weeks? Almost everywhere outside of sports and Visa commercials, “best” and “most valuable” are supposed to be synonyms. And try paying your Visa bill with a check that reads “priceless,” and see how that works for you.
    None of this is meant as an indictment of Rose.
    He’s just not the best one.
    Which means he’s not the most valuable.

  28. I dont understand the comparison. Rose is a scoring point guard. Iverson is an undersized 2 guard. They may have similar statistics, but their approach to the game is quite different. Rose is much stronger, a bit taller and has a lot more complete game. Rose runs his team with a calm and composed demeanor. He picks his spots, and while he may take a lot of shots, it is within the flow of the offence. Unlike Iverson who always had a point guard who brought up the ball for him, set him up with an iso on either the left or right side, rose brings up the ball for his team, gets calls out the plays and is one of the best floor managers at knowing when to push the pace vs slowing it down, knowing who is hot and getting the ball to them etc.

    I think iverson was a gambler on defense, and this resulted in a lot of steals. Rose is much more of a stay in front of my man defender, and this season he has been an above average defender. There have been few instances this season, where point guards have gone off on rose. With Iverson, it was a constant struggle to defend the other team, because Iverson could only guard point guards, and even then would get bullied by them in the post.

    So all in all, I dont think statistics tell you what type of player someone is and in this case they are completely different players.

  29. Godwin’s law of basketball arguments, The first one to quote Dan Lebetaard loses the argument.

  30. My opinion on this argument, after reviewing all the information posted, is that Derrick Rose would not be an egregious or terrible MVP pick. Although many people feel that Allen Iverson should not have won the MVP back in 2001, it is not like he was the 5th best player in the league. He was a top 3 player, and it was arguable between those 3, and he won over Shaq, another player who would have been deserving of the MVP in 2001.

    I think that it is hard to quantify how valuable a player is, and therefore, it is difficult to choose who is MOST valuable. Winning or not winning an MVP should not discount that person’s season. Derrick Rose has had an amazing season, and so have Dwight Howard, Lebron James, Dirk Nowitzki. and Russell Westbrook. Although we should try to give the MVP to one who has had the best season, it is not always obvious, and this season is just one of those years.

  31. Keep in mind Iverson led the league in points/g 31.4, steals /g 2.5, usg 35.9, and minutes /g 42.0.

    …Also, The 76ers next best two players were hurt during the season. Ratliff only played 50 games and 36 year old Mutombo 26, and even with them their team was mediocre at best.

    And to the people that are saying Derrick Rose is already better than Iverson, Let me know when Rose comes close to 33ppg, 7.4 apg, and 1.9 spg before we even sit down.

    Its one thing to compare one season but dont start crowning Rose a hall of famer.

  32. Have you guys been watching games or scoreboard watching? The Bulls have been obliterating teams in the last two months, Derrick resting on the bench in the 4th. They’re shutting teams down and Derrick is doing whatever he wants to on offense. He’s indefensible right now. Did you guys watch that span of games where he completely destroyed Deron, Chris Paul, Nash, Wall, Rondo, the Spurs and Miami. He takes over games in the clutch. He’s taken care of Miami, the whole division, the Lakers. His peers have crowned him so let’s not proclaim this is a media hype scenario. He’s improved his FT and 3pt shooting immensely. His defense came under fire and he came out with a chip on his shoulder and led to team to the top of the conference. You guys are acting like people are double teaming Keith Bogans leaving Derrick free to roam..

  33. Oh yea, Lebetard and C. Cowherd challenged Rose’s “leadership” earlier in the year.. Don’t remember on which grounds, but pretty sure they’ve been rebuked.. There’s a reason the Bulls sell out visting arenas .

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