It’s obviously Chris Paul.
I’ve grown to appreciate Kobe’s talent over the years, in ways that I really couldn’t when he was with Shaq. (I typed Zach the first time I attempted Shaq. The two look alike, I’ve mixed them up for years.) Kobe’s really an incredible player, and I accept that he’s the single best player in the league. But not the MVP.
Simmons made the most valuable (versus “most outstanding”) argument against Kobe, saying that KG resurrected the fallen franchise, changed the culture of the team, made the world safe for the poor Boston fans, et cetera. All of that is fine and true, but it’s not as if Nawlins was a perfect scenario for basketball genius to flourish.
I view the most valuable piece more simply: if we flip-flopped one player for the other, whose team is better?
Put Chris Paul on the Celtics and that team is still the favorite to win the East. But KG on the Hornets and that team barely makes the playoffs in the West. Put Chris Paul with Pau and the Lakers are still everyone’s pick to win the conference. Put Kobe on the Hornets and that team is a seventh seed.
Do non-NBA addicts have any idea how good Chris Paul is? Do general readers of the sports section even know who he is?
To be honest, despite having attained the coveted status of being my favorite player to watch in the league, I didn’t realize how good he was until watching him completely torch the Mavs. I know the Mavs are on a terrible slide since collapsing against the Heat in 2006, but he has made a veteran playoff contender look ridiculous two games in a row.
Kobe’s going to win his lifetime achievement MVP, despite sulking whenever adversity hits until excellence is foisted upon him by external forces (Bynum’s rapid maturation, the Gasol thievery.) But Chris Paul deserves every accolade for doing incredible things with a squad a fraction as talented as the Celtics or Lakers.