The Houston Rockets are in free-fall after losing their sixth consecutive game to the 8-17 Washington Wizards. Before the losing streak the Rockets were 11-10 and firmly in the playoff picture but, like the family photo in Back to the Future, the Rockets playoff picture is fast fading.
There has been a myriad of factors that have added to the Rockets’ inability to outscore their opponents but the single greatest reason has been the injury absence of Christian Wood. No team can easily weather the loss of their best player but the drop-off in performance by the Rockets show just how valuable Wood is.
The MVP race
The NBA MVP race begins months before the season even begins. Before a game was even played this season, Luka Doncic already had MVP buzz and it was deemed his award to lose. Not even halfway through the season and Doncic’s name is nowhere to be found in MVP conversations.
In his stead, Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, and LeBron James are the early front runners as their two teams near the top of the standings. The perpetual year-long MVP conversation is a silly exercise, not because it has no merits, but because of how the vote usually shakes out.
Since the 2008-09 season, nine out of the twelve MVP winners have been on the team that finished with the league’s best record and this is a continuation of a long-standing trend. The three players that rose above their team’s record over the past 12 seasons were Russell Westbrook when he averaged a triple-double over an entire season for the first time since Oscar Robertson did in 1962, Kevin Durant when his team finished with the second-best record and he averaged 32 points and LeBron James in the lockout-shortened season.
Arguing over who will be the MVP before the season ends is a fruitless exercise because, at the end of the day, the standings usually dictate the winner. The award shouldn’t be called the Most Valuable Player but, rather, the Best Player on the Best Team award.
What does Most Valuable mean?
When it comes to value there are many ways you can slice it. Is it simply the best player in the league? Is it the player with the best ratio of salary to production? Or, is it the player that their team simply cannot do without? If it is the player that is simply the most indispensable to their team’s chances, then Christian Wood needs to join the MVP conversation.
Next: How Christian Wood is indispensable