LakerNation, Kobe isn't even YOUR mvp
Everyone is anointing Kobe Bryant the 2008-09 NBA MVP frontrunner because of the Los Angeles Lakers incredible start this season. They figure he's the best player on the best team so he must be the Most Valuable Player. But that's intellectual laziness.
A little bit of reasoning will lead any fan to conclude Kobe probably isn't even the Los Angeles Lakers Most Valuable Player. After all, he's been with the Lakers for how many years, and he's been playing at a high level of efficiency for most of those years... and yet they've never played this well. It would seem Kobe's marginal room for improvement isn't nearly high enough to account for all or even most of the Lakers stunning improvement. And it turns out that it doesn't.
Its the Supporting Cast (starring Trevor Ariza)
To find out what exactly is behind the Lakers incredible surge out of the gates this season, I did a Win Profile to date for the entire team. Click Here to see my Los Angeles Lakers Win Profile to date.
It turns out the Lakers runaway MVP so far this season is small forward Trevor Ariza (I suspected Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol, but Ariza makes sense, too.) He is playing at an incredibly high level right now.
In fact, so is nearly EVERYONE on the Lakers. Every player on the roster projects to add "Wins Above Average" (wins above the 41-41 mark) except Luke Walton and Derek Fisher. And of those two, only Fisher plays significant minutes. As scary as it is to consider, the Lakers could be an even better team if they flipped minutes between Jordan Farmar and Derek Fisher.
I have to admit, however, my model probably doesn't entirely capture the intrinsic defensive value of Andrew Bynum. After all, the Los Angeles defense has taken a quantum leap forward from last postseason, and he is the only significant difference between the two rosters.
Then again, he was healthy and playing full time for the first part of last season, and their defense was about the same as it was in the postseason. So it may just be that every Laker has bought into the idea that defense wins NBA championships.