At media day before the season, Derrick Rose wondered aloud why he couldn't win the NBA MVP award this season. With 15 games to go this season, he is the frontrunner, and the 22-year-old Chicago Bulls star is primed to be the youngest MVP in NBA history.
But as the Bulls, who are on an eight-game win streak heading into Friday night's game against the Indiana Pacers, continue to win, Tom Thibodeau is emerging as a top candidate for Coach of the Year honors. If Rose and Thibodeau win, they would be the 12th duo from the same team to win MVP and Coach of the Year, and only four of those have gone on to win an NBA title.
ESPN Stats & Information put the seasons for Thibodeau and Rose in perspective. First, a look at the rookie coach's season:
The Bulls, at 49-18, sit atop the Eastern Conference. In the last 40 years, only two coaches in their first season have led their teams to the best record in a conference while coaching each game of the season (Jerry West, 1976-77 Lakers and Paul Westphal, 1992-93 Suns). Since 1980, only Westphal (.756) had a higher win percentage in his first season than Thibodeau (.731) and of course there are 15 games remaining.
Under Vinny Del Negro, the Bulls were 41-41 last season and lost in the first round of the playoffs against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Under Thibodeau, the Bulls have a .231 win percentage increase this season from last season, the largest win improvement in the NBA.
The Bulls are getting better, too. Chicago is 11-2 since the All-Star break, the best mark in the East and second-best in the NBA behind the 10-1 Los Angeles Lakers.
The Central Division has been very good to the Bulls in their first season under Thibodeau. The Bulls have a 12-0 division record this season with four division games remaining (Indiana on Friday, Milwaukee on March 26, Detroit on April 1 and Cleveland on April 8). The Bulls would be the first team ever to go undefeated in division play since the NBA went to a four-division format in 1970-71.
ESPN Stats & Information also points out some strong numbers in support of Rose.
Rose is averaging 24.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game. He would be only the fifth player in NBA history to average those numbers for a full season, joining LeBron James (2009-10), Michael Jordan (1988-89), Jerry West (1970-71 and 1971-72) and Oscar Robertson (10 times, including his MVP season of 1963-64).
Through his scoring and teammate's points off his assists, Rose has contributed to 42.7 percent of the Bulls' total points this season, the highest percentage in the NBA.
Rose's usage rate (the percentage that a player is used while on the court) is 31.2 percent, the second-highest in the NBA (Kobe Bryant, 32.7 percent). In the fourth quarter of games when the margin is within 5 points, Rose's usage rate increases to 39.5 percent, the highest in the NBA in such situations.