Whenever Derrick Rose makes a highlight play, flashbacks to his MVP season with the Chicago Bulls are common.

Right off the bat, the season that Derrick Rose put together back in 2010-11 was spectacular. He was playing a style that no one had seen before — hyper-athletic point guards with the perfect blend of finesse and power weren’t common like they are today, and Rose was a pioneer.

It’s easy to see why he brought home the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, but he wasn’t the best player in the league that year. That title belonged to LeBron James, who was fresh off winning back-to-back MVPs. That begs the question — is it possible that the voters gave Rose the award so that they didn’t have to give it James? (Now that we’re in 2017, LeBron would’ve won five-straight MVPs if it played how differently. It’s incredible.)

Rose (113), James (four), Dwight Howard (three) and Kobe Bryant (one) were the four guys who received first place votes, and I don’t believe there would’ve been an issue if any of them took home the award.

If I were voting, my vote would go to LeBron because his numbers were better all-around and the Miami Heat thoroughly dismantled the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals. (Unfortunately, the latter part of my justification doesn’t mean much because the award is wrongly handed out before the postseason concludes.) James significantly outplayed Rose on both ends of the court and made the five-game series as painless as possible.

Since playoff numbers don’t matter in the MVP vote, we have to go back to the regular season, where James outplayed Rose (and everyone else) on both ends of the floor. The only difference is that it was much closer. To say that these two weren’t the best players in the East that year would be ignorant, and the purpose of this isn’t to poo-poo what Rose did that season.

He and James were the only guys in the league to average at least 25 points and seven assists a game that year, and Rose was the new kid who was in prime position to dethrone LeBron and become the new face of the league. Although Chicago didn’t have the best overall team, they could lock up any offense and rode their top-ranked defense to a 62-20 season; Miami was solid all-around and far more lethal offensively but finished four games back of the Bulls.

Rose was not a key to the Bulls’ lockdown defense, but the team behind him did a great job of masking it. LeBron has always been an elite defender no matter how you cut it, but that alone isn’t enough to make him the MVP.

Both guys were excellent playmakers, with James being a more efficient scorer and a better passer. Much like there’s no way to defend LeBron, there was no one who could stop Rose. The player that we see now is a shell of what he once was, but Rose’s explosion and acrobatics made him nearly impossible to defend below the free throw line, and the best the defense could do was force him to make jump shots.

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If we were to swap the two, the Bulls get historically good on defense but the Heat would also improve. Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Miami’s top-five defense are there to bail Rose out and both teams would meet in the Conference Finals. However, remember the playoffs don’t matter, and I’m convinced that the Bulls win 65 or 66 games swapping James for Rose.

It wouldn’t be weird to see the Heat have a two or three game improvement either, and that’s a testament to how impactful both LeBron James and Derrick Rose were. With that said, when you have two guys who are equally valuable to their franchises, the MVP award should get handed out to the better player.

There’s no question that James was better than Rose that season. As I mentioned earlier, they were sensational playmakers but LeBron had a slight edge in efficiency, and he was — by far — the better two-way player.

In the aftermath of “The Decision,” there was a sour taste left in people’s mouths, and Rose was the perfect mouthwash. Here was a homegrown kid from the roughest part of Chicago bringing life back to his hometown team while LeBron just abandoned his because the organization took his superstardom for granted.

Although James should’ve taken home the award that season, Rose wasn’t an undeserving recipient. If anyone should’ve beaten LeBron, it was him. But, the league’s best player, who was just as valuable to his team as any other candidate, didn’t take home the trophy.

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