A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

2010-11 NBA Predictions: MVP

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The chic pick right now is to pick against the two-time defending MVP LeBron James , despite the fact that he’s just 25 years old and went to a team with an even better supporting cast.  In the recent NBA GM’s poll, Kevin Durant was the consensus pick to win followed by Kobe Bryant, with LeBron and Dwight Howard receiving one vote a piece.  The statistically minded Houston Rocket GM Daryl Morey came out of the closet as the lone guy who picked LeBron, which helps further position Morey as the lone voice of reason amongst all the riff raff.

Are the GMs crazy?  Nope, their rejection of LeBron here is quite savvy, with the key reason being this is about who will win the MVP, not about who will actually contribute the most value to his team.  Before you get worked up about MVP voters being irrational fools punishing LeBron for leaving Cleveland – it’s really not about that at all.

LeBron just won 2 MVPs while leading his team to the best record in the league both seasons, and then come playoff time, his team got upset before even making the finals.  And that’s what this is about.  A voter who gives a player accolade love, and then sees that player disappoint, becomes less likely to give the player the same nod in the future.  Now, in the ’09 playoffs, after LeBron’s first MVP, the Cavs got upset, but LeBron played out of his damned mind.  Yeah there were a few fringe views that LeBron was somehow to blame for Mo & co disappearing down the stretch, but on the whole, people realized LeBron did everything he could, and so there wasn’t a big backlash after that season.

But then it happened again last season, and this time, LeBron disappointed.  Right there, the expectation for this next season’s MVP was set.  LeBron staying in Cleveland wouldn’t have changed this.  Every voter after this regular season is going to be thinking about LeBron, and the thought coming to mind will be “But what if it happens again?”.  It’s going to take something absolutely extraordinary for LeBron to win the MVP because he has to make his domination so great that that question never even surfaces.  We’re talking about something like LeBron having his career year, the Heat flirting with the Bulls’ record, and everyone else having injury plagued disappoints a la ’77-78.

Mind you, this is not a permanent anti-LeBron bias along the lines you’ll see against LeBron in the state of Ohio for the next 150 years.  The moment LeBron wins a ring, this bias completely disappears.  Even if he never wins a ring, the bias will dissipate over time.  But for this year, LeBron’s screwed.

Alright so now that we have that established, who’s my MVP pick?

Kobe Bean Bryant

The GM’s choice of Durant is perfectly reasonable, but the guy voters will be itching to vote for is that 1-time MVP, 5-time champion Laker, and I’m not talking about Derek Fisher.  Every expert in the land is predicting that the Lakers will win the WCF.  If the expected happens, and Kobe rebounds from his injury plagued season last year to basically match what he typically does, the voters are going to give it to Kobe unless someone else really blows them away, because in the back of their minds, they’re going to be thinking about what will happen if they give it to someone else, and Kobe wins another Finals MVP.

Could Durant blow the voters away?  Sure, could happen.  I’ll even add in:  Durant’s surfing a wave of momentum right now, between being cast as the angel to LeBron’s devil and putting on a show for the ol’ red, white, and blue.  However last year everything went right for the Thunder and they still only pulled an 8 seed.  There’s a pretty dang good chance the Thunder struggle to take that next step forward this year, and if they do and Kobe’s doin’ his thing, Durant’s not going to beat out Kobe.

Howard?  Howard didn’t beat Kobe in the MVP voting last season.  I’m not saying Howard can’t beat Kobe this season – but either he’s going to have to take one more quantum leap, or Kobe’s going to have to fall back.

Anybody else?  Sure, could happen.  Wade, Paul, Deron, or even Nash could have the ball bounce their way.  Not gonna bet on it though.

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