A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Thoughts on other sites’ NBA MVP Watch-es

with 2 comments

As is probably clear, I’m a bit of a ranking junkie, hence the weekly top 10 list for NBA POY *cough* MVP.  Over at RealGM, we always end up with an on-going thread on the subject.  In fact, I believe we started using the phrase “MVP Watch” before Maurice Brooks.

There are two MVP watch lists I’m aware of at major sites that are reliably updated each week, and so I check them out regularly.  Both are bugging me right now though, so I feel the need to spout.

nba.com’s Race to the MVP

These rankings are actually *better* than last week, so maybe I should cut them some slack, but there’s a wording that just drives me nuts:

5. Deron Williams, Jazz (8-4)

Last Week’s Rank — 2

Hard to say that Williams did anything wrong in slipping three spots in The Race. (OK, his assists slipped to 9.5 in four games, while his scoring was at 23.8 in the same span.) Can’t quibble with the Jazz’s 3-1 results.

Now some context, the previous week, Deron rose from not being on the list to #2 – and it’s that that’s my really big problem with these rankings.  Even this early in the season to have such a leap is irrational.  For it to happen happen when Deron’s Jazz weren’t flirting with the best record in the game, and when the most unforgetable performance that week came not from Deron but his teammate (Millsap), is all the more strange.

I’ve seen some suggest that people have Deron Williams and Chris Paul linked in their head, and so if Paul gets glory, and people see some good things happen with Deron, they raise Deron up in something like lock step.  It’s as plausible an explanation as any.

Moving to this week, we have the author essentially walking his odd exuberance back, and it’s just amusing because he literally can give no reason for why he’s doing so.  Yes it’s the nature of rankings that you can get passed by doing nothing wrong if others do well enough, but being passed by two guys on the same team when by all accounts you had an excellent week is a bit too harsh to believe.  The author really seems to be doing this on a whim, possibly with the recognition that it was crazy to ever have Deron that high.

espn.com’s NBA Awards Watch

Here, the thing bugging me is the relationship between Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.  He has Kobe at 3, and Gasol at 8.  He gives this reason:

Let’s be clear: As well as Pau is playing right now, there are certain intangibles that make the Lakers Kobe’s team. (The fact that he’s one of the 10 greatest players ever helps, too).

Oh man that’s weak.  “certain intangibles”?  Gasol is putting up better numbers, playing significantly more, and the team is slaughtering opponents with and without Kobe on the court, but Kobe’s still the team MVP because…it’s Kobe’s team, and so he must be the MVP right?

Did I mention that currently, the Lakers have the greatest offense in all of history, and last year with Kobe playing way more the team was 11th in the league?

Look, I’m not trying to get general Kobe vs Pau debate.  Kobe has been the superstar of the team, has accomplished far more in his career than Pau, and even in last year’s playoffs when Gasol first showed signs of this quantum leap – it was Kobe who really took over with the season on the line.  If someone wants to say that as we speak Kobe’s still the one who will carry the team in the playoffs, that’s not unreasonable.

But now, right now, there’s nothing mystical going on here.  What makes a player his team’s MVP is net impact over a season.  That player isn’t the best every game – a bad shooting game can easily make a role player be better on any given night.  And when that happens often enough, and another teammate steps up often enough, you have a new MVP.

It’s as simple, and as logical as that.  Intangibles are very real, but they should not be used as a crutch to be thrown out so that your rankings can look more in line with your pre-conceived notions.

Written by Matt Johnson

November 22, 2010 at 2:12 pm

2 Responses

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  1. The idea of team “ownership” by players drives me nuts. The circles-within-circles arguments about Wade and Lebron are a case in point. Peak performers on a team can fluctuate, but there’s no reason to go all Obi-Wan about sensing a great disturbance in the force.


    November 27, 2010 at 3:58 pm

  2. Preach on brother. I’m with you.


    November 30, 2010 at 5:12 pm

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