A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

2011 Player of the Year – Final

with 5 comments

The Player of the Year Watch has gone on all season long. Here we have the Final ranking.

Player (last rank)

1. Dirk Nowitzki (1A)

This is an easy choice for me. When it comes to literally lifting a team, Dirk has been the personification of this all year long. With the way LeBron came on against Chicago, I thought he was going to make me toss that aside but it didn’t happen.

I’ll admit that I actually thought that Wade was the MVP of the Finals over Dirk, but over the course of the entire season, nobody contributed value like Dirk.

2. Dwight Howard (3)

My regular season MVP got knocked off his perch down to the 3rd spot after the Conference Finals. However he floats back up a spot after LeBron’s weak Finals play. I’m always hesitant to let someone who has already been eliminated rise in my rankings, particularly when they were eliminated in an upset in the first round, however I can’t find real fault in Howard’s playoff performance, and what happened in the Finals did sway my opinion on LeBron’s season.

3. Dwyane Wade (4)

4. LeBron James (1B)

I think it makes sense to take these two together. If LeBron ahead of Wade all season, does it really make sense to let one series flip things? More than that, given how LeBron outperformed Wade in the Conference Finals, am I blowing what happened in the actual Finals out of proportion?

While the choice of LeBron over Wade during the regular season, and on the through the first 2 rounds of the playoffs seemed obvious to me, it was by no means a big lead. LeBron was slightly more productive, which is part of why I gave him the nod, but neither player was putting up as impressive numbers as last year. Bottom line is that the team could have focused more on Wade getting his and I don’t think it would have hurt them. My feeling all season long was that the higher ranked of the 2 would be based on what happened when they actually had to fight for their lives. Obviously, that’s where Wade shined, and LeBron disappointed. Hence my decision.

What about LeBron’s performance against Chicago? As great as it was, if it was a bit less great, Miami still wins. And if Miami really was desperate to win, I do think that Wade would have done more in that series. The series helps LeBron’s case over Wade, but I don’t consider the series as big of a negative for Wade as the Finals are for LeBron.

What about how LeBron’s stamina against Chicago allowed Wade to rest which allowed Wade to have more energy against Dallas? It’s a great point and worth discussion. However the fact remains that I felt like each player was the best player in 2 series, and in spite of Wade’s rest he still had comparable productivity stats. Given that I felt like Boston & Dallas were the two toughest teams that Miami faced, and Wade was the star in both series, it just seems like too much to give the nod for stamina.

5. Kevin Durant (6)

6. Derrick Rose (5)

After much debate between these two after last round, I’m flipping them in the final vote. The reality that I have to admit is that at this point I still do think Durant is the superior player. I gave Rose the nod before because I was impressed with his contribution to his team’s success, and despite the fact that both players’ teams exited at approximately the same time, the Bulls of course accomplished far more in terms of defeating opponents in the regular season.

As I watched the Mavericks take apart the Heat though, I became more impressed with the Thunder. Also watching LeBron struggle it’s hard not to tip your hat to Durant even though they play very different roles. Despite the fact that OKC was a 4th seed who made the Conference Finals without taking on a 1st seed, and despite the fact that they lost 4-1 when they did take on a superior seed in Dallas, the Thunder hung right with the Mavs the whole way. No team pushed the Mavs in Dallas like the Thunder did, in part because Durant has become so hard to stop.

While it was no fluke that the Mavs beat the Thunder this year, the Thunder really could have won the series, and I don’t take that lightly.

Rose I may be being unfair to. I did after all have him at #1 on my POY list for much of the year. Part of that though was me knowing the difference between the regular season and playoffs and merely acting rationally in a way I don’t think a lot of others do. At no point did I consider Chicago the favorite to win the title this year. I expect them to lose in the playoffs and for that to hurt Rose’s candidacy. However, during the regular season, the Bulls were without question the most impressive team in the league – and that fact is something that should be used to smack down other candidates’ MVP arguments.

7. Chris Paul (7)

There were 7 top tier players this year. Paul is clearly the lowest of them, but even more clearly he is a tier above the guys below. His injury was real, people should not ignore it simply because he looked healed by the end. At the same time, it’s quite impressive how much impact he can have even when he’s not 100%.

8. Zach Randolph (8)

I continue to not feel strongly about the 8 through 10 spots. I thought the playoff hype Randolph got was overblown. I do not believe he his a Top 10 player when all players in the league are healthy, but just in terms of the year that was, his season stacks up with anyone below him.

9. Chris Bosh (9)

You might have though Bosh would drop out of the top 10 when Miami lost, but nope, he’s still here. The reality is that his advanced stats still really stack up with anyone not in the Top 7, despite the fact that he’s sacrificing for the good of his team. And let’s not for get that when we talk about Miami not reaching it’s potential yet, Bosh is actually the guy who’s progressed furthest toward meeting that goal despite arguably having to make a bigger adjustment than Wade or LeBron.

You’ve hear various people talk about how Bosh is arguably the single more irreplaceable piece for the Heat? As it stands, that’s true. He led the team in RAPM this year for example. He still wouldn’t get a top 10 spot if guys like Deron Williams and Steve Nash were playing their best all season, but as things stand, I’d say he warrants inclusion.

10. Kobe Bryant (NR)

As I reflect, I think I was a touch to harsh on Kobe. I do believe that there is an issue with Kobe thinking he’s helping his team more than he actually is simply because the goal of the game is to win and not win by as much as you can (and this is reflected in +/- stats). However his Laker team easily could have won the title again, and while Kobe never approached the mind blowing level he reached in last year’s playoffs, neither was he the primary reason for the team’s failure.

I had Russell Westbrook at this spot before, but y’know he’s got the same +/- type of issue as Kobe except that with Russell it’s not an issue of regular season coasting but actual trouble working with a superior teammate. I think his trouble should be taken at least as seriously.

5 Responses

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  1. My rankings

    1. Dirk Nowitzki – Arguable regular season MVP with Dallas winning 57 Gs with 1 all-star, then an insane run of playoff performances and clutch 4th quarters. Dirk’s year

    2. Dwyane Wade – Him and LBJ are 2 and 3. LBJ was better in the ECF, Wade was better in the Finals and they’re close to a draw the rest of the year. The Finals matter more to me + I was far more disheartened by LBJ’s lack of attack in the Finals. Wade was at least putting pressure on the Bulls defense in the ECF, poor FG% aside. LBJ was so unaggressive that Dallas put Marion on Wade instead and let Kidd or Stevenson or Barea and a zone succesfuly stop James. That’s worse to me.

    3. LBJ – My #1 after the regular season and through the ECF. I can’t get over that Finals though. He’s lucky to be 3rd.

    4. Derrick Rose – I would’ve given him my MVP vote for carrying that Bulls offense and his energy level seeping into his team’s identity. Not a great playoffs though.

    5. Dwight Howard – Carried the Magic through a midseason disaster trade and ending up with Brandon Bass as the closest thing to another big man on the lineup. Don’t like his leadership as much as Rose’s, I don’t think it’s a coincidence the Bulls team culture and identity is much better than the Magic’s. Also, when defenses start to figure out “Hey, we should guard that guy less and his teammates more” and it succesfully leads to a huge regular season ORTG drop – that hurts his ranking for me. The above 4 guys would never have that happen.

    HM: Kevin Durant. Need to see more set play work and I need him to get tougher in terms of sticking up to Russell Westbrook and commanding the team.


    June 19, 2011 at 9:31 pm

  2. Feeling vindicated, Matt? 🙂

    Everyone’s come around to your way of thinking and are busily now retrofitting narratives to make it look like they thought that all along…


    June 20, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    • Hehe, a bit yes. The tough thing though is that part of the deal isn’t so much that they’ve come to my way of thinking, as they simply went to whoever the champ was.

      Still, one of the criticisms of Dirk was his relatively modest PPG, which made people more likely to think that the improvement in team performance and individual efficiency was simply due to a superior supporting cast taking on a bigger load. As is clear now, Dirk’s capable of putting up bigger numbers and does so when he needs to. What stays unchanged is how massively he improves the team when he steps on the floor, and there too we now see more why: Dude’s just a lot savvier than he was when he was younger.

      Matt Johnson

      July 1, 2011 at 6:31 pm

      • You’re right. It’s like finding out that someone shares your deeply held political views, but has come to them from some fringe nutcase starting point.

        WRT Dirk, I agree that it’s an experience thing. Wheras the younger Dirk followed (to a degree) the existing playbook, in the manner of Magic, now he IS the playbook.

        I don’t mean this in terms of team playmaking, which was adequately if not spectacularly managed by Kidd, just in terms of having that extraordinary anticipation of the play and the ability to make the right decision in your own mind before it’s apparent to anyone else.

        Wheras once he was a reactive beast, he’s now a creature of instinct.


        July 2, 2011 at 8:27 pm

      • lol, I know that feeling in politics well. “Oh crap, how did I get on the same side as THIS guy?”.

        Matt Johnson

        July 4, 2011 at 5:41 pm

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