Friday, March 28, 2008

Let’s Talk Most Valuable

Sorry folks, I was on vacation for a week and generally haven’t been reading much beyond The Big Lead and the FJM’s lately. It’s either a testament to your devotion to reading this blog or a sign that you have no life that the “recurring visitors” that I get has remained constant. I'll go with the former.

Today I listened to (Boston) Sports Talk Radio during my lengthy commute to work, and by the end I was sort of yelling at my radio in annoyance at the general tone of their NBA MVP discussions. Here’s a little synopsis of the events:

Gerry Callahan and John Dennis are the hosts, and they both (Dennis more vehemently so) conveyed that Kevin Garnett should be the NBA MVP. They had their share of points and whatnot, but I can make this real real simple. Here are the basic reasons that were given to support Garnett:

1. Ultimately will be the best player on a team with the best record in the NBA.

2. Ultimately will be the best player on a team that had the biggest turnaround in NBA history, and he wasn’t on the team last year so he has been the major reason for that impact.

Now, let me tell you the real reasons why they believe that Garnett should be the MVP:

1. They are sports talk radio hosts in Boston.

2. They are not sports talk radio hosts in New Orleans, Los Angeles, or Cleveland. If they were, they’d be using the many arguments for those players instead.

Now, we first need to take a step back a little bit. The award, for right or wrong (wrong) is called “Most Valuable Player”. While I will always believe that the intent of the award should just be to award the basketball player who played the best basketball over the course of the basketball season (Most Outstanding Performance at Playing Basketball - MOPPB), it is unfortunately called the MVP – which does have a better ring to it.

Why am I discussing this? Because at one point John Dennis read a dictionary definition of the fucking word valuable. They frequently noted that the award was not for the most outstanding, but the most VALUABLE, in support of Garnett. This is maddening, but unfortunately we’re left with the word valuable to deal with.

So why do I disagree with them? Let’s discuss the two main arguments put forth:

1. Ultimately will be the best player on a team with the best record in the NBA.

Well that’s definitely a nice place to start an MVP argument, and the Celtics’ 24-5 record against the West means that for right or wrong we sort of have to throw out the conference argument. But the Celtics were 7-2 when he was out, which, while not being many games, is right on par with their overall winning percentage. Note that I don't think this is a disqualifier, but I note it just to point out that he has pretty good teammates contributing to that best record, if that's what you're hanging your hat on. Garnett isn’t carrying this team by any stretch. Paul Pierce is still the best offensive player on the Celtics, and he and Ray Allen alleviate a tremendous amount of the scoring load off of Garnett, versus what Mr. James is going through in Cleveland. But basketball isn’t all scoring, and Garnett has been a good rebounder and has anchored the best defense in the NBA. If you blindly believe that the MVP should go to the best player on the best team than there’s just nothing I can say, Kevin Garnett is your man.

Personally, I think that the MVP should go to a team with at least a .500 record, but other than that there’s too much to consider to just give the best player/best team the award. If you have a team with 3 stars and 5 good complementary players and they win 67 games and another team with 1 star, 2 good complementary players and a bunch of scrubs and they win 58 games with the Superstar averaging 30/8/8….then my MVP vote is probably going to the player on the second team. It’s really not as simple as checking the standings.

I don’t think John Dennis would have made much of an argument for Chauncey Billups winning the ’06 MVP (unless he lived in Detroit), or Clyde Drexler beating out Michael Jordan for the ’91 MVP. Allen Iverson would have to cough up his ’01 hardware to Tim Duncan, who would have to hand his ’02 MVP award to…Chris Webber. It’s just not that simple.

2. Ultimately will be the best player on a team that had the biggest turnaround in NBA history, and he wasn’t on the team last year so he has been the major reason for that impact.

Now this is why I wrote this post, as what he said in defense of this point led me to literally yell at the radio. Dennis pointed out that the Hornets won 39 games last year! They were 39-42. Not nearly as bad as the Celtics! The Lakers were 42-40! The Celtics were 24-58….this year they have the best record! The implication being that best player they added was Garnett, therefore he’s the MVP, because the other teams were already not-so-bad. Clearly they’ve improved, but they didn’t come from the same depths that the Celtics did!

Do you see the flaw in this logic? That led to me yelling this in my car:


With me yet? You can’t give the MVP to Garnett on the basis of the turnaround unless you have some magical ability to forecast what Cleveland, LA, and New Orleans records would have been last year minus their MVP candidates (not nearly as good). Next year, when the Celtics probably regress by a few games, will Dennis eliminate Garnett from MVP contention because they went backwards? Of course not, and he shouldn’t. It’s a stupid criteria for basing the highest individual achievement in the sport on. Let’s talk about which basketball players played the best basketball THIS YEAR, why does last year mean anything at all? The Celtics roster is totally different anyway – it’s basically like a new team.

In summary, let’s just rename the award please.

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