Why the MVP Award Confuses Me

Written by Tim Kreutzfeldt

@kjackman, facebook.com/jackmansports, jackmansports@yahoo.com

Sometime in the next couple of weeks, the NBA will award its coveted MVP trophy to Derrick Rose. Diehard Bulls fans like myself will give many reasons why he deserves the award: he led an injury-plagued team to the NBA’s best record just a year after finishing .500, he effortlessly flies through the air to score in ways reminiscent of another special Bulls great and he was the only player to rank in the top ten of both points and assists per game in the regular season.

Yet, none of these reasons is sufficient to explain how the young star had already ensured his acceptance of the award by February.

The real reason is pretty simple, actually: the media collectively agreed that Rose’s story was the best of the season, and his stats and highlight reel did the rest of the talking for him.

That the media possesses such a powerful hold on the MVP is a problem. Multiple NBA personalities including Stan Van Gundy and Kevin Durant expressed disdain towards MVP discussions earlier this season, claiming that the media had already unanimously chosen Rose, rendering all further discussion useless.

Van Gundy and Durant have reason to be frustrated. The MVP is determined based on the ballots of over a hundred analysts, coaches and NBA experts. There are no criteria for deciding the ballot, allowing the voting process to turn into the odd, abstract monster it has become over the past few years.
Here are a few odd rules the voting process seems to have adapted:

1. Stats mean nothing on a losing team.

Love is the first player to average 20+ points and 15+ rebounds per game since Moses Malone in the 1982-1983 season. Steve Nash’s season averages bear an uncanny resemblance to his back-to-back MVP award-winning seasons from a few years ago. But both Minnesota and Phoenix had sub-.500 seasons, so throw Love and Nash out of the discussion.

2. MVP worthiness is negatively impacted by talented teammates.

For the fourth straight year, Lebron James finished the regular season with the highest player efficiency rating (PER), an all-encompassing statistic for determining an individual player’s value. For the second year in a row, Kevin Durant has led the NBA in scoring. James won the MVP award for the second straight season last year followed by runner-up Durant, but both players had the “misfortune” of being accompanied by fellow superstars this year. The logic here seems to be that Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City could have carried their respective teams to victory even without James and Durant. James, Wade, Bosh, Durant and Westbrook all get tossed out of the discussion for this reason. Heck, why not toss out Boston’s four best players while we’re at it?

3.  Newness is encouraged. Consistency is not.

Let’s take a look at some notable contributions from some NBA veterans this season.  Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas to its eleventh straight 50+ win season despite missing nine games to injury in which the Mavs lost seven times and beat Cleveland. Kobe Bryant was awarded the MVP of the 2011 All-Star game and helped L.A. to a scorching 17-1 record after the break. An aging Tim Duncan started 68 straight games to start the season, maintaining San Antonio’s hold on the NBA’s best record for nearly the entirety of that stretch. But all three of these players have won the MVP award before. Their names have been in nearly every MVP discussion for nearly a decade, and voters want newer players to take their place. So throw them out too.

4. Offense is more important than defense.

Dwight Howard has won the Defensive Player of the Year award for two consecutive years, and will inevitably win it for the third time this season. Howard ranked second in the league in rebounds per game and fourth in the league in blocks per game. Meanwhile, in New Orleans, Chris Paul overcame a devastating injury that ended the previous season and severely reduced his quickness to again lead the NBA in steals per game. Yet, these defensive contributions are overlooked in favor of Howard’s emphatic dunks and Paul’s crafty assists.

Finally, after throwing out all of those names, we have systematically weeded out every player in the MVP-running except Rose. But does that truly make him the best candidate?

My point is that all of these proposed “rules” for MVP voting are completely arbitrary. None of them serve any purpose other than to justify one player’s amazing story by means of excluding other players’ talents.

Surely, Chicago’s achievement this season without Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer had much to do with Rose’s performance. Rose’s improvement in nearly every aspect of his game and consistent humility in the media spotlight certainly make his success the most entertaining story of the regular season. But this is not synonymous with him being the most valuable player in the league.

Let me assert that I am just as proud of Derrick Rose’s performance this season as any other Bulls fan. However, I am not sure that he deserves the MVP this year. Keep in mind that Rose is only 22 years old; he will continue to improve as a player and win games for many years to come. I would just rather Rose win the MVP in a voting system without so many glaring flaws and random exceptions.

In my opinion, Lebron James is the best player in the NBA, and deserves to win the MVP for the third straight season. Not that that matters, though, since the media hopped on the Rose bandwagon months ago.

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