Wednesday, April 09, 2008

MVP: When Do Voters Stop Paying Attention?

To read most columns these days, you would think that the MVP race is coming down to the wire - that every game counts and that the jockeying for positioning in the standings could ultimately determine who wins.

I believe this is untrue.

I don't know for sure whether Kobe Bryant or Chris Paul will win the MVP, but I have my opinion (surprise) on who should. I feel that Paul has busted open a close race and should win going away. He's this season's best player, has his team poised to win the most competitive conference in basketball history, has saved professional hoops in New Orleans, and has set a plethora of new statistical standards. I'm struggling to think of any other criteria one could use in determining the award.

That said, I won't be surprised if Bryant wins. Actually, I should clarify. There are many people who wouldn't be surprised, including those who actually feel he deserves it this season (a dwindling number, it seems) and those that think he is going to get some kind of Academy Awards-style makeup vote for 2006.

Even if I didn't subscribe to the makeup vote theory, and even if I didn't feel that he deserved it this year (he doesn't, but nor would it be some sort of grave injustice), I still wouldn't be surprised/


Because a month ago, he was out in front of this race. And a month ago is when people started making up their minds on this thing.

Believe it. I know it sucks to think that voters would make such decisions with such a huge portion of the season remaining, but that seems to be the way these folks roll.

Consider the last several MVP winners:

2005 - Steve Nash. Nash had a great year leading the Suns to the best record in the league, but people made up their minds WAY too early. He averaged just 11.8 points per game on .439 shooting in his final 10 games and had his highest turnover month of the season in April. No one seemed to notice. At all.

2006 - Nash. The same thing happened in 2006. This was the season that Kobe averaged a billion points a game (and made a case for MVP despite playing for a .500 team) and LeBron came into his own, but I was convinced that Nash really was the MVP until he suffered an April swoon once again. He averaged just 13.4 points per game and, to me, lost ground to the other candidates. Needless to say, it barely registered with the voters.

2007 - Dirk Nowitzki. This was amazing to watch. Because the voters had tabbed Nash over Kobe/LeBron in 2006, they didn't want to give it to Nash yet again in 2007, when he actually deserved it more. So they settled on Dirk under the old "best player on the best team" rule and called it a day. Except that they didn't actually watch any hoops for the last month of the season. For the year, Dirk went for 24.6 and 8.9 per game and shot .416 from three. In April, he went for 20.6 and 5.7 while shooting .273 from downtown.

Now, I realize that everyone is entitled to a down month from time to time and that in some of these cases, teams were cruising home with the top seed sewn up. But this is the award for the most valuable player in the entire league for that season. How can you discount an entire month? How can you do anything but pay attention and analyze and debate until the last possible moment?

That's why I've got Chris Paul on my imaginary ballot but also why I won't be "submitting" it until the end of the season. And also why I won't be the least bit surprised if Kobe pulls out a "surprise" win.

Because if you ask me, everybody stopped paying attention sometime back in early March.

1 comment:

Brandon said...

Paul laying a huge egg against the Jazz doesn't hurt his campaign at all? He gave up last night... after the Jazz started their run in the third quarter, Paul started throwing elbows and got real pouty.

Not exactly MVP-caliber behavior.