Midseason awards mailbag (cont.)
Let's move on ...
Kobe for MVP? LeBron is averaging more points, rebounds, assists and blocks. LeBron is also shooing a better percentage from the field and on threes. Also, at the time of this writing, the Cavs have a record of 32-11 while playing the most road games and fewest home games. The Cavs are 15-3 at home and 17-8 on the road. Meanwhile, the Lakers have played the most home games and fewest road games. The Lakers are 23-3 at home and 9-6 on the road. Get off the Lakers' lovefest and look at the numbers.
How do you rate value? I do believe James is the most talented player in the world, and he fills up the stat sheet like nobody else. But James and Bryant each measures himself by the success of his team.
When I filled out my ballot, the Lakers looked like the team to beat. Based on that -- including their ascension to No. 1 in field-goal defense at the time -- I rated Bryant as the MVP, slightly ahead of James.
Since then, James' Cavaliers have extended their advantage to 2-0 against Bryant's Lakers, and Cleveland now has the league's best record and best defense (slightly ahead of L.A. in both categories). If I were filling out the ballot today, I would rate James as the MVP, with Bryant running a half-stride behind. They may go back and forth all season, based on the rhythms of the teams they lead.
I'm sorry, but how could Chris Bosh be excluded from your All-NBA teams? It's a decision that deserves an explanation.
You're right, Simon, it does. As well as Bosh has been playing, his Raptors have been no more than a game above .500, and they've had a losing record for most of the season. I'm not going to criticize him for his team's record, because Bosh looks like he is doing everything within his power (23.9 points, 11.1 rebounds) for his franchise.
At the same time, I'm not going to ignore the contributions made by the other forwards who star for winning teams. In this case, I'm rating Kevin Durant on the All-NBA third team because his numbers are helping his team max out. Oklahoma City is one of the league's two youngest franchises and yet the Thunder are 24-20 around Durant.
Am I blaming Bosh because the players around him don't necessarily fit, because maybe he is a victim of things he can't control? That's not how I view it. All I am doing is rewarding Durant for making the most of his situation. Right now, based on what they have meant to their teams, there is no way I can rate Bosh ahead of Durant.
No disrespect to Deron Williams, who is a great player, but excluding Chris Paul from the All-NBA team is stunning. You seem to justify taking Williams over Paul on the third team because the Jazz have a better record than the Hornets. But the difference in the standings is like one or two games, so big deal. Plus, Paul missed several games -- don't you think the Hornets win a few more of those if he's playing? To use (slightly) "better record" as justification just seems weak to me. That said, I respect your work and appreciate being able to voice my opinion here.
I appreciate your letter, Brian. Leaving Paul off my ballot was the hardest of all the decisions. Let's start by agreeing that Joe Johnson is an All-NBA player and unquestionably deserving of a place on the third team. So how do you decide between Williams and Paul for the last spot? It's difficult to compare them because they have different skills, they excel in different ways; while Paul amasses more steals, there are a lot of people in the league who will tell you that Williams is the superior defender.
In the end, it's a lot like choosing between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. The success of the team defines which is the best quarterback. And in this case, Williams has had the better impact on his team so far this season.
We can compare the stats between Paul and Williams, but I view that as distracting and demeaning to two quarterbacks who value winning above all else. Maybe the dynamics of the argument will change over the rest of the season, but right now I give Williams the edge simply because his team has won more games.
How come when you are considering All-Stars you base so much of it on how good the team is? An All-Star is an individual accolade and does not have nearly as much of a team aspect to it, does it? For example, you mention Al Horford, Kendrick Perkins and Andrew Bogut as possible Centers on the All-Star team, but what about Brook Lopez? Lopez is almost a 20-and-10 guy while averaging 2 blocks, but he plays on a terrible team. Is it his fault he's on a bad team? He's doing all he can for his team, which lacks in a lot of areas. This is just one example of many, and I don't think it is fair that guys don't get All-Star consideration for being on bad teams.
You're right, it isn't Lopez's fault that he has the misfortune of playing with so many who have quit on their team. There is no way a roster with as much young talent as the Nets should be contending for the worst record of all time.
But how can you ignore other players whose contributions are helping their teams win? Here is something that sticks with me: Three years ago, Garnett, Pierce and Allen were putting up sensational numbers for awful teams. When they became teammates in Boston, those individual numbers shrunk, yet their value shot up and they won a championship. "I had a group of guys that were very willing to be coached and weren't stuck on who they were," said coach Doc Rivers, who spent the entire season reminding his stars to forget their old ways. "I hear guys say they want to win it, but I think what they're really saying is, 'I want to win it as long as I can keep doing what I do.' I had three stars who said they wanted to win and they would change to do it. I don't think you get that a lot."
It's true, we don't get a lot of that. That's because the NBA awards the biggest salaries to players who put up the biggest individual numbers.
I'm receiving a lot of disagreeable mail because I didn't award Anthony for his 29.7-point average, and I respect the point of view of those writers. I agree that scoring 29.7 points is a difficult thing. But it isn't the most important thing; the most important thing is winning the games that ultimately result in winning the championship.
It isn't an all-or-nothing argument. I'm not saying that the best player from each of the teams with the best records should fill out the MVP ballot and All-NBA teams. I'm also not saying that you're a selfish me-first player if you happen to play for a losing team. My point is that those who contribute to winning teams should be recognized as a matter of priority. I guarantee this: If the owners and GMs awarded contracts based mainly on the contributions made by players to winning games, then this would be a much better league.
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