Sheridan: MVP Race is Too Close to Call; Plus Other Awards

I have been an MVP voter for the past six years, and it remains to be seen whether my departure from the mainstream media will impact my chances of casting a vote for the seventh straight season (When I was the NBA writer at the Associated Press for 10 years prior to my six at ESPN, we were not permitted to vote — the same rule writers at the New York Times have to follow).

The guy who sends out the ballots shares a last name with a big-timer at ESPN (no, not Bayless, the Westbrook-hater), and I do not know what criteria the guy uses to select the voters each season. I know he has a solid golf game and a sharp sense of wit).

But whether I cast an official vote or not at the end of April, the fact that I have  logged more than 200 consecutive days of work while remaining an upstanding member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association qualifies me to have an informed opinion, and with the season now entering its final three weeks I am prepared to declare which way I am leaning (although I never, ever, cast my votes until the regular season is complete).

Anyway, without further ado, let’s have at it:


Clubhouse Leader: Too Close to Call

I go back and forth on this almost daily, and this year is extra interesting because the candidates seem to move up or down on a nearly nightly basis depending on their individual and teams’ success. I always place a lot of emphasis on the word “valuable” when selecting this award, and this season that steers me to the question of “Where Would They Be Without Him?” If the Minnesota Timberwolves were still in playoff contention, I guarantee I’d have Kevin Love in my top 3, perhaps even at No. 1. But they have faded, and Love isn’t getting any extra affection just for keeping the Wolves interesting for the first three-quarters of the season. Also, Derrick Rose has missed too many games for me to put him in my top 5. He was prominent in the conversation a month ago. So for now, here’s who I have competing hardest in the race:

_ Kobe Bryant, Lakers

_ Kevin Durant, Thunder

_ Chris Paul, Clippers

_ LeBron James, Heat

_ Dwight Howard, Magic

Also under consideration: Kevin Love, Steve Nash, Russell Westbrook, Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo.


Clubhouse leader: Kyrie Irving, Cavs

It wasn’t exactly a great big man draft last June, eh? Kenneth Faried is probably the most impactful first-year player, but he was late to the party and will need a very strong finishing kick to crack the top 3.

1. Irving.

2. Isaiah Thomas, Kings

3. Ricky Rubio, Timberwolves

4. Kenneth Faried, Nuggets

5. Kawhi Leonard, Spurs


Clubhouse leader: Tom Thibodeau, Bulls

For the longest time I believed this race was already over, with Thibs guiding the Bulls to the best record in the Eastern Conference despite the prolonged absences of Derrick Rose (21 games), Richard Hamilton (38 games), and Luol Deng (nine games), and the lack of a two-game losing streak until this past Monday. But there is a gray-haired sage in San Antonio that is making me think twice.

1. Thibodeau.

2. Gregg Popovich, Spurs

3. Scott Brooks, Thunder

4. Rick Adelman, Timberwolves

5. Doc Rivers, Celtics

Also under consideration: Alvin Gentry, Lionel Hollins, Larry Drew, Frank Vogel, Rick Carlisle.


Clubhouse leader, Goran Dragic, Rockets

I got my first look at Dragic while covering Eurobasket in Madrid in 2007, when Dragic was the playmaker for Slovenia and the NBA scouts were raving about him off the record (because he was still draft-eligible, they were forbidden from mentioning his name.)  When the commissioner squashed the trade that would have sent Dragic to the Hornets, whoever was advising Mr. Stern was not an international basketball aficionado. Since Kyle Lowry went down, Dragic has averaged 17.4 points and 8.9 assists in 15 games as a starter to keep Houston in the playoff race (with Kevin Martin sidelined, too).

1. Dragic

2. DeMarcus Cousins, Kings

3. Greg Monroe, Pistons

4. Ryan Anderson, Magic

5. Nikola Pekovic, Timberwolves

Also under consideration: Byron Mullens, Jeremy Lin, Brandon Jennings, Kevin Love (quantifiable improvement in scoring and 3-pointers made, leadership and dominant play. Repeat winner? It’ll never happen. First-team All-NBA? Maybe.)


Clubhouse leader: James Harden, Thunder

Rock solid every single night, seldom the star (30-point games: 2), never a non-contributor (single-digit scoring games: 3). Shooting an eyeblink below .500 (.493) going into Wednesday night’s game against the Heat, putting him among elite company — Steve Nash (.537), Dwyane Wade (.503) are the only guards ahead of him in FG accuracy.

1. Harden

2. Lou Williams, 76ers

3. Al Harrington, Nuggets

4. Mo Williams, Clippers

5. Jason Terry, Mavericks


Clubhouse leader: Shawn Marion, Mavericks

Find me another guy his size who routinely defends point guards. OK, maybe LeBron James. But Marion is 33 and James is 27. And Marion has done it more often.

1. Marion.

2. Tony Allen, Grizzlies

3. Andre Iguodala, 76ers

4. Dwight Howard, Magic

5. Serge Ibaka, Thunder


Clubhouse leader: R.C. Buford, Spurs

Added three impact players: Boris Diaw, Patty Mills and Stephen Jackson at and after the trade deadline, and got rid of Richard Jefferson’s contract in the process. Talk about a mortal lock for the award. (For more on Buford, check out this guest column bu Andy Roth.)

1. Buford

2. Neil Olshey, Clippers (trading for Paul, claiming Chauncey Billups, signing Kenyon Martin and Reggie Evans)

3. Alex Martins, Magic (kept Dwight Howard from leaving, for better or worse).



  1. says

    The Spurs are the Top team in the NBA right now. Since the trade deadline they destroyed every opponent they had, including L.A.. RC is the top GM, Pop the runner-up for coach of the year, but no love for Paker as the MVP? not even a honorable mention? I think he should be getting major considerations

  2. Matt says

    How does Tyson Chandler not get on the list for DPOY? Chandler has almost single handedly made the Knicks in to a very good defensive team. Theyre the best defensive team since Woodson took over. Theyre down from 47%FGA to 44%FGA. Hes probably the best defensive center in the league this year….not as many blocks or rebounds as howard but hes also dominated howard in every meeting but 1 and id be stunned if he wasnt one of the leaders in Field Goal Percentage Against

  3. Mike Smrek says

    He doesn’t state that the order of his mvp race list is top to bottom, best being at the top- like the rest of his lists. Seems like hes just trying to stir controversy. LBJ and Durant are the front runners, no doubt. I’m a Laker fan, but Kobe has just started trusting his teammates again. He shouldve been all season.

  4. KRambis says

    He doesn’t state that the order of his mvp race list is top to bottom, best being at the top- like the rest of his lists. Seems like hes just trying to stir controversy. LBJ and Durant are the front runners, no doubt. I’m a Laker fan, but Kobe has just started trusting his teammates again. He shouldve been all season.

  5. Jeff See says

    So marion is front runner for defensive player of the year because he is older, and has done it more often? how do either of those contribute to being the defensive player “OF THE YEAR?” Marion’s a great defender, but that doesn’t make sense.

    Also, how on earth is tyson chandler not on that list. The knicks went from being a perennial pathetic display of defense to a top 5 defense, and even though all their best players have been injured the whole year, and we’ve changed coaches, and essentially are playing with separate rosters every few weeks, Chandler has been the only one to play through it all, and our defense has been rock solid and great the entire year. He’s easily the 2nd best defensive center in the NBA. I can’t believe he was left off

  6. kantankruz says

    I like Dragic for Most Improved, thats very interesting. I hadn’t even thought about him. Nice choice Chris. and Harden easily wins 6th man.

  7. Daniel says

    Chris is this a joke…Because if I was the NBA I would not allow an joke voting like this. LBJ has been by far the most efficient NBA Player this year and maybe in NBA history. Additionally, He defends better than any player in the voting except DHoward. They are also 9-1 without DWade in the line up this year. I can not see anyone close to getting the award other than maybe Durant but he does not play D.

  8. Ryan says

    How is Kupchak not on your executive list? *He* made the Chris Paul deal first and Stern blocked it. He seems to have successfully convinced the Buss family not to dump Pau Gasol’s salary for inferior players. He made the painful, but necessary, decision to trade Fish to make way for 25 y/o legit point guard, Ramon Sessions. And let’s not forget, he got Sessions by giving up a 1st round pick and….LUKE WALTON.
    Most GM’s might not have recovered from Sterns meddling, but instead, the Lakers keep *their* big three and add a legit point guard.

  9. Jolson says

    I’m sorry but even as a critic of LeBron having him 4th is a joke. And you can’t penalize LeBron for Wade and Bosh since Kobe has Gasol and Bynum. Kobe takes 5 three pointers a game and hits under 30%. He chucks up 25 a game while he has the best Center/Power Forward combo (at least offensively) in the game today taking 25 shots a game COMBINED. If you swap Kobe with Wade the Lakers would be better and the Heat would be worse. Kobe is a ridiculous pick for MVP when both Durant and LeBron are getting over 26 ppg on over 50% from the floor (and LeBron being a good DPOY candidate while Kobe’s defends has definitely been slipping). Kobe would be a worse MVP pick this year than Rose was last year (and he was ALSO a horrible pick).

  10. Josh says

    I’m a diehard Laker fan that’s watched almost every single game this season, but Kobe at the top? I’ve been saying all year he should at least be in the conversation, but not the frontrunner. The Lakers should be a lot worse than they are right now, but there have been games where KB has actually been hurting the team’s chances to win. He’s third in my book behind Durant (my pick) and James.

    Also, how is Bynum not a candidate as Most Improved if Kevin Love gets consideration for his added three-point shot. Many people thought he would get (seriously) hurt this season and were quick to say he wouldn’t make the All-Star team. He’s now become a bigger offensive threat than Pau Gasol.

  11. Chris says

    Kobe? Wow, he’s been such a selfish chucker this year. Here I thought shooting percentage indicated efficiency for scoring, but apparently it’s just points per game that matters. Compare his numbers to an average SG and you’ll find almost nothing MVP-worthy. Kobe is nowhere near the MVP of the league let alone his own team. Just a horrible pick.

    LeBron has been having one of the best seasons ever and he should run away with the award.

  12. Justice says

    I agree Sam. You give him the award because he’s better and more versatile defensively than everyone and anyone else.

  13. Dustin Turner says

    Jazz have a no name group on the cusp of the playoffs in the WEST, avoided a DWill drama similar to Dwight and CP3 with an good package of players and tons of flexibility – yet not even honorable mention for Corbin or Kevin O’Connor…

    • Brady says

      I was going to say something similar. Before the season, every sportswriter out there especially Mr. Sheridan was writing off the Jazz. Now on the verge of the playoffs, and no credit anywhere to anyone from the organization.
      It’s bad enough that Sloan never got any credit.

      • Jeff See says

        yea its like he would be right there with marion, but he’s only 27, so lets remove him from the entire list.


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