The envelope for the MVP of the 2015-15 NBA season, please….
There’s a hush in the hall as the camera pans over the anxious faces of Steph Curry, James Harden, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, Chris Paul, LaMarcus Aldridge, John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Derrick Favors, Eric Bledsoe, Boogie Cousins–yes, extra security is standing by in case he doesn’t win–and the entire Atlanta starting five with their arms entwined, befitting their status as a collective entry.
Oh, and Kobe Bryant!
The standards aren’t that tough to get into the conversation. Kobe qualified when Laker fans chanted “MVP” when he went to the free throw line in the Laker opener, before he missed his first 100 shots from the floor. (Excuse me if I’m bitter. I took him in my fantasy league. In the second round.)
I can’t prolong the suspense one paragraph longer. Well, OK, maybe just one….
And the winner is, James Harden!
Well, he’s my MVP, anyway, as of now, and I’d guess he’ll wind up prevailing among the official voters.
Of course, I can see why someone might vote for Steph Curry, whose team will wind up winning 10 or so more games than Harden’s Rockets, who are on a 55-win pace, themselves.
Of course, Steph had more help, unless you think there’s a comparison between Klay Thompson and Trevor Ariza, or between Draymond Green and whoever Houston started at the four on any given night.
As for Bron, AD, Russell, this wasn’t your season, you pikers.
The rest of you wannabes, are you still here?
Oh, darn, I’m doing it again.
When Chris Sheridan asked me to write this, I said I have only one principle that applies to the MVP Debate: I don’t get involved in it.
I don’t care about awards in general, and especially this one, the one perceived as the most important while being the least defined with no agreed-upon standard, or even standards.
The MVP Debate, like those of all the other awards, exist only to give people something to argue about to while away the long months before the playoffs–which the leagues love because it keeps fans engaged with them.
Who’s the MVP?
1) Someone having a spectacular season.
Of course, some of these guys, like Steph and Bron, have one of those every season.
On the other hand, it’s just possible that Harden has become the best player in the NBA.
His season-long production (27-6-7, shooting 44%, 8.5 made free throws a game, 139 ahead of the second most), is unmatched.
No, Westbrook’s astounding month doesn’t eclipse it. If Russell can ever ditch that KD guy, he’ll be right up there in the running, even if it may not turn out to be worth it.
Second, Harden is 25 to James’ 30.
Third, he’s a guard who knows he’s a guard. Great as Bron is, he’s a power forward who has insisted on playing like a point guard all his career–making him an awkward fit with another point guard, Kyrie Irving. It’s why the Cavaliers don’t run an offense, as much as letting Bron and Kyrie take turns.
By the way, the next time someone notes someone’s PER in connection with this, I’m going to scream.
It’s a totally flawed stat–unless you think Hassan Whiteside who’s No. 6, ahead of Bron, CP3, Aldridge, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Jimmy Butler, et al, belongs in the conversation.
2) Someone on one of the cream-of-the-crop teams.
If he’s on the very top team–No. 1 in either conference will do–so much the better.
So much for the candidacies of AD, Russell, CP3, et al.
3) Someone who’s not a total jerk.
I already eliminated Russell. But if I hadn’t, he’d be gone now.
Everyone now gives him a pass because he’s playing so great. Unfortunately for him, if he turns mortal, they’ll start noticing again.
4) Someone who didn’t have too much help.
How did Michael Jordan win five MVPs? First, he was MJ. Second, his best teammate, Scottie Pippen, wasn’t a great scorer and deflected no praise.
Not that I think Kobe was as good as Mike but he scored more points, won one fewer title (6-5) but was only even in the running for one MVP, playing alongside Shaquille O’Neal and Pau Gasol.
Kobe won his only one in 2007-08, the season Pau arrived in February.
It’s true, Bron won two in Miami–in large part because Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were so great about getting out of his way.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t been as easy in Cleveland. Kyrie needs the ball more than Wade did. As for Kevin Love, he has gotten a little too far out of the way and all but disappeared.
5) He shouldn’t have already have won it too many other times.
In the 1996-97 season, voters gave it to Karl Malone out of sheer Jordan Fatigue, MJ having won it in three of his last four full seasons.
In other words, the voters just felt like it.
6) Ideally, he should be on your favorite team.
I understand why Warriors fans, Cavaliers fans, Pelicans fans, Thunder fans and everybody else except Rockets fans may think I’m full of it.
On the other hand, how much time am I going to spend listening to a Warriors fan explain why Steph is deserving, which I already know.
The worst part about the, quote, MVP debate, is that after making your choice, you find yourself running down everyone else’s choices.
These are the game’s best players, coming off phenomenal seasons individually and as teammates, or they wouldn’t be in the running.
Unfortunately, if you get into the conversation, you hear yourself saying Bron isn’t this, or Steph isn’t that, or AD didn’t do this.
If you care about awards, it’s inevitable. If you care about basketball, it’s dumb.
* * *
Of course, these are only my standards, and my weighing in. Everyone else has their own.
Come right down to it, I may come up with another standard next season and I have no idea how I might weight them. I do it by feel. It may change every year–and I used to be an MVP voter.
In other words, there’s no MVP. There’s my opinion and your opinion and the voters’ opinion.
For me, this award grubbing that everyone does is something to kill time until the playoffs.
That’s when the process begins wherein a championship is won, not selected by a vote. To me, that’s all that counts.
Hall of Fame writer Mark Heisler is a founding member and regular contributor to SheridanHoops, as well as the Los Angeles Daily News and Forbes.com. Follow him on Twitter.