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Monday, November 22, 2021

MVP Selection Criteria II

In MVP Selection Criteria, I examined some of the historical patterns and trends in NBA MVP voting. The league has never established specific and defined MVP criteria, leaving the voters to their own devices. 

It is way too early in the 2021-22 season to talk about MVP candidates, but that does not stop many people from doing so. In order to not abandon the field to people who do not know what they are talking about, sober-minded commentators are thus drawn into the discussion as well. 

There is no question that Stephen Curry is playing at an MVP-caliber level so far this season. However, it is interesting to contrast the way that he is portrayed by the media compared with the way that other MVP caliber players have been portrayed. We have seen Curry play well as the second option behind Kevin Durant on two championship teams, and we have seen Curry play well while his teammate Andre Iguodala won the 2015 NBA Finals MVP, so we know that Curry can win championships as a major part of a strong ensemble cast--but the notion that he is a Pantheon-level player who can carry a subpar supporting cast is, at the very least, unproven.

Last season, Curry played alongside several promising young players plus Draymond Green--who has a solid chance of being honored as a Hall of Famer--and Andrew Wiggins, a former number one overall draft pick who has developed into a very good two-way player, yet Curry was not able to even lead the Warriors into the playoffs; the Warriors lost a home game in the Play-In Tournament as Ja Morant outplayed Curry in the key moments. 

This season, the narrative is that the Golden State Warriors have a great record because Curry is carrying a squad that is without the services of Kevin Durant (who fled for Brooklyn two years ago) and the injured Klay Thompson. Again, there is no doubt that Curry is playing very well, but the point is that the narrative that he is the only weapon for the NBA version of the Little Sisters of the Poor is not accurate.

When a player is playing very well and his team is winning, it may be difficult for some people to discern how much credit that player should receive, but if that player sits out or does not play well and his team still wins then it may become easier to figure out what is happening. 

Curry did not play on Friday night versus the Detroit Pistons, but the Warriors built a big lead and held on to win, 105-102. Curry shot just 2-10 from the field in his return to action on Saturday, but the Warriors again built a big lead and this time they cruised to a 119-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors. Detroit and Toronto are not powerhouses, to put it mildly, and this is just a two game sample size, but the limited evidence that we have from this season does not suggest that the Warriors--even without Durant and Thompson--are completely helpless when Curry is out of action or ineffective.

In contrast, Kobe Bryant--who won one regular season MVP, while Curry has already won two and is being widely touted as the leader in the 2022 MVP race--not only won back to back Finals MVPs to establish beyond doubt his ability to be the first option on a championship team, but he carried the 2005-06 Lakers to a 45-37 record, the sixth seed in the playoffs, and a near upset of the third seeded (and talent-stacked) Phoenix Suns. The 2006 Lakers' second best player was Lamar Odom. Green is superior to Odom as a defender and passer, and is not much worse as a rebounder. Odom was better than Green as a volume scorer but, like Green, he was best suited to being the third or fourth scoring option on a championship team. After Odom, the 2006 Lakers' next best players were Kwame Brown and Smush Parker. Suffice it to say that the Lakers needed Bryant to dominate to have a chance to win. 

Bryant never shot .200 from the field in a game that season, so we cannot compare any of Bryant's 2005-06 games directly with Curry's most recent performance, but Bryant shot .350 or less from the field in 10 games that season, and the Lakers went 3-7 in those contests. The Lakers went 12-4 in the 16 games during which Bryant shot .550 or better from the field, including 8-1 in the games during which Bryant shot at least .580 from the field. Those eight wins included Bryant's 81 point game, his 62 points in three quarters versus 2006 NBA Finalist Dallas (Bryant outscored the Mavericks by himself during those three quarters), and a 50 point game against Portland late in the season to help the Lakers secure their playoff seeding. 

Bottom line: in 2005-06, the Lakers played like a 25-57 team in Bryant's worst shooting games, and they played like a 62-20 team in Bryant's best shooting games--and he had many more great shooting games than poor shooting games. 

When Bryant was the best player on non-championship contenders in 2006 and 2007, the simple media-driven narrative was that a player cannot win the MVP when his team is a non-championship contender. When Bryant was the best player on teams that advanced to the NBA Finals three straight times from 2008-10, he won one regular season MVP (plus the aforementioned two Finals MVPs). In contrast, Curry won two MVPs when he was the best player on a stacked championship contender, and he finished third in last season's MVP voting--one spot ahead of 2021 Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo--when he could not even lift his team into the playoffs. 

This is not about "hating" Curry. This is about exposing the simple media-driven narratives that distort historical truth and are reflected in MVP voting. NBA MVP voting started to go off the rails in the 1990s, when we first heard of the novel concept of "voter fatigue"--media members admitted to looking for reasons to vote for anyone other than Michael Jordan as the MVP. Since that time, various media-driven narratives have incorrectly elevated several players to MVP wins (Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, Derrick Rose, James Harden are the most obvious examples in the past 20 years or so) while resulting in Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant winning only one regular season MVP each.

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posted by David Friedman @ 1:39 AM



At Monday, November 22, 2021 6:23:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Curry is a great player but it is frustrating seeing him get significantly more credit than he should, he's been on some comically stacked/deep supporting casts compared to his peers and the times he didn't his track record has been pretty underwhelming for someone that many want to tout as a top 10-15 player ever

Warriors FO managed to replace pretty much every negative player from last year's team (via plus/minus) with solid players that could start on other teams. They have done an excellent job building this roster and Kerr has shown to be a top coach

The other MVP candidates this season have been in worse - probably far worse - situations early into the season. It will be interesting seeing how the MVP race looks at the halfway point

At Monday, November 22, 2021 10:30:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lot of what you say about Curry is true. But, he averaged 32,6,6 during last season. He went for 37,7,3 and 39,4,5 in the 2 play-in games last season. It's not like he was struggling, he was playing great. His cast wasn't very good, and still managed to lead GS to a 39-33 record.

True about Kobe. Iverson and Nash were terrible picks. Rose doesn't seem great, but he led his team to the league's best record while there were no other great choices for MVP that year. Kobe probably deserved it, but he didn't stand out. While many might say James was the best player that year, his team greatly underachieved, no way would he or should he win that year. Harden wasn't a narrative though. He wasn't just the best player on the best team in the league putting up tremendous stats, but he was the best player in the league throughout the season. And speaking of Odom being Kobe's #2, Harden had old non-AS Paul as his #2 and led his team to within one half of play of beating GS, which no team ever came close to when GS was full strength with KD. And that wasn't even Harden's best season, he could've easily have won 2-3 more MVPs.

Interesting you don't bring up Westbrook at all. His play-in games and playoff series last season were much much worse than Curry's though Curry didn't make a series. And nobody has won MVP to my knowledge, at least in a long time, when their team finished as low as Westbrook's team when he won the MVP, just 10th in the league. He has yet to lead a team past the 1st round as a #1 guy, and has had 5 such seasons to do so while having several different AS as teammates in various destinations as well.

At Monday, November 22, 2021 12:36:00 PM, Anonymous Jazz Man said...

Kobe Bryant finished 4th and 3rd in MVP voting in '06 and '07 on non-contending teams while leading the league in scoring. Steph Curry finished 3rd last year on a non-contending team while leading the league in scoring. Those results seem pretty consistent to me. Kobe's teams had higher seeding but the winning percentages were .549 and .512 while last year's Warriors were .542.

Again pretty similar results leading to similar MVP finishes. Curry had more help but also faced a tougher, deeper conference with 9 teams at least 4 games over .500 compared to 7 in '06 and 6 in '07, which explains the difference in seeding.

This year, Curry is the early favorite as the best player on the best team, which is a guy who always gets buzz even when it's stupid (see also: James Harden, Charles Barkley). If his team starts losing he'll get less buzz.

What exactly is the issue here?

At Monday, November 22, 2021 1:49:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


As I have mentioned in previous articles, I would not place in the top 10-15 all-time, and that is one of the points of this article: Curry is a great player, but he has also become overrated.

At Monday, November 22, 2021 1:58:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Curry played very well last season, and he is playing very well this season. Curry has won as many MVPs as Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant combined. Something is wrong with that picture. However you want to spin last season's outcomes, Curry failed to lead the Warriors to even the final playoff spot. Kobe's 2006 squad earned the sixth seed, and thus would not have fallen into the Play-In Tournament even if the Play-In Tournament had existed at that time.

I dislike looking too much at numbers without context. Curry had an awful first half in a home elimination game versus Memphis, then he padded his numbers without the Warriors ever seriously threatening to win that game. The Warriors fell behind in part because of how poorly Curry played in the first half. So, yes, if you just look at Curry's overall numbers they look good--even great--but that is not the full story.

Harden is perhaps the worst narrative of all the false narratives. We are seeing this season what happens when he actually has to play basketball. He is an All-Star, maybe at best a fringe All-NBA Team player. A couple games this year he has been given 15-20 free throws like the "bad old days" and he has scored over 30 points, but in most of the games he has been forced to play basketball and the results have been what I have said for years that they would be.

I have written a lot about Westbrook. Sorry that you missed it. Here is my article about his regular season MVP award: The MVP Voters Got it Right I am not going to "relitigate" Westbrook's clearly deserved MVP every time I write about the players who should not have won MVPs, because there is no reason to place Westbrook in that conversation.

At Monday, November 22, 2021 2:10:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jazz Man:

"The issue" is that MVP voting criteria are not formally defined and are not applied consistently. Two of the greatest and most dominant players of all-time won one MVP each (Shaq and Kobe) while Curry and Nash won two MVPs each, and Iverson, Rose, and Harden won one MVP each despite not being the best player in the NBA.

Regarding Kobe and Curry specifically, Kobe's "non-contending" team finished sixth in a strong Western Conference (the West won every NBA title from 1999-2011 except for 2004, 2006, and 2008). Kobe's top three players were Odom, Brown, and Parker. Parker was a good candidate for worst starting PG in the league. Odom was best suited to being a third or fourth option, not the second option. Brown was, at best, a serviceable big man. Curry's top three players last season were Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, and Kelly Oubre. The two-time MVP should be able to do more than finishing outside of the playoffs with that group, not to mention that GS had more depth after the top four players than the 2006 Lakers had. Chris Mihm and Brian Cook each started more than half of the 2006 Lakers' games.

My consistent position is that the MVP should be the best all-around player in the league, with the only exception being if there is a dominant big man such as Shaq or Duncan (those guys are not as versatile as Kobe or LeBron, but at their dominant best they deserved MVPs). Team success matters, but 2006 Kobe did more than enough to deserve the MVP even though his team was not a championship contender. Do you think that those Lakers would have done better with Nash instead of Kobe in the backcourt? Do you think that the 2006 Suns would have done worse with Kobe instead of Nash? Those Suns could have won a title if you swapped the smaller, non-defender Nash with the larger, two-way player Kobe.

It is also strange, as I wrote in a recent article, that one regular season win by GS over Brooklyn is attracting so much attention when the reality is that GS has not won a single playoff game since Durant left, while Durant led Brooklyn to the seventh game of the second round without much help. It is odd that so many media members keep trying to elevate Curry over Durant and Giannis (not to mention Jokic, who is also at least as impactful on winning as Curry is).

At Monday, November 22, 2021 4:22:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I generally enjoy your analyses (and not just because I was a Dr. J fan as a kid and then a huge Kobe fan after). Fair or not, the reason Curry gets a kind of attention that no other modern player except Lebron gets is that Curry changed the game. He may not be on the pantheon/Mt. Rushmore of best players ever, but he is on the Mt. Rushmore of those who changed the game the most (along with Wilt & Jordan). I had a young son when Curry became a star and I can tell you, every 7-10 year old kid in America was suddenly trying to shoot three's because of what Curry was doing. Almost every team in the league has shifted to shooting more threes because of what Curry has done. It doesn't make him the best, but it does make him the ambassador of the sport and thus the person whose accolades will be praised a bit more than they should. As great as Kobe and Lebron were/have been, they did not change the sport (except maybe from the perspective of contract negotiations).

At Monday, November 22, 2021 4:41:00 PM, Anonymous Jazz Man said...

As you say the criteria are not defined. I would argue that the goal of basketball is to win the title so while it is a regular season award any given MVP must be someone who materially increases his team's chances of winning the title. By that metric I do not think 2006 or 2007 Kobe or 2021 Curry deserved the MVP because their teams did not have any realistic chance of winning the title with or without them. I do not think "elevated a bad irrelevant team into a mediocre irrelevant team" fits a reasonable definition of "most valuable" no matter how impressive the individual performance.

Obviously this means I disagree with several other MVP selections in the past but I will stay on topic.

That is not to say only the best player on the best team should win but it should be a team with both home court advantage in the first round and a believable chance at winning.

2006's MVP should probably not have been Nash whose Suns that year were clearly a paper tiger starting Tim Thomas and Boris Diaw as their "bigs." I'd have gone with Tim Duncan, who was the best player on the best team. Dirk or Wade would also have been respectable choices.

Nash's 2005 MVP probably should have gone to Shaq or Tim Duncan but I do not believe Kobe had a case that year.

2007's MVP went to Dirk who probably deserved it.

I do not think anyone outside of the Bay Boyz would take Curry over Kobe historically yet but I don't think there's much argument against either of Curry's MVPs. In 2015 he led by far the best team in the league and his closest competition was Lebron James who won 14 fewer games in "chill mode" and James Harden who I think we agree is a fraud.

In 2016 he was the best player on a team that won 73 games while leading the league in scoring with record setting efficiency. There should be no debate about that one.

If your complaint is not that Curry has too many but that Kobe has too few I very slightly agree. He probably deserved it in 2009 more than Lebron James but both were legitimate candidates. By 2010 I think James had surpassed him as a regular season player.

Ultimately though it's a bit naff to use "total MVPs won" as much of a comparison point across eras or to be upset about comparative totals across eras as it presupposes that every season is equal which is patently untrue. Kobe won less MVPs because his prime contending years overlapped with those of Shaq and Duncan early and Lebron later and his teams did not meaningfully contend in between.

Jerry West has less MVPs than David Robinson not because he was a worse player but because his peak years overlapped with those of Russell, Chamberlain, and Robertson, while The Admiral was able to win one by dominating a season that did not feature a peak performance from a single member of your pantheon.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan are by any analysis Top 5 or Top 3 players all time and they have the most MVPs along with Bill Russell but both also benefitted from comparatively weak competing fields to rack up those numbers. Kareem got most of his as the greats of the 1960s had aged out of true contention and the only other Top 20 all time player near his apex at the time was in a different league while Jordan won four of his five after Bird and Magic were declining but before Shaq or Tim Duncan had peaked. On the other hand Bird or Magic would likely have more MVPs had they not had to compete with one another to win them. Obviously if Kareem and Jordan's primes had overlapped they would both have fewer MVPs but it would not make either a lesser player.

Curry has more MVPs than Kobe because he played more meaningful seasons against less legitimate MVP competition. Had Kobe played in Curry's era and vice versa the counts would likely be inverted, at minimum.

This does not make it an injustice. It is a season by season award not a referendum on a player's whole career which would be a comparison Kobe would win handily.

At Tuesday, November 23, 2021 12:06:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Perhaps from a kid's perspective Curry "changed the game." I do not doubt Curry's popularity, but did Curry really change the game or did he ride a wave that was already created? The "stat gurus"--personified by the Daryl Morey/Mike D'Antoni/James Harden Houston Rockets--are largely responsible for the recent proliferation of three point shooting, aided and abetted by rules changes (or rules enforcement changes) that made it extremely difficult to guard certain perimeter players (most notably Harden, who not coincidentally is the player who has been most affected by the NBA's decision to resume enforcing the rules thus far this season).

The Golden State Warriors shot a lot of three pointers and enjoyed much more championship success than the ringless Morey/D'Antoni/Harden Rockets, but the Warriors' success is founded on defense, and a balanced offensive attack, not on just jacking up three pointers.

I would say that Kobe's historical impact as a preps to pros player who won five titles while becoming the closest player to MJ since MJ is more significant than Curry's historical impact as a great player who was part of an ensemble cast that won three titles, with Kevin Durant clearly the best player on two of those championship teams.

LeBron's historical impact as a preps to pros player who immediately played at an All-Star level (unlike Kobe and KG, who needed a little time to become All-Star level players) and who has led three different franchises to championships is more significant that Curry's historical impact.

So, I understand your point that Curry's historical impact may be larger than his ranking based on talent/accomplishments, but I disagree with your point because I find that both Kobe and LeBron had/are having greatest historical impact.

At Tuesday, November 23, 2021 12:28:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jazz Man:

As I stated before, my consistent position is that the MVP winner should be the best all-around player, unless there is a big man who is so dominant that he is more valuable than the best all-around player. I understand your point, but I disagree that the MVP voting should be based on team success. The best player is the best player, whether or not he is fortunate enough to have a great supporting cast. It is particularly ridiculous that media members who left Bryant completely off their ballots in 2006 pretended that Bryant had somehow become a better player when they voted for him in 2008. Bryant was actually a more dominant player in 2006 than he was in 2008 (he deserved the MVP in both seasons), but in 2006 he did not have enough talent around him to win.

In the abstract and devoid of larger context you make a somewhat valid point that total MVP wins across eras cannot/should not be compared because each season is a separate and unique entity, but my point is that the MVP voting went off the rails a while ago. Barkley should not have won over Jordan in 1993, Malone should not have won over Jordan in 1997, Iverson should not have won over O'Neal in 2001, and so forth down the line. So, Curry having as many MVPs as Shaq and Kobe combined is not merely the product of each season being a distinct entity but rather the culmination of the voting process being inconsistent--and often just misguided--in many different seasons.

Look at the MVP totals prior to 1993: Kareem (6), Russell (5), Wilt (4), Dr. J (4 including the ABA, which should be included just like AFL stats and awards are recognized by the NBA), Moses Malone (3), Bird (3), Magic (3), Jordan (3). Seven of those eight players are in my Pantheon, and Malone did not miss the cut by much. No objective basketball historian would question that those eight players each belonged no lower than top 10-15 all-time at that time, and if you add Oscar, Elgin, and West that would not have looked crazy as a top 11 of all-time list.

Since 1993, Karl Malone, Steve Nash, and Stephen Curry have each won two MVPs, while Allen Iverson, Derrick Rose, and James Harden won MVPs over Pantheon players including Shaq, Duncan, Kobe, LeBron, etc. Do Karl Malone, Steve Nash, and Stephen Curry belong in the same conversation as the first eight players listed above? It is not so much that the talent level at the absolute top declined in the past 25 years or so, but rather that the Pantheon players used to win most of the MVPs but now media members become "bored" or like to promote random narratives.

You can dissect any one particular MVP race and try to prove/disprove the winner's credentials, but my point is that the general quality of the voting process has rather obviously declined.

At Tuesday, November 23, 2021 1:46:00 AM, Anonymous Jazz Man said...

To the first point if your definition is merely the most skilled player regardless of results then we are at an impasse. I agree that Nash should not have won but disagree that Kobe was providing meaningful value towards the ultimate goal of basketball i.e. winning a title in 2006. I accept some people see to interpret MVP as most important to his own team specifically but I think that definition is flawed and trivializes the value of actually winning things. It is a league award not a team award after all. How can the MVP of the league be irrelevant to the outcome of the league?

I agree that the MVP voters get it wrong sometimes but I disagree that it is a relatively recent phenomenon. Did Dave Cowens deserve the 1973 MVP over Kareem? Was he even clearly the best player on the 1973 Celtics? For that matter did Kareem himself really deserve it in 1976 when his team was below 500?

Perhaps you are right that it has been even worse recently. I would not have given it to Harden (fraud) or Westbrook (not contending) and they are two of the last five MVPs. I would also not have given it to Iverson, Nash, or Rose.

Were it up to me I would have given Kobe two MVPs but certainly not more than that and I do not think it is an injustice that he lost in 2009. Shaq perhaps "should" have three with the additions of 01 and maybe 05.

I agree that Nash and Malone should not be two-time winners and that Rose and Iverson should probably not be 1-time winners. I think Malone in 1997 and Nash in 2006 are much bigger oversights than the others on this list however who at least seem to me to be MVP-quality candidates in those seasons I simply think other candidates were more qualified.

I do not think either of Curry's MVPs are remotely questionable so I disagree with your assertion that he does not belong in the list with the players above. Which pantheon level player do you think deserved to win the 2015 or 2016 MVP in his place? Most of them were retired and Lebron was relaxed. Who was robbed by Curry winning those two MVPs?

Moses was the best player on two Finals teams and won one title. Curry was the best player on three Finals teams and won one in addition to winning two rings as the 1B option to Durant's 1A. It seems fair to suggest he and Moses inhabit similar historical territory.

Comparing him to the next class up of guys he may yet match the ring or Finals count of Erving, Bird, and Magic. In Bird's case he has already won as many rings and played in as many Finals in fact. I do not think it is outlandish for him to have almost as many MVPs as they do particularly given that he had less competition to win those awards than they did.

You have made a few references to Curry excelling on stacked teams. This is fair. A similar observation could be made of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar though. Did any of them ever win a title without two other All-Stars or at least All-Star level players on their team? I think that more often than not they even had three.

In fact being surrounded by multiple other All-Stars seems to correlate strongly to MVPs now that I think about it. Perhaps that is a problem unto itself though I don't particularly think it is. But if it is it is certainly not one unique to Curry.

A final point is that you seem concerned with the legacy of the award as it pertains to the guys who win it and point to the Pantheon players as the most deserving. I agree that they are by and large the best players but much of what separates them from the rest is what they do in the playoffs. That naturally cannot be reflected in a regular season award. When people look at the historical record they may see that Curry has more MVPs than Shaq but they will also see that Shaq has more rings and Finals MVPs. It is probably not fair or realistic to expect the MVP legacy to perfectly reflect the greatest players of all time because so much of what makes them the greatest happens outside the parameters where the award is decided.

At Tuesday, November 23, 2021 3:15:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the 2009 Magic and 2014 Spurs also have had an underrated role in the proliferation of the 3 ball, I would also argue big man quality has fallen off too (although there has definitely been a resurgence the last few seasons) so it has been easier to go small and sacrifice defense (most bigs today do not take advantage of the size advantage) in today's game in hopes of simply just outshooting opponents. It really does get lost that the foundation for the mid 10s Warriors was defense and Green was and still is the foundation for their defense

Mid 10s Warriors had a perfect storm with Steph's very team friendly contract due to his early injuries that allowed them to sign the likes of Iggy (best player on a 57 win squad that ironically lost to the Warriors that PS), Bogut, West, and Livingston among others, drafting Klay who was expected to be a solid player but I don't recall anyone seeing two-way potential out of him, and drafting Green who despite a decorated college career was seen as a tweener. Even if Steph might have the most to do with proliferation of the 3 ball a lot that was out of his control had to happen to even get there, I just can't say he "changed the game" since the 3 ball was on an upward trend and the Warriors only truly proved that well-rounded on both ends teams wins championships but they were better known for their high 3 point usage which is why people mistakenly attribute him as the reason for that. He definitely accelerated the usage of the 3 point shot though, that I will not argue against

And I know David that you've mentioned this here and even in your earlier blogs from way back but the MVP really has lost some meaning the last 30 years due to the narrative-shifting that's prevented the best candidate to win it half of the time. There were some questionable/debatable MVPs even before the 90s but it's become a joke the past 30 years. seeing generational players like Hakeem/Shaq/Kobe end up with 1 MVP each while Malone/Nash/Steph end up with 2 each, I'm confident that the trio of 1 career MVPs I listed is at least twice as good as the trio of 2 career MVPs that I listed. Sure a lot of it is due to situations/bad luck for the 1 MVP players (Hakeem didn't always have a competent cast in his prime, Shaq wasn't always taking the RS seriously, and Kobe was in Shaq's shadows early on and spent his later prime years either on really bad teams or competing with peak LeBron who was the better RS player at that point) but it's just one reason why I care less about that award nowadays, I think for the most part they get it right with All-NBA 1st Team at least

At Tuesday, November 23, 2021 8:12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Players decided the MVP up until 1979-80 and media have decided ever since. "Game knows game" so seems to me like the former has more credibility than the latter. How about making it half and half? We should have the players as a voting bloc count for 50% and have the media count for the other 50%. That way we wouldn't have random "media narratives" determining the MVP. E.g. I suspect that Iverson's and Nash's three MVP's between them have to do with members of the media relating more to the relatively diminutive guards. Curry's two MVP's perhaps too.

I don't think that we should revert back to players determining the award because they can get political too. But we should definitely allow for their inside perspective. So David, what do you think about a 50/50 split between players and media?

At Tuesday, November 23, 2021 8:09:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jazz Man:

My main criterion for MVP worthiness is best all-around player. I never said anything about "regardless of results"; indeed, I have often cited statistics that indicate an MVP candidate's impact on team success. Kobe Bryant had a significant impact on team success during the 2006 season, as noted in my article. Our disagreement is about whether or not an MVP candidate must be playing for a championship contender.

In 1973, Cowens was the best player for a 68-14 team that likely would have won the title if Havlicek had not gotten hurt during the playoffs (the Celtics won two of the next three titles). Cowens, Abdul-Jabbar, and Archibald split the first place votes in a season during which each of those three top-50 players had exceptional seasons. I'd take any of those three seasons over some of the MVPs who I have mentioned in this comments thread, including Karl Malone, Iverson, Nash, Rose, and Harden.

In 1976, Abdul-Jabbar was the victor in another three man race, this time between him, Cowens, and McAdoo. Three legit top-50 players battling for MVP status when each had exceptional seasons is very different from the situations involving some of the more recent MVP winners who I have mentioned in this thread and elsewhere.

In 2015, LeBron James had a better individual season than Curry, he had more impact on winning, and he was clearly the better all-around player. In 2016, I would argue that both James and Leonard had better all-around seasons than Curry did. Curry played at a high level during both seasons, but in neither season was he the best all-around player in the NBA, and we have consistently seen that he has yet to demonstrate the capacity to be the best player during the NBA Finals.

The other multiple MVP winners who played on "stacked" teams did so in an era when they were playing against similarly "stacked" teams. The overall depth of talent is not the same now as it was in the past, in part because of expansion. During the 1960s, there were just a handful of teams, so Chamberlain and Russell faced each other much more often in the regular season that superstars face each other today. In the 1980s, former All-Stars and former MVPs who could still play at a high level came off of the bench (or at least accepted much reduced roles) on championship contenders (Archibald and McAdoo are perhaps the two most prominent examples).

Regarding your last point, refer to my previous comment: I would argue that, until the early to mid 1990s, the list of MVP winners did correspond rather well with the list of greatest players of all-time--and I would argue that is how things should be, but no longer are.

At Tuesday, November 23, 2021 8:16:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I agree with your comments about the 2009 Magic and the 2014 Spurs.

The All-NBA First Team voting used to be pretty solid, but Harden's regular appearances in recent seasons have tainted that honor. The voting pool has been expanded, and that is not a good thing. One year, Maria Taylor left Anthony Davis off of her list entirely, which she later claimed was a simple oversight (regardless of the reason, that lapse is a strong indicator that she should not have been selected as a voter in the first place, and she is far from the only unqualified voter).

At Tuesday, November 23, 2021 8:27:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Perhaps the 50/50 idea is worth considering. The players who voted back in the day generally did a better job than the media members who are voting now are doing, but in recent years when the players have been able to participate in the All-Star voting process some of their choices have been a bit odd, which suggested that they might not be taking it very seriously.

At Wednesday, November 24, 2021 12:06:00 PM, Anonymous Jazz Man said...

If you think Lebron James had "more impact on winning" than Stephen Curry in 2015 I'm not sure what to tell you mate. He played 11 fewer games in a softer conference, won 14 fewer, and had the best teammate on either team in Kyrie Irving and another star in Kevin Love. Even if you don't want to penalize him for time missed his winning percentage when he played was still far below that of the Warriors. And they lost both their games without Curry too so if you give him the courtesy it only widens the gap.

I don't rightly agree that Lebron or Leonard had more impact on winning than he did in 2016 either considering that all three of them played on multi-star teams but only Curry's won the most games in NBA history.

Suppose we'll just have to let it lie at that. Cheers!

At Thursday, November 25, 2021 1:16:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jazz Man:

Yes, I think that a 6-8, 250 lb+ player who scores, rebounds, defends, and passes at a high--if the not highest--level in each of those categories has more of an impact on winning than a 6-3 point guard who is an elite shooter, a good passer, a good rebounder for his position, and an average defensive player (at best). One player's impact on winning is not determined solely by comparing his team's record to another team's record, because the two teams may not have equal supporting casts. Similarly, but perhaps to a lesser extent, I think that a 6-7, 230 lb. player who defends at an elite level, scores efficiently, rebounds well for his position and is an above average passer has more of an impact on winning than the aforementioned 6-3 point guard. You are free to disagree, but your position is not supported by the evidence regarding these players, nor by the evidence of 75 years of pro basketball history during which great 6-7 or 6-8 players are generally more valuable than great 6-3 players.

Regarding the 73 win Warriors, Scottie Pippen recently (and correctly) stated that they are disqualified from greatest team of all-time consideration because they did not win the title. That should not be a controversial statement, because it is evident that the Warriors were not even the greatest team of that season, let alone the greatest team of all-time.

Of course, those 2016 Warriors led by regular season MVP Curry lost in the Finals in no small part due to the efforts of James, who won the Finals MVP--an honor that Curry has yet to win.


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