Everyone Gets the MVP Wrong
Not only is the NBA season over, but the playoffs have already begun. The MVP debate for this year is James Harden by a lot and LeBron James in the background, and I just wanted to weigh in on what the MVP award means to me (not that my opinion really matters since I don’t vote, similar to my political views).
What I see and hear around the sports world is that the MVP should go to the best player that season. The classic example is Mike Trout, a player considered by all in the baseball world to be a “perennial MVP candidate.” Trout has won the award twice in his career, once in 2014 and again in 2016. Since Trout has came into the league in 2012, his Angels teams have averaged 84 wins a season, or basically .500 ball. They have made the playoffs only once in Trout’s tenure, when they were quickly swept by the Kansas City Royals in 2014. My point from all this is that, surely Trout must not be as valuable as we all say he is, for his teams are always mediocre. If he was truly so valuable, wouldn’t the Angels be one of the better teams in the league? Last year when Trout left the club for 39 games due to a thumb injury, the team's’ record sat at 26-27. In his absence, the Angels went 19-20 and managed to stay in the Wild Card race. To put it in perspective, if we assume those win percentages held up for 162 games, a full season with Trout would have yielded 79 wins, while a full season without him would have left the squad with, you guessed it, 79 wins. In essence I am exposing Mike Trout.
But back to the NBA. Who should win MVP this year? The leader of the best team in the league or the big baby commanding the four seed in the East? C’mon folks, it’s a no-brainer. Even if Harden plays no defense whatsoever, we have to keep his overall value in mind. He immediately transformed the team into a serious contender following his being traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder, and since last year when coach Mike D’Antoni put the ball in his hands he and his Rockets teams have been nearly unstoppable. He only didn’t win it last year because some guy from his former team who had the ball every possession and scared all his teammates averaged a triple-double en route to a 47 win season and first round exit to, of course, James Harden and the Rockets.
I will use my remaining time to shine the spotlight on a few individuals who I believe to actually be more valuable to their respective teams than almost anybody else. They won’t win the award due to their not being superstars or playing in small markets or what have you, but they certainly deserve recognition, even if it’s only from a 17 year-old blogger. The first guy has to be Victor Oladipo. The Pacers went from limping into the playoffs to securing a five seed this year, and it’s all thanks to that guy. I mean, a somewhat bad team lost their only star in Paul George, made no improvements to the roster (besides the fabulous Lance Stephenson) and has done better for themselves. The only (real) difference is Oladipo (sorry Domantas Sabonis), who is crushing his career highs and has turned this midwestern middling franchise towards a brighter future. Another shoutout? Why not? What about two rookies, Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell. I know it’s blasphemous to consider a rookie for the MVP award (unless you are the Almighty Ichiro), but look at what these guys have done. Mitchell is basically the Oladipo of the west, having kept his team strong following the departure of their star forward, and Simmons has breathed new life into Philadelphia basketball. I mean, the Sixers had a similar team last year and they stumbled to 28 wins. I know, Joel Embiid was hurt, but even with him they only went 13-18. Simmons is the new kid on the block and he is leading this team with authority into the playoffs. Anymore guys to consider? Well what about Damian Lillard? He is having his best season, and so, coincidently, is his team. He has had almost everything to do with their success this year, I mean just look at that roster (besides you C.J McCollum). Oof. Want another example of a guy who plays on a horrible roster but made the best of it? Anthony Davis. How that guy and his team win games I’ll never know…
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