Rachel Nichols was right.
Or at the very least, we need some consensus on which of those two different things we’re using as criteria to award the current MVP trophy
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) March 28, 2017
This year’s MVP race has been the closest one I can remember in recent NBA history. Now usually you only hear the word “snub” tossed around when All-Star voting is the topic, times have changed; for now at least. Rachel proclaimed that the NBA should have separate awards for MVP and Best Player.
Too often in MVP debates, the narrative is modified to argue for or against one player. That being said, an argument for Russell Westbrook is not necessarily one against James Harden and vice versa. Neither is it dismissing Kawhi Leonard or Lebron’s case for the prestigious award. What it does is prove Rachel Nichols was right along.
In a league where a player who worked on his game over the summer is honored with “Most Improved Player”, we don’t have an award that solely honors one who had an outstanding year overall. The league and voters alike will have us believe that MVP goes to the player who, by definition, adds the most value to their team. If that’s the criteria, and wins are the most important stat, it should be concrete that Kawhi Leonard and his 60+ win Spurs wins it this season. Also, if wins mean more than individual stats then those people who said Derrick Rose, who led his team to 62 wins in 2011, didn’t deserve it should re-evaluate. Just saying.
Why the debate?
The debate exists because we witnessed Russell Westbrook do something that hadn’t been done since Oscar Robertson in the 60’s; average a triple double. Hearing those numbers be referred to as simply “arbitrary” is as dismissive as calling someone crazy just because you don’t understand them. You’re missing the part where Russ had to actually, you know, go play the game and earn those numbers. Not to mention this comes after losing Kevin Durant, arguably the second best player in the league, and his ability to still have OKC in the playoffs. He’s having the best season I’ve ever seen with my own eyes. His value can be seen whether you watch the numbers or the actual game.
Is he more valuable than Harden who leads the league in assists with 11.2? His numbers there are pretty close with 10.4. Is he more valuable than Kawhi who is the best 2-way player in the entire league? Does he mean more to OKC than LeBron does to Cleveland? Now, has he been the best player having the best season this year? YES. These are all questions that shouldn’t determine the league’s most valuable player while shutting out the accomplishments of another.
The fear of choosing the “wrong” player for MVP is why ballots won’t be checked until the last possible second. In reality, the lack of another award creates that fear and forces you to shortchange someone. Imagine saying 2+2=4 and have someone tell you “no, 1+3 is 4”; lack of a different perspective will have you arguing the same thing.
If we follow what Rachel suggested, the conversation would sound like “hey if Westbrook doesn’t win MVP, he should be a lock for best season.” which would make more sense. The league is evolving daily and this current era could use some revamping in the award system to challenge an ancient train of thought. Look at the NFL, of all places ironically, and their award system.
They have an MVP and an offensive/defensive player of the year, which are separate from who was the most valuable. Being the best and adding the most value, while on the surface sure sounds like it, are not mutually exclusive. What we need is change and it’s ironic that it took Nichols to show us that.