May 04, 2010
This year, I got votes.
I won't say how or why, but save for a couple of examples that I will point out as this series moves along, my votes for the NBA's end of season awards count this year. And because one should never cast a vote that they're unable to defend, I'm going to be transparent and list each of my picks for the awards I voted on. Have at me in the comments, and in our Wednesday chats, where I answer questions from all comers.
Today, the Most Valuable Player.
Let's be honest. At this point, LeBron James(notes) has essentially taken the last month off, choosing to miss games down the stretch of the regular season, and pick his spots with the playoffs. This is probably (hopefully?) him at his lowest ebb, and yet, look at this astounding numbers:
29.7 points on 50 percent shooting in the regular season. 7.3 rebounds, 8.6 assists, 2.6 combined blocks/steals.
In the playoffs? Taking it easy? 31.1 points on 54 percent shooting, 8.6 rebounds, 7.4 assists, and four combined blocks/steals.
Working on a team that was 24th in possessions per game, mind you, which limits the amount of stat-padding a man can do.
LeBron has his faults, but he's been the best player in the league for a while, he was the best player in the league this season, and the best player wins the most valuable player award.
I sent a second place vote to Dwight Howard(notes), who was nearly as dominant defensively as LeBron was offensively, while tossing in some pretty solid offensive stats (over 18 points on 61.2 percent from the floor, although his scoring dipped and turnovers spiked in 2009-10, relative to the season before) of his own.
Howard changes the game defensively in a way that no other player in this league can on that end, and only one other player (LeBron) can on the other end. As with James, there are faults, but the sheer impact of the player as a whole more than makes up for some of the more consistent types we'll see as this list moves along.
Like Dwyane Wade(notes), who earned a third place vote in my eyes. He moved ahead of Kobe Bryant(notes) down the stretch as Bryant struggled with injury, leading an outright terrible Miami Heat team to within a few games of home court advantage in the playoffs. With the Heat in a rebuilding year, though, few noticed.
As mentioned, Kobe Bryant drops to fourth in my eyes because he "struggled with injury." Now, the first part of that means actually having to overcome the consistent pain in his knees and legs and back and the bloody broken finger he dealt with for most of the season. Think about that. A shooting guard played with a broken index finger on his shooting hand, and the Lakers still topped the West.
But Bryant also dropped to fourth because he struggled to deal with his injuries as someone with his level of intelligence should. Kobe refused to bow to it, and that went both ways, as he continued to chuck as if nothing was wrong, in spite of the presence of significant front court talent that would have helped the Lakers play better than the mediocre style of ball we saw from them after the All-Star break.
Kobe's defense, however, was as good as I've seen it in any regular season save for 1999-00.
Kevin Durant(notes) comes in fifth, but I'd have no issues mixing the third, fourth, or fifth slots up a bit. His defense was better, he led the NBA in scoring, and while he wasn't as dominant in the clutch as Kobe was this season, Durant was the biggest reason a team (the exact, same players, save for James Harden(notes)) that started 3-27 last year finished with 50 wins and gave the Lakers hell in the first round.