Right now, the hot topic in the NBA is who is your MVP for 2018.
Is it LeBron James? Is it James Harden? Hell, could Anthony Davis win it? Will Russell Westbrook repeat due to averaging a triple double again?
All of these questions will be answered in due time. The reason I hate MVP awards is because they are not given to the best or most valuable player in the league each year. They are given to the guy who stands out unexpectedly. They are given to the guy who is outplaying what is expected of him. It is a complete and total sham.
Cue the music for James Harden this year. He is playing for the 65 win (league best) Houston Rockets. The narrative is this is his year after Russell Westbrook beat him out last year because he finished the season averaging a triple double. I will get to that in a minute. For now, let’s talk about Harden.
We hear about the “efficiency” of Harden. I am not going to sit here and pretend that Harden is without a shadow of a doubt the best offensive player in the league. However, Harden isn’t exactly known for his defense and he is playing alongside Chris Paul, who has the best plus-minus ratio in the entire league. Let’s look at his efficiency on the offensive end.
Harden finished the regular season averaging the following…
- 30.4 Points/game
- 45% Field Goal
- 36.7% from Three
- 85.8% Free Throws
- 8.8 Assists/Game
- 5.4 Rebounds/Game
- 4.4 Turnovers/Game
One of the statistics I want to key in on is the free throw percentage. Harden is one of the best if not the best at getting to the charity stripe and knocking them down. The guy is nearly automatic when he gets to the line. He averages a little over 10 free throws per game which can be such an underrated stat in terms of momentum and changing the pace. Defensively, it can be hard to get into a rhythm against someone like Harden who is great at drawing out the fouls.
Aside from the free throw, which is huge, let’s look at the guy who I think is more deserving of the MVP and who could have probably won 8 or 9 by now if the award was truly given to THE best player, LeBron James.
From a defensive standpoint, there is no comparison. I won’t even touch on that much. The guy can guard any position. If that isn’t versatility, I don’t know what is. We keep hearing about efficiency, but James is the model of efficiency.
James finished the regular season with the following…
- 27.5 Points/Game
- 54% Field Goal
- 36.7% from Three
- 73% Free Throws
- 9.1 Assists/Game
- 8.6 Rebounds/Game
- 4.2 Turnovers/Game
James blows Harden out of the water in field goal percentage and is dead even from three. However, Harden blows James out of the water in free throws. Are we really going to let free throws decide an MVP award though? It seems like a bit of a pointless stat. Much like I won’t mention the fact that James is a better rebounder.
I am not saying Harden doesn’t necessarily deserve it, but it is funny how when someone like Harden has a season like this, we lose our minds. James has been doing similar stat lines to this for more than a decade. He was slighted in 2011 in favor of Derrick Rose, which was an absolute joke. Durant and him were tic for tac in 2014. When being right there with someone else, why wouldn’t it go to THE best player in the NBA? Everyone knew Durant was winning.
That brings me to last year.
As much as I love Russell Westbrook and as great it is he has averaged a triple double the last two seasons…whatever. Why isn’t he MVP again? Last year, everyone raved about the triple doubles and this year no one cares. Now all of a sudden we care about efficiency, when Westbrook is the opposite of that. LeBron averaged 26-8-8 and shot better from the field and from three last year than both Westbrook and Harden. No one cared.
LeBron will once again lose out on an MVP award because James Harden “would have won had it not been for Russ. It is his time.” What the fuck does that even mean? People are constantly bitching about participation trophies, well that’s what these MVPs look like to me.
“Know what? You had a great year and you haven’t won this award yet. Here you go.”
It is not so much that I hate James Harden will win it. It is the fact I KNOW he will win it without question despite the best player in the NBA being right there with him.
The reason for that is because LeBron has been great for so long, we expect this kind of performance from him. Therefore, if he wants to win MVP, he better look at being even better regardless of his current status in the NBA.
It isn’t just the NBA, look at the MVP race in the NFL in 2016 when Matt Ryan took home the award. Aaron Rodgers was the other quarterback receiving consideration after a brilliant second half of the season. Take a look below at the numbers of both quarterbacks through the first 9 games and then their (Final Numbers)…
- 4-5 (10-6)
- 22 Touchdowns (40 Touchdowns)
- 7 Interceptions (7 Interceptions)
- 2,410 Yards (4,428 Yards)
- 267.8 Yards/Game (276.8 Yards/Game)
- 63% Completion Percentage (65.7%)
- 6.5 Yards Per Attempt (7.3 Yards Per Attempt)
- 6-3 (11-5)
- 23 Touchdowns (38 Touchdowns)
- 4 Interceptions (7 Interceptions)
- 2,980 Yards (4,944 Yards)
- 331 Yards/Game (309 Yards/Game)
- 69% Completion Percentage (69.9%)
- 9.5 Yards Per Attempt (9.26 Yards Per Attempt)
That season, it was pretty cut and dry that Ryan was going to win the award without much debate. In terms of value, Rodgers was the second leading rusher on his team. His leading rusher was a wide receiver and we are enamored with what Ryan did. That is what Rodgers does year after year when he is healthy, but how many MVP awards has he claimed? Only 2.
Of course everyone was blowing sunshine up Matt Ryan’s ass when Rodgers has had multiple seasons with similar stat lines minus the 4,900+ yards.
- 2011 – 4,643 yards, 45 Touchdowns, 6 Interceptions
- 2012 – 4,295 yards, 39 Touchdowns, 8 Interceptions
- 2014 – 4,381 yards, 38 Touchdowns, 5 Interceptions
- 2016 – 4,428 yards, 40 Touchdowns, 7 Interceptions
My favorite part about the whole narrative that year was before Rodgers went on his tear, the talking heads and fans were talking about Rodgers being overrated. There was commentary that he was done. He was playing poorly. Part of that is because of the high standard he has set for himself. I find it funny that those same people were ready to label Matt Ryan as an elite quarterback.
As expected, that was short lived. He is back down to Earth. I laugh at those idiots for ignoring the previous 8 seasons Ryan had. They were good, but not ELITE. The one elite season he has, people are ready to crown him. Go home, you’re drunk.
Those seasons were pretty comparable to what Rodgers was at the halfway mark in terms of touchdowns and interceptions. Rodgers, in what was possibly his worst season as a starter, was still better than Matt Ryan on a normal year.
The MVP is not an award that is always given to the most “valuable” or best player year in and year out. It is more so an award for the most surprising stat line of the best player on one of the best teams that year.
For true MVPs like LeBron, Rodgers and other true A+ superstars, good luck having another great year. You likely will need to be greater. Stat lines like 27-8-8 and shooting 54% from the field isn’t always enough when your name is LeBron James and 4,400 yards 40 Touchdowns and 7 Interceptions isn’t always enough when your name is Aaron Rodgers. But when your name is Derrick Rose, 25 and 7 is enough to get it done.
Therefore, the MVP is a sham, tragedy and joke. Take that to the bank.