With the second half of the NBA season currently steamrolling towards one of the most interesting playoffs in recent memory, many people will tell you that they know exactly how things are going to go.
Everyone will tell you they know who is going to win a championship, and who is going to win the MVP. Some people might even try to take the fun out of All-Star Weekend by explaining how the Dunk Contest is pointless.
I am not immune from proclamations of this sort. The only difference between me and everything else is that I do not claim omniscience.
Instead, I just tell you what I think I know. It is up to you to figure out if I have earned your respect as a hoops thinker enough to take what I say seriously.
Anything this important should not be won easily.
1: It’s easy to say that a voting bloc gets things wrong. We do it with Hall of Fame voting, and awards voting. However, the question is not what we do to fix the problem; it is more whether or not the problem can be fixed.
Kevin Durant is the latest to say that media members should be out of all postseason award nominations full-stop, and that should be the province of the players completely. While KD’s prickliness towards the media is a new phenomenon, the idea that the “media” should be out of the postseason awards process altogether is not a new one.
However, what people need to understand is that we have done this before, once, and it was not nearly the objective sunshine-and-rainbows we all like to imagine it might be if we left 450 NBA players from all over the globe to their own devices.
From 1945-46 to 1979-80, we left the MVP voting in the hands of the players. Moreover, sometimes, they screwed it up just like happens now in the media vote.
For instance, Jerry West, Rick Barry, and Elgin Baylor have no MVP awards between the three of them. By any objective measure, these are three of the greatest NBA players ever. West is a top-10 guard, Barry and Baylor are top-10 forwards. Yet, during the primes of their careers, the players never gave them an MVP award. So for all the talk of media screwing up the MVP votes, the players in that era screwed it up just as equally.
Now I know what KD thinks is his counter-argument, and what the counter-argument for everyone else who wants the players to vote on this would be: You overrate those great players, and their great seasons, because their peers didn’t think they were that spectacular.
And my response to this would be that’s why you need a smarter, and more informed, electorate for whomever you choose to vote on postseason awards that directly affect a player’s career and how he is remembered post-career.
For the love of decency, we have a major analyst on a major TV program covering the NBA proclaiming analytics to be farcical. That is bad, but it is not nearly as bad as using the Heat and the Spurs as your cudgels in that argument. The Spurs have the biggest analytics team in the league, and they have been arguably been the best team in the league since 1995.
Instead of trying to figure out who would do better with it, let us remember that the MVP is always, and will always be, a subjective process. Therefore, as long as that is true, there will be mistakes.
(Photo Credit: USA Today Sports)
Enough Guys. Be Better than This.
2: I am tired of Lob City, and I am tired of Chris Paul.
To be fair, Chris Paul might be the best pure point guard since a prime Isiah Thomas. It was a joy watching him in New Orleans take a team that had no business getting as far as they did to the Western Conference semifinals, and he should have been the MVP in 2008.
I say all of that to say this however: His game, and by extension the Clippers since he is without question their best player, is increasingly coming with an aftertaste I find difficult to stomach.
Simply put, I am tired of watching Chris Paul’s act. I no longer enjoy seeing him bark at referees, complain about calls no reasonable person should expect to get, and generally carry himself as though he is a 5-time champion and the finals MVP each time.
I’m bored by Lob City because they’re a middle-of-the-road Western Conference team, no more and no less, and yet carry themselves like they’re the Showtime Lakers, and expect to be feted as such when they haven’t even made 1 trip past the 2nd round of the playoffs since this team was put together.
Furthermore, I would like to remind everyone that Lob City was put together not because of some adroit personnel move on the part of the Clippers, but because the commissioner of the league decided to do a favor to an old bigot for reasons yet unclear.
Mainly, I am bored by Lob City because I am sick and tired of watching a team that has made no improvements continue to be feted as though they are a title contender.
This is the postseason where that team needs to show me something, or I will look at them as I grew to look at the Steve Nash Suns: Fun and exciting, but too flawed to win anything.
(Photo Credit: Soobum Im, USA Today Sports.)
Kings vs Princes
3: While you might believe the Warriors will get to the Finals, I think the best bet is our old friends the Spurs.
I know how hopeful we are for the Warriors to get to their first NBA finals since the days of Rick Barry and Al Attles, but I think a little dash of cold water is in order.
In order for the Warriors to get to the finals, they have to walk through a minefield of the sort we haven’t seen since the East of the late 80’s. The worst team among the other 7 playoff teams is the Dallas Mavericks. And that team has, unquestionably, one of the greatest shooters we’ve ever seen in Dirk Nowitzki who is playoff-tested to a supreme level, plus a top-notch coach who won’t be overmatched or unprepared for whatever Golden State might put in front of them.
Meanwhile, the Warriors are expected to get through that murderer’s row with a rookie coach in Steve Kerr. A rookie coach who has never coached before on any level, and will somehow walk through playoff-tested coaches who will be game planning for just him. Forgive me if this does not seem like an easy road for them.
Instead, I’ll go somewhere else. I’ll go to a team who can out-think, and out-play, anyone else in the NBA when they’re right. I’ll go with a team smart enough to figure out a way to stop Curry and Thompson, when all that they have to do is focus on them.
Simply put, I’m going to go with the Spurs.
No matter which way we go, the NBA Playoffs should be fun. See you there.