It's Only Proper That I Give This MVP Topic a Vinnie Bergl-like Treatment and Not the Jim Rome-like Treatment That I Gave Previously
Sorry...There's something about this NBA MVP topic that prompts really long titles from me.
As my last "post" on the MVP vote made clear, I was not too impressed with the selection of Steve Nash. It's only fair then that I give some actual reasons why I believe so and not just an unsubstantiated sentence saying what I believe (lest I stoop to the level of talk radio and ESPN).
As many other people hold this basic opinion as well, several objections to Nash's candidacy have been well-covered. NBA experts most often bring up his shitty defense as his glaring weakness, and let's face it--I'm not one to refute the great Stephen A. Smith.
Defense aside, I simply believe that his offensive skills are vastly overhyped. Yes, he is an excellent passer, and being a point guard, Nash has an exceptional amount of impact over his team's offensive performance. Having said that, no point guard can make a group of four talentless schlubs play well. The outcomes after the ball leaves his hands, as well as the quality of passing and scoring opportunities are mostly dictated by his teammates.
And Nash has very good teammates. I'm tired of hearing the argument that "Nash played better this year than last becuase he won without having Amare Stoudamire on the court." There's a very good chance that the Suns could have won five or ten (or any other nearby number) more games than they did if Stoudamire had been healthy. But giving this as a reason to tout Nash's season implies that somehow Nash--and Nash alone--single-handedly rescued his team from sure ruin this year.
Here's a thought: maybe the performance of his other teammates weathered the Stoudamire injury as much if not more so than Nash's did. In fact, I believe that is precisely what happened. Leandro Barbosa and Boris Diaw are young, talented guys, who in this their third year in the league, improved tremendously. Diaw, in particular played at star level for the latter portion of the season. Also remember that since last seaoson the Suns acquired Raja Bell--an unspectacular though highly valuable NBA player.
Nash's offensive skills
When one looks at Nash's offensive impact, that monstrous gap in scoring between Nash and other MVP candidates (that Matt brought up in the last post) cannot be ignored. Without a doubt, his passing ability makes up for some of that, but by the same logic, are the phenomenal passing skills of LeBron James that much less valuable than Nash's? LeBron James and Dwayne Wade couldn't average 10.8 assists per game this year because they were both too busy scoring for their respective teams, which both relied heavily on them to do so. It's not Nash's superhuman unselfishness that precludes him from scoring with Wade or LeBron or Dirk Nowitzki; he's simply incapable of it.
Above all, the flawed thought process that I believe the voters demonstrated frustrates me more than anything else. Without a doubt, I believe sentiment played a factor, as my previous title indicated. Sports journalists will always have a soft sport for the "little guy" who didn't "win the genetic lottery," as Bill Walton would say. (I promise, I won't quote Bill Walton ever again.) Sports journalists are mostly unathletic, out-of-shape dorks like me and therefore readily hype up players that seem to succeed in spite of physical limitations.
The voters also showed a strong inclination to select the seemingly unexpected winner. LeBron, Kobe, Wade--they're all poster boys, as they see it, and it's just assumed that they should win because every knows they're great. But if a less statistically impressive and lesser-known player wins, it can reflect some heightened sense for less apparent greatness and can also make for a better story.
My other huge beef is with the "unselfishness" justification for Nash's selection. As far as I can understand, the Nash-lovers' idea of "unselfishness" is scoring less and passing more. This view is remarkably short-sighted and oversimplified. As I see it, "unselfishness" in basketball is simply finding how one's abilities best contribute to the team's success and playing in this mindset--even at the expense of individual glory.
Was Kobe Bryant more "selfish" this year just because he scored a disproportionate amount of points compared to his teammates? Was Allen Iverson being "selfish" when his equally disproportionate scoring output earned his team an Eastern Conference title in 2001? How about Michael Jordan's 34 ppg in 1992? How utterly selfish. Just as Iverson's finals appearance in '01 was a near miracle, so was the Lakers' playoff appearance this year.
What this argument in particular exhibits is a fear of critical thinking on the part of the voters. Rather than truly dissect the meaning of their own trumpeted value, they instead attach to it a flimsy and simplistic criterion--one which on the surface seems to fit the billing. This same type of thinking by journalists incidentally labeled Jordan as "selfish" and "not a winner" during the early part of his career until--beginning in 1990--he continually and convincingly stuck it in their craws for about the next eight years.
Going by the mostly agreed-upon MVP voting philosophy of "replace this guy with an average player, and imagine the impact on his team," I simply do not see how Nash is the MVP. I would say that Kobe, LeBron, Wade, Nowitzki, and Tim Duncan were all more valuable, but Nash beat them all.