Friday, April 27, 2012

Anonymity and Award Votes..Dangerous In The Wrong Hands

I’m not sure when exactly it happened. 

Media, communication, society, it all changes pretty fast these days. But at some point, probably somewhere in-between My Space and Facebook, the concept of anonymity started to become a problem.  It was manageable then, the occasional encoded e-mail address and what not. But with Twitter, it’s now an epidemic.

And of course the problem isn’t anonymity, it’s a wonderful thing if you’re fortunate enough to have it. The problem, is that it comes with a certain amount of entitlement.  That lack-of-awareness, fake-tough bravery that usually comes after too much to drink, or for those of us new parents, not nearly enough sleep.

People say the nastiest, vicious, twisted things when armed with a keyboard and the invisibility cloak of the internet. They are, more often than not, the same people that would smile, shake your hand or ask for an autograph if they saw you in person. It’s a disturbing, ugly trend. I mean, sure it is. But it’s an absurdly small price to pay for the freedom of speech we’re blessed to have and the extraordinary age of technology in which we exist.

There are 100 million people on Twitter. If a few dozen backwards teenagers, bred in ignorance, tweet something offensive after Joel Ward scores the overtime goal for the Capitals, it’s not a story unless we make it one.

Morons have existed from the beginning of time. So has classlessness, ignorance and hate. And they always will. Progress isn’t eliminating them, that’s a noble idea but it can’t be done. Progress is recognizing it, isolating it and going on with life in the real world while the increasing minority of people fueled by race and hate grows extinct.

It’s how we got rid of disco, Members Only jackets and Lava Lamps. Just give it time.

Anyway, the point is that as big a fan of anonymity as I am…I don’t think post-season award ballots should be anonymous.  Never have. I’ve been voting for NBA MVP, and the other awards, for fourteen years now. It’s a privilege, not a right. And I think with that privilege, comes a certain amount of accountability. I’ve always made my ballot public and I think everyone should.  If you’re “expert” enough to get a vote, you should be able to defend your choices, that’s all.

With that in mind, I’ll be submitting my ballots to the league shortly, and here’s what they’ll look like.


I always begin here. By picking the top 15 guys in the league, it starts my process in picking the five for my MVP ballot.

And the strangest thing about the All-NBA team this year?  In fact, the strangest thing maybe about this truly strange NBA season?  The center spot.  For years now, it’s actually been a struggle to find three centers worthy of all-star consideration. You’d convince yourself that Tim Duncan was playing center even if he wasn’t, or that Nene was really underrated.  It was a struggle.  This year, if you call Duncan a center, there were legitimately seven guys competing for the third spot.

Dwight Howard will get hurt in all the categories, Defensive Player, MVP, all-NBA because of the (self-inflicted) drama of his season and the fact he missed the final two weeks. But he’s still the gold standard at the position, and played the same number of minutes this year that Dirk, Paul Pierce, Al Jefferson, did. Andrew Bynum had a phenomenal year, to the point that I think he and Pau Gasol should really put a dent in the Kobe-as-a-strong-MVP-candidate idea. Tyson Chandler is the Defensive Player of the Year, no question. And although his 70% shooting were all dunks and uncontested layups that come with playing alongside Carmelo and Amar’e, he had a phenomenal year. Marc Gasol not only was 6th in the NBA in minute played. Sixth! He was a double-double, starting center on a home court playoff team. And if that sounds a lot like Roy Hibbert, it’s because he was as well. Tim Duncan has willingly slid down the Spurs pecking order with Tony Parker having an MVP year. But he’s had some old-school Timmy nights.

It was already the best Center year in the fourteen years I’ve been in the NBA.  The best since you had Ewing, Olaujowon, Shaq, Mourning, David Robinson. (Can you appreciate what it must have been like for Acie Earl to come into the league then? I only ask as an excuse to get an Acie Earl mention in here).

But that was before the unexpected addition of a first-ballot hall-of-famer, a 17-year veteran and rookie center. In January, Kevin Garnett had to play center in a TNT Thursday night game against Dwight Howard and the Magic. It looked like it might be a horrific mismatch.

 It was.

Garnett destroyed him.

And that set the tone for one of the remarkable stories of the 2012 season. Kevin Garnett, weeks before his 36th birthday, shifting to center, continuing to dominate defensively while giving the Boston offense four shooter to play with Rajon Rondo. It was a game-changer in Boston’s season, maybe in the Eastern Conference season and while a lot of people are talking about Rondo as an MVP-candidate, he wasn’t even the MVP of his own team. That’s how good Garnett was.

My centers were Howard, Bynum and Garnett. Those three and Chandler were inter-changeable.

LeBron and Kevin Durant were easy choices as the first team forwards. Kevin Love and Luol Deng second. Easy. The last two spots, not so much. Blake Grififn had a strong plus-minus year and obviously enough highlights for them to launch an ESPNBlake channel in Bristol. Danny Granger and Andre Iguodala were my toughest omissions. Granger the best all-around player on the surprise team in the NBA and Iguodala was great early, but was as culpable for the Sixers collapse as anyone. Paul Gasol very quietly had a strong second half. Carmelo missed a lot of time, but showed MVP flashes late in the year under Mike Woodson.  But before their season fell apart, LaMarcus Aldridge was carrying the Blazers to a top-four spot in the West. He held that team together longer than they should have been able to stay held together. And while a lot of people in Boston are not fans of Josh Smith, and with good reason, he’s played poorly against them it seems, for years. But the Hawks are a home court playoff team.  That wouldn’t have shocked me at the start of the year, I really liked Atlanta, but that’s because to me, Al Horford was a ready to have the kind of season that would get him on this list. For him to miss the year, and the Hawks finish ahead of Boston, Orlando and New York in the East? Didn’t seem possible. Josh Smith drives people crazy, I get it, but he’s earned this spot. Led the league in defensive win-shares, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Tony Parker, Chris Paul and Kobe are in the MVP conversation, those are the first three guards. After that, to me the other three aren’t hard, you have Rondo, Dwayne Wade and Russell Westbrook, it’s just a matter of the order. Westbrook gets the 4th spot over Rondo in a tight one because he played every game on a better team, Rondo missed 20% of the season and had some bad nights. His 20 best games, were as good as anyone  in the league, but he’ll be an MVP candidate when you get that two or three nights out of three, not one. You can talk about Steve Nash, but that would be an honorarium. Derrick Rose missed nearly half the year, he’s out. Mike Conley deserves to have his name here, for the same reasons as Marc Gasol.

In any case, here’s how it came out…

1st team                       2nd team                     3rd team
F          LeBron                      Love                           Aldridge                  
F          Durant                      Deng                          J Smith                    
C          Howard                    Bynum                       Garnett                    
G         Paul                           Kobe                          Rondo
G         Parker                      Westbrook              Wade


Now you see why I do all-NBA first. Now that we’re down to 15. Well, 16 because Chandler deserves top 10 consideration. 1-2 is a no-brainer to me.  People will say, write, blog and tweet anything about LeBron James. A lot of it fair, most of it hilarious.  But let’s just step away from that for a second to say this. LeBron isn’t just the MVP in a runaway, easy choice. You can put his 2012 season with any MVP of the last decade, maybe back to Jordan. I’m sure some people will vote for Durant, I actually know someone who’s voting LeBron third.  But as Hubie Brown would say, come on now…LeBron is the best player in the world…we know this…

The only questions for me was one, who gets third Tony Parker or Chris Paul? And two, is ther ea wild-card candidate that would knock Kobe out of 5th.  The first wasn’t as complicated as I thought. Chris Paul will probably get third but in the west, best player on the best team? Parker. And after looking at Kevin Love, Dwight Howard and Luol Deng, I begrudgingly went with Kobe 5th. Have some remorse on not going Deng 5th, but I’ll live with it, you can’t go wrong with Kobe onyour ballot this time of year.

My Ballot: James, Durant, Parker, Paul, Bryant…with Deng at 5 1/2.


Really had a lot of difficulty with this one. I mean, the winner was as easy as it gets. Kyrie Irving is special. And he’ll do this award proud, meaning we’ll look back in 5 years and be glad he won, his name will fit in with all the others.  Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, Shaq, Lebron, Emeka Okafor. 
OK, not all the others.  But the other two spots were very difficult for me. This year, we’ll call it the Ricky Rubio dilemma.  Clearly, he was the second best rookie, and right there with Kyrie in terms of impact on a team and really a franchise, but playing into Doc Rivers’ notion that his favorite ability in an NBA player, is avail-ability, he doesn’t make the top three.   41 out of 66 games just isn’t enough for me.  That’s missing nearly 40% of the season.  So that left me with two spots to fill and no shortage of candidates.

Brandon Knight is an attractive candidate, but finished last on his team in plus/minus. Kemba Walekr by the way, has one of the worst +/- ratings in NBA history and finished dead last in the league in field goal percentage, so no thanks.  That Big East Tournament seems about ten years ago now.

Kenneth Faried and Greg Stiemsma were both bigs that made much larger impacts on playoff teams that we could have thought.  But neither getting to 1,000 minutes hurts their cause.

MarShon Brooks played  lot. But not very well and on a bad team.  Klay Thompson and Isiah Thomas I had ahead of Brooks, but not on my top tier.

So I was left with Iman Shumpert, Kawhi Leonard and Chadler Parsons for the other two spots.  Shumpert was very good defensively, but so was Leonard on a much better team. 
So what did I do?  I left then both off, completely backtracked and reconsidered on Rubio, giving him the third spot and will likely be the only one who voted Chandler Parsons 2nd.  He was a starter on a winning team. Didn’t do anything extraordinary but did almost everything well. Faried will likely get the 3rd spot, but I went Irving, Parsons, Rubio.


Very similar to Rookie.  Obvious choice, followed by several, hard-to-distinguish choices for 2 and 3.  James Harden will win, and should win, and it doesn’t take a Metta World Peace elbow to the side of your head to drive that home.

It actually wasn’t a great year for 6th men.  Al Harrington played a nice role for Denver. The Sixers had two strong candidates, one offensively in Lou Williams, the other defensively in Thaddeus Young. Jason Terry’s been a stalwart in this category, and people like new blood, but I don’t think enough happened to displace him. Lamar Odom and Big Baby Davis, two strong candidates last year, weren’t this year.
I went with Harden, Williams and Terry.


Chandler, Howard, Garnett.  Near misses for Deng, LeBron, Tony Allen and Elton Brand.


Have always hated this category. So do coaches by the way. Here’s what I mean. Doc Rivers was Coach of the Year as a rookie in 2000.  He hasn’t come close to winning it since. Does that mean he was a better coach then?  Funny thing about this year as how it changed during the year, Stan Van Gundy and Kevin McHale were strong candidates two-thirds of the way in, they won’t get near it. There are at least six interchangeable candidates;  Greg Popovich, Tom Thibodeau, Frank Vogel, Rick Adelman, Lionel Hollins, Doc Rivers. That’s the order I think they’ll finish. I went Vogel, Pop, Thibs, but it was basically flipping a coin.


Not a fan of this category, too esoteric. Avery Bradley won’t get a sniff even though I’ve never seen an overnight improvement like his this year.  Ryan Anderson could win, and probably will. Some think Jeremy Lin is a no-brainer. But as impactful as the Lin-Sanity stretch was?  It was seven weeks long.  That’s it, seven weeks. He played less than half the year. That said, he deserves some resonance in a season that everyone will remember him for. The unspoken rule is this is for a guy that went from the periphery to legitmate NBA standout. If it was from standout to star, you’d be talking guys like Bynum, Conley and Josh Smith. But as it is, I went Anderson, Lin, Nikola Pekovic.

And there you have it, a difficult year to navigate if you cover the league, a difficult year to get the awards right, but we did our best to handle both.

And without anonymity.

1 comment: