How I Named the 2008 NBA MVP

Click to read my column about my choice for 2008 NBA MVP.

This year, more than any year I can remember, selecting the NBA’s Most Valuable Player seems like asking parents to choose their favorite child. Each child has its own unique characteristics that make him or her stand out. Same with each MVP candidate.

I wrote a column a month ago called “Fixing the NBA’s MVP Award,” but I’m still hearing commentators, analysts and fans basing their MVP pick on single criteria that simply doesn’t make sense. See rules 1-3 of the aforementioned column. You can’t reduce the MVP to one characteristic. Just like you couldn’t name “best child” based solely on their GPA or the amount of money they make.

My first step was to comb the 18 teams still in playoff contention with a week left to play in the season for any players they have that could be MVP candidates. You shouldn’t have to play on the best team in the league to win the MVP, but you shouldn’t be getting a top-10 lottery pick either. So I took at least one player from each team. A few teams had as many of three guys get the nod.

In alphabetical order, my starting pool of MVP candidates featured Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Caron Butler, Baron Davis, Tim Duncan, Monta Ellis, Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobli, Danny Granger, Richard Hamilton, Dwight Howard, Allen Iverson, Stephen Jackson, LeBron James, Antawn Jamison, Joe Johnson, Tracy McGrady, Andre Miller, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitski, Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Paul Pierce, Amare Stoudemire, David West and Deron Williams.

With the starting list drafted, the first challenge was to narrow the pool of 30 possible candidates to a reasonable number. Let’s say 10. An obvious qualification for league MVP is that a candidate must be the MVP of his own team. So the first necessary step was to eliminate second fiddle candidates. Cross off Paul Pierce in Boston, Richard Hamilton in Detroit, Caron Butler in Washington, David West in New Orleans, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker in San Antonio, Pau Gasol in Los Angeles, Allen Iverson in Denver, Stephen Jackson and Monta Ellis in Golden State, Carlos Boozer in Utah and Amare Stoudemire in Phoenix.

It doesn’t matter that some of these players might outrank someone else still on the list. Did they have great seasons? Sure. Do they deserve All-NBA team consideration? Perhaps. But if you’re not a team MVP, you cannot be in consideration for the NBA MVP. You could make arguments for Boozer and Stoudemire over their respective teammates, Deron Williams and Steve Nash, but I am of the opinion that both power forwards are enhanced by playing with top notch point guards. Moving on.

The next step of elimination was separating the pretenders from the contenders. If a player’s team didn’t clinch a playoff spot by the final week of the season, he is not a top MVP candidate. That eliminated Danny Granger, Joe Johnson, Dirk Nowitski, Carmelo Anthony and Baron Davis from the discussion. Better luck next year.

I still needed to make a few cuts to get me down from 13. This is where some of that subjectivity came into play. It’s something I call the “double-take test.” If you opened up the newspaper tomorrow and the headline read (insert name here) wins MVP Award, would you immediately do a double-take? If so, cross his name off the potential candidates list. Antawn Jamison, Andre Miller, Chris Bosh – that means you guys.

That left me with a nice round number of 10 candidates for MVP: Chauncey Billups, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Tracy McGrady, Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Deron Williams. And it just so happens that these 10 players represent the top four teams in the East and the top six in the West. That seemed about right.

But getting it down to 10 was the easy part. Narrowing that list of finalists to one winner was the real challenge.

There is no universal definition of what the Most Valuable Player is. Therefore, my solution for selecting an MVP takes into account a number of variables, including some objective and subjective tools of measurement. Essentially, I created a 10-question MVP survey.

Each question represented an MVP-worthy quality. For each question I scored each of the 10 finalists between 1 and 10 with 10 being the most representative of that particular quality. The questions are as follows:

Q1. The candidates are playing a game against one another. Who’s your first pick?
Q2. Which player causes the most matchup problems?
Q3. Which player’s NBA team would suffer the most in his absence?
Q4. Who is the best all-around player?
Q5. Who would you want taking a game-winning shot?
Q6. Who would you want on the line for free throws to ice the game?
Q7. Which player has had the most positive impact on his teammates?
Q8. If you needed one defensive stop, who would you want playing defense?
Q9. Who’s had the best statistical season?
Q10. Which player’s team had the best season?

Below is my 2008 NBA MVP scorecard. (Click image for full size)

The debate, of course, is in the answering of the questions and the rating of players on a 1-10 scale. Minds are going to disagree about where a player is rated in certain categories. But take a look at the final results. The top four totals belong to Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, LeBron James and Kevin Garnett, which happen to be the same names that have been thrown around for MVP all season. The difference is that my formula, while imperfect, at least takes several questions into consideration. I’m not a single-issue voter when it comes to the NBA MVP Award and I don’t think anyone should be.

If all the NBA MVP voters used my method of voting and the league incorporated the idea from my previous column to make “all the NBA MVP voters” include players, coaches and media members, I think the MVP Award would be a true assessment of the number one player in the game that season. And for me, that MVP would be Kobe Bryant.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a real vote in the MVP balloting. But for me the nod goes to Kobe, who measures up against the competition. He ranked atop the list for four categories. No one else won more than one category. Garnett, James and Paul all had fantastic seasons, but Bryant deserves the award most of all.

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