For the most part, I've been trying to stay out of the MVP debate. What's the point? I mean, it sure seems like the field has been effectively narrowed down to Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant, with the edge going to the player whose team finishes on top of the Western Conference dogpile. I could make a reasonably educated bargument for or against either player, but regardless of the outcome, I won't dispute the final results. After all, CP3 and Mamba are (more or less) equally deserving.

Of course, neither of them is really the league MVP.

NBA experts and fans who think otherwise are either delusional or kidding themselves. The Most Valuable Player -- with an emphasis on the word "Valuable" -- of the 2007-08 NBA regular season was, is, and will always be Kevin Garnett. And frankly, it shouldn't even be in question.

The Boston Celtics have won 65 games so far this season. They won 24 last year. For those who enjoy simple math, that's a 41-game turnaround. Think about that for a minute: 41 games. Go take a look at the current standings: 15 teams -- a full half of the league -- haven't won 41 games this season. If that doesn't boggle your mind, then you, my friend, are truly unboggleable.

But this is more than just a one-season renaissance. It has been the complete and total rebirth of the proudest franchise in league history. It's not like the Celtics have merely suffered a couple sub-par seasons -- like, say, the Lakers -- they've been bad for a while. In fact, the Celtics have suffered more than any other team in the past 20 years. No, seriously.

KG changed the culture of the franchise. He made them winners again. That's not to demean the contributions of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, or the rest of the team (especially Rajon Rondo, who spent the preseason being compared to Matt Maloney). But seriously, look at the facts. Allen has been good (17.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.1 APG), but not great (44 percent shooting from the field, 39 percent from three). Likewise for Pierce. But forget the numbers. Look at the way they've been playing defense. Critics of the Ray Allen trade -- and I was one of them -- cited Ray-Ray's biggest defensive liability: Namely, that he didn't play any. Not so this season. And Pierce has been going balls-out on D, too. All the Celtics have. And this is an absolute certainty: That intensity begins and ends with Garnett.

Say what you will about his inability to score in the clutch or his history of playoff frustration in Minnesota. I don't care, because that's all in the past. His spirit, his drive, his electrifying presence have revitalized a franchise that's been dead for the better part of two decades. Why aren't people freaking out about this? Why is "the greatest single-season turnaround in NBA history" not enough?

Honestly? Probably because the Celtics were the exciting early-season story, and the Western Conference Playoff Race* has been the dominant late-season story. Hey, our society has an incurable case of Attention Deficit Disorder. But you know, this isn't the first time this has happened. It's not even the first time it's happened to a Celtic.

*Don't give me the "West is Best" argument, either. The Celtics were 25-5 against Western Conference teams this season, including season sweeps of the Lakers, Mavericks, Rockets and Spurs. And three of those losses -- to the Nuggets, Warriors, and Suns -- came right after KG returned from injury and the team was trying to readjust to his presence.

Let's go back to those golden days of 1980. Larry Bird had revived a Boston team that had won 29 games the previous season, and only 32 games the season before that. At the time, that was the worst two-year stretch the Celtics had suffered since the pre-Auerbach days. Worse, Celtic Pride has sunk to an all-time low, thanks to the malignant presence of locker room cancers like Bob McAdoo, Curtis Rowe, and Marvin Barnes.

Bird changed all that, and he did it largely by himself (with some help from new coach Bill Fitch). After all, this was basically the same team from the previous season (Robert Parish was still a Golden State Warrior, and Kevin McHale was a Minnesota Golden Gopher). Bird breathed new life into vets like Dave Cowens and Tiny Archibald, both of whom a lot of experts thought were finished. The Celtics won 61 games that season, the most in the league. That 32-game improvement was, at the time, the greatest turnaround in league history. Yet he finished fourth in MVP voting behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving and George Gervin.

It was and still is preposterous. The Lakers had won 60 games, but that was only a 13-game improvement from the previous season, and they had added Magic Johnson. And Kareem's numbers were only marginally better than Bird's: 24.8 PPG to 21.3, 10.8 RPG to 10.4, and they both averaged 4.5 APG. But the number that should have counted most went Larry's way: Franchises saved (1).

Dr. J's Sixers improved from 47 to 59 games, but they were an established team that had been to the NBA Finals in 1977. And anyway, they lost the Atlantic Division race to Bird's back-from-the-dead Celtics. Meanwhile, the Iceman led the league in scoring (33.1 PPG), but his Spurs won only 41 games...a seven-game dropoff from the previous season.

Bird was the most valuable player in 1980, just like Garnett is the most valuable player in 2008. Kobe might win the hardware, or maybe it'll be Chris Paul. And they've earned it. But not more than KG.

Sidenote: I probably should have mentioned this above, but as Wild Yams correctly points out, KG would probably be a shoe-in if he hadn't won the MVP in 2004. But there's a sense among the media and fans that he already "got his," where as the other candidates -- Kobe, Paul, and maybe even LeBron -- are still without hardware. Yams is right when he says, for good or ill, that plays a factor in the MVP voting.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Anonymous Anonymous said...
they should just call it the flavour of the month award instead of MVP

first half of the year it was all KG and then he goes down with an injury.

and then they have the excuse of "oh it's he eastern conference, they haven't faced the west's texas triangle" well they beat them all and now they've shut up and haven't said anything about it since

to me it doesn't matter it'll go to Kobe cuz you know what? Chris Paul has SOO many years to win it and KG's already won it and it's about time that Kobe gets it cuz it's not the MVP of 2007/2008 season it's the who should be "MVP of the "experts""

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Well written piece. Good job.

The fact KG won't win the MVP isn't his fault, it isn't even sports writers' fault.
All the blame rests on the shoulders of the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and *especially* the New York Knicks.
Its so unfair that it boggles my mind.

The Knicks may not be able to beat the Celtics in the traditional sense but they can still screw them out of awards and historical impact! Go Isiah!

Blogger ChrisH said...
I played pickup with maloney when he was a freshman at Vandy. I picked his pocket as he drove the lane. I average about a steal a year so I was a little surprised he made the nba.

what is the status on those vertical jump shoes I loaned you?

ps. you know who else brought spirit drive and intensity but couldnt get it done in the clutch...Zo. Though I hate Zo and like Garnett, I despise all things Boston. So part of me wants to see garnett cry like a baby again ala the john thompson interview. besides mvp was rendered pointless after dirk got it and crapped his pants.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
you're totally spot on. just because garnett doesn't put up big numbers this season, doesn't mean he shouldn't be mvp. look at the impact he brought to the celtics role players as well. leon powe has developed from a virtual non-existent to a solid contributor. james posey went from a lost cause last season to a semi-reliable bench help. rondo also developed into a solid PG. ditto with others like tony allen, big baby and perkins. i wish people would stop looking at individual stats only when it comes to MVP. but that's ok, KG. you're gonna win finals mvp anyway (a more valuable prize IMO)

Blogger Wild Yams said...
My thoughts on the MVP race have been pretty clear for a while: if either LeBron, Kobe, CP3 or Garnett wins it, that's fine with me. You really can't make a legit complaint about any one of those four winning it. They've all had the kind of seasons that would hands down make them the MVP in most other years - they just happen to have all done it in the same season.

My only argument against the idea that Garnett turned the Celtics around as being evidence that he's the MVP is that when you look at their roster last year and their roster this year it is almost entirely different from top to bottom. The only holdovers from last year's squad are Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Leon Powe, Kendrick Perkins, Tony Allen and Brian Scalabrine. Meanwhile there are 9 new players on the Celtics team that weren't there last year. This simple fact alone makes it hard to say it was all just Kevin Garnett.

I completely appreciate what you're saying though, Garnett definitely is the straw that stirs the drink there, he is the guy that focused that team and pushed them to be as good as they are, especially on the defensive end. It's just that for my money I think he's the MVP simply because he's been that key component on the league's best team, and a team that IMO is going to win the NBA title this year, rather than because he singlehandedly engineered this remarkable turnaround. Danny Ainge deserves the credit for that particular feat.

One last thought: if Garnett hadn't already won the MVP in 2004, nobody would even be discussing anyone else for MVP this year. The fact that the other three contenders have never won one is a major factor, whether that's right or wrong.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
There are three things that will prevent KG from winning it:

1. The Celtics went 7-3 without him this season.

2. He plays with two perennial All-Stars. Granted neither of those two could spell defense before they played with KG but they have been instrumental in the turnaround too. Some 'experts' believe Pierce is an MVP candidate too.

3. He plays in the L'east. There's no getting around that. I know Boston has a good record against the West but in their longest Western road trip of the season they went 2-3.

Boston's record is aided by the pathetic Eastern conference and that makes what LA (Kobe) and NO (Paul) have done more impressive.

Blogger shayan said...
All valid points and I (nor anyone else) can complain if KG won it. But I think you have to consider Chris Paul if you're talking about changing the culture of a team as well; I think it goes under the radar, but where would basketball in New Orleans be if he wasn't there? Maybe in another city. Plus nobody expected them to be shifting around the #1 spot in the west night in night out, much less make the playoffs even. Add to that the numbers he's putting up, just absolutely stunning.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I'd say Brandon Roy. Dude played a big role in getting The Blazers out of that shithole they've been in for the past few years and brought the Rip City chants back.

But since the MVP award doesn't go to potential 42-40 teams, My nod will go to KG

Blogger Faizan said...
Hoffman, a response:

1) You need to dig a little deeper than simply the team's record over his injury. The team won 7 games, but what was their scoring differential? Their defensive efficiency? You'll find that those games were the worst stretch of defensive games for the Celtics all year. This only strengthens Garnett's MVP credibility: Defense makes the Celtics improving and Garnett is the biggest key to aforementioned defense. For comparison, both Kobe and CP3 are the best offensive players on their teams. Neither team is the best offensive team in the NBA. Unlike them, Garnett plays on the less glamorous side of the ball. And, also unlike them, he is the best defensive player on the best defensive team. That is more impressive to me than 20+ PPG.

2) Yes. Do you know how Ray Allen was selected this year? As the second injury replacement in the Eastern conference. Do you know how he was selected last year? As an injury replacement. So, to recap, Ray Allen was not one of 10 players voted into the game and was also not one of 14 players chosen by coaches to play in the game. He was only selected after one of these initial 28 could not make the game. This shoes us that Ray Allen is a borderline All-Star at best. Paul Pierce is a legitimate All-Star and KG plays with him. MVP awards should not be given to players with one legitimate All-stars playing with them. So we will need the following the majority of all MVP trophies back. Just kidding. In the past, playing with an All-star has not held anyone back from winning the award.

3. You cleverly point out that they went 2-3 on their longest road trip but fail to point out that this road trip was tied with another one in length on which they went 4-1. Yes, I'm talking about the one where they swept the Texas Triangle and lost to the Hornets. Great job presenting all the facts there, buddy. Also, you once again carefully neglect pointing out that the 2-3 road trip you mention is the same one Basketbawful mentioned: it is the road trip where KG was coming back after missing 3+ weeks of basketball and was being worked back into the flow of the game. The Boston Celtics do play in the L'east. But this season, they have owned both the L'east and the B'est (west).

Also, I should point out one thing. I'm against Kobe winning the award and fail to see how a legitimate bargument can be made for him in light of his trade demands, whining, insults of the franchise, and insults of other players on his team. I really don't think he should even be considered this year because of his atrocious attitude. Next year, if he does not stir any drama for his team, works hard, plays both sides of the ball, and helps his team dominate the NBA, he can be a candidate. But that's just my thinking.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Pierce was injured a lot last year. And he played only 47 games. Factor in intentional tanking and I feel like you have to add at least 10 games to the Celtics total. ~30 wins is a bit less impressive than ~40 wins.

I think the franchise was already safe, but they wouldn't be a championship contender without the Allen and KG trades. The only problem is I think Ainge would have blown the 5th pick on Yi instead of a better PF like Noah or Wright.

I'm was and am still convinced waiving/trading Telfair and trading Ratliffs contract and drafting Noah and the Celtics would be a 6 seed at least in this years playoffs without KG, assuming Pierce could be calmed like Kobe got calmed from his trade demands. Which you could argue wouldn't have happened.

Also, Doc Rivers would still be a bad game time coach.

Blogger Faizan said...
Response to intentional tanking: The record they broke was the tank-tastic record achieved by the San Antonio Tools while they were tanking left and right to acquire Tim Duncan in 1997 draft. It's not like that other team had an honest to goodness turnaround and the dirty Celtics broke that record by tanking and then not tanking.

I agree that they could have been a 6 seed. I would see them as more of a 7-8 seed. This would put them at about .500 or just below that. So it seems that adding KG/Allen added a whopping 20+ games to their win total.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I don't even buy your "major franchise saved" or "biggest turnaround" arguments, and I still think KG is the heads and shoulders winner. As a Trailblazers fan, I don't feel a lot of sympathy for the big market teams' sense of self-importance. Celtics, Lakers, Knicks can all go fuck themselves.

The biggest turnaround argument is a tough sell since the 06-07 celts were obviously tanking after the first two months of the season. What would their record have been if they were actually trying? At least 30, probably close to 40, I'd think.

But all year long, opposing fans could count on one team pretty much being a guaranteed loss in the column, and that team was the Celtics. And that wasn't because of Pierce or because of Allen, it was obvious to anyone who watched these games that the Celts dominated this season because of KG.

And to me, that's what the MVP is about. Who contributed most to their team the dominant team that year. Kobe, CP3, Bronbron, these guys had good to great years but no one was afraid of those teams.

Blogger Wild Yams said...
Faizan, you make a couple good points, but I think you should consider a couple things. You say Kobe & Paul aren't the best offensive players in the game, but I would disagree with you, at least about Kobe (Paul certainly isn't). Kobe won't win the scoring title this year, but that's largely because he's let his teammates shoulder more of the scoring load, and because he's gotten to sit out a lot of 4th quarters due to blowouts this year. But Kobe's scoring the last two years should serve as a reminder to how dangerous he is on the offensive end if he wants or needs to be. He's still the most explosive offensive player in the league.

Additionally, Garnett is my pick for DPOY, but Kobe will almost surely be another 1st Team All NBA Defensive selection. The Lakers don't play anywhere near as good defense as Boston does, but Kobe is absolutely one of the best defenders in the world when he wants/needs to be. His role on the Lakers often has him doing many other things during most of the game rather than having him expend all his energy as a defensive stopper all night a la Bruce Bowen, but he can lock down on almost anyone at the end of the game if it is needed.

Finally, Ray Allen is not "a borderline All-Star at best", not by a lot. The guy is an 8-time All-Star, and has been on multiple All-Star teams in both conferences. He's got a smaller role with the Celtics this year, so his stats were down a bit (same with Garnett's, btw), but he's an All-Star, no doubt. He was arguably an MVP candidate a couple years ago.

Of all the MVP candidates, surprisingly it's Kobe who has the fewest teammates who have ever played in All-Star games. Gasol's the only one, and he only was selected once. LeBron's got Ilgauskas, who has played in 2, and since the trade he's also got Sczerbiak who's been in one and Ben Wallace who is a 4-time All-Star; while Paul's got West who made it this year and Peja who has been in 3 All-Star games previously. I don't personally think this really has much bearing though, but it might be worth pointing out.

Blogger Faizan said...
Wild Yams,

I think you misunderstand my point a little bit. Kobe may be the best offensive player in the game. What I was saying is that he's not the best offensive player on the best offensive team. This is in contrast to Kevin Garnett, whose individual defense (like Kobe's individual offense) is spectacular. However, his tenacity and discipline on defense has infused the C's with the same attitude. However, all of Kobe's brilliance has not resulted in the Lakers becoming one of the best offensive teams in recent history (unlike the Celtics, who have become one of the best defensive teams in recent history). That's what I meant to say.

As far as Kobe's being an all-NBA 1st team defender, I have a strong feeling that he's a little overrated at defense. Now, I've only watched a dozen or so Lakers games this year but what I've noticed is he does have the talent and the ability to play great on ball defense. However, his defense isn't the type of hardcore "every minute you are in the game" defense played by some others excellent defenders such as Raja Bell, Bruce Bowen, and even Rajon Rondo. I believe this "on-off" switch defensive should not be rewarded with an all-defensive team selection. I suspect some voters saw that the highest scoring player in the game also knows how to play defense, got excited about this, and gave him several 1st defensive team selections. I think Kobe is one of the best defensive player in the NBA. But he does not play defensive nearly as well as he can and should not be rewarded for "potential."

As far as Kobe being the best offensive player in the game, I say he has the most dazzling array of offensive moves in the NBA. There is almost no post/perimeter/midrange move that he is not an expert at and he carries them out with great precision. But, in my opinion, being the best offensive player is about way more than just scoring the most PPG. It is also about efficiency. Given that, I believe the best offensive player in the game today is Amare Stoudemire. His TS% and eFG% tower over Kobe's. In recent years, the arguement could be made that STAT gets the majority of his points off of Steve Nash lobs and dunks but this year he has developed a very dependable mid-range shot (I heard during a Dallas game that Cuban's stat people tell him Amare is the best 17-foot jumpshooter in the league. He also has significantly improved his face up game and his ability to create his own shot. At his new position as PF, he has been even more devastating in terms of efficiency. Kobe is the most prolific scorer, but not the most effective.

The last point you make is about Ray Allen's all-star selections. I think I demonstrated some homerism there in underscoring Allen's accomplishments. Yeah, you are right, he has been a very solid all-star and is not a border-line all-star. I take my comments back.

The reason this all-star thing really bugs me is for two reasons: I believe some only mention the all-star thing because it favors Kobe. If Kobe had two all-stars on a team, I strongly doubt the same people pointing towards Ray Allen's resume would be advocating Lebron James as the only strong MVP candidate with no all-stars on his team. I don't have a problem with the argument as long as the people making it are consistent in making it year after year. Another thing that annoys me is the way some ESPN writers treat Ray Allen. Now, its understood that ESPN has been chanting "M-V-P" for Kobe since the dawn of time. But, it annoys me when their "analysts" leave Ray Allen off of their all-star ballots during the middle of the season and then turn around at the end of the season and point out that KG gets to play with an All-star in Ray Allen. If you don't select him on your ballot, you don't think he is a legitimate all-star. So you shouldn't point to how he is an all-star when considering KG's campaign. Instead, you should say something like "I did not think Ray Allen was a legitimate All-Star this year and so KG is really play'm king with only one all-star in my mind." Instead, they say both "Ray Allen is not an All-Star this year" and "KG gets to play with all-star Ray Allen." What is this??

But yeah, I do agree, Ray-ray is an all-star. Actually, as a Celtics fan, I'm kind of hoping KG doesn't get the trophy. I'm a bit afraid of jealousy breeding between PGA.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Some days ago CP3 was bawful's MVP without a doubt!(even then you forgot that the Lakers had the same predictions that the Hornets had...) now he just lost his "first in the west" argument... So you turn to KG and say that he's a no brainer! wow! but you know that the Celtic's were still wining while KG was out... Not that KG doesn't deserves it, but it seems like you have to allways put someone in front of Kobe, like it has to be anyone except Kobe, and never say that he deserves it because of this and that, like you did with the other 2 and maybe you did that to Lebron to...

That's why I just come to this blog to have a laugh and don't take your opinions seriously... and that's a pitty beacuse I can tell that you know the game and that you're an intelegent guy.

PS: I dont mean that kobe is the MVP of this season, but he is one of the 3 strongest candidates.
sorry about my english...

Blogger Basketbawful said...
I'll try to get to all of this at some point, but real quick...

anonymous -- If you read everything I've written, as opposed to a single post here or there, I've complained more than once that KG was disqualified because his team is "too good," while LeBron is out because his team is "too bad," which effectively rounds my options down to Kobe and Chris Paul. Of those two, I would personally pick Paul.

But for my money, KG is the MVP. I only picked Paul because KG isn't a real choice...because the media seems to have decided he isn't.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're missing Wild Yams point.

Yes, KG is the best defensive player on the best defensive team. But offensively, he's in the middle of the pack.

Kobe, however, is the best offensive player on one of the best offensive teams. On defense, he's one of the elite as well.

So overall, Kobe is more well rounded and just as good, if not better than KG using that logic.

Also, demanding Kobe to play balls-out defense every second of the game is unrealistic. Specialists like Bowen can afford to go all out because their sole role is to play defense.

Kobe on the other hand, has to shoulder an entire offense so he has to pick and choose his moments. For the most part, he plays pretty good defense and when it's crunch time, he ratchets it up into full lockdown mode.

Does this make him overrated on defense? In my opinion, I don't think so. Jordan was considered a defensive juggernaut as well, but he too had to choose his moments. Did anyone think Jordan was overrated defensively? Probably not. You could definitely argue he wasn't the G.O.A.T perimeter defender, but you certainly couldn't say he wasn't an elite defender. So in the same vein, Kobe is definitely still an elite defender and in no way overrated.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I think the most important aspect of the selection process is historical; media people don't want to look stupid in the eyes of history. For instance, selecting Dirk because he was the best player on the best team, only to see them lose in the first round. An example in baseball would be Bartolo Colon wining in 2005 over Joahan Santana. I think that the MVP award should go to the player whose season, and that would be have be KG. Seasons with high numbers come and go, but KG's turnaround act show be memorialized in the annals of basketball history.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You said, "For comparison, both Kobe and CP3 are the best offensive players on their teams. Neither team is the best offensive team in the NBA. Unlike them, Garnett plays on the less glamorous side of the ball."

You do realize that Bryant was an All-NBA Defensive first team selection the past two seasons and will be named to the first team again this season.

KG is a great defender, I won't argue against that. In fact, he is my choice as DPOY but Kobe Bryant has been an elite defender his entire career as well.

Ray Allen has been an All-Star the past EIGHT seasons. He's also the best shooter in the NBA. I think I was right in categorizing him as a perennial All-Star.

The Celtics road trip where they swept the Texas Triangle was a four game Western road trip, not five.