Perhaps you have been following the great debates over who should win the Most Valuable Player race in the NBA.
The 2016-17 competition is about as hot as it gets.
People of intelligence and good will can make a case for at least four players, and that is leaving Stephen Curry, the two-time defending MVP winner, out of the discussion.
The four? Russell Westbrook, James Harden, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard.
The announcement of the winner, previously made during the second round of the playoffs, this year will be revealed in a televised awards ceremony on June 26 — more than two months after the completion of the regular season this week.
The electorate is 100 professional journalists, none of whom were identified by the NBA.
But journalists being journalists, various sites are attempting to figure out who has a ballot, and how he or she has voted.
According to the website, Westbrook has 34 first-place votes to Harden’s 15. Leonard has 3 and James 2.
Westbrook is in very good position to win, clearly.
What I wish could happen? With two guys separated from the rest of the pack?
That the winner of the first-round playoffs series between Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder and Harden’s Houston Rockets … could just be handed the trophy once the best-of-seven man-a-mano series is finished.
Wouldn’t the result of that be hard to ignore? You know, if the ballots were not, as usual, turned in before the playoffs began?
Some tweaks have been made in the process.
–The electorate has been reduced by the league from 130 or so to that nice, round 100. Those who lost votes tended to be broadcasters employed by individual teams. That’s good.
–The people with votes, and Bleacher Report says it has identified 74 of them, appear to be professional journalists — newspaper and magazine writers and columnists, as well as reporters and analysts from electronic media outlets, some of them from global news organizations. Exactly the kind of people who should be voting.
–ESPN, in case you are wondering, has 12 votes, according to the latest Bleacher Report list. I do not have a problem with any of the individuals on the list, so far, but 12 votes seems like too many for one organization.
The TV show thing is interesting, but did the NBA really believe it could keep the identity of the winner a secret for more than two months?
Part of the appeal of having a vote is for each voter being able to make a big reveal of how they voted, and why. And even those who might be willing to keep their ballots secret … they may be so few that their choices (and explanations) may not matter, in a day or two.
At that point, the revelation of their decisions, which at least for a few more days/hours makes a difference, can be overlooked.
So, it seems the Russell Westbrook triple-double season outweighs Harden’s overall excellence for a team that won eight more games than did the Thunder.
And you thought it was a team sport?
There is precedence for handling this differently.
As an nba.com voter wrote: “We had a similar race at the conclusion of the 1961-62 season, when Bill Russell beat out Wilt Chamberlain and his 50-point scoring average, [Oscar] Robertson and his triple-double season, Elgin Baylor’s 38-point scoring average and Jerry West’s 30-point scoring average.”
Russell, of course, was the consummate team player.
But these are more individual-oriented times.
I’d still like to see the trophy go to the winner of the Thunder-Rockets series.
Or maybe just give it to LeBron James, who has won the MVP award only four times, despite leading his teams to the NBA finals seven times, including the past six in succession.