Media members need not be protected, accountability in award voting is a must

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As in most things related to the NBA, the ultimate goal should be transparency. Transparency in the officiating, especially in a post-Donaghy era. Transparency from the league office in how they deal with specific rulings, punishments, and edicts. Transparency from coaches and general managers, who optimally wouldn’t pretend to be vying for a playoff spot if it was well out of reach, and who are well capable of imparting knowledge if they abandon the convenient cliché.

It’s about damn time the same applies to the media as well.

Media members write all kinds of things about the NBA on the daily basis, and their work is available for public scrutiny. If facts aren’t checked, if stories are unfair, or if something is misrepresented, the writer will hear about it. That’s how the wonderful world of feedback works, and that ability to respond not only makes for better writing, but a better understanding from consumers concerning what an NBA scribe hopes to accomplish. It is, in a word, good.

So why then does it make sense that on the occasion that such scribes have the ability to significantly impact NBA lore — in award voting — they’re completely removed from the results in a way that makes them completely unaccountable? They’re not revealing their party preferences or voting on controversial legislation, but casting a ballot for MVP or Defensive Player of the Year; the sanctity and security of the democratic process should be far removed from this particular arena, because well, it’s not democratic. Certain writers are privileged with a vote, and those with a vote should be able to defend their selections.

Choosing an MVP or Rookie of the Year may be a matter of opinion, but that doesn’t mean there are not wrong answers. There are also interesting answers, worthy of further explanation and clarification. There are toss-ups that fans would want to hear about, there are snubs that they would want explained, and there are surprise vote-getters that may even earn voters a pat on the back.

Howard Beck of the New York Times has been throwing this idea around ever since David Lee stumbled into a Defensive Player of the Year vote, and collected his thoughts in a post for the NYT Off the Dribble blog:

Removing anonymity from the process could have some drawbacks. Beat writers, who see the same team every day, may feel pressure to vote for the players they cover if they know the results will become public. Voting for a rival could conceivably cause tension with the home team’s star player or coach, or the media-relations staff.

But these concerns do not seem to have adversely affected the balloting in baseball or the N.F.L. And many N.B.A. writers already make their choices and rationale public, in blogs and in newspaper columns. No one seems overly worried about potential backlash from teams or fans.

Transparency creates more accountability because voters have to be prepared to explain their choices publicly. That is a routine part of baseball’s award process, and it helps promote discussion of the results, which benefits the game.

Beck could be correct in how beat writers could be swayed, but isn’t that what journalistic integrity is all about? These writers are supposed to be trusted to write what’s actually going on in the games and in the locker room rather than rosy pieces loaded with team-sponsored propaganda, so why can’t we trust them to do the same with the awards voting?

If someone is voting for an award with actual implications, they should be prepared to defend their choices. They should be able to tell us why there are three better defenders than Dwight Howard, how Ben Wallace or Ersan Ilyasova could possibly be the Most Improved Player, or why Jonny Flynn deserves a second-place vote for Rookie of the Year. That’s the responsibility that should come with the privilege of voting, and it’s honestly a wonder to me that secret balloting has lasted this long.

    

Bill Russell to Shaq, Kareem during awards show: “I would kick your ass”

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Bill Russell is one of the greatest basketball players to have ever lived. His dominance for the Boston Celtics is unquestioned.

And, he apparently knows it.

Russell received a lifetime achievement award on Monday night during the 2017 NBA Awards. Joined on stage by NBA big men Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Alonzo Mourning, and Dikembe Mutumbo, Russell opened his acceptance speech of the award with a little joke.

Via Twitter:

Tell ’em, Bill

Russell Westbrook has to choke back tears during emotional MVP acceptance speech

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Russell Westbrook was a tornado on the court this past season, tearing fearlessly through the NBA, leading the Thunder to the playoffs, and eventually himself to winning the MVP Award on Monday night.

It was a different side of Westbrook we saw when he accepted the award, barely able to hold back the tears in thanking his parents, teammates, and everyone who helped him get to that point.

Russell Westbrook wins the 2017 NBA MVP Award

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Russell Westbrook or James Harden for the 2017 NBA MVP? We finally have our answer.

On Monday night Westbrook, the Oklahoma City Thunder star, took home the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, earning him the right to be called the league’s most valuable player for the 2016-17 NBA season.

Westbrook had 68 first-place votes, runner-up James Harden had 22, however, Harden had so many second place votes that this was the closest race in a decade (although it wasn’t that close). Kawhi Leonard finished third, LeBron James fourth, and Isaiah Thomas fifth.

The MVP debate raged on the entire regular season, but the Oklahoma City Thunder star hit new heights in 2016-17, averaging a triple-double for the entire season, a feat not seen since 1962 when Oscar Robertson did it. That pushed him over impressive numbers by Houston Rockets star Harden, who was incredible as he moved to play the point guard position full-time for NBA Coach of the Year Mike D’Antoni.

Whether you picked Westbrook or Harden, I’m not so sure that there was a wrong answer. Granted, the Rockets were a much better team and in fact gave some of the best squads in the Western Conference a run for their money. Harden and D’Antoni seemed like a natural pairing, and his move to the point guard position was inspired. Houston finished third in the Western Conference last season, a mark that most of us did not expect them to achieve without the likes of Dwight Howard.

In comparison, the Thunder were only in playoff contention because of Westbrook and even then, they scraped by the entire season. Oklahoma City had just three players with a positive VORP For the season, in stark contrast to the Rockets. While basketball purists might rightly point out that Westbrook’s contribution to his team was still centered around himself, the debate will have to rage on with the trophy now firmly in the Thunder star’s grasp.

Plus, if you ever watched the guy it would be hard not to point to him as MVP. Westbrook was just flat out ridiculous.

It is difficult to understate just how significant Westbrook’s statistical achievement is for the season. He averaged 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game. The ability of a player to achieve that record with modern defenses in the NBA being what they are is impressive, even if you want to argue that many teams allowed Westbrook to operate while concentrating on his lesser teammates.

In the age of advanced statistics, when an analyst with both a spreadsheet and a pair of working eyes may slide to the side of Harden, it is still an astonishing thought to think Westbrook dominated so wholly against his opponents statistically. Indeed, if you ask me who had a genuine impact and who was more impressive, the answer would have to be split between the two.

So here we are, at the end of the year and everything is as we thought it would be. Russell Westbrook is the individual season champ as a player, the best of the best. The Golden State Warriors are the team champions of 2016-17. You could argue against either of them, but I don’t think it would do you any good. Westbrooks season is a statistical anomaly we are unlikely to see again. NBA MVP voters have got it wrong a lot of the time over the years, but this isn’t one of them.

Russell Westbrook is your NBA MVP.

Draymond Green wins 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year

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There were a lot of incredible candidates for the 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, but make no bones about it: Golden state Warriors forward Draymond Green was the most deserving.

Monday night Green was announced as the Defensive Player of the Year during the NBA’s Awards Ceremony.

In a year in which the Warriors were coming off a 73-9 season, and after an offseason where they added Kevin Durant, Green’s importance to the team was never overstated. His tenacity on defense and switchability allowed the Warriors to continue to be one of the best defensive squads in the NBA. Golden State finished second in the NBA in defensive efficiency in 2016-17, and part of that was due to Green acting as they lynchpin.

A unique defensive player, Green was able to take some of the pressure off of Durant as well as boost his impact on defense. A player who at times had to guard all five positions, Green led his team in defensive win shares.

To take home his DPOY award, Green got 73 out of a possible 100 first place votes (from select media members), comfortably beating out Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert, who was second, and San Antonio Spurs MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard, who was third. Robert Covington of the Philadelphia 76ers was fourth, followed by LeBron James fifth.

Much like the MVP award this season, a real argument could be made for either Leonard or Gobert’s candidacy for DPOY. However, With yet another 60+ when season under his belt, it made sense that Green was seen as the key by voters for the Golden State defensive attack.

Green finished with 73 first place votes, while Gobert trailed with 16 and Leonard with 11. Green finished with 434 total points. Gobert was second with 169.

Durant was the 2017 NBA Finals MVP, and voting for DOPY closed before the playoffs began. But if anyone watched the great playoff run by the Warriors — one where they only lost one game — Green’s importance is easily understood.