In case you missed it, Steph Curry was just awarded the NBA MVP Award for the second season in a row. But unlike last season where 77% of voters put Curry at the top of the list, this season all 131 of the eligible voters placed Steph Curry as the player most worthy of the MVP Award. Now without arguing the greatness of the Warriors’ point guard this season, I must say that this really erks me. Not only as a sports writer, but as someone who understands the English language.
To be honest, Steph really has no place near the top of the list when it comes to true MVP candidates for this season, and here’s why: HE’S NOT THAT VALUABLE.
To truly test a player’s value and place among MVP contestants, the question must be asked what would happen to that team without that player. And in Steph Curry’s case, the answer is quite obvious. Instead of being the top seed in the Western Conference, the Warriors would be the second place team. Curry plays on the best team in the league, surrounded by the best roster in basketball, and without him on the floor the Warriors would slip just a few games back from the incredible season they had.
Replace Steph with backup guard Shaun Livingston, a former lottery pick in the draft and arguably the best off the bench player in basketball and Golden State would be fine. They would still have one of the greatest 3-point shooting players ever in Klay Thompson. Small Forward would still be locked down by the ultra-talented Harrison Barnes, and backed up by former All Star and reigning NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala. Their Power Forward would still be a player that multiple ESPN analysts called “the best all-around player in basketball” earlier this week, and former All NBA center Andrew Bogut would still be manning the middle. Throw in the best bench in basketball led by former Sixth Man of the Year Award winner Leandro Barbosa, Marreese Speights, and Festus Ezeli and you start to realize that the Warriors are more than fine without Curry.
Heck, Curry won the award without being the most valuable player on his own team. That honor belongs to Golden State’s power forward Draymond Green, a first team All NBA Defensive Team superstar who can guard every position on the floor and allows the Warriors to play small without missing a beat.
Need more proof that there are others more valuable to their team than Curry is to his? In the 3 games Steph Curry didn’t start the Warriors went 2-1, both wins against playoff teams. However, in the 6 games Lebron James didn’t start for Cleveland the Cavs went 1-5, with their only win by a single point. And in the 8 games Chris Paul didn’t start the Clippers went 3-5, with all 3 losses coming against teams that failed to make the Western Conference playoffs.
As a matter of fact, they would still be the Vegas favorites to win the NBA Championship, without a player every NBA writer just said was the most valuable in the league. Don’t believe me? Las Vegas Sports Books had dropped the line for the defending champs from -150 at the start of the postseason to +150 when Steph was injured and doubtful for the rest of the playoffs. Although that may seem like a huge swing, it still put the Curry-less Warriors ahead of the Spurs (+180) as the odds on favorite to end the season as the champs of the league.
Now none of this denotes just how great the Golden State point guard was this season but it what does all that mean for Curry being the Most Valuable Player in basketball? It means that Curry’s value to his team is so low that with or without him playing the Warriors would still do just as well. So much for deserving that award, eh?
And it’s not just basketball that is awarding the best player the award that is supposed to go to the most valuable player. As we all remember, last season the National League Most Valuable Player Award went in another unanimous decision to Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals. The disappointing, barely over .500, missed the wild card by 14 games, non-playoff-making Nationals. Now how can a player be the most valuable in the league and his team still miss the playoffs? He can’t. While there is absolutely no doubt in any baseball fan’s mind that Harper was the best and most dominating player in the game last year, the award should have been handed to somebody who meant so much to his team that they didn’t miss the postseason.
Now, it’s hard to argue Harper’s .330 average, .460 on-base-percentage, 42 home runs, and 116 runs as reasons he was seen as the top baseball player in the league last season, but once again, no one is arguing greatness. Instead we are disputing value and although Harper added a great bit of value to the Nats last season, there may have been others that added more to a team that needed that value. The Cubs Jake Arrieta led the majors in wins for a team that desperately needed pitching to barely make the playoffs last season. The ace of the Dodger’s staff, Zach Greinke had a higher WAR (wins above replacement) than any player at any position in baseball last season, and led the Majors in ERA, WHIP, and Win/Loss percentage, arguably the top 3 stats for a pitcher trying to make a case for the MVP. Still neither player was awarded with the sport’s highest honor after the season, as voters tended to choose greatness over value, in an award that is named after the latter.
And while all 131 voters for this year’s NBA MVP chose Steph Curry instead of other slightly less productive, however more VALUABLE players like James Harden, Chris Paul, and Lebron James there has to be something done to show that there is a difference between being the best in the league, and being the most valuable.
My suggestion to fix the worst named award in sports is quite simple: change the name. The Most Valuable Player Award is already given to the best player instead of the most valuable, so why not call it the MOP, the Most Outstanding Player Award?
College football’s Heisman Trophy goes to the most outstanding player in college football, and in the national championship game the most outstanding players in the game are awarded the MOP Award, rather than an MVP Award. In college basketball the John R. Wooden Award is given to the most outstanding player regardless of value, and the Final Four rewards the most outstanding player with the MOP Award, not an MVP trophy. So why is it that college sports are ahead of pro sports in this aspect? Maybe it’s because at the university level people understand the meaning of the word “valuable”.
There is no doubt that Steph Curry is the best player in basketball, and Bryce Harper was baseball’s best last season (something we predicted), but there is also no doubt that neither one of these players are the most valuable in the sport. So give them a different award. Give them an MOP Award. Because until so called journalists who vote for these things understand the meaning of the word “valuable”, the MVP is a false award.
So rename the MVP. If not for those who are actually valuable, do it for those who know and understand the English language.