After having one of the best seasons in NBA history, LeBron James won the MVP, but it wasn’t unanimous.
The only voter not to pick LeBron was Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, who wrote an article explaining his decision today.
His argument is familiar: This is not the “best player” award, it’s the “most valuable” award.
His felt that the Knicks would be worse off without Carmelo Anthony than the Heat would be without LeBron James, so he voted for Carmelo.
“If you were to take Anthony off the Knicks, they are a lottery team. James plays with two other All-Stars, the league’s all-time 3-point leader, a defensive stalwart, and a fearless point guard. The Heat are loaded.
“If LeBron was taken away from the Heat, they still would be a fifth or sixth seed.”
While we disagree that using these sorts of “what if’s” is how voters should be making their decisions, we also recognise that everyone has a different definition of valuable. If Washburn wants to vote for whichever player is theoretically most important to his team, so be it.
But there’s one problem: Even by this logic, he should have voted for LeBron.
Washburn says that the Heat would be a 5th or 6th seed without LeBron. That means that they would have lost 37 or 38 games, compared to 16 with him. So he’s saying LeBron is worth 21 or 22 wins.
He says the Knicks would be a lottery team without Melo. That means that they would have lost at least 48 games, compared to 28 with him. So he’s saying Carmelo is worth 20 wins.
It’s worth nothing that the Knicks played a significant number of games without Anthony this year, and were 7-8 in those games. Over a full season, that would equate to a 38-44 record and an #8 seed in the playoffs.
LeBron is more valuable than Carmelo based on Washburn’s own criteria.
Even ignoring the straight win-loss mathematics, the difference between being the unquestioned favourite to win the NBA title (what the Heat are with LeBron) and being a #6 seed (what the Heat would be without LeBron, Washburn says) is massive.
The NBA is a hierarchy. There isn’t a gradual slope between the quality of the #8 seed and the quality of the #1 seed. There are tiers, exponential leaps between those teams that can make the playoffs, teams that can win a playoffs series, teams that can win the title, and the one juggernaut who is supposed to win the title.
Washburn is arguing that Carmelo making the Knicks relevant gives him more value than LeBron making the Heat into a juggernaut. That argument assumes that the difference between the lottery and the #2 seed is the same as the difference between a bottom-tier playoff seed and being the best team in the league.
Again, we don’t agree with Washburn’s definition of “valuable.” But even if you accept the logic of how he chose to cast his vote, he still failed by his own criteria.
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