Thursday, April 19, 2007

What does MVP mean?

We have been in the middle of a great MVP debate in the NBA for months now, and everyone has an opinion. Your choice for the award depends on how you define MVP, though.

I admit, this is something I have a hard time with because my definition changes. I can't decide which is the best definition, which I suppose is what makes MVP such a lively debate.

Some simply define the MVP as the best player on the best team.

Some look for the most dominant player.

Some say the MVP is the best player in the league based on stats.

Some say the MVP is the player whose team has the worst record without him.

Some penalize a player for being on a bad team.

Some penalize a player for being on a good team.

Some people think 'valuable' is a general term.

Others think it means 'valuable' specifically to a player's team.

Some say you just know it when you see it.

Bill Simmons, always doing things his own way, has three questions that he asks:

  1. Ten years from now, who will be the first player from this season that pops into my head?
  2. In a giant pickup game with every NBA player waiting to play and two fans forced to pick sides with their lives depending on the outcome of the game, who would be the first player picked based on the way everyone played that season?
  3. If you replaced every MVP candidate with a decent player at his position for the entire season, what would be the effect on their teams' records?

Again, I'm not here to debate who the MVP is, but rather how we define the term. And I'm not looking for consensus, either. I just want to hear the reasoning behind your MVP definition.

Don't forget the other sports as well. Just because NBA MVP talk is dominating at the moment, don't limit yourself to that. Does your MVP definition change for different sports—for example, the Heisman in college football?

What does MVP mean to you?


Knotwurth Mentioning said...

As far as I am concerned, the most important consideration in the entire list is most definitely based on the contribution to the team's overall level of play. I would say that it's hard to argue that a player is an MVP if they are on either a good team or a bad team. Rather, it's the team that just barely slips into the playoffs because of a good goaltender that really has the ability to say "without him, we would not be where we are."

Of course, in the NHL it's only regular season that counts, because there is a separate award for the playoff MVP. In the case of the Conn Smyth, it is very rare that a player from a losing team should win it, although sometimes you have a player from the other finalist. This, once again, reflects the fact that you need to really be integral to the team's success.

As for why it's hard to pick an MVP from a good team, well, the problem is that often the good team has too many good players to attribute their success to that one athlete. It's normally the team that makes a startling run that normally can really say that a certain player was an MVP on a league-wide basis.

Chris said...

So why does the regular season MVP have to come from a team that squeeked into the playoffs, but the Conn Smyth winner should come from the champ? They are both MVPs—why do the rules change in the playoffs?

As for myself, I like Simmons third question. I don't think it is fair to ask what would happen if the potential candidate was taken off the team, or look at their record when he was out of the lineup. Phoenix played poorly when Nash was out because they had to play a backup PG as a starter. But it is reasonable to imagine subbing in a decent or average player in their spot, say if Phoenix never had Nash, but had another average starting PG.

Moving away from the current debate: if you sub in a decent QB, does Indy win a Super Bowl? I don't think they even get close. That reflects Manning's impact and value.

Of course, system impacts this as well. Nash may be about to win his third consecutive MVP award. He barely made the All Star team as a Mav. Did he get better? No, the Suns' system fit his style of play perfectly. If Nash had re-signed with Dallas, he would be MVP-less.

PJ said...

MVP - Most Valuable Player. By the definitions of the words themselves, it should be easy to understand. The player who is most valuable to their team. Simple in concept, but like you said what does it really mean. I'm a Simmons groupie, so I like his 3rd question, but I've always taken the approach that you just "know" the top few candidates and then you look at who of those meant more to their team.

It's a lot like rating songs on my iPod. There are great songs that are not 5's. You know if a song is a 5 and if you have to ask, then it's a 4. So, who are the 5's? Then once you have the 5's, who was the most "5" to his team? Does that make sense?

Chris said...

You said 'the player who is most valuable to their team.' You don't think it could be the player most valuable to any team, presumably the league's best player? In saying 'their', you've made an assumption that not everyone would easily agree with.

But I probably would. As I said in my previous comment, I like Simmons third question, too, which factors in a player's team situation.

As for rating songs, don't get me started.

PJ said...

I think you have to narrow down your list of players somehow. So you start with the 30 individual MVP's of each team, and then focus on who was most valuable to their own team, and then you have the MVP. I don't think it's the best player in the league, but the person without whom, his team would be lost or at least significantly damaged. It's why I think this season it should probably be Steve Nash for the NBA.

Anonymous said...

Since its a Team sport and not based on just one person, the MVP award should be awarded to the player that has more VALUE to that team. One question a judge could ask is, "What would happen to that team if this player would not be playing on it?" If we just give it to the best player in the league every year, isnt the message then, who is the best player, and not the most valuable?