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When selecting the NBA’s Most Valuable Player, what criteria have you established to shape your decision?
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Steve Aschburner: The MVP is the best player on the team with the best record. Unless it’s the star who has done something statistically and artistically masterful over the 82-game, regular-season canvas. Unless it’s the guy most responsible for boosting his team the furthest beyond so-called experts’ preseason predictions. Unless it’s the player who doesn’t benefit from playing alongside other All-Stars or award winners, and therefore has to carry the heaviest load for six months. Unless it’s the fellow who so elevates his teammates and coaching staff that they do get recognized with honors and awards of their own. Unless it’s the performer without whom his team would fall the most in the standings, as determined by, uh, our imaginations. The MVP is discoverable via advanced analytics and/or the eye test, in some unspecified blend of both. All of which is to say it’s a nebulous concept that has made the chase for 2016-17’s trophy especially difficult. And memorable.
Fran Blinebury: Consistent individual excellence combined with team leadership and more than a few moments of transcendent brilliance. It’s not merely about scoring the most points or checking off stat boxes, but also being able to affect a game, a season, a franchise in many different ways. Winning is a difference-maker. So is defense. As Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said in 1964, when asked to define pornography: “I know it when I see it.”
Scott Howard-Cooper: Nothing too tricky. Opinions of people in the game, statistics, personal eye test, personal judgment on the player who had the best season. Standings matter, but is not entirely. I guess that means I have not established any specific criteria. Just sift through the information.
Shaun Powell: In this particular case: Have I seen it done before? And the answer is: I”ve seen what Harden did before, seen what LeBron did before, seen what Kawhi did before. I’ve never seen a guy average a triple double. And I don’t understand why this is even a debate.
John Schuhmann: My vote went to the individual who had the biggest effect on why a good team was good. That was the guy averaging 29 points and 11 assists for the No. 2 offense in the league. The Rockets had the league’s third-best record primarily because of their offense, and James Harden put up historical numbers running the show.
Sekou Smith: I’ve said all along that there’s a complicated matrix of factors that go into making this vote. We all come to the process with a set of values that we believe make someone MVP caliber. Someone who can combine elite-level proficiency on both ends of the floor, who impacts the game in all facets and does it on a consistently brilliant basis while also lifting his tam up to the next level (or two or three), always resonates. When choosing between players who share some of those common elite markers, like we have in this year’s race, you have to find other factors to separate the top guys. Doing something transcendent always helps and both Russell Westbrook and James Harden have done their fair share of that this season.
Ian Thomsen: I love this award because it’s all about value: who has done the most for his team? Which is why, in my view, LeBron James is usually the player to beat. It has taken extraordinary numbers by Harden and Westbrook to beat out LeBron. In the end, as much as Westbrook has done for the Thunder, I believe Harden has done a little bit more.
Lang Whitaker: I’m doing my best to keep it simple: Value. I’m trying to vote for the player in the NBA who is the most valuable. (FWIW, I also hate that whoever you choose is somehow also seen as a total rejection of the other candidates. I can appreciate greatness on multiple fronts!) And you can throw new-fangled stats and numbers at me and summon the Fun Police on me if you want, but to me there was no player in the NBA who was more valuable to his team and his teammates (and fans of the game, if you want to include the entertainment factor) this season than Russell Westbrook.