Mike James and the discourse on NBA award voting results

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Two NBA head coaches decided independently that 37-year-old guard Mike James was one of the absolute best defenders in the league. How exactly does that happen?

The NBA released the final results for the All-Defense teams voting Monday. Per usual, there were a number of surprises, the sorts that get folks across the Internet up in arms and yelling about things like transparency and credibility. This kind of thing that happens a lot, it seems.

When you get a bunch of people -- 30 NBA head coaches, in this instance -- together to share their opinions, weird things are bound to happen. After all, there are apparently people who don't like pizza, as if it wasn't created by the food gods to satisfy the palettes of all creatures.

Exhibit A: Mike James.

Among the 30 coaches in this league, two of them decided James was one of the best defensive players in the NBA this year. The response from the Internet basketball community was something amounting to, "Guffaw, good lads!"

This isn't meant to be a knock against James, who has impressively fought his way from the D-League to guaranteed NBA contracts in consecutive seasons. He's a hard-working player, a guy busting it at the age of 37 to keep his career going at the sport's highest level.

Still, he's not one of the top defensive players in the NBA. In fact, he may not even be a good defensive player.

Statistics don't have the final say in player evaluation, but they're typically pretty accurate indicators of what happens on the court. When the stats say that the Mavericks are a better team defensively with James on the bench, it's probably reasonable to wonder just how he contributes on that end of the court.

Maybe the statistics are off somewhat -- it is admittedly a small sample size -- and James is better than they indicate. Okay. But just how much better is he? How could the statistics bear out that one of the game's top defenders manages to make his defense worse?

When two coaches decided to cast their ballots with James as one of the two names listed, that's essentially the conclusion they each made. Yeah, James' numbers say he's below-average, but my eyes say he's the best defensive point guard in the league.

Obviously, it's easier to assume that these coaches simply didn't look at the statistics at all, and went simply by the eye test.

But if that's the case, how could the eye test go so awry, or so it seems? These coaches are some of the brightest minds in all of basketball. If James is really an average-at-best defender, as the numbers say, what are these coaches seeing that says otherwise?

It's something worth considering with greater detail, instead of sitting around and arguing that these coaches don't watch film, or don't have time to pay attention to other teams. If you're sitting on a couch completely dismissing the opinions of a man who's earned the trust of an NBA front office, you probably have some things to learn.

For every award vote, regardless of league or sport, it seems like there's always a Mike James. Some voter out there is always trying to think outside the box, whether as a means of innovation or simply as an alternative to jumping around screaming, "Hey, look at me!"

But these are NBA coaches. There are no extra page views to be had from a questionable choice, no incentives to be gained from stoking the fires of controversy across the web. It's only reasonable to assume these people were casting votes on merit.

In that case, two NBA coaches came away from this year believing James was one of the best defenders in the league. The statistics, obviously, say otherwise. Who's right? I'm not sure, but now I'm just hoping some reporter can unearth answers to the question, "Why did two coaches vote Mike James for NBA All-Defense?"

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