The NBA MVP race is boring. We all know it's going to be Kevin Durant or LeBron James, with everyone else playing for third place. And while there will be arguments about spots No. 3 through infinity on the MVP ladder because there are always arguments about MVP positioning, it'll still be Durant and James that dominate the discussion. Do you remember who finished third in the MVP voting 10 years ago? Last year?
No, we need to make this more exciting. We need another excuse to argue about the relative value of players on different teams in different roles. It's fun! And hell, imagine if the NBA MVP was not a list and was instead decided by voting on individual matchups until we eventually get a champion.
Thus, in the spirit of the times, we've found a new way to crown the best player in the land. Presenting: the Great 2013-14 NBA MVP Tournament.
Some important considerations before we begin:
- Every team gets at least one representative in the Great 2013-14 NBA MVP Tournament. There are 30 "auto bids" and 38 "at-large bids," so to speak. Picking someone from the Los Angeles Lakers was very difficult. They're the SWAC champions in this scenario.
- There are four regions, seeded appropriately. We have the Point Guard Region, the Wings Region, the Big Man Region and the Internet Heroes Region. The latter includes all the players that your favorite basketblogger won't shut up about. Amir Johnson, Shaun Livingston and Josh McRoberts were difficult snubs.
- We're weighing performance this year, not in past years.
- Each matchup is decided by ... eh, it's all subjective anyway. Let's get right to it.
Click to enlarge.
POINT GUARD REGION
This region is deep, but it's also wide open at the top. Chris Paul got a reputation No. 1 seed, which may or may not be putting too much weight on past performances. As usual, the selection committee inconsistently applies its own criteria. You could also reseed spots No. 3 through No. 9 in a million different ways and you won't get any fight from me.
The above seeding sets up some great second-round matchups. John Wall vs. Goran Dragic is impossible to call. Kyrie Irving vs. Tony Parker, if he can even get by a resurgent Rajon Rondo, is a classic old school/new school showdown. And Russell Westbrook vs. Stephen Curry ... who seeded these guys?
In the end, Curry edges CP3 in the regional final because of all of the games Paul has missed this year.
This region is home to the event's saddest entrant: Jodie Meeks. Someone from the Lakers had to make the field, and the point guard field was too deep for Kendall Marshall or Jordan Farmar to wedge their way in. Pau Gasol was an option I guess, but his defense has fallen off so much and the big man field is deeper than the wings once you move LeBron James over to get him out of Kevin Durant's pod. So, welcome to the MVP Tournament, Jodie Meeks. Enjoy being Durant's sacrificial lamb.
Otherwise, this is a pretty easy region for Durant. The Dwyane Wade/Carmelo Anthony winner looms as a challenger in the Sweet 16, but Durant should have little trouble otherwise. Paul George's drop-off opens up a spot for James Harden to push through to the regional final, though Harden still doesn't play defense.
You're killing me, selection committee. I absolutely approve of moving LeBron James here because he's built like a big man and we can't put him in the same region as Kevin Durant. But putting him in the same region as Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Dwight Howard and Anthony Davis? This is a hell of a punishment for LeBron's shaky defense this year. Seriously: Al Jefferson in the "third round," Davis or Howard in the Sweet 16 and Love or Griffin in the Elite 8? This is LeBron, not Wichita State.
Elsewhere, the selection committee throws us all a bone with the Griffin/Zach Randolph matchup. Technically, you aren't supposed to have rematches in the "second round," but this one's appropriate. Winner emerges with a black eye.
INTERNET HEROES REGION
This looks weak on paper, but it's tough to find a top two better than Joakim Noah and Dirk Nowitzki. Consider Noah the UVA of this tournament: he's come on late, doesn't score a lot of points and wins with gritty defense and unselfish play. How many people in your bracket pool are picking Virginia to win the title? How many people who actually watch college basketball have the utmost respect for the Cavaliers, anyway?
Noah will face challenges, though. Chris Bosh is having a hell of a year, and the Nowitzki/Tim Duncan winner will be a formidable opponent in the Elite 8. In the end, as good as Noah has been, Nowitzki's been equally important for a better team in a tougher conference.
So, we end up with James, Durant, Curry and Nowitzki as region winners, beating out Griffin, Noah, Harden and Paul. If you listed those eight names on the MVP ballot, I don't think I'd argue too much. Seems like we've done our job while also adding more intrigue to the process.
(As for the winner, I punt).