Daryl Morey Must Stop Hand-Wringing Over Last Year's MVP Race

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Tuesday August 1st, 2017

The hand-wringing over last season’s MVP race, while fun, was also exhausting. The various camps—triple doubles matter! Triple doubles don’t matter! What about defense!—had such firmly entrenched supporters that at some point it became impossible to have a reasonable discussion about who should win the award. Of course, Russell Westbrook eventually won MVP, and that should have been the end of all the chaos... except Rockets general manager Daryl Morey just can’t let go.

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Morey is upset that, for the second time in three years, his star player, James Harden, has been overlooked for the NBA’s most prestigious award. On the phone with The Crossover’s Ben Golliver, Morey came close to saying the league should get rid of awards altogether. (Daryl, my man. I actually like you! We both went to Northwestern. Sometimes you tweet out Sports Illustrated stories and help us get those sweet, sweet clicks. But you have to move past this MVP stuff brother.)

“I don’t know if this is a good process,” Morey told The Crossover. “The ones that are decided by players or executives or media, they all have their strengths and weaknesses. I honestly don’t think there’s a good process. You could argue for eliminating the awards altogether. I don’t really see a good way to do it that doesn’t have major issues. I like clean answers. If there’s not going to be a set criteria and there’s going to be issues with how it’s structured, for me it might be better to not have it.”

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First of all, the lack of set criteria is what made last year’s MVP race so enthralling. “Most valuable” has always had a vague definition, and that’s important in preventing the media from simply handing the award to the best player on the best team every season. That would be boring! 

Morey also complained that voters ignored winning in favor of Westbrook’s arbitrary triple doubles. While our fixation on double digits may be a little archaic, Morey using wins as his argument for Harden is a little short-sighted. The Rockets didn’t finish first in the West. Wouldn’t Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard, all of whom played for teams that finished ahead of Houston, have stronger arguments for MVP than Harden?

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And if Morey really wants to nail down a specific list of criteria for who should be MVP, what if voters include defense on that list? Because then Leonard and Durant (even with his injury) are runaway favorites over Harden.

Ultimately, last season’s MVP race was about context. A handful of great players made an amazing case for the award. What separated Russ was not only that he averaged a triple double, but that he did it with a team that couldn’t shoot and he did it to keep his franchise afloat after it lost the second-best basketball player in the universe.

I don’t think Morey fully believes the NBA should actually get rid of its awards. If he cares this much about Harden winning MVP, clearly he believes that distinction is important. If Harden had won, Morey obviously would have no problem with the criteria voters used to select him. Even Blake Griffin, with maybe not the most logically sound metaphor, went after Morey for his complaining.

But it’s really time to bury this MVP race once and for all. Put it in a time capsule. Let’s agree not to argue about it for at least the next five seasons. There’s no need to try to change everyone’s minds because people are always going to be convinced their pick should have won. What’s done is done.

And Westbrook was obviously the right choice, anyway.

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