The Captain’s Corner 2012 NBA Playoff Preview Podcast

The general measuring stick for sports postseason excitement is March Madness. Especially on the first weekend, everyone stops what they are doing and all that matters is the bracket. What teams are going to be upset? What powerhouses looked good? How are my picks doing? How many times will “Onions!” be yelled by Bill Raftery? I get caught up in the madness just like everyone else. But I’m a complete NBA dork (if you didn’t know already). To me, the NBA playoffs trump March Madness. Multiple games every night for two months, better basketball, more on the line in terms of legacy and history. I eat that shit up like it’s Mom’s Chicken Parmesan. This year, the start of the NBA playoffs coincide with the end of my sophomore year at college. With a massive burden lifted off my back, I couldn’t think of any better way to bring in the NBA Playoffs than talking about it with the jack-of-all-trades himself, Paul Clark. We got into a thorough breakdown and made plenty of predictions. In Pauley’s case, he made history with his NBA Finals predicted.

You’re dying to know what exactly he predicted, aren’t you? Just click here to find out.


2012 NBA MVP Shares Part One

In case you didn’t already know, I like pretending that I have ideas that would actually improve the sports world. For example, if you are a continuous reader of LaterNamed you are well aware of my ongoing battle to replace the Bowl Championship Series with the Bowl Tournament System. Unfortunately, no traction seems to have been made on this issue so far. Another bright idea I had recently was modifying the NBA playoffs by tweaking the structure of the seeding. I’m not quite as passionate about that one. And I’m not exactly passionate about the idea I’m about to present you with. It’s just some food for thought.

Every year the NBA fan base seems to struggle with the definition of Most Valuable Player. What does this mean? Is the most valuable player the player with the best individual statistics; the best player on the team with the best record; the player who arguably affects his teams win/loss record the most? There is no concrete answer and that results in confusion a good portion of the time. Take last year for example: You could make a legitimate case for any of the top five vote getters.

-Derrick Rose: Breakout season, Chicago had the best record in the league, young player who had never the won the award before (it counts for something).
-Dwight Howard: Leagues best interior defender, 22 points and 14 rebounds per game, Orlando would likely be a perennial lottery without him
-LeBron James: Leagues best all-around player, 27 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists per game (the only players to boast these averages for a full season are Oscar Robertson- 6 times, Michael Jordan- 1 time, LeBron James- 4 times)
-Kobe Bryant- 82 games played (incredible considering the mileage and injuries), 25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists per game, unbelievable killer instinct displayed many times
-Kevin Durant- League’s leading scorer and best pure scorer (28 points per game), young star who NBA wants to be a face of the league, best player on a very young, talented and exciting team

Somehow, Derrick Rose received a commanding 113 of the 121 first place votes. Did he deserve the MVP? Debatable, but I say yes. Did he deserve 113 of the 121 first place votes? I’m extremely skeptical. 50 years from now someone might be looking at on their laptop or TV or iPad or whatever the hell crazy ass technology will be around then, and they’ll see Derrick Rose won the 2011 MVP award in a landslide and think, “Whoa, he was just way better than everyone else that year.” In reality, that wasn’t the case. I was there. I watch wayyyyyy too much basketball on League Pass and I could tell you the MVP win shouldn’t have been that decisive… And this is coming from someone who would’ve given Derrick Rose a first place vote if I actually had a vote that counted. Just to put Rose’s victory in perspective, LeBron James earned 109 first place votes for his 2009 MVP season where he averaged 28 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists per game for a 66 win Cavaliers team that was far less talented than Rose’s 62 win Bulls team. That is where the whole MVP discussion hits a snag. Plenty of players deserve credit for being the MVP and in the end there can only be one MVP. But there could be a better way of deciding the MVP.

This is where my bright idea comes into play. What if we decided on the MVP by dishing out shares? Need me to explain? What if instead of sports writers and experts voting on their top 5 MVP candidates, they instead used their collective knowledge and assigned 121 MVP shares (it works out as one for every voter) to as many players as they feel necessary? This would show the true value of every MVP award. For example, if you take last year’s MVP vote, for me it would look something like this:
-Derrick Rose: 25 shares
-LeBron James: 21 shares
-Dwight Howard: 19 shares
-Kobe Bryant: 16 shares
-Kevin Durant: 13 shares
-Amare Stoudemire: 6 shares
-Chris Paul: 6 shares
-Dirk Nowitzki: 5 shares
-Manu Ginobili: 2 shares
-Dwyane Wade: 2 shares
-Rajon Rondo: 2 shares
-Blake Griffin: 2 shares
-Kevin Love: 2 shares

Doesn’t that paint a more accurate picture than simply seeing “Derrick Rose- 2011 NBA MVP”? Doesn’t Amare Stoudemire deserve some recognition for making the Knicks the hottest story in the NBA at the beginning of the season? Doesn’t Chris Paul deserve some of the credit that Dwight Howard gets for keeping a crappy team afloat? If we dish out MVP shares instead of MVP votes, we get the Mona Lisa instead of a 1st graders finger painting.

An important question: How do I, Sonny Giuliano, define MVP? I have six criteria that can’t be ignored on my MVP checklist:
1: How valuable is this player to his team in the landscape of the league? To answer this question you need to evaluate how many wins a player is worth to his team. This point is precisely why you won’t see Dwyane Wade with any MVP Shares for me in 2012. Is he one of the five or ten best players in the world? Probably. But Miami is 13-1 without Wade. Not only that, there have been times when Miami looks better without Wade. You aren’t the most valuable player in the league if your team looks better without you.
2: To piggyback the previous point, how successful was his team? It needs to be taken into consideration whether an MVP is good enough to get his team to the playoffs.
3: Statistically, how great was the player’s season? Was it one of his career best? Was it one of the NBA’s best? Was it historically good?
4: What is the player’s role on the team and how important is that role?
5: How good are they under pressure? Please keep all LeBron criticisms to yourself. Thank you.
6: To steal an idea from the Bible (Aka: The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons): In a giant pickup game with every player available and two knowledgeable fans forced to pick five-man teams, with their lives depending on the game’s outcome, what would be the order of the players picked, based on this season alone?

You’re dying to know how this shakes out, aren’t you? First let me start with two players who aren’t receiving any MVP Shares or honorable mentions recognition, both for totally different reasons. Then I’ll get the guys who just missed the cut. Sound good? Well, since you don’t really have a say, you’re going to have to go with it.

Dwight Howard- 20.6 points, 14.5 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, 57% FG
A rule of thumb: If you sell out your coach, teammates and organization multiple times in a season, you shouldn’t get an MVP vote, and you aren’t getting a single MVP share from me. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how Dwight Howard isn’t more hated by NBA fans than LeBron James is. By my calculations, Dwight Howard can now be considered a player who is a coach killer, a player who quits on his team and a player that craps all over his organization and fan base. That’s like the NBA triple crown of douche-baggery. Give me a break.

Derrick Rose- 22.5 points, 7.9 assists, 44% FG
The reigning MVP couldn’t reel in a single MVP share because:
A- He’s played in only 37 out of 63 games.
B- His team has the best record in the NBA, despite the lack of his presence for a solid chunk of the season. It sort of makes me question how valuable he was to Chicago last year. At the core, Derrick Rose is a point guard who takes 20 shots a game and only shoots 44%… and the number of shots only goes up in close games. The Derrick Rose vs. five defenders offense can survive, and sometimes even look pretty good. But you shouldn’t forget that Rose has the luxury of playing for the best defensive and rebounding team in the league. If you switch Derrick Rose with Deron Williams, I’m not sure the Nets are any better than they are right now. Deron Williams is a hell of a point guard, but Rose is the reigning MVP. Wouldn’t a true MVP caliber player make a positive impact on a team like the Nets? I’d think so. Somebody please let Deron Williams know that this was just a hypothetical scenario; he isn’t really going to be playing for the Bulls.

Dirk Nowitzki- 21.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 46% FG
I originally had Dirk slated to receive a few MVP shares. All I was thinking about was how Dirk was keeping a far less talented than last year Mavericks team afloat in the Western Conference. And I’ll admit, it’s hard to disregard the memories of him mowing down Kobe, Durant, and LeBron/Wade in a month span. It took me a while to consider that it took Dirk a solid month to round into basketball shape and that statistically this is the Germans worst season since 2000.

Paul Pierce- 19.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 44% FG/Kevin Garnett- 16.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 51% FG
The Truth kept the surging Celtics in the mix before Rondo and Garnett both came alive later in the season. Plus, he was good enough to win Eastern Conference Player of the Month in March. Pierce is the closer and Rondo is the catalyst of everything, but Garnett is Celtics heart. And when Kevin Garnett is engaged and yelling at himself and everyone else around him, the Celtics are just as much in the title mix as any other team.

From what I’ve seen, I think Garnett is slightly more valuable to the Celtics than Pierce. Look at the blows the Celtics have been dealt in their frontcourt. Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox, Jermaine O’Neal all out for the season, leaving Garnett to go to war underneath with the likes of Brandon Bass, Greg Stiemsma and JaJuan Johnson (And now thanks to a late season pick up, Ryan Hollins… Yuck). That’s not exactly reminiscent of the McHale, Parish, and Walton days, huh Celtics fans. Still, despite nearly 1,500 games on his NBA odometer, the veteran Kevin Garnett still provides the heartbeat for the veteran Celtics.

Josh Smith- 18.8 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.8 steals, 46% FG
J-Smoove deserves honorable mention simply because he is boasting career highs in points and rebounds this year, and because he is keeping the Hawks relevant (aren’t the Hawks always in a state of relevancy—never out of the picture but never totally in it) without Al Horford for all but 11 games this year.

Andrew Bynum- 18.9 points, 11.9 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 56% FG
Statistically, Bynum is far ahead of any of the other Centers who have are either receiving honorable mention or are receiving MVP Shares. Not to mention, he’s managed to stay healthy all season long, which given his injury history is a major accomplishment in itself (Lakers fans, you can take some time to knock on wood). And in my opinion, he’s a great postseason away from grabbing the conch as best Center in the league from Dwight Howard. The only problem is he’s grabbed the Crazy Guy on the Lakers conch from Metta World Peace. As talented as Bynum is, he still thinks it’s a good idea to shoot threes, question his coach and flirt with getting a technical after every hard foul on him. As great as Bynum is, he’s the most unstable Laker and I can’t risk giving him MVP Shares only to have him clothesline someone of JJ Barea’s stature in the playoffs again. That would be really, really funny though.

Rudy Gay- 19.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 45% FG/Marc Gasol- 14.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 48% FG
Bold Prediction Alert! Bold Prediction Alert!
 For the first time since the 2005, a team that plays in the NBA Finals won’t have a player that receives a vote for MVP. Neither of these players established themselves as a true MVP candidate throughout the season, but Gay (leading scorer on the team and a solid perimeter defender) and Gasol (2nd leading scorer on the team, leading in rebounds and blocks, emerged as one of the best centers in the league) both boast honorable mention credentials and are the co-leaders of the scariest team in the Western Conference.

Lamar Odom- 6.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 35% FG
Just kidding! I needed to make sure you were still paying attention. Check out part two next week to see who receives my 2012 MVP Shares. Plus, I’ll give some quick Playoff predictions.