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Winderman: NBA awards should not ignore the playoffs

May 19, 2010, 11:10 AM EDT

Thumbnail image for Rondo_Charge.jpgThose ballots, the ones that had to be in no later than the close of the regular season, is it possible we might be able to get them back?

Like every other major sports league, the NBA closes the balloting for its annual awards in advance of the postseason.

Yet, as we’ve already seen over this past month, those first six months of competition aren’t exactly the most meaningful, now that the Mavericks, Cavaliers, Dirk and LeBron are gone.

Yet there is no summoning rewrite.

A few years back, when I asked David Stern about holding off such balloting until the end of the playoffs, his curt response was that the league also has a postseason award, the MVP of the NBA Finals.

But that voting only takes into account the league’s best-of-seven championship series, not the two-month breath of the postseason.

Unlike Major League Baseball, with its month of postseason games after its six months of regular-season play, or even the NFL, with its 16 regular-season games and as few as three postseason wins required for a Super Bowl, the NBA goes six months during the regular season and another two during the postseason.

That essentially is a quarter of the season ignored.

And the need to present the hardware while the playoffs still are in progress doesn’t wash. Baseball hands out its awards well after the World Series, some served up with Thanksgiving dinner, with the NHL holding an awards banquet after the Stanley Cup Finals that draws Idol-like ratings north of the border.

As it is, the NBA has become a master at turning irrelevancy into prime-time programming, as evidenced by this week’s draft lottery. Think about it, we’re talking NBA TV programming throughout July, ESPN having more than baseball highlights to offer in advance of NFL camps.

So what would have changed? Here’s what:

– Kobe Bryant, with his current momentum, easily could have passed LeBron James for Most Valuable Player. Shouldn’t the MVP be remembered for having the greatest impact on the entirety of a season?

– Rajon Rondo certainly would not have been left off the All-NBA teams and might have contended for a first-team spot. Right now, he justifiably can be viewed as the best point guard in the league.

– Doc Rivers would soar in the Coach of the Year balloting. In retrospect, holding back his veterans matched Scott Skiles pushing his underachievers or Scott Brooks barely advancing into the playoffs.

– Lamar Odom would be pushing Jamal Crawford for the Sixth Man Award. What he is accomplishing in reserve is coming with the stakes elevated.

– A case could be made for third-team Pau Gasol moving ahead of second-team Dirk Nowitzki on All-NBA.

No, it is not an equal playing field, with nearly half the league being dropped from the postseason equation.

But what the Celtics currently are proving is that the playoffs are where a season is defined, where reputations truly are delineated.

Unless, of course, it comes to NBA awards.

Then, somehow, a December Cavaliers-Clippers game carries more weight than Lakers-Celtics in June.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

  1. Christopher - May 19, 2010 at 12:23 PM

    While I agree the the spirit of the arguments Winderman makes, those statements are basically doing the opposite of the MBA Regular Season Awards; Basing the decision on people play strictly in the post-season. While I understand the point would be to include the performance of player all the way from regular season tip-off to post-season conclusion, people would be voting on only players in the play off, because those are the performances freshest in our minds.
    If basing the majority of the awards on the post-season is the point then so be it. It can’t be dismissed that Coach of the Year would always be a Playoff coach, and MVP would always be a Playoff player and Most Improved Player would always be the Most Improved Player On A Playoff Team.
    Just something to think about.

  2. Joshua - May 19, 2010 at 12:49 PM

    Yes, yes, yes. Absolutely correct. And having a post-playoffs award show would be awesome, I would definitely tune in and you are right that the NBA would be able to turn it into a spectacle. Because honestly baseball bores the crap out of me and I would love to see some basketball highlight reels in July. They could have TNT do it like they did the all-decade awards, with Ernie, Chuck and Kenny presenting. Come on Stern!

  3. Joshua - May 19, 2010 at 1:12 PM

    Good point Christopher, MIP is something that should depend on a players improvement from one season to the next, not within the season. But like Ira points out, Doc’s strategy of keeping his guys fresh for the playoffs was completely misunderstood by voters because at the time they voted the Celtics just looked bad. And honestly, the best coaches are guys like Popovitch, Sloan, Phil Jackson, guys who save their best stuff for the playoffs yet get ignored season after season by awards. And when is the last time the MVP was a player who did not make the playoffs?
    However I have to disagree that only players/coaches in the playoffs would get votes. I think you discredit the voters. The voters are drawn from guys who work with every team, not just playoff teams, and I don’t think everybody would be as swayed by playoff success as you think. I think the point is that the playoffs are a part of the season, just as much as the first two months and the last two months of the regular season, and deserve to be taken into consideration for every award. Would they get more weight with voters because they happen to be the most important two months of the season? Probably, but there is a reason for that. But I also think most voters would be intelligent enough to take the entire season into account.
    Here is a side-thought: what about two sets of awards? Keep the awards we have now for the regular season, then vote on the same awards for post-season only. MVP of the entire playoffs. MIP would be someone like Rondo who really stepped their game up. Might be a way to cover all bases.

  4. e - May 19, 2010 at 1:27 PM

    If a League MVP is not involved in the playoffs, do you think that player really deserves to be mentioned in the MVP voting?

  5. Lakers4Lyfe - May 19, 2010 at 1:31 PM

    How can you be league MVP and not even advance to the conference finals? Kobe doesn’t even shift into 3rd gear until the playoffs … totally agree. No awards until the playoffs are over.

  6. Christopher - May 19, 2010 at 1:39 PM

    I really like your idea about two sets of awards. Might allow the NBA to get more out of the playoffs than they do already.
    You’re right about how the awards would be voted. I just see so many instances where, say, coach of the year goes to “The best coach to make a big jump in wins from last year” Instead of “The Best Coach In The NBA This Year” How does Jerry Sloan not have one COY award?
    I suppose if you’re aware of the fact that the post-season would be more heavily “weighted” and the voter’s understand and are fine with this, then by all means make the change. I just wouldn’t want this fact to get lost in the idea that yes, the post-season should probably count too.
    E, I understand your point as well I just felt that for some, not all, all awards choices would essentially be narrowed down to the 16 post-season teams. League awards should pick from the whole league, right?

  7. Junior - May 19, 2010 at 2:39 PM

    Hey Ira, two terms you may not be familiar with: Day-in and day-out and consistency. MVPs and all the awards are not designed for the push at the end of the season and post-season, it is intended for the drive and determination displayed throughout the entire season; and two months of over-the-top performances won’t erase what others did for 6 months. It looks like you are a die hard LA fan…

  8. Junior - May 19, 2010 at 2:41 PM

    Hey Ira, two terms you may not be familiar with: Day-in and day-out and consistency. MVPs and all the awards are not designed for the push at the end of the season and post-season, it is intended for the drive and determination displayed throughout the entire season; and two months of over-the-top performances won’t erase what others did for 6 months. It looks like you are a die hard LA fan…

  9. Neighborhood Watch - May 19, 2010 at 3:09 PM

    Are there awards handed out for the best rapist in the league? Kobe could win THAT!

  10. Agrees - May 19, 2010 at 3:32 PM

    I agree with Ira. Not to take away from the regular season but judging should be made using the most amount of data as possible. I found it funny that after Lebron was declared MVP, Cleveland lost the next two games and were kicked out of the playoffs. And no, there shouldn’t be to sets of awards, it takes away from their glory and respect…that’s like having two champions in the same year (team with best regular season record vs. team that won playoffs).

  11. SJ - May 19, 2010 at 3:45 PM

    Hey were you there? The case was settled, get over it.

  12. Raj - May 19, 2010 at 4:15 PM

    They do consider the playoffs Ira, you D-Bag. It’s called the playoffs MVP. They have one for each series. Helloooooooo

  13. geo59 - May 19, 2010 at 4:44 PM

    Hi Ira, I agree with you completely. The MVP, COY, etc. awards should be awarded after the playoffs are over so that all the data can be included. Had that been the case, Rondo would win MIP, Doc Rivers would win COY, Pau would have been 2nd, and really, come on, let’s be real, 1st team All-NBA, and of course, truth and justice would prevail and Kobe would be MVP. I hear the Lebron lovers screaming. Okay, they should have an award for “Most Hyped Player”. Lebron wins that one the last 4 or 5 years in a row, at least. How about “Second-Best Player in the World Most Likely to Choke in the Playoffs”? Lebron would win that one for the 2nd straight year.

  14. jonnymac - May 19, 2010 at 5:57 PM

    I agree with most of the above comments…..the post-season play of some of these award winners has been/was atrocious…..and Kobe is definitely MVPier than LeBrick….but just like the year he scored 81 points in a game (a phenomenal achievement considering today’s game and playing style) they robbed him and gave it to Nash…Now don;t get me wrong….I like Nash but Kobe was robbed.
    On a side note…what’s the deal with all the Kobe/rapist posts?….come on! every day some idiot posts the Kobe/Rape comment….come on people its’ inexcusable he cheated on his wife…but she forgave him and he’s now trying (and apparently succeeding) to forge a life with her and their two lovely daughters…..and keep in mind unless Gasol and Bynum were there….there were two other types of sperm on her panties when the ER did the rape-kit. 3 sperm samples on your undies in less than 48 hours….as Chad Ochocinco would say…”CHILD PLEASE”!

  15. Alex - May 19, 2010 at 6:07 PM

    You people are sadly mistaken… The award is for the whole season, not the playoffs where you are basing your comments right now on. As for LeBron, his post season numbers are better than anyone else, it is not his fault his entire team turned to mush. Are you going to tell me that in baseball, if you have a triple crown winner who’s team does not make the World Series, you are going to say he didn’t deserve the MVP??
    This is an individual award and you are trying to base it on team results. They have post season awards for a reason, and if your beloved Kobe takes the lakers to the title, I am sure he will get the Finals MVP. Or Maybe it will be Rondo leading the Celts, who knows

  16. Umm No They Don't - May 19, 2010 at 7:49 PM

    No, they don’t have a “playoffs MVP”, and they don’t have one for each series. Where did you get that from. They have the Regular Season MVP, and then they have the Finals MVP, nothing in between, and no otehr award either (6th Man, Most Improved, etc.)

  17. SurferDude - May 20, 2010 at 2:03 AM

    Obviously a Legone James fan who is a perennial overhyped both in the regular and playoff season. This guy will never wear a ring, except the one that gets pierced in the nose.
    Grit your teeth, for Legone James will never win a championship. EVER.

  18. mike b. - May 20, 2010 at 7:39 AM

    i dont know about that surfer dude, these guys are like high priced call girls.he will go to the highest bidder, and eventually win a very compromised ring, all the ny yankee fan should know what im talking about.

  19. ED - May 20, 2010 at 1:12 PM

    Championship ring is what it is all about! I am sure Rondo could care less about some improved trophy!
    Bill Russell cannot wear all his rings at one time because he has more than ten!

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