P.J. Brown

What is the makeup of a deserving NBA Most Valuable Player Award winner? The answer to that question is subjective, which is why there are such intense debates about who should be considered the MVP every season. However, some MVP votes are inexcusable by any right-thinking NBA observer and I thought it would be fun to provide examples of some of the most questionable ballot decisions by the sportswriters and broadcasters who have been granted the power to contribute to NBA MVP voting over the past decade. Here are what I consider to be the five most egregious MVP votes cast over the previous 10 seasons.

5. Gary Payton, 2001-02

You would think a player would have to have a truly exceptional individual season to earn a first-place MVP vote on a team that finished 45-37, but The Glove wasn’t even the league’s best point guard that season — Jason Kidd finished second in MVP voting for leading a less talented Nets team to a 52-30 record.

4. Stephen Jackson, 2009-10

Considering that Gerald Wallace was easily the best player on the Bobcats last season, how do you think he reacted to the news that Stephen Jackson received a fifth-place MVP vote?

3. Elton Brand, 2005-06

In his prime, Elton Brand was consistently one of the NBA’s most underrated players. He toiled away on a procession of crappy Clippers squads and it was a travesty that he was only named to two All-Star Teams. While he was the key reason why the Clippers finished with 47 wins in the 2005-06 season — more than they had achieved since they won 49 as the Buffalo Braves in 1974-75 — that still doesn’t justify somebody granting him a first-place vote when the other first-place votes were divided among unquestionably more deserving players like Steve Nash, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki and Chauncey Billups.

2. Peja Stojakovic, 2003-04

If you’ve followed Peja Stojakovic’s NBA career, it’s unlikely it ever occurred to you that he was worthy of being considered for the MVP award. And yet he finished fourth in MVP voting in the 2003-04 season, including a first place vote for averaging 24 points and six rebounds when the Kings finished with the fifth-best record in the NBA. Both Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal finished behind Stojakovic in that year’s voting, presumably because voters were split on who was more valuable. That first-place vote played a role in Stojakovic’s MVP ranking that season, and the fact that even one voter believed he deserved to be placed ahead of Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Jermaine O’Neal is mind-boggling.

1. P.J. Brown, 2004-05

In order to understand why this is unquestionably the worst MVP vote of the past decade, you need to recognize the context. In this particular season, Kobe Bryant averaged 28 points, six assists and six rebounds but didn’t receive even a single fifth-place vote, which is understandable when you consider that the Lakers finished 34-48. P.J. Brown averaged 12 points and nine rebounds for a Hornets team that tied for the second-worst record in the league at 18-64, but he received a fifth-place vote from New Orleans Times-Picayune writer Jimmy Smith — who copped to casting the vote after a public uproar led him to remove the veil of anonymity that typically comes with MVP voting. He justified his vote for Brown in a column in which he wrote, “It was meant to be a symbolic gesture so that people would notice Brown’s quiet contributions.” I assume I’m not alone in asserting that MVP votes aren’t meant for players who make quiet contributions on one of the worst teams in the league. If Smith deserves credit for anything, it’s for helping to make my case that several of the writers and broadcasters who cover NBA teams are unqualified to be involved in the MVP voting process.

Comments (12)

  1. Elton Brand may have been the league’s best two-way player in 2006, putting together a KG-like year that was more than MVP-worthy.

  2. He was a point and a half off of LeBron for the lead in PER, and a killer defensive force that year pre-injury. Certainly well more deserving than the player who won the award that year, and easily as deserving amongst a crop (James, Kobe, Dirk, Wade, KG) that may have been the deepest MVP pool in decades.

    I think we’re letting his steep drop-off following that season affect our view of the guy. Because 25 and 10 with 2.5 blocks, a steal, two and a half assists and 2.2 turnovers, while acting as the defensive anchor of a top-10 defensive team featuring a sieves all around him? That’s pretty MVP worthy in any year.

  3. Sjax was the best player on that Bobcats team… He is the reason they made it to the playoffs not Gwall.

  4. Mr. Carefoot, you always write so shity arts.

  5. The knowledge of the Times-Picayune writers on the rest of the NBA tends to be slightly lacking. He probably just couldn’t name 5 non-Hornet players.

  6. A throwaway vote here and there isn’t a travesty. Steve Nash winning it two years in a row is the travesty.

  7. KD: I would have no problem with anyone who wanted to give Brand as high as a third-place vote for the season he had. But when you give a player a first place vote, you’re saying you really believe he is the single most valuable player in the entire league. The Lakers only finished two wins behind the Clippers and look at the supporting cast Kobe had to work with. Smush Parker ring any bells. Presumably, this particular voter was on the Clippers beat.

  8. @ Alex

    A bit like Bill Simmons said about Nash’s both MVPs, he also said he should have had in ’07, where Nowitzki won it then got destroyed by Stephen Jackson *wink, wink* in the first round.

    I remember those two seasons and while I can see how some people might consider Steve Nash unworthy of winning those in 05 and 06, it’s hard for me to pinpoint who exactly deserved it MORE than Nashty. The usual consensus is Shaq in ’05 and Kobe in ’06. But Shaq in ’05 was arguably not the most important player on his team and Kobe, while abusing defenses all-around the country (a 81-points game, a 62 points in 3 quarters, 4 other 50 points outburst and a grand total of 27 40-point games), was on a 45-win team.

  9. There was some genuine buzz for Peja in ’03-’04. He led a Kings team, that lost Chris Webber to injury almost the entire year, to a 55-27 record. But, that definitely did not make him the MVP of the league. I do think he deserved a little bit of recognition for that season he had… a few 4th or 5th place votes maybe.

  10. The MVP should be a two-way player, at least somewhat. I won’t argue that Nash was the Offensive MVP for those years despite the fact that Kobe kept afloat an offense with one of the worst supporting casts in recent memory, but Nash’s defense was atrocious, and it was mostly D’Antoni’s style that (somewhat) hid that gaping hole in his game. Both ends of the floor count. Honestly, the MVP candidates in ’05 were a bit weak, and of course Nash had a good story, so I can forgive Nash winning the first time, but all the guys on KD’s list all had far greater overall impact than Nash in ’06.

    Aside: The MVP obviously only measures regular season performance, and Nowitzki had an MVP-caliber regular season in ’07. Expecting reporters to put on their sooth saying hats and predict team playoff success/failure is about as realistic as me expecting them to avoid the narrative vote and go for the best overall season.

  11. Peja was very good that year…Everybody forgot that, because he sucks now…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0SXPZUeL08

  12. Hey -

    I think you’re off on the Stojakovic vote, for two reasons:

    (1) Before Webber tried to come back from knee surgery, the Kings were RUNNING away with the best record in the league. Once Webber came back they went 10-10 and actually lost the Pacific division title on the last day of the season (the Lakers beat the Blazers and the Kings lost to the Warriors). So, the Peja vote is mainly because of the first 62 games of the season.

    (2) Peja was the 2nd leading scorer in the league that year, albeit due to a technicality (I think Iverson missed too many games to qualify). McGrady led the league at 28 ppg, but he was hurt a lot as well. There was actually a chance that McGrady (in addition to Iverson) would fail to qualify as the league leader, making Stojakovic the default league scoring champ.

    I know these seem like technicalities, but the bottom line is that for at least sixty games Peja was the leading scorer on the team with the league’s best record. Seems like he deserved at least 1 MVP vote.

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