This particular mailbag isn't about the players in the Top 10 or the Outside Looking In, though. It's about the players who may not be getting the recognition for their outstanding play because they play for less-than-outstanding teams. Guys like Danny Granger
, Kevin Durant and Caron Butler.
I've had a running e-mail exchange with a gentleman named Lee whose head explodes every time I mention that a player can't be an MVP candidate if his team is below .500. Here's an excerpt from an e-mail he sent me after I mentioned Granger's
been playing great ball, but isn't an MVP candidate because the Pacers are way below .500.
"Ask yourself who is more valuable: a great player on a team full of winners, or a great player on a team full of losers? The former player's team might have the better record, but his team would have won a lot of games even if he didn't play; whereas the latter player, as the only good player on his team, might be the only reason his team won more than one game in 10. So why shouldn't the great player on a bad team get some consideration? He carries his entire team, whereas a great player on a great team shoulders a lot less work."
The answer to the question as posed is obvious to me: a great player on a team full of winners. That's the object of the game: winning. If you're the best player on one of the better teams, you will be considered an MVP candidate. As we've noted many times, the last 20 MVPs either have played for the best team in the league, or the best in their conference or division.
Still, that does not take away from the season Granger's
having for the Pacers
. With 25.5 points per game, Granger
is fifth in the NBA scoring. He's followed by Sacramento's Kevin Martin (24.1 per game) and the Thunder's Kevin Durant (23.9), both of whom play for teams under .500. Are Martin and Durant MVP candidates? Hardly. Durant told The Oklahoman that he won't even consider himself an All-Star.
"No, I don't think so," Durant said. "Because one of the requirements is that the team's got to win. That's a big part of being an All-Star, leading your team to victories. Hopefully, before I'm done in this league I can be one of those, but right now I'm just trying to help this team turn it around and get better."
So as great as these individuals are playing, it's up to them to help make their teams better and it's up to the respective front offices to get complementary players to build around their budding superstars. The NBA has a lot of outstanding players, but very few most valuable player candidates.