Just how valuable can a superstar be if he’s hogging the ball and limp-wristed on defense?
I think maybe if I was in D’Antoni’s shoes, I’d be looking to move Harden, as OKC did. Talking heads like to make out that OKC was bone-headed to move Harden. But these ball-hog types, though obviously impressing sports writers who vote for MVP, aren’t lifting their teams much.
One is tempted to wonder how OKC would have fared if they’d also cut Westbrook and used their cap space to get a couple of 2-way stars. Might have kept hold of Durant if they’d gotten rid of the ball-hoggers. Durant didn’t just leave a team; he left a *system.* And opted for one that is better for him.
It’s just funny to watch a ball-hogger make a conscious effort to create plays for his teammates. It’s utterly unnatural; the ball goes anywhere. Harden created a tremendous lot of turnovers this year without even shooting, which isn’t what you want to see in a ball-hogger, and certainly not what you want to see in a play-maker.
I’ll say the obvious — to all but some sports writers, anyway, it’s obvious. The MVP this year should be Leonard. He lifts his team at both ends of the floor; he creates for himself and for his teammates everywhere within the painted lines. You saw how valuable he is to his franchise when, suddenly, he wasn’t on the floor due to injury against GSW. Leonard’s quiet, he doesn’t play angry, he doesn’t grab headlines with his tweets and spats, so I guess sports writers don’t like him very much; they can’t draw eyeballs as readily with him as the subject. But in his own way, he’s as revolutionary a player as Steph Curry was the last two seasons.
GSW has some talent that matches Leonard, but they’re playing team ball in Oakland, so it’s tough to say one or another of their players should be MVP. Meanwhile LeBron has upped his game, improved virtually in every way, including (especially) passing; but the best basketball player on the planet (when he’s awake, which isn’t all the time) isn’t in the conversation, either. He, too, plays too much team ball and not enough ISO to qualify as a ball-hogger.
The entire idea of MVP seems to reward ball-hogging, actually. If Westbrook or Harden gets it, there will be at least 5 players in the league who are more valuable to their teams, and better players, than the MVP, and who contributed enormously to their teams. But they weren’t ball-hoggers.
Come on, sports writers, it’s a *team* sport. Houston’s and OKC’s accomplishments this year weren’t bad, but when they went up against actual teams, you could easily see the difference. You can win some games by ball-hogging, but you can’t get a title when the competition has both talent and a team-oriented system.
LeBron understands this better than anyone, I think. He wanted strong talent around him, and he uses it to create opportunities both for himself and his teammates. Though you can’t mention LeBron without also acknowledging that he doesn’t think the regular season is worth putting in much effort, and as the MVP is a regular season thing, he certainly didn’t earn it for himself this year.
The fact remains that Cleveland and Golden State will crush teams in the playoffs that feature ball-hogging. OKC and the Rockets are simply not contenders, configured as they are, and they never will be. It’s too simplistic to blame the accumulation of talent on GSW and Cleveland for that outcome. It’s their *systems* that are winning them games. And though Leonard is singularly fantastic for the Spurs, he’s not a ball-hog, and he plays in a team-oriented system that will almost always trump a system built around a ball-hogger.