In an effort to stretch out its presence throughout the calendar year, the NBA decided last year to hold an independent show for its major individual regular season awards (MVP, Coach of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, etc.) a few weeks after the playoffs and a few days after the draft.
It’s one of the few missteps that the NBA has committed since Adam Silver took over as commissioner in 2014.
Before 2017, the NBA regular season individual (and team) awards were announced throughout the playoffs. This gave the players opportunities to get recognized for their awards at their home stadiums in front of their fans. It also made for more interesting storylines throughout the playoffs, especially since these awards don’t include playoff performances. Imagine the headlines that could have been made during the 2017 playoffs first round match-up between James Harden’s Houston Rockets and Russell Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder had Westbrook been awarded the MVP over Harden in the middle of the series. And then imagine the subsequent revenge-themed content that could have been written after the Rockets defeated the Thunder then. Or try to remember the build-up to the 2016 Finals, when it was LeBron James, the greatest player of this generation, and the Cleveland Cavaliers going up against Steph Curry, the first-ever unanimous MVP, and the 73-9 Golden State Warriors. How about the flak that Dirk Nowitzki got from fans and the media when, during his MVP season, his first-seeded Dallas Mavericks were eliminated by the eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors?
Besides the added storylines, the biggest and most obvious reason for not releasing these awards after the NBA playoffs (and after the draft!) is because these are REGULAR SEASON awards. How seriously are we going to take regular season MVP when he accepts the award if he had already choked or had been outplayed by a fellow contender in the playoffs a month before? The same question goes for the other awards. What is the point of knowing whom the media thought was the best player in the regular season was when we already know the champions and the Finals MVP? How awkward would it be if a fired coach won the Coach of the Year award for the job that he did in the regular season for the team that fired him? This is a serious possibility with Dwayne Casey – who already won the NBCA Coach of the Year award after getting swept in the second round – this year.
And having the draft before the awards show is just bad planning. The NBA is already opening its new season before the previous one could even close. And it should close after the Finals – its called the “Finals” after all.
There is nothing wrong with the NBA wanting to amplify its growth as a brand by creating meaningful events that the fans can enjoy. Having an independent show for these awards is not an inherently wrong idea. However, conducting it at the time that they have chosen to do so just raises so many issues. These awards that traditionally matter so much for the players and the fans are now suddenly seemingly meaningless.