It’s easy to forget about the NBA this time of year. In a way, it’s funny how the basketball gods made their annual schedule. Right during the dog days of the NBA season, when seeding is basically set, good teams rest their best players for the playoffs, and bad teams rest their good players for draft position, March Madness comes upon us. The combination of the doldrums of NBA paired with the annual excitement of the NCAA Tournament makes for quite the focus shift towards the college game. For one month out of the year, guys like Bronson Koenig and Derrick Walton Jr. can be superstars.
There is one NBA conversation that never goes away, though. The MVP conversation rages on throughout the boredom of the dog days. This year, there is a clear four-man race for the Maurice Podoloff Trophy (I, too had to look up who that man is). The race is between the best player in the world, LeBron James (somehow not the front-runner), walking triple double Russell Westbrook, the most casual and easygoing player ever, James Harden (I mean that in the most complimentary way possible), and Kawhi Leonard the two-way superstar. That is an exciting race, and it has garnered some of the hottest debate in a long time with guys like Nick Wright taking every opportunity to spout off their opinion.
But what if the MVP was different. What if the MVP didn’t go to the guy who had the best season, but a guy that EVERYONE can get behind. A guy that you hear won, and it makes you slowly clap until the whole crowd joins in and it becomes a raucous applause. These guys aren’t going to the Hall of Fame, they probably won’t even ever be on a championship-caliber team. What they will always be is fun. And isn’t that what we all really want? Life to be fun? Without further ado, the MFP (working on the name, that doesn’t really flow) award candidates.
Oh, Dion Waiters. The man does nothing but shoot. Every year, he has been suppressed by someone ahead of him. This year, he is finally out of that shadow. After D Wade finally left the Heat because he was not getting paid enough, Dion Waiters took his spot. This year, he’s scoring 15.3 per game on 42% shooting and nearly 40% from three. That may not be too flashy, but he was absolutely electric during the Heat’s improbably win streak. Following six games of light play after his 20-game absence due to injury, Waiters scored 20.6 per game on 49% shooting and 49% from three. Also, he had this shot.
On top of all that, he is one of the most entertaining personalities in the NBA. I’m just going to leave some of my personal favorite Dion Waiters quotes here.
“That’s just that Philly cheese swag.”
“Oh man, I love that moment. I mean, you can never shy away from that. I just feel tough like – one of my favorite quotes is, uh, I forgot it already. One of my favorite quotes. But, yeah, man, just can’t be afraid of taking them shots. You know, you’re still at one point at the end of the day. I just wanted to just get it over with. And fortunately, I made the shot.”
And my personal favorite: “I’d rather go 0 for 30 than 0 for 9 because you go 0 for 9 that means you stopped shooting.That means you lost confidence.” (even though it was sorta taken from the Black Mamba)
I’m just going to leave a box score here from second-year player Devin Booker. In 45 minutes against the Boston Celtics, he shot 21-40 and 22-24 from the free throw line for 70 points (he is the eleventh player in league history and only the third after 1978). On top of that, he logged eight boards, six assists, a block, and three steals. In a loss.
After the game, Jae Crowder of the Celtics (who really like being mortal enemies with every team in the league, said, “I’ve never seen so many guys so happy after an L,” to which Booker responded simply, “you can’t guard me.” In one game and one interview, the Suns knew for sure they had a franchise centerpiece, and the basketball world got to see the massive amount of confidence Booker possesses.
Looking at TJ McConnell’s stats, there is not a single thing that makes you understand why he is an NBA player. With 26 minutes per game, he is averaging 6 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, and 2 turnovers per game on 47% shooting. Although his 3.57 assist to turnover ratio is tied for fourth-best in the NBA, nothing really jumps off the page. Heart simply isn’t a statistic, though. Neither is smarts. Timothy John has an excess amount of both of those intangibles. This has blossomed into an elite end-of-game confidence for the young lad. You think that’s an asshole take on my part? Ok fine, then I’ll just remind you about this shot. And this shot. One or two point game with less than ten seconds, I want the ball in Timothy John’s hands.