Josh Smith and Defensive Recognition

There has been somewhat of a dust-up about the post-season awards voting process this year among media members. Long-story short, a few people were flabbergasted that LeBron didn’t win the MVP unanimously and couldn’t believe that up to seven writers/analysts/mascots (I’m actually not 100% who receives official ballots, honestly) voted for someone else. Two voters even had the stones to put LeBron third on their ballots.

“AN OUTRAGE,” screamed various fictional people I’m caricaturizing, who protested outside the NBA offices in New York burning effigies of Karl Malone, David Robinson and Stephen Nash. (They being past MVP winners who some think didn’t deserve their awards, you see.) About those who misguidedly voted for someone other than the King, critics have claimed incompetence (old writers don’t follow the league well enough to know any better), bias (at least one — and I believe two — of the people who voted for Dwight as MVP were from the Orlando area) and immaturity (one writer decided LeBron didn’t deserve the MVP for sitting out a few games late in the year). There is also obviously a level of bitterness from smaller writers who think themselves more qualified to vote than the bigger, older dogs who, in their eyes, spend more time filling out their TGIFridays comment cards than their awards ballots.

The whole thing has essentially been one huge, insider circle-jerk that the average basketball fan couldn’t care less about. (Matt Moore breaks it down further — and well — here if you do care.) I mean, LeBron, while not named MVP unanimously (something that I don’t believe has ever happened), did win by about 600 votes. That’s a lot. And no egregious mistakes were made in regards to the other awards either.

In the midst of all this shouting, however, there is an issue. And Bethlehem Shoals, as he is wont to do, wrote a banger today on the whole post-season award hullaballo that brings up some related issues of actual interest.

(Full disclosure: My man-crush on Josh Smith certainly makes me less than objective here. I pretty much thought the guy sucked until like 8 months ago and now he’s one of my favorite five players to watch in the league, so we’re still in that “don’t you dare say anything bad about my dude” phase of our relationship. No homosexual, naturally. Do the kids still say that? I sure hope not. It’s really offensive to gay people, I reckon. Again, no homo. Wait? Dammit…)

Shoals talks about how it’s pretty dumb that Smoove, this year’s runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year, did not even make the 1st-Team All-Defensive … team. (No redundancy.) Worse still, is the fact that he has been, as Shoals put it, “twice screwed by process,” as he was also oddly absent from this year’s All-Star team despite being the best player on an overachieving team that sent two others to Dallas (Joe Johnson and Al Horford).

Defensive Player of the Year … is the big enchilada. It was always fated to go to Dwight Howard — just as LeBron James had the MVP coming his way, except somehow it was okay if Smith or Gerald Wallace got some first-place votes. And yet Smith coming on in second spoke volumes. Whoever voted on the thing, it said to the public “dude is now among the premier defenders in the league.” For a public only so interested in these things, it was a nice hook. The boy has become a man. The Hawks are in the building.

And then, yesterday’s [All-Defensive Team] announcements, and with it, all that crumbling. Simply put, no amount of “who votes on what and why” can explain away Smith on the second team.

For the All-Star team, speculation, squeeze-outs, and self-interest are part of the game. But it’s okay, since justice will never be served. In these two cases of defensive awards, we have two ballots seeking to determine who defends better than others. The average fan could care less what ballot actually goes where, and why irregularities may be proof of corruption. The All-Star Game is inherently messed-up, a combination of irrational fan voting and coaches trying to pick up the pieces as best they can. Perfection is out of the question.

All-Stars, though, don’t need attention. All-Star Weekend is an event. The defensive awards? They need to be making a push for relevance.The way not to do that? Send conflicting signals whose only recourse is the the kind of explanatory inside basketball (who is the voter, why do they err) that casual fans have zero interest in.

It would be like if the MVP didn’t make the first-time All-NBA. Both would be cheapened.

Good stuff.

I’ve been saying all year that it was going to be awesome when Josh Smith makes 3rd-Team All-NBA without having even been an All-Star this year. Deron Williams pulled off that very feat in 2007-08, and I — being the pretentious, indie-snob-type of dude that I am — always enjoy when that happens. It earns the guy his “respect first, then money … basic shit” merit badge and basically turns them into an NBA version of In Bruges or Sean Price.

Heads know.

Most don’t.

Obviously, maintaining that below-the-surface superiority status is probably less appealing to guys like Deron and Josh. For them, these awards and All-Star appearances are career development. They can literally lead to millions of dollars. Smoove and DWill aint starving, so I’m not going to go on a hunger strike to ensure they receive their due props, but it goes to show that, yes, the voting process may actually have some flaws and there indeed may be real-world ramifications for real people, so the league should at least broach the topic of improving the process.

Because, at this point, I’m pretty sure Josh Smith won’t be making 3rd-Team All-NBA. And that’s a shame.

I would love to hear you try — and fail — to list 15 other guys who played better this season.

Kyler Korver

Kyle Korver also clearly got screwed over by All-Defensive Team voters. Make loud noises.

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