How to Fix NBA Awards Voting Process

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 24, 2013

For the most part, the right players went home with the hardware during the recently completed award season for the 2012-13 NBA campaign. But the strange, often nonsensical, processes that produced the winners could still use a little work.

Most recently, the league announced the players named to the All-NBA First, Second and Third Teams. The voters that selected LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul to the First Team did a swell job; it's hard to quibble with any of their decisions.

But stop and think for a second. Do you even know who votes, or what the actual process is? And if, for some reason, there was a crazy, inexplicable result, wouldn't you want to be able to nail the responsible party?

The sheer variety in voting processes is a little shocking. The All-NBA teams are chosen by a panel of 119 members of the media. The All-Defensive selections are made by the 30 NBA head coaches. Of course, the Defensive Player of the Year is voted on by 121 different sportswriters and broadcasters.

In what world does it make sense to have the Defensive Player of the Year decided by a different voting body than the one that decides who's on the All-Defensive team? Crazy, right?

The rest of the voting processes are similarly haphazard. Generally, the media is in charge, but in some cases, there are a different number of voters and the votes count for different "point totals." Yep, it's time to streamline this sucker.

Here are some key overhauls that could not only help avoid the few head-scratching choices we saw this year, but also make sure that when mistakes are made, the proper parties receive the requisite amount of public ridicule.


When Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe ruined LeBron James' unanimous MVP award by giving his first-place vote to Carmelo Anthony, there was something of a public outcry. After seeing James dominate the league, post the highest PER mark of any player by a healthy margin, and captain his team to 27 straight wins, there was really no logical vote for anyone besides LBJ as the league's Most Valuable Player.

But Washburn ticked the box next to 'Melo's name on his ballot.

To his credit, Washburn wrote a column explaining the logic behind his decision. His argument was flawed, reeking of the type of old-school shortsightedness that still somehow persists in the increasingly analytical NBA world. It took Grantland's Zach Lowe very little time to swoop in and highlight just how ridiculous and baseless most of Washburn's defense truly was.

So Washburn's reasoning was absurd, but he at least had the guts to defend his highly unpopular opinion. The problem is that he didn't have to do that.

The NBA doesn't post a list of the media members who vote on these awards, and nobody requires said voters to publicize their picks. That's a system that invites irresponsibility, homerism and downright foolish selections. Without accountability, there's not as much of an incentive for objectivity.

So the first fix for the awards voting process is to make the entire thing totally transparent.

We might not always agree with the reasoning behind a voter's picks, but at least the voters will be forced to explain themselves if they go too far afield with their ballots. And if you're a media member who doesn't want to have to justify a dubious pick, well...you either need to bone up on your NBA knowledge or give up your voting privileges altogether.

A Penalty System

This one's kind of fun. We need to build in disincentives for ridiculous votes. Combined with the transparency tweak outlined above, this would really serve to deter thoughtless or biased selections.

I'm proposing that any vote deemed "questionable" by the committee would subject the voter (whose name we'd know because of the whole transparency thing) to either probation or a full repeal of voting privileges, depending on the egregiousness of the vote in question.

Who'd be on that committee? Well, it would be a panel of three people: Gregg Popovich would obviously be one of the adjudicators because he's basically allergic to nonsense and wouldn't stand for any stupid selections.

Shane Battier would be the second member of the tribunal, mostly because he reads more NBA scouting reports than any human being on earth and would be a great authority on individual awards.

The third member would be me. Because these are my rules and I can do what I want.

Anyway, an offending voter would be subject to discipline, which we'd call "being Washburned." More than two consecutive violations would lead to a lifetime ban. There are plenty of voters out there who'd love to participate, so there's no reason to keep folks around who aren't appreciating the privilege.

All-Inclusive Voting

As I mentioned earlier, the seven major awards (MVP, All-Defensive, Defensive Player of the Year, Most Improved Player, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year and the All-NBA teams) each have slightly different rules.

So why not just combine all of the voting pools into one big one and do away with the points systems for each award?

This way, you'd have all of the media members with votes, the 30 head coaches and the fans (who get one measly vote in the case of the MVP) deciding the races one vote at a time. There'd be no more breaking things down into first-place votes and second-place votes; each person would just cast his individual ballot, and whichever player ended up with the most would be the winner.

It's ridiculously simple, but there's nothing wrong with that. And it'd probably help avoid what happened this year with the votes for Defensive Player of the Year and the All-Defensive team. Because the two voting bodies were totally different for those awards, Marc Gasol ran away with the individual honor but wasn't even named to one of two center spots on the First Team.

Where's the sense in that?

Could Be Worse

On the bright side, the voting process for the NBA's major awards is a lot better than many others in professional sports (Major League Baseball's arcane Hall of Fame voting comes readily to mind), but a few simple changes could make it a heck of a lot better.

Does anybody know Adam Silver's direct phone number? I'd like to present this to him before he takes over as NBA commissioner next year.


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