The goal in competing in professional sports is to win the championship. Hearing everybody say that is like a broken record. Nonetheless, it wouldn’t hurt if you get yourself some hardware along the way in the form of individual awards. Aside from personal acclaim, NBA awards could trigger bonuses on certain contracts. So, who decides and votes for the NBA awards?
Before knowing the answer to the question, let’s learn more about the major NBA awards.
What are the Major NBA Awards?
If we’re talking major NBA awards, it means individual awards where the winners get actual hardware or trophy. All-Defensive and All-NBA teams are accurate validations of who the league’s best players are, but the majority of the members do not have anything to show for it.
So, what are considered “major” NBA awards? These are the MVP, the Rookie of the Year, the Defensive Player of the Year, the Sixth Man of the Year, the Most Improved Player, and the Coach of the Year.
How Does the NBA MVP Voting Work?
The finalists for the MVP award last season were Joel Embiid, Steph Curry, and Nikola Jokic. The award eventually went to Jokic. If you’re one of the fans who are wondering how the NBA MVP voting by year works, then pay attention.
The NBA selects a panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters in the United States and Canada, and they are essentially the NBA MVP voters. This process started in 2016-17 to make the voting as unbiased as possible. Before that, there are media members associated with teams who held votes.
The panel of 100 is different. No members are affiliated with NBA teams and they come from diverse backgrounds.
First, a worldwide panel of broadcasters votes and essentially selects the finalists for each major award, including the MVP. They basically make an NBA MVP list to vote on. The panel of 100 will then vote for the winner. TNT announces the NBA awards results at different points during the playoffs. The league also does its job by transparently posting the voting results on its website.
Even so, no matter how transparent the voting gets, processes that aim to hand down awards are always magnets of controversy. When Steph Curry secured his second MVP award by unanimous vote in 2016, it raised some eyebrows. When Giannis Antetokounmpo bagged his second consecutive MVP honors, many think 35-year-old LeBron James deserved it better.
Who Votes for All the NBA Teams?
Remember the worldwide panel of broadcasters selecting the list of NBA finalists? They come up with the three finalists from the All-NBA teams, which they also select. All-NBA teams are virtually the best players in the NBA from each position. The first team All-NBA consists of the two best guards and three best frontcourt players.
Now, the next question is, how do they decide who makes the three All-NBA teams? The chosen group of broadcasters and sportswriters from all over the world vote using a points system. In this case, they based it on a 5-3-1 point scale. The voters choose players based on position, with the top choice receiving five points (first team), three points for a second-team vote, and one point for the third team.
Sometimes, a player may get votes from two positions, causing them to be put in an inferior team. This is because the NBA only considered the position in which he received more votes. For instance, in 2016, Draymond Green received votes as a center and a forward. If the votes were totaled, Green should have more points than DeAndre Jordan. But since Green got more votes at the forward position, he was relegated to the second team while Jordan was slotted as the first-team center.
Here are more interesting facts about All-NBA team selections:
- In 1952, the All-NBA first team consisted of six players. This happened when Dolph Schayes and Bob Davies received similar votes.
- Like the Draymond Green case, Khris Middleton received votes as a guard and forward in 2020. He had more total points than Ben Simmons and Russell Westbrook but did not make it to an All-NBA team. Simmons and Westbrook received votes solely as guards and made it to the third team.
- LeBron James has a record of 17 All-NBA selections. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan, and Kobe Bryant had 15.
- James is also the all-time leader for first-team selections with 13. Bryant and Karl Malone trail with 11.
- James and Malone were selected to a record 11 consecutive first-team selections. Malone was in from the 1988-89 season to 1998-99. James’ time was from 2007-08 to 2017-18.
What is the Criteria for Being Voted in the NBA Awards?
There are no official criteria to put one in the MVP conversation. Generally, it’s the overall individual and team play. As for the number of games, it’s an unwritten rule that the MVP must play at least 75% of team games. That’s 62 out of a possible 82 regular-season games. The lowest number of games an MVP has played was 58 (Bill Walton in 77-78.)
Every voter must figure the criteria out for himself. For example, how well is his team doing? Is he having a career year? If you take him out of the equation, is the team still good?
Sometimes, the vote sways one way or the other depending on the narrative. For instance, Russell Westbrook was named the 2017 MVP because he replicated Oscar Robertson’s feat of averaging a triple-double in a season. His team, the Thunder, were only the sixth seed coming out of the West and handed a first-round exit by the Rockets.
2. Rookie of the Year
Like the NBA MVP Award, there are no specific criteria in choosing the Rookie of the Year. Oftentimes, though, it is strongly based on statistical performance rather than how well his team is doing.
The panel that votes for the ROY award are American and Canadian broadcasters and sports journalists. They vote three rookies via a 5-3-1 point scale, with their top choice garnering 5 points and so forth.
3. Defensive Player of the Year
Selecting the DPOY is much trickier than other major awards since individual statistics do not often tell the whole story. Sure, there are former DPOYs who play on bad defensive teams and had gaudy defensive statistics (hello, Marcus Camby). But a real defensive juggernaut, one that deserves a DPOY award, can make his team better defensively just by his presence.
As a recent example, Rudy Gobert of Utah was named the 2021 Defensive Player of the Year. The Jazz was No. 3 in points allowed, No.2 in opponent FG%, and 4th in defensive rating. It’s the same thing with Giannis Antetokounmpo winning in 2020. The Bucks were No.1 in opponent FG%, No. 4 in FGs allowed, and No. 8 in points allowed.
4. Sixth Man of the Year
The 6MOTY is probably the easiest major award to predict since it often goes to the highest-scoring player coming off the bench. Jordan Clarkson, the 2021 winner, averaged 18 points off the Jazz bench, which leads the NBA. The only clear criteria for Sixth Man of the Year is that the player considered should have more games coming off the bench than starts.
5. Most Improved Player
Again, selecting the MIP is subjective. A similar voting structure applies, but the main criterion is that the award goes to the player who showed the most noticeable strides in his game. Nonetheless, this award is often handed to a player who was not selected as an All-Star before. That is why even if all-star and superstar-level players add new wrinkles to their games, they never win Most Improved Player.
6. Coach of the Year
By now, you already know how voting works for NBA Awards. Coach of the Year is no different. This is often given to the coach who noticeably improved his team or someone who kept the team among the NBA’s cream of the crop.
For instance, Tom Thibodeau became the 2021 Coach of the Year because he led New York to its first playoff berth since 2013. Phil Jackson was named COTY when the Bulls set the then-record 72-10 in the regular season, while Steve Kerr also got the award as the architect of the 73-9 Warriors.
When are NBA Awards Given Out?
NBA awards are being handed out at various points in the postseason. In the 2020-21 season, the NBA announced Julius Randle as the Most Improved Player on May 25th, Lamelo Ball as ROTY on June 17th, DPOY Rudy Gobert on June 9th, MVP Nikola Jokic also on June 9th, and Tom Thibodeau as the COTY on June 7th.
Under normal circumstances, the NBA holds an Awards Ceremony for all NBA Awards winners. It has been two years since they scratched off the Awards night because of the pandemic, but it was usually held on the latter part of June after the NBA Finals and before the Draft.
Wrapping Things Up: Who Votes for the NBA Awards?
Year after year, fans and pundits alike look forward to the announcement of the NBA Awards results. The winners are declared sometime during the postseason, and under normal circumstances, the NBA holds an Awards night for them. But if you keenly watch these developments, have you ever wondered who votes for NBA awards and how does the NBA MVP voting by year plays out?
For starters, all NBA awards are voted by global sports media broadcasters and journalists. However, there are no fixed criteria on which you base your vote from. They are simply instructed to select three players (or coach in the case of the Coach of the Year award) and vote using the 5-3-1 point scale.
For instance, let’s say my choices for Rookie of the Year are Anthony Edwards, Lamelo Ball, and Tyrese Haliburton in that order. They would tally the score as five for Edwards, three for Lamelo, and one for Haliburton. Whoever got the most points regardless of first-place votes is announced the winner.
The NBA MVP voters are a bit different. The league chooses only 100 of them, and to make sure there are no biases, the ones selected are those not affiliated by any NBA teams. They also use the 10-7-5 point system instead of the 5-3-1. In the 2020-21 voting, a fan vote was added, making 101 total ballots. Out of the 101 first-place votes, the winner Nikola Jokic got 91, with a total of 971 points.
In the 2019-20 season, it’s important to note that the selection system for NBA MVP voters is somewhat different. Instead of selecting three finalists in the NBA MVP list, the panel selected five. They tallied 10 points for a first-place vote, seven for a second-place vote, five for third-place, three for fourth, and one for fifth. Nevertheless, no matter how they change the voting and points system, fans will always be on the lookout for the yearly NBA awards results.
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