While the media may focus on the MVP award and other prestigious honors, reddit has the distinct honor of awarding the LVP trophy. The LEAST Valuable Player. It’s a tradition that dates back to 2017, with Monta Ellis winning the trophy in what would be his last year in the league. Jamal Crawford won the following year when his defense had soured past the point of no return. Solomon Hill won in 2019, starting games for a then-imploding Pelicans team (during the AD drama). Isaiah Thomas won in 2020 for a short stint with the Wizards, and Aron Baynes won last season after struggling as a starter for Toronto.
Who will join that illustrious list? Before we get to that, let’s remember the criteria and caveats:
— Obviously, the worst players in the league are the ones who sit at the end of the bench and don’t get any playing time. However, this award focuses on players who log a decent amount of minutes and consequently affected their team’s play the most. Simply put: the more you play, the more damage you can do.
— And that actual “damage” is important. If you’re on a tanking team, no one cares about your poor play; it may even be a positive. We also tend to ignore young players (under 21) who are still developing and can’t be expected to be solid players yet.
— Similarly, we don’t want to judge players within the context of their salary any more than the actual MVP does. We also do not weigh in injuries either. We want to focus on players’ on-court performance instead. Those rules (which has existed since the beginning of the LVP award) may be especially controversial this year.
— We also wanted to note that this yearly column can come across as a little mean spirited, which is not our intention. Even the worst player in the NBA is in the top 99% percentile at their sport and making more money than most of us could dream about. And to be fair, even the worst player in the league probably costs his team only a couple of games (hardly anyone has a VORP worse than -2), so they shouldn’t be the scapegoat for an entire organization. In many cases, they’re simply played too much or played in the wrong role. But when the stakes are this high, it’s fair to criticize players or their teams for that negative impact.
So with all that said, let’s take a look at the dishonorable mentions and the official top 5.
(DIS)HONORABLE MENTION: FALLEN STAR EDITION
PG Ben Simmons, PHI/BKN: 0.0 minutes per game, n/a BPM
The LVP headquarters has made a rule to discount any injuries, but that still leaves the matter of Ben Simmons up for debate. How much do you believe in mental health as an excused absence? How much do you believe in the severity and legitimacy of his back injury? It’s difficult to give concrete answers to that; I imagine most older folks would call him “soft” while many younger fans would give him the benefit of the doubt. At the end of the day, we’ll reluctantly avoid tagging him with the trophy; we’re not a big enough organization to fight a Rich Paul lawsuit.
PG Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn: 37.2 minutes per game, +2.7 BPM
Kyrie Irving’s decision to avoid a vaccine had massive ramifications. If he got the jab, would James Harden have stuck around? Would Kevin Durant have stayed healthy (if he didn’t have to overextend his minutes)? Would Brooklyn have fulfilled expectations as the preseason title favorites? It’s hard to know. And it’s hard to know the inner workings of Kyrie Irving’s not-so-beautiful mind. Still, at the end of the day, Irving was willing to play basketball if the local rules allowed, so it’s hard to fault him more than other players who also remained unvaccinated. He’s also — like him or not — really F’ing good at basketball. To that end: his BPM (box plus minus, meant to illustrate a player’s impact per 100 possessions) is easily the highest on our list.
PF Julius Randle, N.Y. Knicks: 35.3 minutes per game, +0.5 BPM
In our original straw poll, some people mentioned Julius Randle’s dud season as a potential LVP campaign. And sure enough, both Randle and the Knicks were big disappointments. After signing a big extension, Randle’s shooting dropped like a rock (from 41% to 31% from deep) and the Knicks dropped out of the playoffs with him. Still, he doesn’t really qualify for this particular award. While overpaid, he’s still a solid starting player. In fact, last season was probably more of an outlier than anything else based on his career numbers.
(DIS)HONORABLE MENTION: OTHER DISAPPOINTMENTS WHO DON’T FIT THE BILL
C Mason Plumlee, Charlotte: 24.6 minutes per game, +0.0 BPM
After years and years of Cody Zeller, the Charlotte Hornets finally moved on. But alas, their heart couldn’t move on entirely, so they rebounded with another white dude who happened to be the best of his three brothers; it was the NBA equivalent of Rachel dating Russ.
Plumlee started 73 games for Charlotte, and promptly reminded everyone why he’s best served as a backup instead. His 39.2% shooting from the free throw line was particularly ugly. All that said, Plumlee isn’t a bad player and has some virtues (primarily his passing). If this award was limited to the worst starters, then Mason Plumlee would have a good chance at qualifying. But since we open it to all rotational players, he gets a pass here.
PF Davis Bertans, WAS/DAL: 14.4 minutes per game, -2.6 BPM
We want to reiterate that LVP doesn’t factor in salary. And that fact may spare the Latvian legend, Davis Bertans. When Bertans first came into the NBA, he was under the radar and turned out to be a bargain signing for Washington. He splashed over 40% of his threes his first two years for the team, giving them some valuable spacing at the PF position. Unfortunately, the Wizards got a little too excited about it and gave Bertans a long-term extension. It was a risky proposition given his one-dimensional skill set and his extensive injury history (two ACL tears.)
In hindsight, it’s one of the worst contracts in recent memory. Bertans was absolutely brutal this season for Washington, hitting only 31.9% of his threes and looking stiffer than a corpse on D. New coach Wes Unseld (a defensive specialist) deemed him virtually unplayable, giving him 0 starts and under 15 minutes a night before the team dumped him on Dallas. Oddly enough, the fact that Bertans didn’t play much for Washington may help him in LVP voting as the team minimized his negative impact. He also played better in Dallas, due no doubt to Luka Doncic’s gravity and playmaking.
SG Talen Horton-Tucker, L.A. Lakers: 25.2 minutes per game, -3.3 BPM
It’s debatable whether or not Talen Horton-Tucker should qualify for LVP voting or not. In his defense, he’s still only 21 years old (and thus should be spared by our age rule.) At the same time, he’s already in his third year in the league, and he’s already making $9.5M a year. Famously, the Lakers even prioritized him over some of their other vets. When they did that, the expectation was that he could be a contributor for the team’s title push this year.
Turns out: he could not. THT’s best virtue is his length when he slashes inside as a scorer, but he rarely gets the chance to do that when he’s on the court with LeBron James and Russell Westbrook. With them, he has to play off the ball and chuck up threes, which isn’t his strong suit (27% on the year.) Despite the clunky fit, the Lakers still played him 25+ minutes a game and gave him 19 spot starts.
(DIS)HONORABLE MENTION: END OF THE ROAD EDITION
SG Lou Williams, Atlanta: 14.3 minutes per game, -3.4 BPM
Sweet Lou Williams fits the mold of a lot of our former LVP winners (Monta Ellis, Jamal Crawford, Isaiah Thomas.) They’re best known as microwave scorers, but there becomes a point when the machine starts to malfunction and the warranty runs out on the equipment. And when the scoring stops, the other limitations to their game become more obvious and problematic.
Williams probably dipped into the “negative” camp last season, and he’s been sinking even lower now (at age 35.) He’s no longer an efficient scorer — he’s no longer getting to the line (1.4 FTA per game) — he’s no longer playable. He’s spared from ranking higher on this list due to the fact that Nate McMillan realized that and kept him under 15 minutes a night.
C DeAndre Jordan, LAC/PHI: 13.0 minutes per game, -1.4 BPM
DeAndre Jordan doesn’t fit the mold of the old microwave scorer, but he’s another former star who’s stumbled over the hill. Sometimes, the most dangerous players aren’t the bad ones — they’re the ones who used to be good. And because of their reputation, they end up overstaying their welcome.
That describes Jordan this season, one in which he somehow found playing time for two separate teams. He started 19 games for the Lakers, and then took over Andre Drummond’s backup role in Philly. And while we may lump Drummond and Jordan together as two classic bigs who don’t fit the modern NBA, there’s a notable gap between them of terms of age (Drummond is 5 years younger) and quality of play. In fact, Drummond graded as over 4 points better per 100 possessions in the same role (Drummond at +1.3, Jordan at -3.0).
Sidenote: the playoffs did not affect his candidacy ; as with MVP, the LVP is a regular season award. That said, Sixers fans may hope that Doc Rivers reads reddit.
PF James Johnson, Brooklyn: 19.2 minutes per game, -2.2 BPM
The Brooklyn Nets signed “Bloodsport” as a defender and enforcer, figuring they’d be all set on offense. After all, they had Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Joe Harris, Patty Mills, etc. What could go wrong??
Turns out: a lot. And given all the injuries and absences, the Nets needed more from a rotation player and spot starter (10 starts) than Johnson was able to provide. He’s never been a good offensive player (aside from one outlier shooting season in Miami), but he dipped down to 27% from deep this season despite a lot of easy and open shots. Johnson’s defense — now at age 35 — can’t make up for his other limitations. Ultimately, the Nets cut their losses and waived Johnson this past month. It’s rare for a team to cut a veteran right before a playoff run, a move that speaks volumes about how much they thought he had left to offer. (Although in hindsight, they may have regretted downsizing against Boston.)
(DIS)HONORABLE MENTION: BOTTOM OF THE BARREL EDITION
SF Semi Ojeleye, MIL/LAC: 13.5 minutes per game, -3.1 BPM
After four forgettable years in Boston, Semi Ojeleye had his worst season yet in shared time with Milwaukee and L.A. He was arguably one of the worst players in the entire league this year, shooting just 30% from the field and not contributing much else. All that said, Ojeleye doesn’t quite fit the bill for what we’re looking for here; his 406 total minutes don’t represent enough playing time to be a huge impact. Still — make no mistake — Ojeleye needs to find his footing fast before he falls out of the league.
SG Keljin Blevins, Portland: 9.0 minutes per game, -7.5 BPM
Best known as Damian Lillard’s cousin and nepotism signing, Keljin Blevins is making a name for himself as one of the worst players in NBA history. Similar to Semi Ojeleye, Blevins won’t qualify for this award because he hardly played until the team started to tank. Still, he deserves a (dis)honorable mention given his grisly numbers. He’s shot 31% from the field, 29% from 3, and 55% from the line for a grand total of a 41% true shooting. Add in the fact that he’s undersized for SF (where he played most of his minutes), and it’s arguable that Blevins is a historically bad player.
In fact, it’s pretty egregious that the Blazers gave him a contract in the first place. Even in college, Blevins didn’t stand out. He averaged 11.8 points per game as a fifth-year senior, the third highest total on a Montana State team that went 15-17 overall. There’s almost no chance that a player with that resume would sniff the NBA if he didn’t score highly on his 23-and-me test.
THE OFFICIAL LIST: THE TOP 5 “LEAST VALUABLE PLAYERS”
(5) SG Furkan Korkmaz, Philadelphia: 21.1 minutes per game, -3.1 BPM
The absence of Ben Simmons opened up minutes and opportunities for other players. Some (like Tyrese Maxey) took advantage. Some (like Furkan Korkmaz) pooped the bed instead.
The fact that Korkmaz averaged a career-high 20+ minutes a game says more about the Sixers’ depth than about his play on the court. Defensively, Korkmaz is limited (as illustrated by his -1.1 BPM), so his chief contributions come as a shooter/spacer. Unfortunately, the Turkish sharpshooter forgot his rifle this year. He hit 28.9% of his threes, which is an especially low mark for someone who plays next to offensive stars. Korkmaz’s struggles also grade highly in terms of the “impact” on the season. If the Sixers were ONE game better (which Korkmaz could have provided), they’d have the # 2 seed instead of the # 4. To be fair, Korkmaz has been better in the past, so we shouldn’t be so quick to write off his future. 2021-22 was simply a year to forget for him.
(4) SG Nickeil Alexander-Walker, NO/UTA: 22.6 minutes per game, -2.9 BPM
In my preseason “best bet” series, I did a decent job predicting some awards, including Tyler Herro as the Sixth Man of the Year. But for Most Improved I veered off course so badly that I accidentally recreated Mac and Me. Like many, I expected third-year guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker to have a breakout season.
Most damningly of all, so did David Griffin and the New Orleans Pelicans. Alexander-Walker projected as a potential scorer given his size and slashing capability (reminiscent of his cousin Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.) Allegedly, Griffin made the idea of giving Alexander-Walker more playing time a focal point of his coaching search. They even deemed Lonzo Ball expendable. It was NAW’s time to shine! And did he? NAW.
Alexander-Walker had a golden opportunity early in the season with Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram out, and the Pelicans gave him every chance to show his scoring chops. He started their first 18 games, and jacked up 20+ shots three separate times. Effectively, he was their go-to guy. The problem is: NAW couldn’t hit a bucket or finish at the rim. He shot 37% from the field and 29% from 3 in that time, one of the key reasons the team got off to such a terrible 3-15 start.
The Pelicans eventually benched (and then traded) NAW, and eventually they found their footing when Brandon Ingram came back and C.J. McCollum arrived from Portland. They even rallied to make the playoffs. By doing that, they may have sunk NAW’s LVP campaign. And in his defense, he’s still a young player (age 23) who got thrust into the spotlight too early due to injuries and poor roster planning. Hopefully he’ll be able to find his rhythm in a year or two and avoid making lists like these.
(3) PG Avery Bradley, L.A. Lakers: 22.7 minutes per game, -3.6 BPM
There’s been plenty of blame to go around for the Lakers’ struggles this year, but I haven’t seen much of it directed at Avery Bradley, who started 45/62 games. Bradley’s been holding on to his reputation as a solid 3+D guard for a while now — but he hasn’t been particularly effective at it since his days in Boston.
While Bradley can still hit some open shots (39% from 3), he’s not the easiest player to fit in a lineup. Because he acts more as a spacer than playmaker (0.8 assists per game), he really needs to be the de facto PG for a team with a big point forward. LeBron James qualifies. Russell Westbrook, not as much. With Westbrook on the court, Bradley has to play “up” as a wing (79% of his minutes at SG, according to basketball-reference) and his limited size at 6’3″ becomes a problem. To make matters worse, the Lakers trotted out several 3 and even 4-guard lineups this year, which crushed them defensively. If we had an “anti-award” for worst GM, Rob Pelinka may be a lock.
(2) PG Russell Westbrook, L.A. Lakers: 34.3 minutes per game, -1.6 BPM
We’ve already mentioned three other Lakers (Avery Bradley, Talen Horton-Tucker, and DeAndre Jordan) and several others could have made the list as well. The roster was thinner than a Hollywood starlet all season long, and Frank Vogel didn’t know how to patch them together in an appropriate way.
No doubt, a lot of those problems are the trickle-down effect of their disastrous decision to go all in on Russell Westbrook and his $40M contract. He didn’t fit with LeBron James, and he sapped up all the salary the team could have used on supplemental talent around them.
In our straw poll, Westbrook was the overwhelming winner of this award. Still, here at the LVP headquarters, we’ve vowed not to factor in contracts. So the question becomes: was Russell Westbrook a bad player this year (ignoring salary)? You can definitely make that argument. He shot under 30% from 3 and under 67% from the line. He led the league in total turnovers (3.8 per game) and probably led the league in wild airballs as well. His freelancing also made him a bad defensive player (-0.9 BPM). He still has some virtues — namely that he can put pressure on defenses in transition — but they didn’t make up for his shortcomings.
Despite all that and despite the Viking mob storming the gate demanding his blood, I fear that Westbrook is not quite bad enough for this award. He’s been a below-average starter and probably a zero-value player (illustrated by his 0.2 VORP). Given his contract, that’s a disaster. But if we ignore contracts as mandated, I don’t think he’s the worst of the worst. If anything, he’d inspire us to debate a change to the “contract” rule for the future.
(1) PG Facundo Campazzo, Denver: 18.2 minutes per game, -0.8 BPM
There’s a tipping point where an amusing sidekick starts to get overexposed and becomes annoying: we call it the Rob Schneider effect.
Denver guard Facundo Campazzo reached that point this season. He provided a little spark and energy in the past in a cameo role, but the Nugget needed more from him this year with Jamal Murray injured. Unfortunately, Campazzo came up short. Despite a boatload of open shots, he only hit 36% from the field and 30% from 3. His limited size (listed at 5’10”) makes it difficult for him to operate inside the arc either. He’s feisty on D, but that’s not enough to overcome his other limitations.
Campazzo’s box plus/minus isn’t terrible (-0.8), but the struggles go deeper than that. In our initial poll for this award, Nuggets fan /u/Kovovyev buried him with some brutal advanced stats. Apparently over 95% of his threes are classified as “open” or “wide open” by NBA.com, making that 31% success rate a remarkable failure. And despite playing on a good team, Campazzo registered a -8 net rating. He’s even negative (-2) when playing alongside Nikola Jokic. Eventually the Nuggets shelved Campazzo, but he did play enough games to do his damage.
How much “damage” is there? Arguably, not a huge amount since the Nuggets still won 48 games. Still, it shouldn’t take a historically good year from your star player to make the playoffs — and that’s what Nikola Jokic had to do. In fact, of the 16 players who logged 100+ minutes for Denver, Jokic is the only one who had a positive BPM. The fact that the Nuggets couldn’t count on the veteran Campazzo to soak up some minutes and stop that bleeding is a true knock against him.
So while Russell Westbrook got the most attention this year for his poor play, the LVP office would have to ask: which player would you rather have less? Who is the LEAST valuable/helpful? 35 minutes of Russ, or 20 minutes of Campazzo? It’s not an easy decision.
In fact, the debate came down to the wire and the last day of the regular season, when Campazzo gave us the LVP version of a “Heisman moment” with a cheap shot shove to Wayne Ellington. It was telling. After falling out of the rotation, Campazzo should have used the last day and garbage time to prove that he actually belonged in the NBA. He did the opposite. Many of our LVP “winners” ended up not playing in an NBA rotation again, and Campazzo (an impending free agent) may be next.