We come at last to the big one. Most Valuable Player. Shockingly, no Bucks player received even a single vote for the NBA's award (I blame market size), but we're not worried about that right now.
"MVP" is an ever-contested term, especially when it comes to team performance. Can a player be MVP if his team struggles? If the Milwaukee Bucks even have an MVP, the answer had better be yes. Of course, MVP's are ultimately revered for their role in winning games, something the Bucks did precisely the worst amount of this season. Maybe "Bucks MVP" is a silly proposition, given the circumstances. But all these player awards have required a certain suspension of disbelief. It hasn't stopped us yet.
Our writers have made their cases after the jump, and we want to hear from you too. Who earns the top individual award from the Milwaukee Bucks?
Mitchell: Brandon Jennings. I have to say Brandon Jennings, if only because he a) continued his improvement year-over-year, b) showed off glimpses of truly stellar play, c) was able to shake off the February funk he got himself caught in, and most importantly d) seemed to respond to the franchise placing their bets on him long-term. He's got a long way to go, and year 4 is certainly the biggest one for him and the Bucks. Dunleavy was nice, Ilyasova was sick, but Jennings is currently the most valuable to the team. Let's all hope he lives up to it.
Steve: Ersan Ilyasova. I will probably go Ilyasova here, but I don't feel particularly convinced about it. Everyone on the team did a great job sharing responsibility in the losses this year, and there were more of those than wins, but Ersan player the steadiest ball when the Bucks were most successful this season. Could the Bucks have finished with the 12th- worst record without Ilyasova? Probably. But that goes the same for everyone else, too. Whatever value the lottery-bound Bucks actually produced this season, I think Ersan was most responsible for it.
Jacob: Ersan Ilyasova. I'll have to go with Ersan as well. It's a hard pick considering how balanced overall the team was in its contributors, but for a team that didn't really end up going anywhere, Ersan stood out in the improvement he made over last year. Plus, you can't discount the excitement he generated-- If you're going to be slightly less then mediocre, you might as well do it in style. Even if he doesn't have a long term role on the team I think he made a big enough impact and gave us just enough hope to help us get through the year.
Dan: Brandon Jennings. I know I should go with Ersan Ilyasova here. I'm usually a numbers disciple when it comes to evaluating performance, but I also have one crippling weakness, and it's the guy I'm giving this award to. Ersan's production was unmatched on this squad, but I just can't tear myself away from the excitement and promise Brandon Jennings continues to taunt us with. Thankfully, he improved to the point where we can identify just one bad month, rather than just one good month. If we remove Jennings' miserable February, his TS% jumps to 53.7, slightly above-average for a starting PG. Then again, valuing sporadic three-point binges over consistent rebounding and scoring is an easy way to mess up your team, which is why it's a good thing I'm not running the Bucks. Ersan was the best player on the court this season, but in my mind, Jennings cemented himself as the franchise's most valuable player. Scary, huh?
Frank: Ersan Ilyasova. Let's be clear: I want Brandon Jennings to be the Bucks MVP, and the Bucks at this point kind of need him to be that guy, too. So it's certainly good news that he was closer than ever to living up to that billing this year, improving demonstrably as a scorer and floor general, scoring at a higher and more efficient rate while rarely turning it over. The Bucks' shift to a more up-tempo, motion-oriented offense better leveraged Jennings' open court abilities while mitigating his lack of point guard purity, spreading around the playmaking burden and helping the Bucks dramatically improve offensively (30th to 13th in OEff). While his month of February was forgettable for a number of reasons, he rebounded in the second half of the season and had no issues sharing the ball with Monta Ellis down the stretch.
But Jennings' improvement paled in comparison to that of Ersan Ilyasova, who over the course of the season catapulted himself from inconsistent sixth man to the team's most productive player. After he disappointed as a starter in the first few weeks of the season, Ilyasova was a poor man's Kevin Love over the season's final 37 games, posting 16.2 ppg, 9.6 rpg and a rather sensational .532/.488/.815 shooting line (63.2% true shooting) in that span. Though his style is complementary by nature, his value over the season's final few months was impossible to miss; aside from his impressive raw stats, Ersan was also the team's runaway leader in a number of advanced statistical metrics (PER, Wins Produced, TS%, etc). And while I'm still nervous that he might not be able to replicate or improve on his 11/12 performance in the years to come, his usual non-stop motor and newfound consistency offer up hope that he could be a useful and youthful contributor for years to come. All the Bucks have to do now is re-sign him...