The Strengths Of An MVP

Westbrook grabs a rebound, rushes full steam ahead with reckless abandon and jams over everybody. Harden fakes then dances oh-so-smoothly into the paint, bam, and-one. Kawhi strips his opponent for the easy deuce… he strips him yet again for another jam and rushing back to defense with that familiar stoic reaction.  Isaiah gets the ball hand-off, gets in the lane, bounces-off like a ping-pong ball amongst the giants and still makes that incredible left lay-up.
This year’s NBA MVP race is pretty close — with a bunch of new contenders.

Nope, I will not be predicting my winner today.

If not that, then what is this about?

Today, we will be playing #GuessTheStrengths with these MVP candidates.

The #GuessTheStrengths series is my personal interpretation (guess?) of people’s talent themes based on nothing but assumptions. There is absolutely NO science involved in this. It is simply a fun (yes, I’m a geek!) experience for me, as a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, to practice my understanding of the different talent themes, albeit based solely on the outward appearance. If you want to know your top five talent themes, I suggest taking the assessment at the Gallup Strengths Center and contacting me over at my Calendly page for a totally FREE 30-min consultation.

The King in the Fourth

There are two talent themes that I see in Isaiah Thomas, The King in the Fourth.

The first is #Positivity.

Positivity® People strong in the Positivity theme have an enthusiasm that is contagious. They are upbeat and can get others excited about what they are going to do.

Now, I am not sure what “really” went on during draft night but he says he kept believing. Yes, there was a bit of despair during the last few picks but that is not uncommon. Another statement that showed me this positivity was when he was asked about being picked last and he said, “I was happy because I always told myself that all I ever wanted was a chance. No matter if I was drafted first or last, I just wanted to get drafted because I knew if I got the opportunity, I would take advantage of it no matter what.” To have this kind of optimism and be that energetic about being picked last is a trait that most people with #Positivity have.

The other talent theme I see if #Significance.

Significance® People strong in the Significance theme want to be very important in the eyes of others. They are independent and want to be recognized.

I see this in his fourth quarter dominance, rising up to the occasion when he is most needed. This statement about his bad defense shows how he takes negative comment to push himself to outstanding performance and become important in the eyes of others, “… every time that he hears people say that, then that makes that chip on his shoulder grow.”

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The Klaw

Stoic. Quiet. No nonsense. No emotions.

These words fit Kawhi perfectly which is why I saw the talent theme of #Intellection right away. Yes, it’s not easy to tell if someone appreciates intellectual discussions without being part of their clique. However, there’s enough written about his introversion, being a loner and deep thoughts — including about his being a cheap skate — to make me think he might be leading with this talent theme.

Intellection® People strong in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.

Other talent themes I saw in Kawhi are #Achiever and #Focus.

Achiever® People strong in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.
Focus TM People strong in the Focus theme can take a direction, follow through, and make the corrections necessary to stay on track. They prioritize, then act.

I saw these in his on-court performance, relentless on both defense and offense (tireless, strong work ethic and hungry are descriptors for those with the Achiever talent theme) coupled with his disciplined and laser-like precision. This was also evident in how he was able to fix his jump shot even after just a few sessions with Chip “The Shot Whisperer” Engelland. Daily workouts with a trainer / coach is hard enough, but to go about it on his own (because of the lockout) is a totally different level of discipline and work ethic.

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The Beard

When I think of Harden, I see two talent themes in play, #Adaptability and #Includer.

Adaptability® People strong in the Adaptability theme prefer to “go with the flow.” They tend to be “now” people who take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time.

This was evident in how he was able to adjust from being a sixth-man to a true All-Star. Often there is a power struggle when a talented individual plays along with other superstars, two in his case. I did not see this when he was with OKC. Yet, when the spotlight fell on him, he quickly became comfortable with that change. Again, there have been others who tried to take on a bigger role and completely failed.

Includer® People strong in the Inclusiveness theme are accepting of others. They show awareness of those who feel left out, and make an effort to include them.

It looks like Harden leads with this. I saw this when I read about the players-only mini camp that he organized where a teammate said, “We got to get together. Get to know each other, team camaraderie.” It felt as he wanted to invite others in and to engage with them.

Side-note: The conflict with Dwight may seem to contradict his Includer talent theme. However, I saw this more as basement* behaviours that people with #Significance (recognition hungry, self-focused, needy) and #Command (bossy, domineering, strong-willed) sometimes have. 

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Ok, I have to front here. Westbrook is my bet for MVP. Why? Because of the #Competition talent theme that I see every time he is on the court.

Competition® People strong in the Competition theme measure their progress against the performance of others. They strive to win first place and revel in contests.

Yes, I suffer from a case of Strengths Envy here, as Competition is 29th on my list! 

That driven, motivated and win-at-all-cost attitude is just a marvel to watch. 40-plus minutes of pure intensity. Wow!

That’s why I also see the #Activator talent theme in him.

Activator® People strong in the Activator theme can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. They are often impatient.

Westrook is definitely fearless, a fire-starter and an energy source. Not only that, he definitely shows some of the basement behaviours of this theme as well, i.e. being a ready-fire-aim or loose cannon.

Lastly, and I just added this after I read Kanter’s article, I see the #Command talent theme.

Command® People strong in the Command theme have presence. They can take control of a situation and make decisions.

I especially saw this when he wrote these two statements:

And, I have to tell you … it really just sets the tone for the team. Russ is our leader, and guys follow his example.

It’s more that he has made our team … Russ-er.

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Different Strokes For Different Folks

One thing I want to highlight in this (and future) #GuessTheStrengths articles is that there is no single blueprint to success.

As these contenders displayed, we can be great in our own unique ways.

If want to be great in your own way and want to know what talent themes drive you, take the assessment over at the Gallup Strengths Center and get in touch with me for a FREE coaching session.

* Balconies: These are the positive characteristics of a talent theme
* Basements: These are the vulnerabilities of a talent theme that can manifest when misused or mismanaged
For more StrengthsFinder short descriptions, visit

Coach Rye
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Coach Rye

Head Coach at Coach Rye
Ryan Salvanera is an Executive Coach who helps teams and individuals maximize their unique powers, taking them from good to great to AWESOME! Ryan is the Founder of Coach Rye and a Co-Founder of Wissen Solomon and StrengthsCoach.PH.

Ryan’s top five talent themes are:
Relator, Arranger, Learner, Maximizer and Individualization.

Do you want a 30-minute complimentary coaching session with Coach Rye? Check out his availability here: Calendly.
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