Sunday, February 27, 2011

NBA MVP Series: What it takes to win

So the NBA trade deadline has recently passed, which can only mean one thing: serious MVP discussions. The talk of the NBA right now is one Derrick Rose. And why wouldn't he be? He's a young, flashy point guard, who plays for one of the best teams in the NBA. But does he deserve to be the MVP?

This will be my first point in a series a posts where I'm going to look at the top candidates and see who should be crown the 2011 NBA MVP. So sit down. Grab your favorite beverage, because this could take awhile.

Now the MVP means different things to different people, which is perfectly fine. I'm not really interested in having a debate about what it means to be the most valuable player. What I am interested in is seeing who has previously won the award and what can that tell us about who usually wins the award. Listed below are the winners of the past 26 years of MVP winners. Listed with them are several advanced statistics for the respective years each player won the award. All statistics are from the wonderful Also, basketball-reference has a glossary to define any statistics you see used here.

Click here for the google docs version.

Now since the assist percentage for a PG is not comparable to that of a C, it quickly becomes apparent not all stats are comparable for all positions. So let's take this one step further and get averages for each position so we can get a more apples-apples comparison.

Click here for the google docs version.

Okay. Now that we have all that out of the way, let's combine all of this with the top 14 candidates for the 2011 NBA MVP. I chose some of the best players from the teams in the league who project to win over 50 games. Some very good players got left off for no particular reason other than I didn't feel like including them (This definitely doesn't deserve to be in any scientific journal). I left the 2011 players anonymous so that our emotions can't get the best of us. Some of them you may be able to figure out, but it's still more fun this way so public perception doesn't get the best of us.

Click here for the google docs version.

Take some time with it. Okay ready? The first thing I noticed when looking at this list is that 2011 is a bad year for great players. Judging just by PER itself unless something dramatic happens in the next 25 games or so, we're going to have a below average MVP, which is why the race is so wide open to begin with. There's just no one player who is putting up a monster year like the past two years with LeBron James.

Top MVP candidates

PG: #10 - PER, AST%, WS are all around where you'd want to be to win an MVP from the PG position, and his STL% is practically off the charts. Add to that a TS% that rivals most big men, and I'm not sure how you find a better PG in the league. The only important category where this player is left to be desired is eFG%, but nobody is perfect.

SG: #14 - This guy has a good PER, TS%, and WS. He's a great rebounding SG, better than Jordan, and has a AST% consistent with that of an MVP SG. While this player is the best SG the league has to offer at the moment, he just doesn't quite seem up to par to previous winners from the SG position (A lot of this has to do with how great a couple of Jordan's MVP seasons are, but there are seasons such as Allen Iverson in 2001, which balance it out).

SF: #8 - This position has it's work cut out for it since the only SFs to win the MVP in the past 26 years are LBJ and Larry Legend... that's a tough act to follow. This guy does his best though. He's got a slight lead on everyone in PER, puts up good TS%, a decent eFG%, he's having an okay year rebounding from the SF position (relative to other winners), his AST% is very good for an SF, and he has one of the best WSs in the league. Definitely one of the leading candidates.

PF: #9 - Honestly, I don't even want to put anyone up for this award from the PF position, but I'll go against my better judgment and do it anyway. This guy shoots lights out, but he doesn't belong anywhere near the MVP discussion. He's a terrible rebounder for his position, and doesn't get anywhere near as many assists as other winners from this position. This guy may be having the best season of any PF in the league, but all that means is it's been a down year for PFs.

C: #7 - It's a rough year for Centers in the NBA, as their numbers are dwindling, but this guy is still putting up a stellar year even as his brethren are disappearing. He's got one of the best PERs in the league. His TS%, eFG%, ORB%, DRB%, and TRB% are higher than any center's to win the award in the past 26 years and most are higher than any player to win the MVP over that time span. He has a terrific BLK%. The only real flaw in his game is AST%, which is abysmal. He definitely has a legit case for the MVP.

So there ya have it. The five players who, in my opinion, are having the best seasons at their respective positions. I'll tell you in my next post which number correspond to which player, some aren't very surprising, but till then which player in the chart do you have as the 2011 MVP? (NO CHEATING before answering!)

Now that you're all worked up about how wrong I am, I'll leave you with this calming photo...


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