The NBA regular season is over, so it’s time to crown the league’s MVP, from an advanced statistics perspective.
Before we begin, if you do not fully understand the title of this piece you probably missed a year’s worth of internet fun.
With the NBA regular season now officially over, it’s time to assess the most hotly contested individual award: the Most Valuable Player (MVP). There were six legitimate cases to be made for the league’s highest honor. I have left Lebron James outside of my top five because of his midseason vacation. With King James out of the picture, the race is narrowed down to the following: Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Chris Paul, and Anthony Davis. In typical Horton Basketball fashion we will examine the MVP race through an advanced stats lens. So here’s the breakdown:
As shown, MVP frontrunner Stephen Curry leads in two categories, Real Plus Minus (RPM) and Win Shares per 48 Minutes (WS Per 48). Equally important, both Anthony Davis and James Harden have climbed to the top of two categories; Davis taking Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and Player Impact Estimate (PIE) and Harden taking Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and Win Shares (WS).
Often times, with most things being equal, people rely on “The best player on the best team” argument. I have never been a believer in such an argument. Under such an argument, we would have been a handful of wins away from Al Horford being crowned MVP. Ridiculous, right? Anyway, this is how “The best player on the best team” tiebreaker would have played out this year:
The tiebreaker I prefer, however, goes to the proverbial player “doing the most with the least”. The chart below shows just that:
Despite playing significantly less minutes with an above average supporting cast, James Harden was still able to have an MVP caliber season and carry the Rockets to the second seed in the highly competitive Western Conference.
I anticipate conventional wisdom will probably prevail and Stephen Curry will be awarded the MVP trophy next week. If so, it will certainly be well deserved. Curry has had a stellar season for a historically great team, all the while being uncommonly efficient given his jump shot reliance. Oh, and he did this and this and this in practice.
Still, analytically speaking, James Harden, you da real MVP.