The Case For MVP
First off, it’s kinda senseless to have an MVP vote in April when the season really doesn’t end until June.
But since that’s what the NBA does—and ballots get turned during the next two weeks as the regular season ends—now’s as good a time as any to assess the Most Valuable Player candidates for the 2010-11 NBA campaign.
And since it’s time to go to litigation in The Case For MVP, I’ll put my Perry Mason & Hamilton Burger hats on—and with the help of the beautiful Della Street and the clutch Paul Drake—I’ll make the cases Pro & Con for this year’s MVP hopefuls …
Gregory Shamus /NBAE/Getty Images
LEBRON JAMES, MIAMI HEAT … Pro: The defending two-time MVP still has the best box-score stats around, 26-7-7, and leads the NBA in minute-adjusted Player Efficiency Rating (26.90). LeBron ranks 1st in Basketball-Reference’s MVP Award Tracker, which ranks candidates based on previous voting results. He ranks 1st in actual plus-minus (+542). He also ranks 6th in minute-adjusted Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus (+4.1), with the Pythagorean Win Differential calculated by The Basketball Distribution Blogspot. He is on our RAPM All-Defense second team … Con: The disappointing Heat has the NBA’s 6th-best record (51-22) and MVPs rarely come from teams outside the Top 4 (none in the last 20 years).
DERRICK ROSE, CHICAGO BULLS … Pro: He’s the best player on the NBA’s second best team (53-19). Rose ranks 2nd in Basketball-Reference’s MVP Award Tracker. He has great box-score stats, 25-4-8, which rank 6th in minute-adjusted PER (23.46) … Con: Bulls are winning because of their NBA-leading defense, where Luol Deng is team’s best player, having a Defensive Player of the Year kind of season. The Bulls' offense—where Rose is the team’s best player—is merely above average, ranking 12th.
DWIGHT HOWARD, ORLANDO MAGIC … Pro: Howard has great box-score stats, 23-14-1, which rank 2nd in minute-adjusted PER (26.25) as well as great plus-minus stats, ranking 5th in minute-adjusted RAPM (+4.0). He is on our RAPM All-Defense first team … Con: His team has the 8th-best record (47-26) and teams that far down the standings rarely get the voters’ love (last time it happened: Michael Jordan in 1988).
KOBE BRYANT, LOS ANGELES LAKERS … Pro: He’s the defending two-time Finals MVP on the defending two-time NBA champion Lakers. Kobe has great box-score stats, 25-5-5, ranking 8th in minute-adjusted PER (24.0), while playing for the NBA’s 3rd-best team (53-20) … Con: His plus-minus stats are down this year, ranking 42nd in minute-adjusted RAPM (+1.7). His minutes per game have declined as well (33.9 from 38.8), which seems to bother most box-score-oriented voters.
DIRK NOWITZKI, DALLAS MAVERICKS … Pro: Dirk leads the NBA in minute-adjusted RAPM (+6.2). He is on our RAPM All-Offense first team as well … Con: His cumulative box-score stats are down because he missed nine games, but he still has a 23-7-3 and ranks 14th in minute-adjusted PER (24.31). Also, his team ranks 4th in the league (52-21), which makes him a longshot.
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KEVIN DURANT, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER … Pro: Kevin Durant has the 4th-best box-score statistics, 28-7-3, at a minute-adjusted 23.90 PER. He is on our RAPM All-Offense first team … Con: Durant ranks 19th in minute-adjusted RAPM with a +2.6 rating. He too is a longshot because his team ranks 7th in record (48-24).
DWYANE WADE, MIAMI HEAT … Pro: Dwyane Wade has the 3rd-best box score statistics, 26-7-4, at a minute-adjusted 25.48 PER. He is on our RAPM All-Offense second team … Con: Dwyane Wade’s plus-minus numbers are down, ranking 25th in minute-adjusted RAPM (+2.6). Also, his team ranks 6th in record (51-22), which doesn’t normally generate first-place MVP votes.
KEVIN GARNETT, BOSTON CELTICS … Pro: KG has great plus-minus stats, ranking 9th in minute-adjusted RAPM (+4.8). He is on our RAPM All-Defense first team. He ranks 5th in actual plus-minus (+476) … Con: The Celtics have the NBA’s 5th-best record (51-21), which hurts his case when compared to the Top 4 teams' stars. His box-score stats are 15-9-2, which rank 36th in minute-adjusted PER (20.53). Missing nine games affected his plus-minus and box-score rankings a bit.
MANU GINOBILI, SAN ANTONIO SPURS … Pro: Manu is the leading scorer on the NBA’s best team (57-16). He ranks 7th in minute-adjusted RAPM (+4.9). He is on our RAPM All-Offense first team, as well as our RAPM All-Defense second team. He ranks 4th in actual plus-minus (+478) … Con: His box-score stats won’t impress the voters, 18-4-5, even though he’s so efficient, ranking 19th in minute-adjusted PER (22.15).
PAU GASOL, LOS ANGELES LAKERS … Pro: He arguably is the most important player on the league’s 3rd-best team this year (53-20), not to mention the defending two-time NBA champions. Pau has great box-score statistics, 19-10-4, that rank 9th in minute-adjusted PER (23.47). He also is on our RAPM All-Offense second team. He ranks 5th in actual plus-minus (+476) … Con: Even though he leads his team in minute-adjusted RAPM (+3.2), he ranks only 12th in the NBA. And he is Kobe’s teammate, which also will cost him votes.
PAUL PIERCE, BOSTON CELTICS … Pro: He ranks 2nd in minute-adjusted RAPM (+4.8). He is on our RAPM All-Offense second team, as well as our RAPM All-Defense second team. He ranks 3rd in actual plus-minus (+526) … Con: Remember, voters put too much stock in box-score statistics, where Pierce, 19-5-3, only ranks 25th in minute-adjusted PER (19.53). Plus, the Celtics have the NBA’s 5th-best record (51-21), which is normally not good enough for the first-place vote.
TIM DUNCAN, SAN ANTONIO SPURS … Pro: He is the leader of the NBA’s best team (57-16). He is on our RAPM All-Defense second team … Con: His minute-adjusted RAPM ranks 23rd (+3.1). His box-score statistics are efficient, but low, 13-9-3, ranking 27th in minute-adjusted PER (21.51).
CHRIS BOSH, MIAMI HEAT … Pro: He ranks 8th in minute-adjusted RAPM (+4.3). Bosh is on our RAPM All-Offense second team. He ranks 2nd in actual plus-minus (+540) … Con: His box-score stats, 19-8-2, ranking 32nd in PER (19.24), don’t compare to his two higher-profile teammates. Plus, his team is 5th in record (51-22), which also hurts his case.
P.J. BROWN, RETIRED … (Just seeing if you're still paying attention) Back in 2004-05, P.J. Brown got a Top 5 MVP vote, despite an 11-9-2 stat line on an 18-64 Hornets team. The point of this fact is that anyone can get an MVP vote from an unqualified media member at season’s end. That said, I hope LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Paul and Steve Nash get some worthy consideration from someone because they are all MVP candidates in my book (each ranked amongst the Top 10 in minute-adjusted RAPM). At the very least, I hope each of these three get more MVP voting points than P.J. Brown got in 2004-05.
KEY … RAPM: Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus stats are taken from Stats-For-The-NBA and minute-adjusted for our purposes here by Pythagorean Wins Differential, as figured by The Basketball Distribution Blogspot; PER: Player Efficiency Rating is taken from Hollinger’s NBA Player Statistics and minute-adjusted here by Estimated Wins Added. actual Plus-Minus: NBA.com +/-.