Monday, 3 August 2015

Comparing NBA MVPs (and Steve Nash)

(Originally posted on Sunday, 31 July 2016)

The sites below made me want to compare NBA MVPs according to my own statistical values:
http://bleacherreport.com/articles/205890-steve-nash-worst-mvp-choice-in-nba-history
https://www.reddit.com/r/nba/comments/3f9knl/cmv_steve_nash_did_not_deserve_either_of_his_mvps/
http://forums.realgm.com/boards/viewtopic.php?t=1425225
https://www.reddit.com/r/nba/comments/2j2oen/a_look_at_the_seeding_of_past_mvps/

Yes, comparing NBA MVPs by sheer stats is not perfect, but the problems usually regard defence, not offence. Steve Nash may have been a perfect point guard for a very attractive offensive team, but he was not as important (valuable) as it may seem because his defence was faaar from perfect.

All the data I used I found on this site:
http://www.basketball-reference.com/

During the 2004-2005 season Steve Nash played only 34.3 minutes per game – the fifth place in his team in this regard. Ahead of him were:
1 Joe Johnson 39.5
2. Shawn Marion 38.8
3. Amar'e Stoudemire 36.1
4. Quentin Richardson 35.9

During the 2005-2006 season Steve Nash played only 35.4 minutes per game – the fourth place in his team in this regard. Ahead of him were:
1. Shawn Marion 40.3
2. Raja Bell 37.5
3. Boris Diaw 35.5

These numbers alone suggest that the value of Steve Nash was lower than the value of some other players from his team. I don't say that all of the players above had a bigger value than Steve Nash, but some of them MAY have had a bigger value. A player (any player) plays long minutes not without a reason!

If Steve Nash were not the most valuable player on his team (we'll check that out) then he was definitely not the NBA MVP. But who was it then?

In this post:
How to compare NBA players (improved analysis)
I described a way to compare NBA players. To compare different NBA MVPs I used the values of basketball statistics I had described there.

I had to take into account also the number of wins achieved by particular teams. Obviously a player from the worst team will never win the MVP award. I made my calculations with the reference point of 60 wins per season:

MVP value = overall value * (1 + (team wins – 60) * 1 / 60)

The formula means that for every 6 wins above 60 a player from that team gets +10 % of his overall value and -10 % for every 6 wins below 60.

As you can see I use total overall value, without calculating per-game overall value. Why? Because a player who was injured for some time was automatically less valuable to his team in that season – his team had to play some games without him. He was also less valuable to the league as a whole – he did not attract bigger attendance in the games he missed.

Moreover, if I were to make calculations based on per-game overall value then I would have to use another reference point showing minimum number of games that would make a player “eligible” to win the MVP award. I have no idea what such minimum number of games should be. Total values are objective in their own way.

To find the needed data I used the player season finder and the team season finder (in the play index menu) for a particular season and chose the results to be sorted respectively by total points (PTS) and wins (W). The data for the top 100 players that are given on the first page (the first link) are more than enough to find the MVP from that season. The data for team wins (the second link) didn't actually have to be sorted by wins, because I used sumif function to assign number of wins to particular players.

http://bkref.com/tiny/OXi3D
http://bkref.com/tiny/dsSb3


Below there are the results from the last 12 NBA seasons (I will be updating this post over time). In the season 2011-2012 I used a different reference point (48 games) because the season was shorter than usual (66 games). I used a similar proportion: 60/82=0.732 and 48/66=0.727.

The best players according to my values of basketball statistics and my MVP value formula are listed below. The official MVP is marked by an asterisk.

2015-2016
1. Stephen Curry*: 2573.3
2. Draymond Green: 2141.4
3. Russell Westbrook: 2069.6

2014-2015
1. Stephen Curry*: 2098.2
2. James Harden: 2097.2
3. Chris Paul: 1829.7

2013-2014
1. Kevin Durant*: 2345.7
2. Blake Griffin: 1857.1
3. LeBron James: 1796.1

2012-2013
1. LeBron James*: 2357.9
2. Kevin Durant: 2244.8
3. Russell Westbrook: 1972.5

2011-2012
1. LeBron James*: 1640.5
2. Kevin Durant: 1635.1
3. Russell Westbrook: 1394.5

2010-2011
1. LeBron James: 2080.0
2. Derrick Rose*: 2014.9
3. Dwyane Wade: 1804.1

2009-2010
1. LeBron James*: 2419.9
2. Dwight Howard: 1894.4
3. Kevin Durant: 1851.0

2008-2009
1. LeBron James*: 2673.0
2. Kobe Bryant: 2148.1
3. Dwight Howard: 1974.9

2007-2008
1. Kobe Bryant*: 2098.2
2. Chris Paul: 1987.9
3. Amar'e Stoudemire: 1784.0

2006-2007
1. Dirk Nowitzki*: 2105.6
2. Tim Duncan: 1804.4
3. LeBron James: 1725.6

2005-2006
1. Dirk Nowitzki: 2049.7
2. LeBron James: 1971.8
3. Tim Duncan: 1888.3
4. Chauncey Billups: 1839.0
5. Dwyane Wade: 1796.0
6. Shawn Marion: 1778.8
7. Kobe Bryant: 1767.9
8. Elton Brand: 1609.9
9. Steve Nash*: 1523.9

2004-2005
1. Dirk Nowitzki: 2051.3
2. Amar'e Stoudemire: 2048.0
3. Shawn Marion: 1897.8
4. Dwyane Wade: 1871.7
5. Kevin Garnett: 1721.0
6. Shaquille O'Neal: 1711.1
7. Tracy McGrady: 1680.1
8. LeBron James: 1586.9
9. Steve Nash*: 1567.7

The case of any MVP award for Steve Nash can't be defended statistically. Steve Nash was a weak defender, so it can't be the reason he won the awards either. It seems that Dirk Nowitzki was robbed of two MVP awards, so in total he should have won the award THREE times!





PS. So far the highest MVP value was achieved by LeBron James in 2008-2009 (2673.0). I wonder what was the MVP value of Michael Jordan in his 72-win season. We'll see.


UPDATE (Thursday, 4 August 2016):

Below there are the results from the next 9 NBA seasons. In the season 1998-1999 I used a different reference point (37 games) because the season was shorter than usual (50 games). I used a similar proportion: 60/82=0.732 and 37/50=0.740.

2003-2004
1. Kevin Garnett*: 2354.2
2. Jermaine O'Neal: 1764.9
3. Tim Duncan: 1718.7

2002-2003
1. Tim Duncan*: 2237.8
2. Dirk Nowitzki: 2064.4
3. Kevin Garnett: 2015.1

2001-2002
1. Tim Duncan*: 2268.8
2. Kobe Bryant: 1858.7
3. Kevin Garnett: 1758.5

2000-2001
1. Shaquille O'Neal: 2111.3
2. Tim Duncan: 1998.1
3. Chris Webber: 1788.3
4. Allen Iverson*: 1765.2

1999-2000
1. Shaquille O'Neal*: 2756.0
2. Karl Malone: 1926.2
3. Kevin Garnett: 1763.4

1998-1999
1. Karl Malone*: 1222.8
2. Tim Duncan: 1209.1
3. Shaquille O'Neal: 1048.5

1997-1998
1. Karl Malone: 2293.9
2. Michael Jordan*: 2147.8
3. Gary Payton: 1849.2

1996-1997
1. Michael Jordan: 2475.7
2. Karl Malone*: 2382.7
3. Scottie Pippen: 2002.0

1995-1996
1. Michael Jordan*: 2728.2
2. David Robinson: 2418.7
3. Karl Malone: 2013.0

As you can see the MVP award for Allen Iverson was clearly dubious. It seems that Shaquille O'Neal was robbed of one MVP award, so in total he should have won the award two times.

Please notice that the MVP value of Shaquille O'Neal in 1999-2000 was the highest so far, even higher than the MVP value of Michael Jordan in his 72-win season.

But no matter what numbers other players had Michael Jordan was faaar above them just because of one thing: reverse layups! He could regularly score in situations where hardly any other player would ever succeed.






UPDATE(Sunday, 7 August 2016):

Below there are the results from the remaining 19 NBA seasons (since the NBA-ABA merger).

1994-1995
1. David Robinson*: 2540.5
2. Karl Malone: 2218.4
3. Shaquille O'Neal: 2165.9

1993-1994
1. David Robinson: 2436.4
2. Hakeem Olajuwon*: 2313.3
3. Shaquille O'Neal: 2035.4

1992-1993
1. Hakeem Olajuwon: 2340.4
2. Michael Jordan: 2253.7
3. Charles Barkley*: 2241.9

1991-1992
1. Michael Jordan*: 2609.0
2. Scottie Pippen: 2248.5
3. Karl Malone: 2070.4

1990-1991
1. Michael Jordan*: 2511.3
2. David Robinson: 2270.1
3. Karl Malone: 2154.7

1989-1990
1. Michael Jordan: 2396.7
2. Magic Johnson*: 2385.8
3. David Robinson: 2204.4

1988-1989
1. Magic Johnson*: 2216.1
2. Michael Jordan: 2157.7
3. Kevin Johnson: 1931.9

1987-1988
1. Michael Jordan*: 2281.2
2. Larry Bird: 2138.3
3. Magic Johnson: 1965.4

1986-1987
1. Magic Johnson*: 2577.2
2. Larry Bird: 2191.2
3. Kevin McHale: 1922.6

1985-1986
1. Larry Bird*: 2599.7
2. Magic Johnson: 1945.9
3. Charles Barkley: 1790.4

1984-1985
1. Larry Bird*: 2542.6
2. Magic Johnson: 2053.1
3. Moses Malone: 2032.9

1983-1984
1. Larry Bird*: 2241.6
2. Isiah Thomas: 1726.5
3. Robert Parish: 1669.8

1982-1983
1. Moses Malone*: 2356.1
2. Larry Bird: 1992.0
3. Magic Johnson: 1941.2

1981-1982
1. Larry Bird: 2117.3
2. Magic Johnson: 1978.1
3. Julius Erving: 1924.5
4. Moses Malone*: 1885.0

1980-1981
1. Julius Erving*: 2170.3
2. Larry Bird: 2081.4
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 1924.4

1979-1980
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar*: 2247.5
2. Julius Erving: 2021.8
3. Larry Bird: 1947.3

1978-1979
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 1850.9
2. Moses Malone*: 1836.0
3. Elvin Hayes: 1743.1

1977-1978
1. George Gervin: 1671.9
2. George McGinnis: 1579.9
3. Bob McAdoo: 1562.6
4. David Thompson: 1545.2
5. Dan Issel: 1480.2
6. Larry Kenon: 1430.3
7. Julius Erving: 1409.8
8. Bill Walton*: 1402.1

1976-1977
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar*: 2332.5
2. Elvin Hayes: 1853.8
3. George McGinnis: 1764.3

As you can see the MVP award for Moses Malone in 1981-1982 was rather dubious. It seems that Larry Bird was robbed of one MVP award, so in total he should have won the award four times. In some other seasons I didn't comment when the MVP award was given to the player who had MVP value lower by no more than 150 points than the highest MVP value. In case of the 1981-1982 season the difference was more than that AND the MVP value of Moses Malone was only fourth!

The case of the MVP award for Bill Walton is a more debatable one. He played only in 58 games because he suffered an injury. His team's record was 48-10 with him and 10-14 without him. His team's overall record (58-24) was the best in the league and the next team's record was 55-27. It seems that Walton's team would have had 68 wins if he had stayed healthy. But he was NOT healthy in 24 games in that season! Moreover we don't know if he would have been able to keep getting those high numbers he was getting before the injury. Well, his scoring average was not that high – only 18.9 PPG – by far the lowest PPG average among all the MVPs from the last 40 years, except for Steve Nash. Most importantly I think that we should not value players by “what-ifs”. As I wrote before, total values are objective in their own way (in a particular season). For these reasons I think that George Gervin should have won the MVP award in that season.


No comments:

Post a Comment