The Three Man MVP race

We are getting into crunch time in the 2013-14 NBA season, and while it seemed like Kevin Durant was going to end the King's MVP reign, the race is starting to get really interesting. So interesting, in fact, that I had to break out the tools to form an opinion on who actually leads the race. Because it's too close to call without them.

Once I did that, the result looked so cool that I figured you, our dear readers, might like the opportunity to waste some time looking at it as well.

It's not like my partners haven't been pushing me to write some short and sweet posts.

Let's establish some context first. This is not a prediction on who will actually win the MVP race, although that is also coming soon. This is my attempt at looking at some advanced – and not-so-advanced – metrics to determine who is delivering the most value to their teams right now.

We start with public perception versus actual value. For public perception we will use PER, which is set up to identify perception over value. For value, I am using my own Point Margin produced per 48 and mapping it to Point Margin per game (Pop48 times Minutes played divided by 48 and then divided by games played). The result is as follows:

 

It's very interesting that this year we have a very strong correlation between perceived value and actual value. Our top four (KD, LeBron, KLove, and CP3) remain consistent across all the metrics we're looking at, and this is not always the case. So we have our usual suspects. Let's look at actual production in detail. For this one we will map Wins Produced and Win Shares on a per game basis. That looks like so:

 

 

Here it gets interesting. Wins Produced gives the edge to LeBron (barely) while Win Shares gives a bigger edge to Durant. Kevin Love would be MVP-worthy in another year, but this isn't the first time that's happened. Don't worry Kevin, you'll get a cheap one in LA. I have to eliminate CP3 because he just barely meets the minutes requirements. So it's KD and LeBron neck-in-neck for first, with Love waiting in the wings in case anyone falters. Who's my pick? Let's hit you with one final graph:

 

That's a graph of Offensive and Defensive ratings, and in a weird reversal of fortune, it's KD's defense that carries the day.

Make mine the Slim Reaper.

Of course, it is too soon to call a winner but right now I'd vote for Durant based on minutes played. He's given OKC a huge volume of high-quality minutes. LBJ might be a bit better on a per minute basis, but if Durant plays 6-7 more "games" worth of minutes he's giving his club more value.
That last chart is interesting. Myself, I like offense. So my 2014 NBA MVP is the best offensive player in the game today ... er, Robin Lopez?!
OK, OK. We probably shouldn't just focus on offense. So Robin Lopez won't be my MVP for the season. Instead, it will be the guy with the biggest differential between ORtg and DRtg - the guy at the top right of the last chart. In other words, my real 2014 NBA MVP is ... DeAndre Jordan.
The point margin produced per 48 looks alike what I mentioned in a previous comment section. So I guess its viable. It correlates well with wins produced and wins share.
Funnest race in a while. The lead seems to change every month. Lebron's 60% start to the season, Durant's recent month, and now Lebron seems to be going on another run to steal it. I don't think voter fatigue is a factor anymore; it is going to be whoever leaves the last impression type of thing.
I'd probably give it to Durant this year just because he seems to be working harder on defense than Lebron. That being said when Lebron really turns it on he's obviously still a better player. Credit to Durant for working so hard to close the gap and as a regular season award I'd give it to him.
As a quick follow up though I don't think most of the voters consider defense all that much considering Nash, Nash, Nowitzki, Bryant got it. Also I've never been impressed with Rose's defense on a nightly basis. As who will win it I'd go with Durant assuming not much changes for the rest of the year. I also wouldn't have a problem with it even if the voters are normally idiotic.
Is it too late to nominate Deandre Liggins?
It is KD for me. One thing is that I think it is okay in the MVP voting to consider "sharing the award around" as a factor. In other words, if a player won it last year, it should get just a bit harder to win it the next year. Is Lebron better than KD? Yes, but is he so much better that he should have 6 or 7 MVPs to KD's zero by the time their careers are done? I don't think so. And I think a result like that would be a travesty. This is a year, during both of their primes, where we can get an MVP to KD and even things up a bit. Voters should take advantage of that.
That's a horrible argument... Yes, KD should get zero MVP's if he's not the best player during the regular season. Hypothetically, if the Heat were good enough to win the next ten championships, but Indiana and SA are equally as good as them, they should get a championship out of sympathy?

Wow.
That's a horrible argument... Yes, KD should get zero MVP's if he's not the best player during the regular season. Hypothetically, if the Heat were good enough to win the next ten championships, but Indiana and SA are equally as good as them, they should get a championship out of sympathy?

Wow.

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