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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.