Nerdnumbers avatar

Can Tony Parker win MVP?

 

Could Tony Parker really win the MVP? I scoffed at Arturo when he said this to me as his simulations ran. I ran to Twitter to mock such a claim:

 

And then I went and did the research. You see, Arturo has the Spurs winning a lot of games. Since the arrival of Duncan the Spurs are used to winning in the mid to high 50s. Arturo has them in the 60s. It's possible they could go even higher, like mid 60s to 70! And if that happens, then guess what? The top scorer from that team will win MVP. Here's a brief history:

History of NBA teams finishing a season with 65+ Wins

Wins Season Team MVP
72 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan
69 1996-1997 Chicago Bulls Karl Malone
69 1971-1972 Los Angeles Lakers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
68 1966-1967 Philadelphia Warriors Wilt Chamberlain
68 1972-1973 Boston Celtics Dave Cowens*
67 1985-1986 Boston Celtics Larry Bird
67 1991-1992 Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan
67 1999-2000 Los Angeles Lakers Shaquille O'Neal
67 2006-2007 Dallas Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki
66 1970-1971 Milwaukee Bucks Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
66 2007-2008 Boston Celtics Kobe Bryant
66 2008-2009 Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James
66 2012-2013 Miami Heat LeBron James
65 1986-1987 Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson
65 1982-1983 Philadelphia 76ers Moses Malone
65 2008-2009 Los Angeles Lakers LeBron James
Note: players in bold did not play for the listed team.

Wins = MVP

Of the 16 times a team has been able to win 65+ games, they've taken home the MVP title 12 times. That's a pretty fantastic hit rate. Now, there are a few exceptions that we'll get to. And there's one out that may prove me right against Arturo. Regardless, it seems like Tony Parker is a much more viable candidate than I thought.

Rival Teams, Voter Fatigue, and Better Scorers

In 1972, 1997, and 2009, a 65+ team lost out on the MVP. In all three of these seasons another team won more than 60 games (the Bucks, the Jazz, and the Cavs, respectively). Additionally, the teams countering with 60+ wins all had better scorers (Kareem, Malone, and LeBron).

In 1997 and 2009, the player also "unseated" the previous season's MVP. Of course in 1997 and 2009 the previous season's MVP would go on to win another title. So it's possible the voters wanted a narrative that another star could compete. In 1972 Kareem actually repeated, but it's important to note that in the 70s the players picked the MVPs, not the writers.

Dave Cowens

In 1972 Dave Cowens took home MVP, but he was not his team's top scorer; he finished second behind John Havlicek. However, he still managed over 20 points and 16 boards a game. With Parker sharing the court with Tim Duncan, this is one scenario that might hurt his chances. In his prime, Duncan might have hurt Parker's case, but since Parker will likely lead the Spurs in both points and assists, I leave him as the favorite.

The Kobe-shaped monkey wrench!

I was scared Arturo had a much better shot of being right on this. The one major outlier is 2007-2008, when Kobe took the MVP. There's a few things to consider. First, the Boston Celtics won a ton of games, but none of their players hit over 20 points per game. Doc Rivers actually did a fairly good job limiting his players minutes: no Celtic cracked over 36 minutes per game. On the other hand, Kobe played a lot of minutes and scored lots of points. Is there a shot another player does this to the Spurs this season? Here were a few names I came up with.

  • Kevin Durant
  • Kevin Love - Doubt Wolves get enough wins
  • LeBron James - Voter Fatigue
  • Paul George
  • James Harden

My bet? If the Spurs win in the mid 60s but the Thunder win in the 50s and Durant wins the scoring title, he'll take it. I think LeBron is out and that Love and Harden are unlikely. Paul George is definitely an intriguing pick at the moment, but that involves the Pacers keeping up this wild pace, which I don't see.

What do you think?