Kobe Bryant, MVP?

Posted on April 15, 2006 by


The ever insightful Bill Simmons of ESPN.com has announced his choice for NBA MVP.  Generally what Simmons says is golden, but choosing Kobe Bryant as MVP is but one more example of an NBA analyst focusing on totals rather than efficiency.  Clearly Kobe heads to the top of the class because of his scoring totals.  Averaging 35 points per game is an accomplishment few in NBA history has achieved.  Yet Kobe’s scoring output, relative to his MVP peers, is actually below par.  To see this, one must focus on efficiency.  In the Wages of Wins we detail how one can measure a player’s Wins Produced, or how many wins a player produces per season.  And as our Chapter Six sample will indicate (when we post this soon), our metric – based on measures of efficiency — is quite accurate.  But one can make the argument against Bryant’s candidacy without referencing wins production.  Consider how many points Bryant scores per field goal attempt. If we subtract free throws made from Bryant’s point total, and divide by field goal attempts, we see that on average each field goal attempt Bryant takes generates 0.98 points.  Simmons named seven additional MVP candidates in his column – LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki,  Dwyane Wade, Steve Nash, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and Chauncey Billups. Of this list of players, only Paul scored fewer points per field goal attempt (through games on April 13).  Yes, the player known for scoring is one of the least efficient scorers, at least when we restrict our comparison to those players Simmons considers for MVP.  One should add that the average NBA player has a point per field goal attempt of 0.98 this year, so Bryant is about at the NBA average.  Relative to the players named by Simmons, though, he is not the best scorer.  And since it is his scoring ability that clearly motivates the choice Simmons makes, choosing Byrant as MVP on this record is difficult to defend.  One last note… although Simmons listed eight players, I believe he missed on the player who led the NBA in Wins Produced this season.   More on that when the season finally ends.-DJ