Game Five Thoughts: Choosing the MVP for the Celtics and Lakers

Posted on June 16, 2008 by


Assuming the Celtics manage to win one of the two games remaining in Boston (a pretty good assumption), someone from the Celtics will be named MVP of the Finals.  After Game Four I argued that someone should be Ray Allen.   But when we look at the performances of the players in Game Five, the R. Allen candidacy appears to be faltering.

Table One: Analyzing Game Five of the 2008 NBA Finals

Table One reveals that the top player in Game Five for the Celtics was Paul Pierce.  This was also true in Game One and Game Two.  In the third and fourth games it was R. Allen, and R. Allen still leads the Celtics in PAWS.  Still, the Pierce candidacy is beginning to look to be better supported by the numbers (although R. Allen still leads in PAWS for the series).

The MVP in LA

Now what if the Lakers pull off a sweep in Boston?  Certainly the choice for MVP would depend on how the players played in Game Six and Seven. But given what we have seen so far, the top Laker – after a very strong Game Five – is Pau Gasol.  Gasol currently lead the Lakers in PAWS in the Finals. Not only that, it should be clear to everyone that the Lakers would not be in the Finals without Gasol.  As I noted last March, without Gasol or Andrew Bynum, the Lakers were about a 0.500 team this year.  And as I also noted last March, that’s basically what the Lakers have been since Shaq left town.  Yes, Kobe is a very good player. But without a productive big man, the Lakers are not a top NBA team. 

Of course, one can also argue that without Kobe the Lakers don’t win much either.  Certainly I have no problem with that argument.  But given that the Lakers need both Gasol and Kobe to be successful, the choice of team MVP – assuming we don’t do co-MVPs – depends on who had the “biggest” impact on team success.  When I look at the Finals numbers – via PAWS – the top player on the Lakers so far is Gasol.   

Other Game Five Thoughts

If the Lakers do come back and win the championship, I think the Boston collapse (and it would be a collapse) has to be at least partially attributed to the injuries to Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo.  Although much attention is focused on the Big Three, the other two members of the starting line-up in Boston were quite productive this year.  Replacing these two players with P.J. Brown and Sam Cassell has not really worked.  Although Brown and Cassell were very productive players in the past, in the 2008 playoffs each player has been well below average. 

In addition to playing unproductive players, Doc Rivers also appears to have transferred frontcourt minutes to James Posey.  In Game Five, Garnett, Brown, and Leon Powe played 63 minutes.  This means the remaining 33 minutes at power forward had to be played by Posey.  Yes, Posey can also be an above average player.  But I don’t think the data suggests that Posey is better at power forward than Powe.

Let me close with one final (and somewhat silly) thought on the Lakers.  You might have missed this, but there was a Chris Mihm sighting at the game.  In three minute he missed a shot, committed a turnover, and committed two personal fouls.  This works out to a PAWS48 of -58.99.

Is this the worse PAWS48 in history? It wasn’t even the worst in the game.  Ronny Turiaf played one minute and committed a turnover and a personal foul.  That means his PAWS 48 was -82.99. 

Now many people think that if they played they could do better.  I disagree.  For a player to commit a turnover he first has to have the ball.  And I am pretty sure that if most people took the floor with a professional NBA team (especially in the Finals), no one would think about throwing the non-NBA person the ball.

Of course, without the ball you could still commit personal fouls.  Trevor Ariza played one minute and committed a foul.  Since he didn’t do anything else, his PAWS48 was -31.44. 

So what does all this tell us? A non-NBA player could post a better PAWS48 than either Mihm or Turiaf.  And if the person didn’t touch anyone, he or she could probably top Ariza as well.  

– DJ

The WoW Journal Comments Policy

Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

The Technical Notes at provides substantially more information on the published research behind Wins Produced and Win Score

Wins Produced, Win Score, and PAWSmin are also discussed in the following posts:

Simple Models of Player Performance

Wins Produced vs. Win Score

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say

Introducing PAWSmin — and a Defense of Box Score Statistics

Finally, A Guide to Evaluating Models contains useful hints on how to interpret and evaluate statistical models.