The Concensus MVP

Posted on July 6, 2011 by


Arturo here. I’m working on something but I’m a little stuck. So that gets pushed back and you get a repost of an old piece from my blog. I hope you get a kick out of it.

A consensus means that everyone agrees to say collectively what no one believes individually. Abba Eban

The MVP for the 2010-2011 season was Derrick Rose. He was not, however, a deserved NBA most valuable player by any possible definition that I consider valid.

He was a very good player who fit a convenient narrative (best scorer on the best regular season team). The media picks this award and they’re all about the easy byline.

It's all about reputation

I, however, roll to a different drummer. I’m all about actions and results. Thus, it’s only natural that I take action and have one final go at the NBA MVP argument. The stats must have their day in court.

Luckily, this given that it was not a very well kept secret, the announcement did catch me unaware. And because forewarned is forearmed, I come prepared with arguments tables and charts in hand.

Oh my.

Before we get started go here for the Basics (go ahead, no one will think less of you). As for the previous MVP posts?

I think that covered them all :-). Let’s finish this once and for all.

We are going to do this using stats and we are going to reach a consensus. Making a decision by consensus implies a process that resolves minority objections to seek the agreement of the majority. To do that we are going to look at a lot of the metrics that are out there (which may or may not agree on the final decision), with the understanding that they all have their own special and different limitations, pick the best ones and combine them in our own special, super way (no foreshadowing here ) to come up with a fairly unassailable number.

First a table of some the advanced metrics that missed the cut:

These all serve a purpose (yes even PER, I need someway to figure out who’s overrated) but they’re not giving me what I need here. For the MVP, we need to talk about value and in basketball that means wins.

What makes it in then? My three favorite metrics for player evaluation:

  1. The Classic Wins Produced stats courtesy of Prof. Dave Berri (explained here).
  2. My own opponent adjusted Wins Produced based stat Wins Produced Combined (explained here).
  3. Basketball Reference‘s Win Shares (credit Justin Kubatko and Dean Oliver)

They all evaluate a player holistically based on slightly different assumptions (which I am not going to go over again here, feel free to go to the basics for length). They all have an extremely high correlation to wins at the team level. What’s important is that all are good bellwethers for what is actually leading to wins. Given that wins are what we want to measure, these are the ones I choose (and no I’m really not that conceited, I swear).

There is one final twist to this exercise. I came up with two consensus metric:

Average Wins = (Wins Produced + Wins Produced Combined + Win Shares)/3

Win48 = 48 * Average Wins /Minutes played

This should handle most everyone’s objections (except for one big one that we’ll cover at the end).

Let’s get to the graphs and tables shall we?

The Wins Produced MVP

Did I mention I was going to do some awesome visualizations as well? No? My bad.

You can also click them for a larger image.

The winners here are obvious.

Jostling for Position

Love and Howard took it down to the wire. Love had a big lead but got hurt; Howard came flying back but couldn’t quite catch up. Lebron was on both their heels and advancing but finished third. Chris Paul took fourth after dominating the early going (and saving Chris F#$@ing Paul for the playoffs).

Reigning MVP Rose comes in at 23rd (impressive for a 22 year old).

Let’s adjust for the player on the other side.

The Wins Produced Combined MVP

Dwight and Lebron separate here. Kevin Love is an average defender (actually perfectly average his opponents produce a WP48 of .100). Lebron and Dwight though are the among the best at shutting down opponents. The opponent losses produced top five are Dwight, Durant, Kobe, Deng and Lebron.

So this time it goes: Superman, The King and KLove.

Media best player in the league Rose comes in at 13th (again impressive for a 3rd year player).

Let’s account for team success.

The Wins Shares MVP

The King looks to make an argument for an MVP three-peat. Dwight and KLove pay penalties for playing on respectively a below average and a historically bad team falling to third and 9th. We seem to have a three way tie. Who wins out?

I can fly too

Rose by the way, get’s a more respectable MVP-like fifth here. Good enough to get votes; not good enough to get more first place votes than Dwight and Lebron combined.

The Consensus MVP

At the end of the day it always comes back to Superman.

The Black Logo is intentional

The King almost gets it done but Dwight reigns supreme. Kevin Love falls by the wayside (for now – he is also 22). Rose the media MVP ends up at number 11 (one behind another 22 year old – Blake Griffin – making him the third best 22 year old. But take heart Derrick: you play for the best team).

Here’s the table summary of all these numbers.

Oh, one more thing before anyone brings up the scoring angle.

Introducing Points over Par

It always bother me when people discuss point without context. Yes player A scored 30 points that day but what good was it if he did it on 40 shots? We want to account for the cost of generating points but the problem is that providing and equation or number that does that can be very complicated. Points per shot, efg% and TS%? The typical viewer’s eyes just glazed over. Anything that a 10 year old couldn’t do with a pencil is going to fly over people’s heads.

No more. I came up with something nice, simple that anyone could work out. Four simple steps:

  1. Figure out the average league points per shot for the league. For 2011 it’s 1.225 points per Field Goal Attempt
  2. Find Shots taken and Points made for the player
  3. Multiply Shots (FGA) times average league points per game. This is Par or the average points expected for those shots.
  4. Calculate Points over par . Points -Par

Quick example: If a player gets 20 points on 22 FGA his Points over par are:

Par= 20 FGA* 1.225 pts/FGA= 24.5 expected points

Points over Par= 20 points -24.5 expected points = -4.5 points below par (and being below par is bad not good)

You may be asking why I’m bothering to do this and how it applies here?

Player Year Sum of FGA Sum of PTS Sum of Pts over par
Dwight Howard 2011 1044 1784 504.29
Kevin Martin 2011 1267 1876 322.94
LeBron James 2011 1484 2111 291.94
Nene Hilario 2011 654 1091 289.34
Kevin Durant 2011 1538 2161 275.75
Paul Pierce 2011 1021 1511 259.48
Tyson Chandler 2011 407 748 249.11
Dwyane Wade 2011 1384 1941 244.52
Dirk Nowitzki 2011 1179 1681 235.81
Chauncey Billups 2011 794 1208 234.73
Kevin Love 2011 1026 1476 218.35
Danilo Gallinari 2011 640 970 185.50
Pau Gasol 2011 1120 1541 168.13
James Harden 2011 684 998 159.57
Blake Griffin 2011 1376 1845 158.33
Amare Stoudemire 2011 1483 1971 153.17
DeAndre Jordan 2011 341 566 148.01
Manu Ginobili 2011 1018 1393 145.16
Chris Bosh 2011 1056 1438 143.58
Chris Paul 2011 928 1268 130.48
Carmelo Anthony 2011 1503 1970 127.65
Ramon Sessions 2011 776 1075 123.79
Hakim Warrick 2011 446 669 122.30
Ray Allen 2011 978 1321 122.19
Corey Maggette 2011 559 805 119.79
Deron Williams 2011 974 1309 115.09
Steve Nash 2011 811 1106 111.89
George Hill 2011 633 884 108.08
Andrew Bynum 2011 413 612 105.75
Ryan Hollins 2011 219 373 104.55
Richard Jefferson 2011 642 891 104.05
Marc Gasol 2011 691 951 103.99
Paul Millsap 2011 989 1315 102.70
Emeka Okafor 2011 524 745 102.69
Wesley Matthews 2011 979 1300 99.96
Arron Afflalo 2011 627 867 98.44
Jared Dudley 2011 629 867 95.98
Shaquille O’Neal 2011 201 341 94.62
Ty Lawson 2011 688 933 89.66
Russell Westbrook 2011 1390 1793 89.17
Andrei Kirilenko 2011 542 750 85.63
Lamar Odom 2011 893 1180 85.38
Eric Gordon 2011 949 1247 83.73
Devin Harris 2011 813 1079 82.44
Stephen Curry 2011 1053 1373 82.25
Amir Johnson 2011 495 688 81.24
Danny Granger 2011 1259 1622 78.74
Marcin Gortat 2011 603 817 77.85
Greg Monroe 2011 549 749 76.05
Beno Udrih 2011 824 1086 75.96

Dwight Howard was the best scorer in the league by far. In fact, he put up the eighth best performance since the merger (but that is a story for another day).

So in the end, Superman wins.

Wait that’s a screw up.

Damn flux capacitor.

Bonus Content time The Top 10 at Every Position

For those die hard fans who’ve seem this before I decided to throw in some bonus content as a thank you. Here are the top 10 at every position.

And now we are done.