The MVP Race (so far)

Posted on 12/27/2010 by


I get bored very easily and when I’m bored it’s hard to keep my attention focused. My mind wonders until I find something of interest to keep me entertained (exhibit A: this blog :-))

I bring this up because I got bored at one point for a few hours during the weekend during a christmas related activity. Bored to tears actually and my mind wandered to the question of value.

Image Courtesy of

Now the idea of value came to my head because of a post I did a few days ago. In it I debuted my version 2 of opponent adjusted Wins Produced Model (see the Basics for details). The idea was to take into account not just what a player does in terms of point generation but how his direct opposition does as well. Granted the model has some limitations (i.e as of now I can only do opponent adjustment at the position level and this tends to give a flatter distribution because exceptional defenders (in terms of limiting productivity/point generation) may be grouped with normal or below average ones).

This post got this blog some attention, because when the numbers where crunched over the last ten games, Kevin Garnett was the MVP. I then proceeded to apply this analysis to the 2009-2010 season (with some surprising and unsurprising results). After that I was all fired up to throw the new metric at the current season and provide some sanity to the MVP discussion (and maybe get all that ridiculous Rose and Amare MVP talk squashed). This brings us back to the start and my musings: Just what is value in Basketball?

Value in basketball terms for a player to me can be easily defined in terms of Wins Produced for the team and we know those are highly correlated to point differential. By that logic, in the simplest terms the MVP must be the player that has generated the most Wins or point differential for his team. Now there are some additional factors to consider. Where you play your homegames is important (i.e. the Jazz and Nuggets players are teeing off from the kiddie tee and I’ll probably expand on this in the future) . How good your team is also very important (i.e. wins on Bad teams are easier to come by than wins on good teams again something that will come up again possibly even in the comments for this post).

For this initial version we’ll keep it simple, the MVP will the player generating the most bang (in terms of wins and points for his team). In the future we’ll increase the complexity (gives you something to look forward to).  So my narrative path was all set, I’ll write a post in which I look at the numbers and prove that one of my favorite players is back at the top of the league.

Now before we get into I wanted to give some perspective. Here’s the table of the all time Wins Produced leaders since the 1977-1978 season:

Active Players in green

These numbers are current thru the start of the season. So KG is making an assault on mount Olympus. By the end of his career he should sit comfortably at the top of this list. The exciting part is that while it looked for a while there like he might limp to the finish, this season KG looks like he’ll take the top spot going away.

Now the big question that remains is do the numbers match the narrative? Not quite:

Lot’s of work for a familiar answer. The MVP so far?

Long Live the King

As for the adjustments? Well the Heat play in the flattest of states and have the highest differential and Wins Produced of any team, so Lebron’s numbers will only improve by comparison. KG does crack the top ten (as does Kobe). Rose and Amare are not close (Rose at least manages a positive contribution and a top 50 appearance. Turns out the Heat are really,really good. Who knew?

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