My solution was just to open to a random page and see if it was new material. I opened to "Most Valuable Chapter", where Simmons made a mockery of the MVP voting over the history of the league. Sports Guy identified 13 non-deserving winners, eight of which were outright travesties.
Simbo's chapter got me thinking...and not just about how Michael Jordan should have eight Maurice Podoloff trophies instead of five. I couldn't help but wonder if 10-15 years from now we'll be scratching our heads and complaining about how dumb voters were in 2011. With a race this wide open, could this be where we are headed?
Every NBA team passed the 41-game mark in the past week or so. 'Tis the season for the midseason NBA awards column. Everyone's got one (ESPN, NBA.COM, Hoopsworld, SportsIllustrated, CBS Sports...just to name a few). Click on the links and the first thing you'll notice is the variance in the voting. If you followed the NBA this season at all, you know that there's a new MVP candidate seemingly every week. A timeline of guys who have carried the mantle at one time or another would look something like this: Kevin Durant (preseason favorite), Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, Amare Stoudemire, Dirk Nowitzki and now Derrick Rose. Seemingly each guy would ride a personal or team hot streak with a few memorable clutch shots or comebacks along the way to get into "the conversation", then stay there for awhile until they were replaced by the next hot hand. If the season ended today, an informal poll based on the columns above shows final results that would look like this:
1. Derrick Rose
2. LeBron James
3. Amare Stoudemire
4. Dwight Howard
5. Kobe Bryant
6. Dirk Nowitzki
7. Chris Paul
The one guy who has yet to wear the MVP Du Jour crown is King James. But he's slowly moving up the ranks as more and more people are taking a step back and realizing, "that LeBron guy is pretty freakin' good". 26-7-7 is going to get you in the MVP discussion, villain or no villain.
Look, I'm a Bulls fan and would love to see Rose win the trophy. I've seen nearly every game Chicago has played and have witnessed Rose single-handedly carry his team to a bunch of wins this year. No doubt he's having a MVP-caliber season. No doubt he is in the discussion. But LeBron is a better player having a better season. Nearly every basic and advanced statistic backs that up. But the question remains...can LeBron even win the MVP award this year?
|One way to garner votes...shake hands and kiss some babies|
An even less compelling factor potentially keeping LeBron from winning the MVP is the MJ Phenomenon. Jordan never won more than two MVP awards in a row, apparently for no other reason than they just got tired of voting for him. How's that for sound logic? If arguably the most popular athlete in U.S. history can't win three in a row, what chance does LeBron have?
Earlier this month, LeBron admitted the chances of either him or Dwyane Wade winning the MVP trophy this season went "out the window" the second they decided to play together. Presumably, this is because they'd split the vote and split the stats as teammates. Splitting the vote is a legitimate concern. LeBron would have to perform significantly better than Wade in order to get the lion's share of credit for Miami's success. We are already starting to see separation between the two in those midseason ballots -- none of them had Wade listed in their top 5, even though he's just behind James in points (25.9 vs. 25.1) and PER (26.0 vs 25.4).
There's no question that both James and Wade are splitting stats, not only with each other but with Chris Bosh as well. Numbers for all three players are down significantly compared to last year, which is the primary reason we have such an open race for MVP in the first place. Below are numbers for the Big Three broken down between if and when the other two players on the court. Further down, I've isolated just James and Wade when the other guy is on or off the court. I haven't seen these numbers published anywhere else; ESPN or hoopdata.com needs to make this part of their suite of sortable stats.
% of Time - Proportion of minutes played by situation (LeBron played 19.14% of his minutes with the other two guys out)
Poss - Number of possessions played by situation
Pace - Number of possessions per 48 minutes
O-Rtg - Number of points scored per 100 possessions
D-Rtg - Number of points given up per 100 possessions
Diff - Difference between O-Rtg and D-Rtg
Min - Minutes per game played by situation
USG - Usage Rate
FGA, PTS, REB, etc shown on a per-game equivalent basis using overall average minutes per game. For example, LeBron would average 39.56 points per game if he maintained his production with Wade and Bosh out for his season average of 38.03 minutes per game.
Diving into the numbers, it is interesting to see how a given player's role changes depending on if the other one or two guys are in the lineup. When one of the guys is alpha dog by default, all their usage rates soar above 40. LeBron's and Wade's are an astronomical 48. While LeBron always wears his playmaker hat (7+ assists in each situation), Wade only kicks it in when LeBron is on the bench. And when Bosh is out, LeBron really ratches up his rebounding (and three-point attempts). LeBron's overall numbers are deflated because he spends 60% of his time sharing the ball with two other all-stars, thus "only" averages 22.3-7-7 in those situations. Nevermind that even those numbers rival Rose's for the season.
Interestingly, Miami is least effective when Wade and James are in and Bosh is not. With Bosh injured for at least the next four games, we'll see if this holds up. Perhaps we should be rallying around Chris Bosh for 2011 MVP. The Sports Guy could dedicate 100 pages to that alone for TBOB Volume 2, to be released in 2020.
|% of Time||19.14%||10.02%||9.60%||61.24%||100.00%||100.00%|
|% of Time||5.73%||18.88%||10.21%||65.18%||100.00%||100.00%|
|% of Time||4.79%||10.72%||18.98%||65.52%||100.00%||100.00%|
|% of Time||29.16%||70.84%||100.00%|
|% of Time||24.61%||75.39%||100.00%|