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The Never Ending MVP Debate

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We've spent plenty of time in the comments here debating not only who may be the league's MVP, but also the best way to define the award. Is the MVP simply the best player in the league? Or is he the player who is most valuable to his team? I tend toward the latter. Neil Paine from Basketball-Reference.com thinks differently.

In the article linked above, Paine attacks the "where would they be without him" logic using the off-court OFR/DFR split for each of the MVP candidates, then extrapolates those numbers to come up with a projected record for the team without them.

Leading the candidates is Steve Nash. According to his method, the Suns would be a dismal 9-48 without him. Westbrook is on the other side of the equation. According to the math, the Thunder would be 46-12 without their point guard.

Let's get back to his logic in a second, first I want to see how the Sixers measure up using this method:

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Now that I've gone to the trouble of running the numbers, let me just say I find this argument bordering on absurd. The on/off split isn't meaningless, but it really can't be digested in a vacuum. In this context, it's next to useless. There are several holes in this logic, but one in particular is big enough to drive a bus through. Let's take the Bulls, for example:

  • Derrick Rose plays 38 minutes per game, so he's off the court for 10. Typically, when he's off the court, so is the opposing starting point guard, at least for a portion thereof. So Rose's replacements (C.J. Watson, and possibly Ronnie Brewer), come in and hold down the fort for a a brief stretch in each half, against the opposing team's bench. They are never on the floor for Rose during a meaningful stretch of the game, and I'd guess they're rarely in the game against the opposing team's best lineup.

So essentially, the picture these numbers are drawing is what would happen if Rose was lost for the season, his backup and his backup's backup stepped in, increased their total minutes by 380%, played against much tougher competition, in crucial situations, and somehow maintained the level of play they've set in limited minutes, against lesser talent, with very little pressure. What are the odds of that?

It probably would've been simpler for Paine to just lead off with "I think the best player should get the MVP," than to go through this charade to prove Rose isn't worthy of the MVP. He does mention the inherent weakness of this method, but then goes on to criticize people for failing to use such a useful tool, so I'm not sure if he thinks it's flawed or useful. For the sake of this argument, it's clearly the latter.

We've got a game tonight, a preview and game thread on the way later this afternoon/evening. In the mean time, what do you guys think of the work Paine has done, and since we're on the subject, where do you fall in the MVP debate? Best player, or most valuable to his team? And who would you vote for if you had a vote today? Both league-wide, and for the Sixers.
by Brian on Mar 1 2011
Tags: Basketball | Derrick Rose | MVP | Sixers |