The Rockets play like a 58-win team with James Harden on the court, and the Thunder play like a 52-win team with Russell Westbrook on the court.
A sensible favored point of view for Harden in the MVP race?
Houston still plays like a 51-win gather when Harden sits, and Oklahoma City drops to a 18-win pace without Westbrook. What sum should every segment – the level a gathering comes to with a player, how far it falls without him – matter?
Additionally, shouldn’t something be said in regards to LeBron James? The Cavaliers play like a 61-win bunch with him and a 19-win assemble without him. Keep in mind about Kawhi Leonard, either. The Spurs go to a 63-win pace – better than anything the other three principal MVP candidates’ gatherings hit with them on the court – when Leonard plays.
In the NBA’s most fascinating MVP race in years, the on-off win pace for the four imperative candidates incorporates perspective. To learn win pace, I used Pythagorean win rate copied by 82, the amount of entertainments in a standard NBA arrange.
Here’s the Rockets’, Thunder’s, Cavaliers’ and Spurs’ win paces with their MVP rival off (underneath the bar) and on (over the bar) and the refinement (in the bar):
These are rounded to the nearest win. Hence, Leonard’s seemingly off, but not actually off, marks.
This is meant to be only one piece of a complex picture. Other things to consider:
- The Rockets have multiple quality guards – Eric Gordon, Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams – who usually play when Harden sits.
- The Thunder’s backup point guard, whether it be Semaj Christon or Cameron Payne, has mostly stunk.
- LeBron often plays with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, and those All-Stars play less without him.
- Spurs’ opponents have shot much lower percentages on 3-pointers and free throws – two areas where defense holds major control on volume, little control on efficiency – when Leonard sits.
Should backups matter? Should rotations matter? Should luck matter?
These are not easy questions, but MVP voters must reconcile them.
I see win pace as a useful reference point when comparing these players with elite individual production. Then, it’s about placing the win paces into the appropriate contexts – and going back to individual production, then back to on/off-court impact, then adding adding more context, then…
There’s no easy answer here.
There’s also no easy choice for fifth on the MVP ballot, but I made a similar chart for the main candidates:
- Stephen Curry (Warriors)
- John Wall (Wizards)
- Isaiah Thomas (Celtics)
- Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)
- Jimmy Butler (Bulls)
- Anthony Davis (Pelicans)
- Rudy Gobert (Jazz)