Most Valuable Player by the numbers

By John Schuhmann,

VIDEO: The Starters have their say on the LeBron-Durant MVP race

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Is the Kia NBA Most Valuable Player award for the most outstanding player or the most important player? If it’s the latter, is it more important to turn a playoff team into a championship contender than it is to turn a Lottery team into a playoff team?

Where would the Bobcats be without Al Jefferson? The Raptors without Kyle Lowry? How about the Mavs without Dirk Nowitzki? None of those three guys are in the top 10 of our MVP Ladder as of last Friday.

In reality, MVP voting is typically a combination of three things…

  1. Team success – Each of the last 25 MVPs played for a 1 (20) or 2 (five) seed in their conference. The last MVP not on one of the top two teams in his conference was Michael Jordan in 1988.
  2. Production – Each of those 25 MVPs have averaged at least 36.8 points + rebounds + assists per game, with 20 of the 25 averaging at least 40.
  3. Importance – This can lead to a narrative creeping into the conscience of a voter (see Derrick Rose in 2011), but it’s something that advanced stats can help quantify.

Obviously, in terms of production, Kevin Durant and LeBron James lead the pack. They rank first and second in our PIE statistic. And through Thursday, their teams each rank second in their conference.

All stats are through Wednesday, April 9.

But can we tell which guy has been more important to their team’s success? If you look at team numbers with each on and off the floor, they’re both in the same ball park.

Thunder & Heat NetRtg with Durant and James on and off the floor

On floor Off floor Difference
Player MIN NetRtg MIN NetRtg NetRtg Rank
Kevin Durant 2,961 +8.2 808 +3.6 4.5 67
LeBron James 2,830 +8.1 954 +3.3 4.9 64

NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
Rank = Among 244 players who have logged at least 1,000 minutes with one team

The Thunder have been 8.7 points per 100 possessions better offensively and 4.2 points per 100 possessions worse defensively with Durant on the floor. The Heat have been 8.1 points per 100 possessions better offensively and 3.3 points per 100 possessions worse defensively with James on the floor.

Those numbers are influenced by who Durant and James are playing with and against. Both have All-Star teammates that have missed big chunks of the season. Russell Westbrook has missed 35 games for the Thunder, while Dwyane Wade has missed 27 games for the Heat. Durant (43 percent) and James (41 percent) have each played less than half of their minutes with their costars on the floor.

But Serge Ibaka and Chris Bosh are both really good too. And both have missed just one game all season.

James has played more minutes without either Wade or Bosh than Durant has played without either Westbrook or Ibaka. But the Thunder’s only-Durant minutes have been much more successful than the Heat’s only-James minutes.

Thunder efficiency with Durant on the floor

On floor MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Durant + Ibaka + Westbrook 1,128 110.1 103.9 +6.2 +143
Durant + Ibaka, no Westbrook 1,195 107.0 100.7 +6.3 +162
Durant + Westbrook, no Ibaka 146 113.3 98.2 +15.1 +43
Durant, no Ibaka or Westbrook 492 114.7 99.6 +15.1 +153

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

Heat efficiency with James on the floor

On floor MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
James + Bosh + Wade 1,022 109.5 101.4 +8.1 +156
James + Bosh, no Wade 1,113 115.4 101.6 +13.8 +270
James + Wade, no Bosh 127 107.8 107.8 -0.0 +2
James, no Bosh or Wade 568 109.0 109.9 -1.0 -18

James and Bosh have been a better tandem, but Durant has been, by far, the better solo act. Those 568 minutes are just 20 percent of James’ total playing time, but the numbers make it clear that Bosh has been a critical component to the Heat’s defense. His presence on the floor has been more important for the Heat than Ibaka’s has been for the Thunder.

These guys are never playing by themselves, of course. Beyond each team’s big three, the Thunder have gotten more consistent production from their role players. Nick Collison has the best on-off-court differential of OKC regulars.

But Collison has played less than 1,300 minutes and Durant’s on-court numbers appear to have been less influenced by the other stars on his team. The Thunder have the better record overall (57-21 vs. 53-25) and the better record when star No. 2 is out (35-10 vs. 27-10).

If James is going to be the fourth player to win five or more MVP awards, it probably won’t happen this year.


  1. jamario jones says:

    Lebron james deserve mvp this year because his career numbers this year are better I don’t feel sorry for kd he still play ketchup to lebron just because u can score in nba don’t make u mvp kd. All around playerdeserve is lebron james

  2. Maximuss from barbados says:

    I am a Lebron fan and I believe KD should get MVP this year.. Lebron is a close second but KD just ball hard this regular season… he deserves it

    • Me says:

      Agree completely, best player in the world is still LeBron but the MVP should go to KD, anytime a player is around Jordan numbers it makes it pretty easy to decide. Even though KD gets more opportunities to score.

  3. DoubleD says:

    Plumlee rejecting Lebron – best highlight of the year. Maybe he’ll be stuffed reaching up for the MVP too!

  4. Juwannaman says:

    Stats, numbers etc. are good for both. Both are incredible athletes and players. There’s one thing that KD has that LBJ may never. Something called humility.

  5. Jbob says:

    Plumlee stuffing Lebron was my favorite highlight of the year. I loved seeing that!

  6. Casray says:


  7. kenny says:

    Kevin Durant should get the NBA but he Should of got it last year it wouldn’t surprise me if they screw him out of it again. The Thunder are in a lot tuffer confrence James has alot more help and the Thunder are second in the west with Westbrook missing alot of games this year I don’t know how many but if he played the full season the Thunder would be first in the west and them being second with Westbrook missing the games he has Durant has to get the MVP for keeping the Thunder in second in the loaded west and James olney has the Pacers and maybe the Bulls that are tuff competicion in the east

  8. Andy says:

    Okay, I am an OKC fan but i have to say, LBJ is a great player. But this season he hasn’t done anything importnant or spectacular. KD is the best this season. Simple as that, he broke MJ’s record, and hes still going. Sure LBJ put up 60 against the Bobcats, now lets see him do that against a real NBA team. KD deserves the MVP, especially when Westbrook was out he really picked up the slack and led his team. I only think that LBJ would win becuase he is Sports Center’s number one money maker. He’s all the hype. They never talk about how great a team is anymore, its always who the best player is. KD>LBJ

  9. HHS34 says:

    KD is BY FAR the MVP of this season. He has led his team to this record without Westbrook for half of it and I think they were better without Westbrook because of the way Durant played.

  10. yoji says:

    KD deserves the MVP this year

    Everytime KD scores, it’s like he’s singing to his defender…

    you’ve been hit by…you’ve been struck by…KD The Smooth Criminal

  11. NBAfan says:

    KD is the MVP this year – he is a tremendous player and definitely not selfish or a ball hog. LeBron James is the greates player in NBA now but does not deserve to be the MVP this year LBJ will be more interested in the title though – going for the Threepeats

  12. NOITALL says:


  13. #Nba Fan says:

    I think it just comes down to which play style you prefer. Yes both KD and Lebron can do everything but KD hangs his hat on the best offensive abilites in the league while Lebron hangs his hat on being one of the best at everything. It really just comes down to whether u like someone who is a pure scorer or someone who is a true all rounder. Its a tough decision and you can easily argue for each side so i won’t complain either way.

  14. Chinna says:

    James diffesive numbers are down because he is guarding best opposite players always. How many times Durant guards opposite best player?

  15. ScubaSteve says:

    It’s so weird that everybody on here who thinks James is gonna win MVP thinks so just because James is the best player in the league.They talk about how complete of a player he is and such. If that were the case, Jordan would have had 10+ and Kobe would have 6 or 7 because that’s how many years each of them were by far the best in the league. That’s not how MVP works. It’s a single season award. Anyone who even thinks it’s a race, just look at the team record. OKC has a considerably better recod than the Heat and in a far tougher conference. The race for MVP, for all intents and purposes, is over. The only reason there even appears to be a race is because of the media. Case in point, this article we are all commenting on compares Ibaka to Chris Bosh in order to try to compare KD and LBJ’s support. I love Ibaka’s game but Bosh is a perennial all-star who still on occasion will takeover a quarter, half, or full game when he gets hot. This year is KD’s year. Next year, it may be back to LeBron.

  16. Linsanity says:

    MVP stands for Most Valuable Player for the regular season.
    KD wins games without their other superstar Wesbrook
    Can Lebron win as many games if bosh and wade were out?
    Lebron has won too many, just cuz he sells and makes a lot money, if they vote for him again,
    I am never gonna watch nba again

  17. nbafan says:

    I think Durant deserves it more. I like his humility too. I also think Noah and Griffin have been a difference maker for their teams this year. Those three have been improving and playing their heart out this year. Lebron is obviously a great player but some games I don’t feel like he cares that much.

  18. Nick says:

    I’m so sick of people saying “oh he’s the most skilled player in the world he deserves MVP” NO! MVP is supposed to go to the player that CONTRIBUTES THE MOST TO HIS TEAM out of everyone else. Whether they are the best in the world should be a moot point in the MVP race.

  19. Noit says:

    I voted Jo Noah

  20. marty says:

    Most fan draws conclusions based on what the media says.They were saying KD was the MVP halfway into the season.Amazing how u can marginalize the top player in the league.

    • Rangers says:

      I agree people make decisions off the media. Like people saying lebron is the best player/ better than Jordan (I won’t even get into). Durant is better this year, and I can prove it by facts. Durant has more wins (even without Westbrook), more offensive and defensive win shares, higher ppg, rebpg, ts%, def rtg, team def rtg, PER, and ft%. Lebron only has higher Astpg (wade and bosh might help).

      • AussieFan says:

        I’m not trying to start an argument but i’m curious, just want to put it out there first i agree KD should be this season’s mvp i think he’s been the best player all season, as much as i hate saying it cause i love lbj but it’s KD’s this year no doubt stats, the way he’s man handled defenses all year and has improved on the defensive end he deserves it. But man i gotta ask whats so crazy about the LBJ vs Jordan argument, i think you really can’t say who’s better at the moment one has finshed and left a mark on the nba like no other the other is still adding to his legacy and isn’t done yet, so we just don’t know BUT we can look at how the two of them produced in there first 11 seasons in the league and if you do which i have more then happy to post a link, the numbers are so close it’s ridiculous in almost every category the crazy thing though is lebron didn’t have the benefit of college to improve his game so he came in less mature both physically and mentally then jordan, but has manage to set a similar pace and in some cases do more then Jordan did, i think it’s a fair argument and this isn’t cause of sport centre or the media this is from looking at the two individuals side by side….

  21. pacquiao says:

    honestly KD deserves to be the mvp this season. the guy was considered by lbj as his inspiration. we all know how good kd plays. he may be a ball hog sometimes but hey, where can u find a player that thanks God for his team’s win nowadays? humility = kd = mvp

    no boasting of his numbers

    • Anon says:

      Sure glad god does take time to ensure a victory for a player or team in a sport… Not enough time for other world problems.

  22. Ladyshakalaka says:

    Lebron has been there done that! Who cares about MVP- Lebron’s only goal is MVP of the finals THE END!

    • Lebron is done says:

      Season MVP is winning.. It’s not for showmanship and more importantly it’s not a measurement on who’s the most boastful.. If his team is not winning he shouldn’t win the MVP.. The guy who has the most impressive stats and team standing should win the MVP..

      It’s a clear robbery if they take away the MVP to K.Durant.. Lebron James really don’t deserve to win it this season it’s clear as crystal in the eyes of the world..

      I don’t think if Lebron will win another MVP again in his career.. Lebron’s MVP is done.. There’s a lot of super star right now who are blemishing.. I don’t think that Lebron will win the Finals MVP this season..

      Spurs are more hungrier than last season because of the aging rosters mindset right now to take the title no matter what as for their last push and that if without Rey Allen’s 3 pointer last 2013 finals Lebron should’ve only won 1 championship ring right now..

      Indiana has a big possibility of beating Miami Heat in the East if Roy Hibbert wants too..

      Miami Heat never won a single battle against Paul Pierce Brooklyn Nets in this season and a possible biggest downfall of Miami on the second round of play off in the east.. We all know how much K. Garnette and Paul Pierce hate D.Wade and Lebron..

      OKC is more mature now and they have a complete lineup and veterans that can step up at crucial time.. and OKC are extremely ready with the more mature MVP K.Durant on their line up.. A big possibility for Kevin Durant to win the Finals MVP as well..

      Durant, Kobe, Griffin, D.Rose and Carmelo are much hungrier for the coming season MVP and Finals MVP..

      Going next season Kobe, Kevin love and Carmelo might be in one roster.. Spurs or OKC are going to deffend their title.. Clippers in west, Bulls and Indiana in east will be more hungrier for the title and Lebron’s Miami will be no where to be found specially with aging Lebron, Wade. and Bosh. LOL.. A great possibility that Lebron will leave Miami and go to another power house team again to say that he was so great because he can win another championship again and be boastful again.. LOL..

      • phounqueman says:

        You mention the aging Lebron, yet you reference Melo and Kobe in the same sentence? Hypocrisy.

    • jamario jones says:


  23. shako from georgia says:

    i like heat and lebron but kd is better in this year

  24. OKC says:

    At this point KD has the numbers and the media on his side, so it’s in the bag. Both KD and LBJ had big opportunities to show off with their main counter parts being sidelined for around half the season, and KD made a lot more of it.

  25. #Nba Fan says:

    Since I’m neutral and am a fan of both KD and Lebron and since everyone seems to be arguing for KD, I will argue for Lebron. Ok so lets start it off simple, defense we all know that lebron is a better defender actually one of the best and that he probably should’ve won at least one defensive player of the year award in the past two years. When people say Mvp a lot of people just look at the offensive #s and jump from there so somebody tell me when defense didn’t account to Win an MVp, i mean the Players do have two play on two sides of the court to play on and lebron is just simply better at one end. Another thing is fg% and yes i know KD is shooting 51% while scoring over 30ppg but lets look at Lebron. Lebron is scoring around 27ppg while shooting 57% from the field!!! People who don’t understand that let me tell you that 57% is the fg% that big men have when they only take layup and dunk attempts like deandre Jordan, how many people have scored 27ppg while shooting 57% yea. Another thing, if Im lebron im saying why don’t i get the calls that KD gets. Let me say that KD doesn’t drive to the basket a whole lot and doesn’t go up strong yet somehow leads the league in fta? Litterally KD will just flail his arms around with noone touching him and get a foul.

    • DJ says:

      I too am neutral in the sense that I don’t like Miami or OKC. You’re 100% correct with your comments about Durant and the amount of foul calls he gets in his defense. You’re right, most aren’t even legit. MVP is more than about offense which is really Durant’s only strong suit. Most people on this forum argue that Durant played without Westbrook and lead his team. True. James, however, played in several games without injury prone Wade. Of course both teams have good players, they wouldn’t be top contenders with just James and Durant. I guess if the decision was between the two of these guys, I would pick James. It’s a difficult decision though. Sometimes I think it’s more of a popularity contest. I don’t like Blake Griffin, but without him I don’t think LAC even make the playoffs. I think James Harden is a huge reason Houston is a contender. There are a lot of players that are huge for their organizations, but don’t get credit because of the name on the back of their jersey. Same thing with coach of the year. Gregg Popovich should win hands down. He coached his team to the best record in the NBA and limited his players minutes in doing so.

      • #Nba Fan says:

        If i chose lebron i would also argue that it seems that KD and the Thunder are trying to win an mvp while it seems that Lebron is simply more focused on the playoffs trying to hold down the fort to get Wade healthy. But i guess trying to win an mvp isn’t really a bad thing. The way it looks right now KD will win but lebron is still the best all around the player in the world in my opinion.

    • KDfan says:

      If Kd’s been getting all favorable calls for the past 6 seasons, you think the refs are idiots? Don’t you realize that the refs have the arsenal at their disposal to review all those calls in retrospect? Give credit to KD who pulls moves where the defenders foul him. He does get some star calls but so do a lot of other players. To play devils advocate, what about LBJ flops? LBJ is a great player, but KD has been better this year. We have to just agree to disagree on this matter.

  26. Its Over says:

    I am a Lebron fan and have been since his days in Cleveland and I must admit that Durant deserves the MVP trophy this year. With all the games that I have watched this season it is clear that Durant should be the MVP. He led the Thunder when Westbrook was out, and has played the most consistent basketball all year. He deserves the MVP, and there should be no argument about it. With that being said, for people to say that Lebron is overrated, it is just ridiculous. If you don’t like the guy that’s one thing, but you can not honestly believe that he is overrated after all of the things he has accomplished in the league up to now (with plenty more to come).

  27. Butter says:


  28. Poonjab says:

    KD MVP

  29. jb says:

    KD should win it this year. But those who say LeBron is over rated and a ball hog. Read the stats. Until KD wins a championship he is no more than another high scoring player. It’s all about the rings. LBJ-2 KD-0

  30. Hell no says:

    Heat bandwagoners are hilarious. Why can’t you just accept the fact that LeBron won’t get the MVP? There isn’t even any MVP race, Durant clearly owns it this season. The media is just overblowing things for the sake of hype. Heck, we might even see Blake Griffin get some 2nd votes. Don’t even start about LeBron being a complete player because he isn’t – inconsistent jumpshot, not-so-good FT%. Freight train, you say? Look at his shoulders when he’s driving in transition. Unstoppable, you say? Just ask Kawhi Leonard.

  31. Nick says:

    I’m honestly tired of LeBron being considered MVP just because he is LeBron. Durant deserves the MVP this year much more than LeBron. I hate the heat and dislike LeBron even more, but I am not going to sit her and spoil his reputation because he is a GREAT player. But seriously? I really believe that Durant has won it this year, followed by Blake Griffin. Then comes LeBron. We need to honestly stop basing things on popularity and look at it holistically.

  32. Stunna Man Don says:

    you see the way you talk i could done see that u dont know notthing about this game of basketball thats just bunch of ignorance garbage anywaays durant gon b the mvp

  33. Editor says:

    James is a very good player, but he’s over rated and has already won the MVP award more times than he deserves. Durant is the clear MVP this year, and these numbers just confirm that already apparent fact.

  34. KDfan says:

    To all the blind LBJ Kool-aid drinkers, there is a new flavor this year……’s named “KD The Servant”, and it’s here to stay. You don’t have to drink it but take your pinheads out of the sand and acknowledge it.

  35. Heat Fan says:

    LeBron = All around “Team Player & Play Maker”
    He and the team do NOT play for the MVP, never have

    KD = Tends to be a ball hog, plays the game for his own numbers
    He and the Team have been doing all they can to pad KD and take the honor from LeBron

    I’d take LeBron any day = THE BEST TEAM PLAYER EVER!!!!!!!!!

    • Thunder Fan says:

      KD is not a ball hog!!! Have you not met Labron James he is a ball hog. KD plays not only for himself but plays for his team. Yes, there was a litte adjustment when Russell Westbrook came back but now that they have a rythym the team all together is kicking butt!!

    • okckd35 says:

      Wow biased much? Lebron is the most selfish player there is. An hour and a half to say u are going to Miami and disrespectful comments about previous teammates skills. Kd is much more of a team player than lebron. He stays in OKC for his team. Doesnt run to the big city media hype. Get over yourself

  36. #LBGAY says:

    if LBGAY wins, no doubt that something is going on in the NBA. it is no longer a sport of pure talent but a sport of pure money making, just like what bob arum did to boxing.
    if he wins this year and next year, i will no longer watch NBA.
    just look at what NOAH and KD had to do for the WHOLE TEAM. NOAH no ROSE, KD no WESTBROOK for a lot of games.
    LBGAY had an ostrich and a monkey beside his gorilla face. wake up people

  37. Bubloy says:


  38. Durant’s 40+ games with 25+ points is incredible! I have Durant by a small margin this year! He broke an incredible record.

  39. Durant’s scoring streak of 40+ games with 25+ points has made the difference for me! I like lebron but this isn’t his year to win MVP

  40. Antonio says:

    Where are my numbers? I deserve to be in the conversation too. I´m better than those two by far.

  41. Antonio says:

    Where are my numbers? I deserve to be in the conversation too. I´m better than those two by far…
    And now is when i turn off the console and my career mode. 😀

  42. marvin lawrence says:

    lebron james dserve to be mvp ds year not only the numbers that it counts the leadership the energy that he is giving to the team and of course to all nba fans..

  43. Lukas says:

    LeBron’s stats are very good even it’s not his good season this year but he very very near durant’s stats for me LeBron is a better player overall but this season MVP is durant but not the finals

  44. timmied says:

    Durant…. tired of lbs hype… Thank god for the new luxury taxes

  45. JC says:

    LBJ is playing meaning he is playing with the basketball. he can score , block , defend, any thing when he want to do
    LJ is a Miguel Angelo in the paint , KD is a apprentice (He only can shoot the ball that is all) , What happen to KD when compete against Miami , he did nothing , KD has to wait until LJ want to retire , sorry KD you are an apprentice

    • okckd35 says:

      So funny. U mean Michael Angelo right? Or was miguel his hispanic knock off? Why dont u look at the numbers KD put up in those games? Pretty sure KD is averaging more Reb and Stl too

  46. GEDZ says:

    LBJ a complete package.

  47. Duncan says:

    i like dunkin the ball too. everyonne know smiami is subpar compared to the thundar

  48. Amrit Malla says:

    Dear Sirs/Ma’am

    To be honest and fair, K Durant is the MVP for this. The way he has been playing, leading his team and the hard work he put in day out n in every game. If he will not win MVP this year then there must be something wrong somewhere.

    James is the best and most popular players and people love him very much. But this season K Durante is the MVP. If he will not be awarded this season then he will never win MVP again, think what do want him to proof to get the MVP?

  49. Rangers says:

    Good article. Moreover, durant leads in other advanced stats such as: offensive rating, defensive rating, PER, offensive win share, defensive win share, and total win shares.

    Not to mention durant has higher: ppg, rebpg, ft%, 3pt%, and winning %

  50. #GHanaFResh says:

    Lebron james should be mvp because he worked hard and he derives it

  51. Hunter says:

    Kevin Durant because have you seen what points he has put up?!? Lebron is no match for KD. Lebron is like a toothpick to Kevin Durant

  52. surya says:

    we r waiting for the BLACK MAMBA

  53. JoseQ says:

    I think the title of “greatest player today” should not go just to the guy who plays well, but to the guy that always gives it ALL. The fact that lbj “takes a chill pill” now and then like you said, is enough to discredit him as “the greatest”.

  54. Ok, you can´t touch Michael Jordan because is a legend. But I dont care! I think Jordan is a religion for some fellas but for me he was just a great player maybe the best in the history. But I like basketball and give credit where credit is due and Heat deserves it. I really dont care the Heat. I just like the game. Enough say. Im me not somebody else instead. Real! You got that! real! but real real

  55. And I´m not a banwaggon Im a wannabe that is different. For me I stay with my country in the soccer World cup, you know?
    What Im doing is just put wood on the fire for this league grow up! Don´t you understand that?????? I really dont care players or the personal topics. Im neutral. I really dont care. I dont play the ball. Im just watching moves on the league.

  56. And I´m not a banwaggon Im a wannabe that is different. For me I stay with my country in the soccer World cup, you know?

  57. I´m saying Spolestra has to get involve with your team. That is to say Lebron could play more free. MVP belongs to a player but with his team mates and Spolestra is doing the easy job. You can see uit in the faces of Heat players. They seems lost.

  58. john says:

    Noah!!?? Hello! Where would the bulls be without him? Nowhere!! He leads the nba in triple doubles, and leads his #3/4 seed team in almost every category! Why does points per game always determine the mvp! Change it up! Without these role playing guys these scorers wouldn’t be scoring as much!!

    • mob says:

      ppg has a lot to do with it because this is basketball and its still about putting the ball in the hoop

  59. standard says:

    yeah that’s a heat bandwagon ladies and getlemen

  60. there´s something about MVP trophy. Because you need your tem mate make you better. And on Lebron case I say that Spolestra has to get involved more with the team inside the game. He can´t set the game in terms of “you do this or you do thta”. In my opinion Spolestra is getting short and lazy tactic. Heat is the best cuz has the best players and that you can´t avoid it. Let´s go Heat for another ring. No Spurs, no okc, no clippers, no pacers, no bird, no jordan, no 2k13 game, no charles, no shaq, no bulls. Here baby you will see the threepeat. PERIOD. DUNK THE BALL!!!!!