Posts Tagged ‘MVP’

Analytics Art: MVP leader stats

By Andrew Bergmann (@dubly), for NBA.com

Here are some key stats on the current MVP race leaders.

Tweet who you think should win the 2013-14 Most Valuable Player Award: Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, LeBron James or Joakim Noah, and watch The Starters’ “Starties Awards Show” tonight at 6 ET on NBA TV.

mvp-leaderstats

MVP Leader Stats

Andrew Bergmann’s data driven design work can be found on CNN, NBA, Sports Illustrated, Deadspin, Washington Post and USA Today. See more on www.dubly.com and twitter.com/dubly. Thanks to Tracy Weissenberg for the tip.

 

Award races head into stretch run

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com

Four weeks from today the regular season is over. All eyes will be on the playoffs. And that means the final push is on for the 2013-14 awards.

The duel for MVP honors has been a match race all season between Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Michael Carter-Williams jumped out of the pack early as the one to beat for Rookie of the Year. But the other races have been wide open.

Here’s one man’s view as we head into the home stretch:

Most Improved Player

Anthony Davis, Pelicans — This is why the Pelicans were so happy to make him the No. 1 pick in the 2012 Draft. This is what coach Monty Williams says Davis probably could have shown last season if the coach hadn’t kept a tight rein on his prized rookie, limiting his minutes and his exposure to getting overpowered while he built up his slender body. When Davis erupted for 40 points, 21 rebounds, three assists and three steals against the Celtics, it was the culmination of a spectacular sophomore year. He’s been steady and breathtaking at both ends of the court all season, enough to beat out the likes of worthy candidates Goran Dragic and Lance Stephenson in a crowded field of contenders. Also getting votes: DeAndre Jordan, Trevor Ariza.


VIDEO: Anthony Davis was nominated for Kia Player of the Month for March

Sixth Man of the Year

Manu Ginobili, Spurs – Following an injury-plagued 2012-13 season that saw him enter the playoffs last spring looking bedraggled, the player who puts the jolt into the Spurs attack is back playing like a live wire in his 12th season. His field-goal percentage is up and his he’s back to doing all the things at both ends of the floor that make him a disruptive force and a difference maker. Jamal Crawford is the closest contender and has done many of the same things for the Clippers. The deciding factor has to be overall team performance. L.A. is in the top half of the Western Conference standings, but that’s once again the Spurs at the top. The return of Manu to his old form is a prime reason. Also getting votes: Reggie Jackson, Markieff Morris.


VIDEO: Manu Ginobili talks about the Spurs’ season and his play

Rookie of the Year

Michael Carter-Williams, Sixers — He was the sixth guard selected (11th overall) in 2013 and wasted no time showing he never should have lasted that long. He’s put up big numbers even as the Sixers have suffered through what is a historically inept season. If all of general manager Sam Hinkie’s decisions turn out so well, the pain will be worth the price. The fun could just be starting when MCW gets to team up with a healthy Nerlens Noel next season. It’s a long way back to the No. 2 man in the voting for this category, but we’re jumping the more likely pick and going with Tim Hardaway Jr. His hard-charging style has been one of the few reasons to watch the Knicks all year. Also getting votes: Victor Oladipo, Trey Burke. Kia Rookie Ladder


VIDEO: At the All-Star break, Michael Carter-Williams talks about his season

Defensive Player of the Year

Joakim Noah, Bulls — The Pacers spent the early part of the year polishing their reputation as the league’s top defensive team, with center Roy Hibbert starting to clear room on his mantle as the pre-eminent rim protector in the game. But it is no coincidence that the Pacers’ struggles fit with a slippage in Hibbert’s game. The truth is, when you get him just a little bit away from the basket, he’s not so dominant. Meanwhile the Bulls have shrugged off the loss of Derrick Rose and Luol Deng because Noah simply won’t let them stop working and scrapping and competing. He’s the heart and soul of the team, especially that ferocious defense as Chicago charges late and the Pacers try to regain their equilibrium. Also getting votes: Serge Ibaka, Dwight Howard.


VIDEO: Rachel Nichols talks with Joakim Noah about his surge in play of late

Coach of the Year

Gregg Popovich, Spurs — The first instinct is to say that Jeff Hornacek has taken a Suns team that everyone assumed was diving for the lottery — and the Las Vegas wise guys had pegged for 21.5 wins — and turned them into an uplifting story and playoff contender, and that’s worthy of consideration. The next instinct is to say that Tom Thibodeau is like the Black Knight in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, virtually getting limbs chopped off and yet ignoring the wounds and keeping right on with the fight. But when you get right down to the meat of things, it’s all about winning games and some how, some way, Popovich keeps doing that better than anybody else. Never mind that Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are practically senior citizens. Never mind that an assortment of injuries has forced the Spurs to use two dozen different lineups. Never mind all of those lingering mental scars from The Finals last June. Popovich expects the best and his team keeps producing it. Excellence should be recognized and rewarded. Also getting votes: Frank Vogel, Dwane Casey, Steve Clifford.


VIDEO: GameTime delves into how deeply Gregg Popovich’s influence is felt around the NBA

Most Valuable Player

Kevin Durant, Thunder — It’s been a two-horse race between Durant and LeBron James almost from the opening tip. You can almost never go wrong picking James, who still reigns as the league’s best player with his ability. It looked like James might be making a late charge for an MVP three-peat with his 61 point game a couple of weeks ago. But an ensuing slump by both LeBron and the Heat took the steam out of that charge. Durant responded and has raised his game even higher over the past 1 1/2 weeks. We also have to go back to Durant’s body of work without Russell Westbrook for 30 games — and counting — as he keeps the Thunder in the hunt for best overall record and heads toward what should be the first of multiple MVP wins. Also getting votes: Joakim Noah, Blake Griffin. Kia Race to the MVP Ladder


VIDEO: Chris Webber and Greg Anthony debate and discuss the MVP race

Riley: LeBron The Best Of … Them All?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Sometimes you have to let the words marinate for a bit, take your glasses off, rub your eyes and breathe in the gravity of a statement before you react to it.

I watched LeBron James smile his way through another (well deserved) Kia Most Valuable Player Award ceremony Sunday, his fourth in five seasons. I watched every second and listened intently to every word spoken. James won the award months ago, when he pushed the Heat into overdrive and set them on a course for a record season that included that wicked 27-game win streak and more highlights than basketball law allows.

James earned the right to do and say whatever he wanted. But it wasn’t his words that stopped me in my tracks. It was Heat president Pat Riley who forced me to pause when he uttered these words:

“Over these 46 years, I’ve had an opportunity to see some great players — and all the ones I’ve observed, watched and have seen, they’ve always gotten better. In my humble opinion, I believe the man right here is the best of them all.”

The best of them all?

Wow!

Let that sink in for a minute. Roll that statement around in your head and consider what Riley has seen, who he has coached and who he has coached against, and then say it out loud again.

“The best of them all.”

That’s a mouthful coming from a man who has seen and done what Riley has throughout his nearly half century in the game. He’s been immersed in the league longer than I’ve been alive, so I’m not here to refute his humble opinion or even to debate whether or not we should wrap our heads around the fact that LeBron has evolved — in a decade, mind you — into a player worthy of such high praise.

I’m here strictly to examine Riley’s words, to see if there is any way to scan the past four-plus decades of the league and rank LeBron ahead of the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and so many others.

This is a man who played on the Lakers’ 1972 championship team alongside Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Gail Goodrich. So his humble opinion comes from a very particular place (player, coach and executive who has won championships), one where few men in the history of the game can draw from.

And yet I still needed time to digest his high praise of LeBron.

Riley was an assistant with the Lakers when a 20-year-old Johnson scored 42 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and dished out seven assists in Game 6 of The Finals his rookie year to secure a championship while playing in place of an injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He was the Lakers’ coach for the four other titles they won during Magic’s tenure as the leader and maestro of the Showtime Lakers.

He watched Magic revolutionize the game, from the inside.

And Sunday he called LeBron the “best of them all.”

Riley’s Lakers teams battled Larry Bird and the Celtics and, later, he took on Jordan. When Riley coached the New York Knicks, his teams battled Jordan’s Bulls when Jordan was at his zenith. Anyone involved with the league during Jordan’s glory years, teammates and foes alike, tends to show him the proper respect and admit that he’s the greatest thing they’ve ever seen.

Riley retired Jordan’s No. 23 in Miami for Naismith’s sake. And Sunday, he called LeBron the “best of them all.”

Riley came down from the front office to coach the Shaq and Dwyane Wade-led Heat to a title in 2006. And on Sunday, after three full seasons with LeBron, he called the current king of the league the “best of them all.”

The same declaration from almost any other man would mean little to most. Everyone has opinions about who the true G.O.A.T is and most of them are framed by a generational bias that is hard to shake. But when a man with a breadth of experience that travels through time, or at least the past 46 years, points a finger at someone, it wakes you up.

Now, there will be cynics who insist that Riley is simply doing his duty as the Heat’s boss and making sure to dollop the proper praise on his star. After all, Riley is going to need LeBron’s signature on an extension soon to keep the Heat’s current run going.

But Riley doesn’t waste his words. And he certainly doesn’t seem like the type who will pander to a superstar’s ego in that way or on that stage, not just for soundbite’s sake.

Riley has competed with or against and coached or coached against many of the players who make onto the short list we all use when discussing the “best of them all.” For 46 years, he’s been in the middle of the mix in one way or another, well before anyone even knew what analytics were and the advanced-stats craze reshaped the game.

So when he speaks on a topic like this, one that crosses all of the generational lines most people avoid during these discussions, it’s hard not to take his words to heart.

And even if LeBron still trails Jordan, Magic, Kobe, Shaq and many others in the championship rings race, is it so far-fetched to believe that he really does rank at the very top as a truly unique and once-in-a-lifetime basketball talent?

Riley says no.

What say you?

What’s Next For Season’s Stretch Run?

Do either of these star-less teams have a chance to win big? (Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE)

Do either of these star-less teams have a chance to win big? (Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

Calling these “second-half storylines” would be both misleading and bad math, because All-Star Weekend didn’t exactly split the 2012-13 with Solomon-like equanimity. So we’ll go with “home-stretch storylines,” situations and people that NBA fans should keep their eyes on over the final two months of regular-season play. By dealing with trade-deadline drama separately on this site, we can limit this list to the five most compelling things to watch between now and the best-of-sevens:

1. Can the Lakers avoid making the wrong kind of franchise history?

It happened once in the “aught’s,” once in the 1990s, twice in the ’70s and then, continuing backwards, you’ve got to go back to their Minneapolis roots to find an NBA season that wasn’t followed immediately by a postseason for the Lakers. But math is beginning to loom large as a course this team will not pass in 2012-13.

Four games under .500 and 3.5 games out of the final playoff berth in the West wouldn’t ordinarily seem like a failing grade. But there is another team, Portland, wedged between L.A. and Houston that doubles the leap-frog challenge — and no suggestion that any of the clubs above them are headed downward in the conference standings. Then there’s the schedule: More intra-conference games for everyone means that one or more of the Lakers’ chief competition will be winning on many nights. And given their 9-18 road schedule, March looks tortuous with 10 of 15 away from Staples Center.

Stir in all the issues – coach-talent disconnect, miserable defense, fractious locker room – that have been part of the league’s No. 1 storyline to this point and it doesn’t look fixable. The passing of Jerry Buss as Lakers owner seems, sadly, like a clear sign this is not their year.

2. Can the Spurs’ regular-season success translate for a change?

OK, the “for a change” part is a bit snarky, given San Antonio’s four NBA championships since 1999. Yet it’s going on six years since the last one and even in 2007, there was a sense that the club’s window of contention was closing, based on its marvelously constant but aging core.

Coach Gregg Popovich and GM R.C. Buford have retooled in both precise and daring ways, shifting from the team’s old grinding defensive style to something sleeker, more offensive-minded and more democratic. Still, the Spurs’ three most important players are the same as a decade ago: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

All the controversial “resting” that Popovich practices and all the supposed advantages to old legs and big reputations that we see in the playoffs – no back-to-backs, slower pace, star whistles – haven’t paid off for San Antonio since before the Sonics left Seattle and Gilbert Arenas was a big NBA deal (for good reasons, that is). (more…)

Paul’s MVP Signifies Something Greater for Clips

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HOUSTON – The moment was Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers winning All-Star MVP on Sunday night, getting 20 points, 15 assists and four steals in the West’s 143-138 victory at Toyota Center and then getting eight of 12 votes for the top individual award.

In other news, the moment doesn’t matter.

It was fun and even a little historic, Paul becoming the first Clippers player since Randy Smith of the franchise’s Buffalo Braves era to grab an MVP at the midseason showcase. But the best sign about the Clippers at the break is that they have a chance to render an award from an exhibition game close to meaningless. They don’t need Paul beating out Kobe Bryant (two votes) and Kevin Durant (one each) for a credibility boost. The Clippers have the same Paul to thank for that, the way he moved an entire franchise forward just by signaling his intention to stay long term if management brought him in from New Orleans.

Paul is entirely a big-picture topic, down to how he has successfully muted any potential distraction over his free-agent future by strongly indicating at the start of the season he would re-sign in the summer 2013. He is leadership and superstar play.

And now there is this: On the same weekend he was winning MVP honors and Blake Griffin was putting together a dunk highlight reel en route to 19 points on 9-for-11 shooting, sources said the Clippers are not expected to make a deal before the Thursday trade deadline. Certainly not a major one, of the Kevin Garnett variety, as has been speculated.

That could obviously change – they fell into Nick Young at the 2012 deadline when the Nuggets and Wizards needed a third team to complete the Nene-JaVale McGee exchange. But every indication at the moment is that the Clippers are moving forward with who they have.

Their best player had already re-established himself as the premier point guard in the game, whether or not he played well Sunday. That Paul did adds another positive layer to the season, though, and there is never anything wrong with that around a franchise that for too many years had been dragging itself through the gloom. Having an All-Star MVP means something more to them.

“Pretty special, pretty special,” Paul said afterward. “It’s something I’ve never done. And it’s something that definitely coming into the game I wasn’t trying to achieve or thinking that it might even be possible. I told KD [Durant] early in the first quarter, I said, ‘Man, if they score anything, you run. I’ll get you the ball. You score. I want to be the one to give it to you.’ In games like this, it’s so up-tempo and fast-paced, a guy like me that’s a facilitator, I enjoy [it].”

It was a good moment, even if it didn’t matter. One of many that have come this season for Paul and the Clippers. Possibly, they hope, one that will be pushed to the background by what comes next.

Clips’ Paul Wants Back To ‘Happy Place’

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Taking on the defending NBA champions … facing their roster of stars … and their Doberman defense … in their building … on national television … coming off an injury … for a team that’s staggering. Nope, those would not be ingredients of any formula for turning a smile upside down for most basketball players.

But Chris Paul, point guard and MIA MVP candidate for the Los Angeles Clippers, can think of nowhere he’d rather be Friday night than facing the grueling challenge of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the rest of the Heat in Miami on ESPN (8 p.m. ET). Paul has missed 12 of the Clippers’ past 14 games with a bruised right knee, sitting helplessly by as they’ve gone 6-6 in his absences – 3-6 most recently.

Listed day-to-day on the Clippers’ rather lengthy injured list – with Blake Griffin (hamstring), Jamal Crawford (shoulder) and Chauncey Billups (foot) – Paul was hoping to play in this one. Hey, it’s what he does – or pines to do when on the pine – as told to Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times:

“Anybody who knows me knows I’ve been miserable the past however many games I’ve been out,” Paul said while sitting in a black leather courtside seat inside the Heat’s arena, a bag of ice wrapped around each knee. “Like, seriously. This is my life. This is what I love to do. This is my happy place and when I don’t get a chance to play, I can be a very bitter person.”

Join the Clippers’ club, Chris. Over the past nine games without Paul, L.A. has seen its offense swoon; it has averaged 92.2 points compared to 101.8 prior to the 3-6 stretch, with drops across the board in shooting percentages, steals and assists. As a result, instead of outscoring teams by an average of 8.4 ppg, it has been running a deficit of 2.7 ppg.

How a club does when a star player is absent sometimes is a criterion used in MVP assessments. But it’s a lousy one to endure, both for the team and for the guy who’s out.

Paul has coped with injuries before, so he knows the downside of coming back too soon. After Sunday, the Clippers have two sets of back-to-backs before All-Star weekend and their point guard has obligations for that in Houston. Discretion might suggest extra rest, but it’s facing a formidable opponent in Paul.

“I just need to play,” he said. “I’m very impatient. Very impatient. And I know that about myself. I’d do anything to get back on the court.”

LeBron Has Eyes On Third MVP Trophy





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Let’s be clear about one thing, there is no shame in the MVP game of Heat star LeBron James.

He knows that he could very well be on the cusp of joining one of the NBA’s truly elite groups as a three-time winner of the league’s Most Valuable Player Award, becoming just the ninth player in history to win it three times.

James opened up to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com about the potential of joining Hall of Famers like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird and Moses Malone in becoming a three-time winner:

“It would mean a lot, honestly, it would mean a lot,” James said. “If I’m able to win it this year it would be very humbling knowing the caliber of guys who have won it three times.”

“I remember me being a little, scrawny guy from Akron, Ohio, and watching so many greats either watching live or watching games, knowing and loving the history of the game and seeing the guys who have paved the way for myself. I’ve always respected that. I’ve always respected the talent that came before me.”

The difference between those players and James, of course, is that all of them had won championships by the time their careers were over. [Chamberlain and Malone both won their third MVP in the year they got their first championship.

But that lack of a title to this point may not affect how the voters who select the MVP view James. In a sampling of veteran NBA journalists and broadcasters who vote, none said historical context would play a role on how they would vote on the award this year.

(more…)

Bulls Ball Out With, Without Rose!





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – There’s a reason Derrick Rose has refused to do any recruiting of fellow All-Stars who enter the free agent fray.

Maybe Rose has known all along what many of the critics who suggested he wasn’t worthy of his MVP trophy last season (yes John Schuhmann, I’m talking about you!) have been screaming about since last season, these Bulls are much more about the collective than they are about any one player.

And that’s not to diminish the greatness of Rose. But the numbers, in this case, do not lie. The Bulls are a robust 13-5 without Rose this season and after watching them dismantle the Hawks last night (above) with Rose on the sideline, it’s become pretty obvious that whatever Tom Thibodeau and his staff have cooked up in Chicago is clearly not predicated solely on Rose stirring the pot.

It’s clear Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and the fellas are perfectly capable of handling things offensively if Rose is unavailable. And we’re talking about the best defensive crew in the league, a group that does not rely on one player to serve as their catalyst on that end of the floor.

We went through this on the Blogtable yesterday,wondering how long the Bulls can go without Rose in uniform. My suggestion was that he take whatever time is needed to heal completely before worrying about getting back on the floor. More than anything, his absence allows this team to build a confidence in itself sans Rose that could serve them well in the postseason.

Even Rose appears to understand the good that has come from his recent inactivity.

“We’re finding our confidence and finding ways to win,” he said after the win over the Hawks. “It was a low turnover night where we rebounded well, and we moved the ball well. We also executed our plays well. We’re pretty deep. We’re basically the same team as last year. We know Coach (Thibodeau’s) system, so we know what he expects from us each night.”

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Why Not Rose? Kobe Agrees!

LOS ANGELES – Lakers star Kobe Bryant was simple in his praise of the latest and youngest NBA MVP, Bulls point guard Derrick Rose.

“I’m happy for him,” Bryant said when informed that indeed Rose had won the award. “I love it.”

When asked if he would have voted for Rose, Bryant didn’t hesitate. “Yes,” he said as he walked out of the room after a post-practice interview session Tuesday.

It’s strange to think that Bryant and Rose are now tied with one MVP award each. But I give Bryant credit for praising the young fella. Not every veteran star is as gracious in accepting the new kid on the (MVP) block.

Maybe Bryant recognizes some similarities in his approach to his budding stardom all those years ago and that of the precocious Rose, who smoked the competition despite a late-season movement to poke holes in his candidacy by segments of the basketball public that insisted that Dwight Howard and even LeBron James had better numbers than Rose.

With all due respect to many of our colleagues, we’ll go with Kobe’s endorsement instead.

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MVPs, COYs rarely partner up


CHICAGO – The buzz around United Center in the hours before Game 1 of the Chicago-Atlanta series Monday – non-game-related, anyway – was all about when and where. As in: What time would the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award be presented, and where would Bulls guard Derrick Rose actually receive it (practice facility, hotel ballroom, etc.)?

Nothing was official, of course. But Rose seems to be a lock from various straw-polling of media voters and thus would become the youngest NBA MVP in history. He was born on Oct. 4, 1988, making him 22 years, six months and 29 days come Tuesday.

But there’s more history in the making. If Rose wins, it will mark only the 12th time that the MVP and the Coach of the Year have been chosen from the same team. Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau was announced as the COY winner Sunday.

Considering that the awards will have co-existed for 49 years once the 2011 set is complete (the COY was first awarded in 1963, the MVP in 1956), that’s not a high percentage. The thinking by a lot of voters seems to be: If a coach has the MVP on his squad, his job might not be the league’s toughest. Or something like that.

Beginning with Boston’s Bill Russell and Red Auerbach in 1965, the MVP and COY partnered up five times in nine years: Wilt Chamberlain-Dolph Schayes, Phila., 1966; Wes Unseld-Gene Shue, Balt., 1969; Willis Reed-Red Holzman, N.Y., 1970, and Dave Cowens-Tom Heinsohn, Bos., 1973.

Then there was a mighty gap until the Lakers’ Magic Johnson and Pat Riley won the awards in 1990. Chicago’s Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson did it in 1996, the only season in which Jackson was deemed worthy by voters of a COY.

There has been a greater frequency lately, with four in the past 10 years – all in odd-numbered seasons. That pattern starts with Allen Iverson-Larry Brown, Phila., 2001, and continues with Tim Duncan-Gregg Popovich, S.A., 2003; Steve Nash-Mike D’Antoni, Phx., 2005 and LeBron James-Mike Brown, Cle., in 2009.