The Search for the NBA’s Next MVP

This NBA-centric series recently kicked off with us searching for the Association’s next Most Improved Player and Defensive Player of the Year. Now, it’s time to find the league’s Most Valuable Player for the 2019-20 season.

And just as we did for the first two awards, we looked at the last nine MVP winners to create a statistical baseline for our pool of MVP candidates for next season.

Season NBA MVP Points Assists Rebounds FG % 3-pt. % Experience (Years) Team’s Conference Standing
2010-11 Derrick Rose 25.0 7.7 4.1 48.9 26.7 3 1st
2011-12 LeBron James 27.1 6.2 7.9 53.1 36.2 9 2nd
2012-13 LeBron James 26.8 7.3 8.0 56.5 40.6 10 1st
2013-14 Kevin Durant 32.0 5.5 7.4 50.3 39.1 7 2nd
2014-15 Stephen Curry 23.8 7.7 4.3 48.7 44.3 6 1st
2015-16 Stephen Curry 30.1 6.7 5.4 50.4 45.4 7 1st
2016-17 Russell Westbrook 31.6 10.4 10.7 42.5 34.3 9 6th
2017-18 James Harden 30.4 8.8 5.4 44.9 36.7 9 1st
2018-19 Giannis Antetokounmpo 27.7 5.9 12.5 57.8 25.6 6 1st
—— Average 28.2 7.3 7.3 50.3 36.5 7.33 1.78


Due to the large variance that inherently comes with the stat, shooting percentages — specifically the 3-point shot — don’t matter as much when creating our candidate pool, as Rose, James, Westbrook and Antetokounmpo all struggled to make an impact from behind the arc, but still won the award.

However, the final two columns are very important.

Besides Rose, who was the youngest MVP in league history, every other player examined needed at least six seasons in the NBA before winning the coveted award.

As for where a player’s team finishes in their respective conference at the end of the regular season, our research shows that MVP voters understand the importance of winning. That’s why the best player on the most successful team has won the award in six out of the last nine seasons.

Like in previous exercises, we used the statistical categories of points, assists and rebounds to compile our candidate pool for Most Valuable Player.

Keeping that in mind, our next MVP must be entering at least his sixth NBA season (a younger player could technically step up and win the award, but it isn’t likely) and have averaged at least 28.2 points, 7.3 assists and/or 7.3 rebounds per game during the 2018-19 season.

Here are the players who meet our requirements.

Points: James Harden, Paul George*

Assists: James Harden, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, Jrue Holiday, LeBron James, Jeff Teague, Rajon Rondo, Kyle Lowry, Chris Paul

Rebounds: Hassan Whiteside, Russell Westbrook, Nikola Vucevic, Jonas Valanciunas, Tristan Thompson, JaVale McGee, Kevin Love, Kawhi Leonard, Enes Kanter, DeAndre Jordan, LeBron James, Serge Ibaka, Dwight Howard, Tobias Harris, Blake Griffin, Rudy Gobert, Paul George, Marc Gasol, Derrick Favors, Andre Drummond, Dewayne Dedmon, Ed Davis, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Al-Farouq Aminu, LaMarcus Aldridge, Steven Adams

*George was included in the points category despite falling .2 points per game short of the baseline average. If the points metric had been lowered to 27.0, that list would’ve included Curry, James and Antetokounmpo. Drop the average further to 26.0 points per game and Leonard joins the fold.

As expected, many of the candidates from the rebounding list won’t come close to securing MVP votes, which is why we decided to focus on players who appeared in at least two of the three statistical categories. Unsurprisingly, that decision cut our 35-man list of potential MVP candidates to a fearsome foursome composed of Harden, George, James and Westbrook.

Because Antetokounmpo and Curry are both former MVPs who barely missed out on two statistical categories, we’ll throw them in the final pool. We’ll also include Leonard since the two-time NBA Finals MVP averaged 30.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game during his insane playoff run with the world champion Raptors.

So with our final pool featuring James Harden, Paul George, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Steph Curry, how do you decide who will ultimately be named MVP?

It’ll likely come down to whose team racks up the most wins, and at this point in the year, that’s tough to determine. But with the NBA’s top franchises equally stacked talent-wise for the first time in years, get ready for a season — and MVP — to remember in the Association.

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