Analysis: Naming the MVP of Every NBA Team

| by David Berri

Here is something I meant to post sometime ago.  The sports writers name one MVP for the league.  But each team has an MVP, or at least, an MPP (Most Productive Player).  So let’s talk about all those MPPs.

And when I say talk, that’s exactly what I mean.  Today’s post is both a podcast and a written column.

Let’s begin with the details on the podcast.

You can listen to the podcast one of three ways:

And here is the Cast:

Okay, let’s start with a listing of the MPP on each team in the NBA in 2010-11.

Here are some stories from this table (much of which we discussed in our podcast)

  • As noted before, scoring and team wins dominate the MVP voting.  The players who received the most votes were the leading scorers on winning teams.  And Derrick Rose – the player named MVP – was the leading scorer on the team with the most wins.
  • Of all the MPPs in the league, Derrick Rose had the most help.  The last column of the above table reports how many wins each team would have if the team’s MPP was replaced by a player who was only average (and average player has a Wins Produced per 48 minutes – or WP48 – of 0.100).  The Bulls are the only team that would still win 50 games with their MPP replaced by an average performer.  So once again, Rose is not a one-man team (an impression you get from the media’s coverage of Rose and the Bulls).
  • If you replace Kevin Love with an average player, the Timberwolves are projected to win about three games.  In fact, Love produced more wins than Minnesota actually had in the standings.  How is that possible?  The key issue – as noted in the podcast – is that Wins Produced is derived from a team’s efficiency differential.  Without Love, Minnesota would be expected to have the lowest differential in league history.  Would that actually happen?  Well, there are diminishing returns in the NBA.  So some of Love’s teammates would get a bit better.  But the diminishing returns effect is not so large that Minnesota — without Love — couldn’t challenge the 1972-73 76ers for the worst record in the NBA.
  • We made two more observations about Minnesota in the podcast.  First, Minnesota has done an amazing job of finding the least productive lottery picks in the NBA.  And secondly (a point related to the first observation), Kevin Love should probably try to get out of Minnesota as soon as possible.
  • Two more observations from the table:  First, two teams – the Charlotte Bobcats and Utah Jazz – were led in Wins Produced by players who have departed from the team.  Meanwhile, three other teams – the Detroit Pistons, LA Clippers, and New York Knicks – were led by rookies.  That led us to ask the question: Will a rookie lead a team in Wins Produced in 2011-12 (assuming there is a next season)?  The next draft class looks weak, but our analysis of the draft is really just getting started.  Ian Levy – of Hickory High –has got the analysis started with his 2011 Draft Similarity Scores.  Look for more from Ian in the near future.

The podcast then moved on to topics beyond each team’s MPP.  Here is some of what we discussed.

  • In memory of Robert “Tractor” Traylor, the podcast took a trip back in time to the 1998 draft when he was traded by the Milwaukee Bucks to the Dallas Mavericks for Dirk Nowitzki.
  • Speaking of Nowitzki, he was the most productive player for the Mavericks as they swept the Los Angeles Lakers out of the playoffs. What does the future hold for the Lakers since Magic Johnson said the team needs to be blown up?
  • What does the future hold for the Celtics since Doc Rivers said they need to add players after they were eliminated by the Heat in five games? The WoW Network’s resident Celtics fan (that would be Arturo) chimed in with his opinion.

We closed with a discussion of the Celtics.  Arturo’s optimism was offset by the following observation:  The Celtics had four player who produced more than ten wins each (Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen).  To put that in perspective, twelve teams –as the above table reveals – didn’t have one player with more than ten Wins Produced.  Unfortunately for the Celtics, three of their most productive players – Garnett, Pierce, and Allen – are 85 years of age (in basketball years).  So what is going to happen when these player inevitably stop playing? Well, Arturo has hope (which Mosi and Dave did their best to dash).

- DJ and Mosi Platt