Personal opinions aside, there's a truth in the pattern of past MVP winners that doesn't bode well for Rose's chances.
Before the season, Derrick Rose asked, "Why can't I be MVP?"
The short answer: it'd be completely extraordinary because your team doesn't win enough, other players in the league are more productive, and you're too short.
Now for the long answer
Were I to have a vote for MVP right now at this point in the season, I'd cast a first place vote for LeBron James for reasons I'll discuss in another post. Who I think is or should be MVP is not related to the pattern of MVP winners discussed in this post.
There are variables outside of popularity and noise that create such a pattern for what type of player wins the MVP that you'd think it's a template for the voters.
My apologies in advance to Derrick Rose and the dreams of fans that may be crushed this season. Remember, I'm not making the case for or against whether Rose ought to be MVP; I'm relaying data which shows how incredibly unlikely it is that he wins the award.
Now that I've rolled out all of those disclaimers, I will announce in advance that I refuse to apologize and pander to the stupid. Just sayin'....
Win games... more than just about every other team
Throughout the entire history of the award, the average winning percentage of the winners' teams is 72.3%, Jared Wade wrote in a guest post last December at SI's "Point Forward" blog.
Earlier this week, Henry Abbott at the ESPN "TrueHoop" network decided to dig up the MVP history over the last 20 seasons and the pattern doesn't look good for Rose:
I just dug in and found out: the
star of a team that wins 75 percent of its games, and who very often
leads the league in scoring or some other kinds of production (expressed
here as player efficiency rating). That's the deal.
- Every MVP came from a team that finished with a top-four record leaguewide.
- Seventeen of 20 MVPs were from a team with one of the two best records in the NBA.
- Nineteen of 20 MVPs (or all of them if you toss that outlier Steve
Nash 2005-06 award from the analysis) came from a team with one of the
NBA's three best records.
- MVPs' teams, on average, won 62 games (after adjusting for the
lockout shortened 1998-99 season) a season, or about a 75 percent clip.
This is why Basketball-Reference's MVP predictor tool,
based on historical patterns showing that wins, points per game,
rebounds per game, assists per game and win shares per game are
paramount to voters, suggests that the top four candidates all play for the Heat and Spurs.
The Bulls are out of this picture having won only 68.6% of their games this season. On one hand, only the Spurs are winning at a rate over 75% (84.6%) with the Heat and Celtics both as the only other teams over 70%, tied at 73.1%. On the other hand, even if Rose was the rare MVP without being on a team with one of the three best records, the Bulls have only the 6th-best record in the league right now. That said, they're only within a handful of games of the second-highest win rate, let alone top-four.
The difference between a top-two seed and a three-seed just got real huge if you're rooting for Rose to win the MVP.
Throwing in some individual stats
Rose's stats are definitely deserving of starting the All-Star Game and superstar hype. This should be uncontroversial, along with entering -- or beginning to enter -- the conversation of best point guard in the NBA with Chris Paul and Deron Williams.
It's becoming common to say Rose is having an "MVP-type" season. This is reasonable when his game and stats are viewed in a vacuum, but the fact of the matter is that the MVP is an award reflective of production relative to everyone else in the league. And the strangely uniform data doesn't support Rose's case.
Rose is currently 8th in PPG (24.7), 13th in PER (22.9), and 6th in team wins (35). These are superstar numbers, especially for a point guard, but 15 of the last 20 MVPs have led in one of these categories. Two of the other five were Steve Nash who led the league in assists both years. The other three -- Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994, Karl Malone in 1999, and Tim Duncan in 2002 -- finished in the top-three in at least one of the categories, which leads to the next point.
Too strong, too fast, too good, but unfortunately, too short
Nash isn't just the only point guard since Magic Johnson to win the MVP, but the only one at the position to win the award under 6-foot-9 since Bob Cousy in 1951. Oscar Robertson won the award in 1964, but he was more a combo guard, even playing the point forward nightly in small lineups. The only other player under 6-foot-5 besides Nash and Cousy to ever win the award was Allen Iverson in 2001, who led the league in scoring on a team with the 3rd-best record.
Rose is listed at 6-foot-3 while tied for only 9th in APG (8.2), grabbing only 4.4 RPG, and shooting only a .446 FG%. Those are great numbers for a scoring point guard. This is uncontroversial, but just not "MVP-type," according to the overwhelming pattern of actual winners.
There's a reason why throughout NBA history, the MVP winner averages 13.0 RPG, while only 5.3 APG, shooting a .503 FG%. Because only seven guards have won the award, Wade later added:
The high rebounding stats show us two things: 1) Just how many big men
have won the MVP award, and 2) just how many more rebounds there used to
be in a typical NBA game. On the first point, only seven guards have
won an MVP: Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Jordan, Nash, Bob Cousy, Magic
Johnson and Oscar Robertson. The rest have all gone to forwards and
centers, with legitimate big men (meaning not guys like Larry Bird,
LeBron and Julius Erving) taking home the hardware 35 times.
There's some good news, homers
Every MVP since Michael Jordan in 1988 has been on a team in the top four in winning percentage. Just out of curiosity, I e-mailed Neil Paine at Basketball-Reference and asked if there was a lesser pattern in MVP winners' teams' mathematical rankings of margin of victory, adjusted for schedule. They call this the "Simple Rating System" and the Bulls' 5.12 rating is currently 5th.
Almost immediately after I sent the e-mail, I was delighted to find that Paine put the numbers together and found:
This seems slightly more encouraging for Rose, as a player from a
5th-ranked (or worse) SRS team crashed the MVP ceremony 3 times since
1988, as opposed to 1 instance of a player outside the top 5 in WPct
during that span.
Then again, doesn't this really just mean voters are usually blindly
paying attention to W-L without regard to team dominance? Further proof:
In the majority of cases, the MVP's team ranked as high or higher in
WPct than in SRS.
When evaluating team strength, SRS generally tells you more than
WPct. But when it comes to the MVP, Henry [Abbott] was right: winning is
Sorry, that's the best news I got...
Let's use the history we have and try applying it to this season. Neither the Spurs, nor the Celtics have any name near the top of voters' MVP rankings, variables such as dislike or LeBron and Dwyane Wade taking votes from each other, and Kobe Bryant almost goes out of his way to piss people off. That puts Rose's name closer to "MVP-type," based on relativity.
Unfortunately for Bulls fans, it makes a Dirk Nowitzki prediction absolutely skyrocket in value. The Mavericks are tied with the Lakers for the 4th-best winning percentage (69.8%), but he's tied for 11th in PER and alone at 11th in PPG. Then, you have Rose.
The good news I have is that us fans can legitimately believe the Bulls can win two playoff rounds. The loud "M-V-P" chants, some wins that give the legitimate belief the team can beat anyone on any given night, a very legitimate Coach of Year candidate, and the expectation for home-court in the playoffs since the Jordan-Pippen-Jackson Era is awesome.
Don't get hyped into bitching and moaning about the MVP award or what you view as All-Star snubs. When this happens, fans go into a ridiculous homer-mode wherein they engage in such ridiculous hyperbole making their case, they look like idiots. Worse, fans act like complete idiots disparaging some of the best players in the game, instead of enjoying the game.
Advanced Stats via Basketball-Reference.
Tags: allen iverson, bob cousy, boston celtics, chicago bulls, derrick rose, dirk nowitzki, dwyane wade, henry abbott, jared wade, lebron james, magic johnson, miami heat, michael jordan, mvp watch, nba, nba history, neil paine, san antonio spurs, steve nash