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# 02.12.2017 - 03:03:53
I'm defining the best player as the one with the most wins above replacement player (WARP) by my metric. When that player has also led his team to the league's best record, it basically has been a wrap for MVP. Only Karl Malone, who was beaten out by Michael Jordan in 1997-98, has failed to win MVP when meeting these criteria since media began voting for the award in 1980-81.
There appear to be two realistic candidates to join this group. One is Harden, whose Rockets have the second-best projection in both FiveThirtyEight's CARM-Elo model and ESPN's Basketball Power Index. The other is Stephen Curry. Remember him? The two-time MVP is putting up numbers in the same ballpark as those that won the 2014-15 award for Daniel Kilgore Womens Jersey him, despite making only 37 percent of his 3-point attempts.
If Curry could maintain something close to the incredible 58 percent of his shots he's making http://www.raidersfootballofficialstore.com/Fred-Biletnikoff-Jersey inside the http://www.authenticmapleleafsshops.com/authentic-40-garret-sparks-jersey.html arc while returning to his usual 3-point accuracy, Rod Brind'Amour Jersey that could make him the league's most valuable player by advanced stats despite his limited minutes (32.3 per game so far). Already, Curry is second behind Harden in ESPN's real plus-minus (RPM).
It's more realistic for Curry to land in this category, which has produced MVPs more often than not. He's currently sixth in WARP but tied for fourth in player win percentage, the per-minute component of WARP akin to PER. The question then is how much Curry would be hampered in the voting by playing with multiple other stars, most notably Kevin Durant -- still often considered the better of the Golden State Warriors' two MVPs.
I don't think Curry is anywhere near a favorite for MVP, but given the probability the Warriors end up with the league's best record and the possibility he plays even better going forward, his chances are probably underrated.
We'll lump these two categories together since there's no compelling reason to believe the leader in WARP actually has a better chance of winning MVP when his team finishes with a top-10 record but outside the top five. While leading the league in WARP hardly guarantees an MVP, it puts a player in the conversation as long as his team is competitive.
The two players with the best chance of qualifying for one of these categories are Harden and James, the latter of whom holds a slight lead in both WARP and Basketball-Reference.com's value over replacement player (VORP) metric. After a slow start, the Cleveland Cavaliers again look likely to finish with a top-five record (FiveThirtyEight has them tied for the fourth-best projection, while they're tied for fifth in BPI, and neither system knows specifically that Isaiah Thomas could return before long).
So if James can keep this up, this looks like his best shot at MVP since his Miami Heat days. After all, as Brian Windhorst noted before the season, research by our former colleague Tom Haberstroh found that James has typically played at an MVP level in the second half of recent campaigns.
As for Harden, the big question -- explored earlier this week by Neil Paine of FiveThirtyEight -- is whether he can continue to produce at such a high level while playing with Chris Paul. Inevitably, Harden's volume will take some hit playing with another elite playmaker, and we'll see whether his efficiency can rise enough to compensate.
The huge drop in MVP chances from the last tier emphasizes how important it is to either be the league's best player statistically or play on the team with Robert Thomas Jersey the league's best record. Both players who qualified for this category last season (Harden and James, with Kawhi Leonard just missing out in WARP) lost out to WARP leader Westbrook despite the Oklahoma City Thunder's weaker record.
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