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Introducing Basketball FUBAR: Using Advanced Stats to Gauge NBA MVP Race

Felipe Melecio uses advanced stats to determine the top 15 NBA players vying for this year’s MVP honors.

Anthony Davis

The Most Valuable Player: how does one define it? Does a player have to put up the best stats? Or perhaps there should be a focus on one important stat: wins? Does individual achievement lead to team success? Or do great teams produce MVPs? Whatever the case may be, arguments utilizing familiar criteria will continue to be used to make a case for certain elite players to be nominated for league MVP.

In the meantime, the NBA has made terrific strides in welcoming advanced statistics to evaluate teams and players alike to a mainstream audience. There simply is no excuse to not be aware of these stats and get an alternate view of this FANtastic game. Just like we did in determining our Major League Baseball MVP, we will be using a basketball version of FUBAR: Felipe’s Ultimate Basketball Advanced Rankings (or bFUBAR for short).

No use in boring the reader with the details on how bFUBAR was computed, but you will need to learn a few terms:

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

  • True Shooting Percentage (TS%): Adjusted shooting percentage that also includes the value of three pointers and free throws.
  • Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%): Shooting percentage where three pointers are adjusted to be worth more than a two-point shot.

Leading the league in TS% is Kyle Korver (Hot Sauce!):

Leading the league in eFG% is DeAndre Jordan, for obvious reasons:

  • Rebound Percentage (REB%): Percentage of total rebounds a player obtains while on the court. bFUBAR also takes into account Offensive Rebound Percentage (OREB%).

DeAndre Jordan leads the league in REB%, but leading the league in OREB% is Andre Drummond:

  • Assist Percentage (AST%): Percent of teammate’s field goals the player assisted.
  • Assist to Turnover Ratio (AST/TO): Simple stat where you divide assists by the number of turnovers committed.

Leading the league in AST% is John Wall, while Chris Paul leads in the AST/TO category:

  • Block and Steal Percentage (BLK% and STL%): Percentage of opponents possessions that result in a steal (or block) by player while on the court.

Leading in BLK% is Rudy Gobert:

In the Steals department, the “Grindfather” himself, Tony Allen, takes the honors:

  • Player Efficiency Rating (PER): Basically, a unit of measurement used to determine per-minute production.
  • Win Shares (WS): Estimate of number of wins contributed by a player.
  • Player Impact Estimate (PIE): Estimate of player’s contribution and impact on a game.

The last three stats will be weighed heavily to compute the bFUBAR MVP. Worth mentioning that a couple of highly specialized players garnered enough points to be in our top 20 MVP list. Kyle Korver finished in 19th place because of his shooting. Brandan Wright finished in 20th due to his ability to block shots and because he scored surprisingly high in PER. Missing the cut in our top 15 were John Wall, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Tim Duncan.

FIRST FIVE

15. Dwyane WadeDon’t call it a comeback, as D-Wade is proving to the doubters out there that he never needed any help to carry the Miami Heat.

14. Jimmy ButlerThe man has played with a cast for most of the season and has carried this team while several Bulls’ players mend from injuries. He also leads the league in Minutes Per Game. The man can do it all and has proven to be a consistent scorer this season.

13. DeAndre Jordan–He does more than dunk. He also does a great job protecting the paint, rebounding, and, yes, taking lots of “high percentage shots.”

12. Marc GasolWhat more can be said that hasn’t been said about him already? The Memphis Grizzlies are a great team, but it all begins with Gasol.

11. Damian LillardAll this guy does is continue to improve his game. One quick look at his per game averages and the arrows keep pointing up. Lillard has become the face of Portland basketball.

NEXT FIVE

10. Tyson ChandlerYes, defense does matter and Chandler being in the top 10 of our list proves it. Playing in his 13th season and with recurring back problems, Chandler is not only one of the best rebounders, but also has shown a willingness to fight for the offensive boards as well. Before there was DeAndre Jordan, there was Tyson Chandler and the latter has posted high advanced shooting percentages because of his willingness to score in the paint.

9. Kyle LowryOne of the best ball-handlers and distributors in the league, Lowry has the Toronto Raptors destroying the Atlantic Division without one of their best players, DeMar DeRozan.

8. LeBron JamesSo much for being the King of the NBA Throne. James entered the season as the consensus preseason MVP but now is desperately trying to right the Cavalier ship (looking more like a Chevy compact car). He’s still an efficient player that does a little bit of everything, but currently, he’s getting passed by other, much younger players.

7. DeMarcus Cousins“Boogie” might appear to have attitude problems, but he might just be the best pure offensive center in the league right now. Question his intangibles, but his metrics prove that he’s an elite player.

6. Russell WestbrookNo doubt, when healthy, Westbrook is a freakish athlete and an explosive player. His season started slow because of injury, but he quickly proved why he’s one of the very best the NBA has to offer.

TOP FIVE

5. Kevin DurantThough not even playing in 15 games this season, it’s really hard to omit Durant from any top player list. An argument can be made that having Westbrook rank so high is a big help to him, but let’s face it, the Oklahoma City Thunder are a much better team when both players are on the court.

4. Chris Paul–Has always been one of the best, pound-for-pound players in the league and once again, Paul is proving that he belongs at the top of this list. Paul just simply makes everyone around him better because of his willingness to share the ball and look for the best opportunity for his teammates.

3. Stephen CurryOne of the most exciting and entertaining players in the league today, Curry continues to work hard on his game and has seen an improvement to his inside game this season. Already armed with a lethal jump shot and quick handles, Curry for MVP is not too far-fetched of an idea.

2. James HardenIf Harden was a baseball player, he’d be a Jose Bautista type player who rarely swings at bad pitches and will grind and frustrate opposing pitchers. Harden can not only shoot from far away, but his bread-and-butter is getting to the paint and drawing fouls as he makes multiple trips to the free-throw line.

1. Anthony DavisMany NBA experts, when asked to pick a dark-horse candidate for MVP, selected Davis as their choice. Not only has Davis excelled this season, but he has catapulted himself into MVP talks despite being on a mediocre New Orleans Pelicans team. And he’s not a one-trick pony either. Unlike DeAndre Jordan who takes advantage of high percentage shots, Davis has developed a marvelous mid-range game that most traditional perimeter players would die for.

For example, struggling against the Washington Wizards’ frontcourt of Nene and Marcin Gortat, Davis was getting denied easy baskets in the paint early in the third quarter. The Pelicans adjusted and began feeding Davis to take jump shots from 17-18 feet, seemingly making all of his shots from that distance. He would finish with 21 points and 10 rebounds, but they were well-earned points and boards.

Davis growing into a more complete player is the reason why he is the frontrunner for NBA MVP.

Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and nba.com and are good through January 2, 2015.

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