- The Season's Over -

The 2010 MVP Race: Perimeter Players

January 7, 2010

Kobe Bryant Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By: Zachariah Blott

We’re not quite halfway through the 2009-10 season, but there’s already been plenty written about the MVP race. Earlier this week I took a look at the top post players in these early discussions, and now it’s time to break down the most deserving perimeter threats.

(If there’s some confusion why LeBron is here and Durant and Carmelo were with the post players, it’s because he gets his team’s offense going from the perimeter, unlike the other two who only get their own scoring going from out there. James is in the top eight in the NBA in assists, and he also ranks first on his team in this category. The other two are nowhere in the vicinity of either accomplishment, and James’ assist-turnover rate looks like that of a guard [not even close for Carmelo and Durant].)

Who’s Most Likely to Win

Here are the top eight perimeter players in the MVP discussion, listed in order of their likelihood of winning. I’ll include the key information anyone in the media or at your local sports bar would deem relevant.

1 – LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
28.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 7.8 rpg, Cleveland is 28-9, he’s become a good defender.

2 – Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
30.2 ppg, 2 spg, 3 buzzer beaters, LA is 28-7, he has 4 rings.

3 – Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns
18.4 ppg, 11.2 apg, 44% 3FG%, Phoenix is 23-13, he’s won 2 MVP’s already.

4 – Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks
21.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 4.9 apg, Atlanta is 22-12 and a true Eastern contender.

5 – Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets
20.1 ppg, 10.5 apg, 2.2 spg, New Orleans is 17-16 even with minimal talent.

6 – Brandon Roy, Portland Trail Blazers
22.8 ppg, 5 apg, Portland is 22-15, his teammates are all injured.

7 – Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
26.4 ppg, 6.2 apg, 5 rpg, 1.6 spg, 1.2 bpg, Miami will make the playoffs, he has a ring.

8 – Deron Williams, Utah Jazz
19.5 ppg, 9.8 apg, Utah is 19-16 and could make the playoffs in the tough Western Conference.

Blott breaks down these eight MVP-caliber studs after the break…

Some Better Numbers

Obviously statistical production is a major component when comparing players for this award, but it seems a little more fair to look at how efficiently players compile their numbers.

For example, instead of simply looking at points, we should probably be looking at Effective Field Goal Percentage so we can discern who has points because they hit a lot of their shots versus the guy who simply takes all the shots despite being an average shooter. Instead of rebounds, we should use Rebound Percentage, which measures what percentage of all missed shots a player rebounds when he is on the floor. And to give us a basic idea how well a player can handle the ball within the flow of the offense, we can look at Assist-Turnover rate.

Here is an anonymous ranking of the players based on these numbers, looking most heavily at eFG% and A-TO since we are talking about perimeter players. I’ll get into defense and other factors in a minute. These three stats will at least get us much closer to understanding who is producing at in above-average manner and isn’t just the guy who always has the ball.

1 – Player A: 54%, 4.6, 6.9% (eFG%, A-TO, and Reb%, respectively)
2 – Player B: 55%, 2.2, 11.1%
3 – Player C: 61%, 2.9, 5.0%
4 – Player D: 53%, 2.9, 6.5%
5 – Player E: 51%, 2.3, 7.9%
6 – Player F: 51%, 2.2, 7.4%
7 – Player G: 50%, 1.5, 7.8%
8 – Player H: 47%, 1.9, 8.0%

Looking at these numbers, you can see the top four players are a cut above the rest, and Player A’s ball control abilities are well ahead of everyone.

Chris Paul Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Using Defense And Other Factors For Final Rankings

A huge part of the game is defense, so this has to be a big determinant for MVP. Defense is a subjective area that goes far beyond blocks and steals, but six of these guys are considered pretty good defenders by most fans. The two exceptions are Williams and Nash. It’s tough to pick a best of the bunch, but James is notable for his ability to guard almost every position.

Beyond the rates of production and defense, one should consider how a player’s numbers are affected by or fit within his team (Nash’s 60% eFG% crushes the league’s 50%, but so does his team at 55%), if a team’s success is closely tied to that of a player (where was Cleveland before LeBron?), and if a player’s eFG% doesn’t fully capture the abuse they dish out by getting to the free throw line (True Shooting Percentage does this – the formula is here under TS%).

Here are my final rankings of which perimeter players are most deserving of the MVP award so far after considering several aspects of their games.

1 – Chris Paul (Player A): He remains #1 because he is a magnificent scorer and passer, and he might be the top defensive perimeter player. For someone to play nearly 40 mpg with all of the focus of every opponent, and to still have an A-TO rate about 50% better than the #2 guy in this group (Nash) is insane. The Hornets would be nowhere without CP3.

2 – LeBron James (Player B): He does it all: halfcourt game, fast break, makes teammates better, decent A-TO rate, much better rebounder than the rest of these guys. And he’s a good defender on a team that’s only great because of him. Please don’t make me explain again why Mo Williams has never been deserving of being called an All-Star.

3 – Steve Nash (Player C): This was a tough call because Nash’s defense is really bad (about as well as you’d expect a 36-year-old Canadian to do, eh). However, the Suns’ system of play is so defined and successful by what he does for them (see also: D’Antoni’s system doing very little up in New York). Nash is the reason Phoenix is so hard to stop; he’s that great of a passer and of a shooter.

4 – Deron Williams (Player D): Williams’ defense isn’t so hot, but his ability to run an offense made up of guys that aren’t nearly as good as you might have thought they still are is amazing. Also, the Jazz’s success rises and falls fairly closely with how he’s playing, which is a pretty good indicator of how important he is.

5 – Dwyane Wade (Player H): His production rates are at the bottom of this group, but his True Shooting Percentage looks much better than his eFG%. Additionally, his defense is outstanding, he carries a busted team, and his Adjusted Plus-Minus kicks the league’s ass, so he’s obviously making a lot of good things happen.

6 – Brandon Roy (Player F): Six of Portland’s top nine players are injured, they’ve had every combination of end-of-the-bench subs starting beside Roy, and they’re still above .600. Roy’s presence and the Blazers’ winning ways are the only constants on this club; that should tell you something.

7 – Joe Johnson (Player E): He’s a decent defender with decent production on a team that’s really picked it up, but he’s not carrying the burden Wade and Roy are.

8 – Kobe Bryant (Player G): His production numbers aren’t good next to this group or next to his teammates’. He plays with a three-man frontcourt that as a unit averages a double-double each, with Ron Artest to keep the defensive burden off him, and with a super-clutch point guard who also has four rings. This is actually Kobe’s top shooting season ever, so that average eFG% may go down.

Zachariah Blott cannot recommend Rick Telander’s “Heaven Is A Playground” enough.

21 Comments »Posted by ETB Contributor on Jan. 7, 2010 at 11:56 am in ETB Articles, NBA

21 Responses

I dont agree with your “most likely to win” list.
I think at this point its hands down kobe. Even with Gasol and Bynum in the front court and Artest with him in the back court, he still has to bail the Lakers out almost every night lately. This is with a bad knee, elbow, and 2 broken fingers. The MVP trophy isn’t given to the player with the best stats.

Posted by: ssa on January 8th, 2010 at 9:55 pm

I hope people are starting to realize how MVP-esque Gasol is, and that he is the engine that makes the Lakers great. LA is now 9-5 without him, and that’s after catching some real breaks. With Gasol in the lineup, they are a ridiculous 19-3.

Posted by: Zachariah Blott on January 9th, 2010 at 1:24 am

nice breakdown, by the numbers, as well as from a chemistry-leadership standpoint.

Posted by: Newell on January 9th, 2010 at 1:29 pm

gasol is the best player in europe, and one of the best in the world. on the same hand though, i think mo williams & others are just as important to the cavs offense, when he is hitting his outside shots, he gives lebron much more freedom on the perimeter. when mo williams and co. went cold in the postseason last year lebron couldnt do anything to get the cavs through on his own. there was nothing varejao could do to cover howard. got to the point where lebron was yelling at his teammates, and also the infamous “I am doing everything I can to help us win”, not “we”.

Posted by: r.i.p_petrovic on January 10th, 2010 at 5:35 pm

btw i like the rebounding % stat, much better than total boards. also, a bit off the topic, although portland is missing many players through injury, bayliss has starter quality. everyone should stop talking about him like he’s a bench scrub turned pro.

Posted by: r.i.p_petrovic on January 10th, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Pau Gasol and Mo Williams are worlds apart. Gasol leads his team in eFG%, Reb%, and has a better A-TO than their SG’s. He regularly gets double-doubles, he busts his ass on defense guarding opponents’ top inside presences, and the Lakers’ play way better when he’s not hurt (and they instantly went back to the Championships once he joined them). Williams suddenly became a shooter when he joined the Cavs. James opens up shooters, not the other way around. There is no comparison whatsoever between the talent Kobe is surrounded with (immense) and that around LeBron (decent). For James to have the Cavs at almost the same record as the Lakers says a lot about how vastly superior his individual ability is.

Posted by: Zachariah Blott on January 11th, 2010 at 3:51 am

no lebron has it all he was probably at the top of mvp voting

Posted by: dodie u selloga on January 21st, 2010 at 1:21 am

what about carmelo anthony you dumb asses

Posted by: jamal on February 21st, 2010 at 1:13 pm

He’s listed with the post players, friend.

Posted by: Brian Spencer on February 21st, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Everybody knows Lebron is the reason Cleveland is the best team in the NBA…without Lebron? Now put Lebron on any team and what do you have? Champions

Posted by: Franky Boy on March 2nd, 2010 at 8:02 pm

I dont think Lebron can go to any team and make them champions. Its the bench that’s helping him shine and not only by his individual skills. Kobe is the best player in the league and even lebron can’t do what his doing for his team. Kobe took over the league after Michael Jordan. Lebron is just strength and pure power, no flashy skills like like MJ. Only kobe has the image of Air Jordan.

Posted by: dannyboy on March 18th, 2010 at 1:27 am

What about Kevin Durant?. The most consistent player in the NBA.

Posted by: zacattack on March 19th, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Hey guys…look what kobe bryant done to lakers team. He is one of the reason why los angeles lakers continued to shine until this time…..

Posted by: Al on March 31st, 2010 at 6:36 am

let see if lebron, bryant and other players bring their team to the finals and eventually win a title…..jejeje……go lakers….

Posted by: Anonymous on April 1st, 2010 at 1:49 am

Obviously its between Kevin Durant and Lebron James. These guys are putting up numbers like no other, but its not about the stats that gives you the title, its how important you are to the team.

Posted by: Anonymous on April 7th, 2010 at 9:44 pm

WHat about RAJON RONDO!??!?!?!?!

Posted by: fishyy on April 8th, 2010 at 7:01 pm

What About CArmeLo Anthony ????

Posted by: John on April 9th, 2010 at 9:31 am

LOOOOOOOOL!!!! Nice job giving a list of the top 8, when you missed one of the top THREE. Nowitzki will either finish 2nd or 3 in MVP voting.

Watch basketball the next time you want to write about it.

Posted by: Dirk on April 15th, 2010 at 4:18 pm


Posted by: Brian Spencer on April 15th, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Derrick rose has been just amazing in game 1-3 exspecially game 3 even lebron coudnt stop him

Posted by: chitown on April 23rd, 2010 at 9:32 am

Kobe Bryant is the Real MVP,,MVP Caliver Player
Brings his team to a Championship ring..
Kobe Bryant does it several times…

Posted by: Toinks on May 4th, 2010 at 8:00 am

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