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Who should win NBA MVP? Here is what the stats say

Jayson Tatum

With a month left in the season, fans are debating more and more about who should win the NBA Most Valuable Player Award for the 2023-24 season.

The MVP award is always a heated debate as everyone has different perspectives on what defines an MVP. Some people think it should be as simple as the best player on the best team. Some think team record doesn't matter and the player with the best stats should win.

The reality it is some sort of combination, but that combination becomes subjective. With that being said I'm going to compare the current front runners for the MVP using stats that revolve around both team success and individual success.

NBA MVP Candidates

Luka Doncic

Based on current MVP betting odds and fan and media discussions, five candidates stand out in the award race. Two-time winners Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, along with Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks, Shai-Gilgeous Alexander of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics.

For the comparison, I will be looking at three categories: general stats, advanced stats, and overall team impact. I will assign rankings for the players in each category then sort by average ranking to make a final decision.

General stats consist of basic stats the casual fan can find easily on various stats websites. Advanced stats are more complicated and dive deeper into what makes a player successful. Overall team impact will look at how good a player's teammates are and their on-off numbers. Offensive importance will look at specifically how important a player is offensively to the team, while defensive importance is the same but for defense.

Basic Stats

For this category, I decided to simply add up each player's basic statistical categories to see who had the most. The categories I added were points, assists, rebounds, steals, and blocks, all per-game stats.

After adding up each of those categories, the rankings came out to be Luka first with 55.4, Giannis second with 55.6, Jokic third with 49.6, SGA fourth with 46.4, and Tatum fifth with 41.6.

Basic Stats Rankings

That leaves the current rankings as:

  1. Luka Doncic

  2. Giannis Antetokounmpo

  3. Nikola Jokic

  4. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

  5. Jayson Tatum

Advanced Stats

Giannis Antetokounmpo

For this category, I used five different stat categories. The categories I used were effective field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, box plus-minus, value over replacement player, and player efficiency rating.

After doing the same process as the previous stat categories the final rankings came out to be Nikola Jokic first at 54.5, SGA second at 48.5, Giannis third at 46.6, Luka fourth at 46.4, and Tatum fifth at 32.7.

Advanced Stats Rankings

Averaging out the basic stats rankings and the advanced stat rankings, the current rankings come out to be:

  1. Nikola Jokic

  2. Giannis Antetokounmpo (tied with Luka)

  3. Luka Doncic (tied with Giannis)

  4. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

  5. Jayson Tatum

Team Impact

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

For this category, I found a site that looks at the win probabilities of a player's team when they are on the court versus off it. It also has other interesting stats like clutch plus-minus and on-off stats for points.

For these stats, the numbers had much more variance, so rather than just adding them up, I looked at the average rankings of each category. The specific categories I ranked were on-court win probability, off-court win probability, net win probability, clutch plus-minus, point differential on-court, point differential off-court, and net point differential.

After doing that analysis, the rankings came out to be Nikola Jokic first with an average of 1.4, SGA second with 2.9, Giannis third with 3.3, Tatum fourth with 3.6, and Luka fifth with 3.9.

On-Off Stats Rankings

After calculating the final rankings based on the three different sections, Giannis and SGA were actually tied for second. To break the tie, I decided to use team record. SGA with the Thunder has the edge in that over Giannis and the Bucks, so I put SGA above Giannis.

That means we now can calculate the final rankings of this analysis. With everything accounted for, the final MVP rankings are:

  1. Nikola Jokic

  2. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

  3. Giannis Antetokounmpo

  4. Luka Doncic

  5. Jayson Tatum

Final MVP Rankings


Nikola Jokic

I'd say everything I gathered in this analysis was about what I expected. The final rankings I ended up with match what I would've said based on my opinion of each player and their seasons so far.

The main thing that stood out to me was Jayson Tatum. While I think he does at least deserve recognition as a candidate, the stats showed a huge gap between Tatum and the other four. The only thing Tatum really has over the others is he is the best player on the Celtics who are the top team in the NBA record-wise by a few games.

I also thought SGA and Giannis would have more of a case, but the stats clearly indicate Jokic should be MVP.

Winning a third MVP in four seasons is an impressive feat for Jokic and would put him in elite company. I just hope the voters don't get voter-fatigue and feel obligated to give it to someone else. With that being said, I wouldn't hate it if SGA won MVP as the Thunder are a fun team and story this year.

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