The NBA Playoffs are in full swing and beyond the question of which team will win the championship, NBA fans also want to know who will win the MVP race. This year’s race is extremely tight, but a look back at the history of the award reveals what really matters to MVP voters.
Many people believe that the NBA’s MVP should be awarded to the best player in the league. This may be the star with the most impressive individual statistics. Or the one whose team would be the most affected by his absence.
This Infographic from Betway gives us the defining features of a true NBA MVP.
Let’s face it – the MVP race is hugely subjective, with the definition of what truly makes a player ‘valuable’ seeming to change every year.
That’s particularly true this season, with Giannis Antetokounmpo the narrow sports betting favourite over James Harden in what will likely be the closest vote in years.
Bucks superstar big man Giannis Antetokounmpo is a neverending highlight reel, and he showed that during Game 4 of the team’s playoff series with the Pistons.
It’s extremely difficult to close out a team on their home court, and even moreso to do it via a sweep, as it’s the most demoralizing and embarrassing fashion for a team to end its season.
As such, the Bucks knew they would have to bring the intensity on the road with them, and sure enough, they did. Check out this monster posterization from Giannis, over former teammate Thon Maker.
Giannis on Thon Maker. SHEESH.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 23, 2019
Giannis may be superhuman, or a robot, or something, because he makes otherworldly plays look easy.
Whether Harden’s offensive brilliance makes him more influential than Antetokounmpo’s all-round game is up for debate, but a look back at the history of the award reveals what really matters when it comes to deeming who is the MVP.
Scoring is a good place to start.
Being the league’s top scorer hasn’t historically been a prerequisite for an MVP, but that has changed in recent years.
Four of the last five winners led the NBA in points, all of whom averaged over 30 per game.
While the MVP is supposedly a single-season award, it is rarely handed to a player who hasn’t been one of the best players in the league for a sustained period.
Of the last 17 MVPs, for example, 14 had been voted into the All-NBA first team in the previous season, and all 14 were coming off a top-four finish in the MVP voting.
As important as statistical brilliance is, though, the team you play for is ultimately crucial.
Being part of the best team in the NBA is a major factor, with seven of the last 10 winners having played for the team with the league’s best record.
Of the last 15 winners, 11 topped their conference at the end of the regular season, with just three of the last 25 MVPs winning fewer than 54 games (one of which was Karl Malone in the lockout-shortened 1998/99 season).
It’s for that reason that Antetokounmpo has a major edge in this year’s race.
The seven-footer – who also happens to lead the league in PER – is clearly the best player for the Milwaukee Bucks, who won 60 games this season, three more than any other team.
Winning more games than the Golden State Warriors puts Antetokounmpo at a major advantage over Harden, whose Rockets won 53 games, finishing third in the West and fifth in the NBA.
The debate will continue up until – and even beyond – the NBA awards, but, if history is anything to go by, the voters will almost certainly go with the Greek Freak.