NBA 4-Time MVPs



This analysis takes a look at the five 4-time winners of the NBA MVP award: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, and, the newest member of the club, Lebron James. Now I was curious when will Lebron start sucking and give Durant a shot. The answer is simple: soon young Kevin, soon. Pet your kitten and start laughing maniacally. 

The analysis looks at Player Efficiency Rating (PER), a metric developed by John Hollinger that aggregates all NBA player statistics into one single metric. You can see over time that PER obviously deteriorates. Time in this case is represented by two metrics: seasons and age. The reason for using both is to determine which is a stronger indicator in PER. Now, Lebron has already played 10 seasons but is only 28 years old. All other players were 31 by their 10th year. So judging by seasons alone wouldn't work for Lebron. However, if you look at age alone Lebron would play until he is 38 which would mean he played 20 seasons. That would be a long career. 5 years longer than MJ and Wilt. And 7 years longer than Russell. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played as many seasons. My model projects Lebron will play 7 more seasons for a total of 17 and retire at 35.

Given that projection what is the likelihood that Lebron wins another MVP award? My analysis finds that the performance of these 5 players deteriorates after their 9th season. Lebron is in his 10th. So is it over for Lebron? Should Kevin Durant whip out the trophy polish now? In short no. Three of the five won an MVP after their 9th season: Wilt, MJ and Lebron himself. But only MJ has won an MVP after their 10th season. Actually he won two. 

So could Lebron do the same? Well his 4 highest PER seasons were also the same seasons he won the MVP: 31.7 (2008), 31.1 (2009), 30.7 (2011), and 31.6 (2012). Based on my multi-regression projection, Lebron's PER next year will be 25.6 which would be a significant decrease from this year and his worst season since 2006-2007. But MJ, Kareem and Russell have all won MVP awards with PERs lower than 25.6. In fact, Russell's PER never exceeded 22.8 (but this could be due to the fact that not all PER stats were collected in Russell's era). Michael Jordan won his last MVP award with a PER of 25.2 in 1997 when he won 92% of the vote beating out Karl Malone. Therefore, there is a good chance Lebron could win at least 1 more MVP trophy before his career is over.

- Adam

3 comments:

  1. If you shoot 33% from 2PT and 25% from 3PT and you keep shooting, your PER goes up. A player could take all of his team's shots and shoot those percentages and lead the league in PER. I don't think PER is the best measure to use here.

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    1. Thanks for the comment. PER is obviously not perfect. More importantly it doesn't capture defensive performance. What would you suggest using instead?

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