It’s crazy to think our NBA Tuesday series is so close to the present day … just a few more months, and we will be all caught up to modernity—and then shifting the focus of this column to other awards we didn’t want to jam pack into this column earlier. Basketball analysis tends to be more complicated, after all.
Will this season’s award analyses be complicated? Or easy? Hmmm … all depends on your perspective, we guess.
2007 NBA MVP: Dirk Nowitzki (original, confirmed)
Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki was the best player in the league, and accordingly, he won the MVP vote after topping everyone in Win Shares (16.34) and finishing second in Player Efficiency Rating (27.60). The next group of elite players including San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan (third in WS at 13.04 and fourth in PER at 26.10), Cleveland Cavaliers small forward LeBron James (second in WS at 13.70 and sixth in PER at 24.51), and Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (fourth in WS at 13.04 and fifth in PER at 26.05).
The Mavs won a league-best 67 games, so that jibes with Nowitzki’s voted award: The best player on the best team, etc. But with a 26-game cushion for missing the postseason, we have to wonder just how valuable Dirty was, really. Dallas was going to make the postseason without him, still. Meanwhile, someone like Bryant was the different between the 42-win Lakers making the playoffs or missing them. That has more value, even if Bryant was a lesser player than the other three guys above.
Speaking of, the Cavs won 50 games to cruise into the postseason with a 14-game cushion, and the Spurs earned 58 victories for a 17-game cushion. How does this work with our working approach here in defining value? We know Nowitzki was the best player; that is not the debate. And we know the Spurs would have been postseason bound without Duncan, too, while the Cavs are borderline without James, and the Lakers are not there without Bryant.
This is exactly like last year’s debate, really, and we feel the same thought processes apply: This was a bad Lakers team that Bryant carried to the postseason, and the Cavs were a better team even if the King was still carrying the majority of the water from the well. No one else on the L.A. roster topped 5.0 WS, while Cleveland featured three guys at 6.5 WS or more.
So, the situation is reversed from last season, and we lean toward giving this award to Bryant: He led the NBA in scoring again at 31.2 points per game, and he raised his shooting percentage to 46.3 percent this season. The only other question we have to ask is if Dirty was significantly better than Bryant, enough to overcome this value idea?
That 3.3-WS gap is pretty big, in truth. We don’t think we have any standards here for this, but just look at recent years: Kevin Garnett had a 4.8-WS gap in 2004 when he earned his first MVP nod from us, and Duncan had a 4.2-WS gap in 2002 when he received his only MVP from us. WS edges this huge basically do lead to MVP awards from us: Shaquille O’Neal in 2000, David Robinson in 1994 and 1995, Michael Jordan in 1989 and 1991, etc.
We could go on, but the fact remains we would be breaking precedent in ignoring Nowitzki’s dominance of the league here, and we’re not ready to do that when the guy shot 50.2 percent from the floor. With Bryant being a distant fifth in PER, as well, his season just wasn’t good enough to ignore Dirty’s huge superiority edge over everyone in the league.
For the record, this was both surprising and interesting to analyze, and we would not argue with anyone putting forth the idea Bryant deserved this award: He did “deserve” it. But it’s just that Nowitzki deserved it a little bit more.
2007 NBA ROTY: Brandon Roy (original, confirmed)
Two rookies stood out in compiling WS marks over 4.0 this season—Utah Jazz power forward Paul Millsap (4.7 WS) and Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard Brandon Roy (4.8 WS). Roy won the award vote, while posting 16.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game for a 32-win team. Millsap played half as many minutes per game as Roy did for the 51-win Jazz who made the postseason.
This means we will confirm Roy’s award, as even though his team did not make the playoffs, he was better in a significantly higher amount of playing time (2,018 minutes versus 1,476 minutes). Plus, Portland improved by 11 games over the previous thanks to Roy’s contributions.
This is the first time since 1992 that we have confirmed both major NBA awards, by the way.