Another week and another NBA Tuesday entry closer to the present day! This column brings us to the second NBA championship for the King in Miami, as the modern-day trend of the “Big Three” concept was solidified. Way back when, it was a Michael Jordan thing, but now it was suddenly an “every team” thing.
But we digress, again … on with the awards show you’re anxiously awaiting!
2013 NBA MVP: LeBron James (original), Kevin Durant (revised)
We have a clear 1-2-3 pecking order for MVP candidates here as the same three players finished in the same order for both Win Shares and Player Efficiency Rating: Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (19.30 WS, 31.59 PER), Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (18.90 WS, 28.29 PER), and Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul (13.95 WS, 26.38 PER).
So far, we have given a combined 8 awards to James and Paul, although Durant has yet to win one from us (we even took away his ROTY, in truth). Will that change this year? Paul is a distant third in this hierarchy, so we’re going to focus on the King and KD here. The Heat posted 66 wins to top the Eastern Conference, while the Thunder put up 60 victories to lead in the West.
Here’s the deal, though: OKC had a 16-win cushion for the postseason, while Miami had a 29-game edge on the final playoff spot. The Eastern Conference was soft; without LeBron, the Heat still makes the postseason. Without KD, we’re not sure the Thunder do make the playoffs.
Yes, James has a big edge in PER, but that just means he was the better player; the WS margin is slim, and value requires context, and in this context, Durant was more valuable. Here are the numbers for comparison’s sake:
- James: 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.9 block, 56.5-percent shooting
- Durant: 28.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists 1.4 steals, 1.3 blocks, 51.0-percent shooting
KD also led the NBA in free-throw percentage (90.5) while playing five more games than James did. Again, we know the King was still the better player here (barely?), but Durant was more valuable to his team.
2013 NBA ROTY: Damon Lilliard (original), Anthony Davis (revised)
The best first-year players were Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (4.5 WS), New Orleans Hornets power forward Anthony Davis (6.1), and Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damon Lilliard (5.8). The latter won the ROTY vote at the time, mostly for his scoring average, while Davis obviously has gone on to be a dominant force on the court.
Overall, the Pistons won just 29 times, missing the postseason by 9 games. Portland won 33 games, falling 12 victories short of a playoff berth. New Orleans posted 27 wins, coming in behind the Trail Blazers in the West. So this might come down to improved winning percentage:
- Detroit: -0.025
- Portland: -0.022
- New Orleans: +0.011
This is interesting, although we know rosters get overhauled, and one player rarely makes a huge different—especially a rookie. However, how valuable could Lilliard have been to Portland if the team got worse? Davis was the better player, and he was the more valuable one, as well.