Our original NBA Tuesday miniseries gets another entry today as professional basketball’s current postseason continues to roll on. So, with the awards announced for MVP and Rookie of the Year, we can do our due diligence to see if the voters got it right (or wrong). Someday, when we convert these minsieries into books, we will go back and re-visit the methodology, but for now, we will stick with what we have been doing: looking at sabermetric stuff, specifically two data.
2023 NBA MVP: Joel Embiid, C, Philadelphia (original); Jimmy Butler, SF, Miami (revised)
Here are our top candidates: Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić topped the league again in both Win Shares (14.93) and Player Efficiency Rating (31.51). He has won the last two votes, both confirmed by us (2021, 2022). His numbers are down from last year’s record-setting campaign, but the discussion starts with him. Also in the conversation are Philadelphia 76ers C Joel Embiid (12.33 WS, 31.39 PER), and Miami Heat small forward Jimmy Butler (12.33 WS, 27.58 PER).
Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (11.40 WS, 27.20 PER) and Dallas Mavericks PG Luka Dončić (10.15 WS, 28.69 PER) also deserve some consideration for the award that Embiid won in the vote. But neither the Thunder nor the Mavericks qualified for the postseason. Meanwhile, the 76ers won 54 times; the Nuggets won 53 times; and the Heat won 44 times. It’s clear Butler may have the most value, despite finishing third in WS and sixth in PER.
Denver actually clinched the top seed in a very bunched-up Western Conference, though; without Jokić, Denver would struggle to make the postseason. The same can be said for Philly and Embiid (third-best record in Eastern Conference). The fact Miami secured just the seven seed in the East with Butler shows that Miami, for sure, would be golfing right now if not for Butler. That’s value to us, as loyal readers know. We give this ward, surprisingly, to Butler for that reason.
2023 NBA ROTY: Paolo Banchero, PF, Orlando (original); Keegan Murray, SF, Sacramento (revised)
Despite compiling just 2.4 WS, Orlando Magic power forward Paolo Banchero somehow won the ROTY vote. His team won just 34 games, too, so Banchero didn’t perform well even without the pressure of a playoff hunt. To us, this award comes down to Utah Jazz C Walker Kessler (7.1 WS) and Sacramento Kings SF Keegan Murray (4.3). Kessler led all rookies in value … however, Utah also finished with a losing record (37-45). So this award is all Murray’s in the end.
The Kings made the postseason for the first time in forever (2006). They won 48 games to earn the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, and without Murray, they’d have been in a dogfight for the play-in games. The Kings rebuilt their roster very wisely over the last few seasons, and Murray sort of was the icing on the cake that pushed Sacramento over the proverbial playoff top. Murray’s transition from B1G PoY to NBA ROTY is impressive, as well. What a terrible vote …