Picking an MVP for Each NBA Playoff Team Using Analytics
The NBA is a star-driven league.
For the most part, a team can only go as far as its best player (or players) can take it. The words "Most Valuable Player" (or "MVP" for short) are most often associated with the award that bears the name, but every team has at least one player who stands out above his teammates and exemplifies what it means to be "valuable," even if he doesn't always have the hardware to show for it.
One way to single out guys who are most deserving of their respective home crowds' chants of "M-V-P! M-V-P!" is by using analytics. A team's highest scorer is often the most obvious candidate for the title, but sometimes that player can be lacking in ability on the defensive end or doesn't operate with the efficiency it takes to perform well in certain metrics.
There are a variety of one-number statistics that can be used as all-encompassing MVP barometers, such as Player Efficiency Rating (PER), Win Shares (WS), or Net Rating. We even have our own in-house metric called nERD that serves such a purpose.
nERD measures the total contributions of a player throughout the course of a season, based on his efficiency on both ends of the floor. Comparable to Win Shares, this ranking gives an estimate of how many games above or below .500 a league-average team would win over an 82-game season with said player as one of its starters.
We track nERD and update it daily on our Player Power Rankings page during the regular season. In the interest of seeing which players have been the most valuable to their teams during the NBA Playoffs to date, we ran the numbers based on all the games played so far this postseason.
Here are the analytical MVPs of the eight remaining playoff teams.