As we head into the last four weeks of the 2013-14 NBA season, I thought I would take another look at how the MVP race is shaping up. Here are my top five candidates through games of March 18, 2014:
1. Kevin Durant
A master of both volume and efficiency, Durant is the NBA’s runaway leader in both win shares (by 3.2) and wins shares per 48 minutes (by .039).
Durant is using 32.7 percent of the Thunder’s plays while he is on the court, which would be a career high, yet he is also posting a career-high offensive rating of 123.2.
Most of that is due, of course, to Durant’s phenomenal scoring efficiency. But he has also assisted on almost 27 percent of his teammates’ field goals while he is on the court, a huge improvement over his previous career best of 21.7 percent set last season.
2. LeBron James
James poured in 25 first quarter points against the Cavaliers last night. As I tweeted earlier this morning, since the 2000-01 season there have been 15 cases where a player scored 23 or more points in the first quarter. James alone accounts for six of those cases, while no other player has more than one.
James’ true shooting percentage is a robust .652, second in the NBA to sharp shooter Kyle Korver. Since the 1977-78 season*, no other qualified player has posted a higher true shooting percentage while using at 30 percent of his team’s plays while he is on the court.
* The first season individual turnovers were recorded.
3. Kevin Love
Love has bounced back in a big way from his injury-riddled 2012-13 season, ranking 3rd in the NBA in win shares and 2nd in win shares per 48 minutes.
Like Durant, Love has become much more of a playmaker this season, recording assists on approximately 20.4 percent of his teammates’ field goals while he is on the floor. That figure is a huge improvement over his previous career high of 12.9 percent set in 2009-10.
Love is also one of just four players* with a usage percentage of at least 28 percent and a turnover percentage of less than 10 percent.
Griffin has taken a slight step back in March after his blistering performance in January and February, but he is still well on his way to having the best season of his career.
The biggest reason for Griffin’s career-high scoring efficiency is his free throw shooting. Griffin’s career free throw percentage coming into this season was just .611, but this season he is shooting .705 from the line.
In addition to his improved free throw shooting, Griffin is also getting to line more, averaging a career best 8.5 free throw attempts per 36 minutes.
5. Paul George
Back on December 4th I had George second on this list, but his production and efficiency have fallen off quite a bit since then.
Through the month of December, George’s true shooting percentage was .602, but over the last two and a half months his true shooting percentage is .540.
Along with the dip in scoring efficiency, George has also seen an increase in his turnover rate, from 11.5 per 100 plays through December to almost 13 per 100 plays from January to present.
That said, George is still one of the best two-way players in the NBA, and he is on pace to lead the league in defensive win shares for the second consecutive season.