MVP voting in the NBA is subjective, based largely on individual voter interpretation as to what constitutes “value.”
Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder won the 2013-14 MVP vote, edging out LeBron James of the Miami Heat.
MVP voting is subjective. So how does the Durant-over-LeBron decision hold up when compared to objective stats? To answer this question, let’s look at Player Efficiency Rating (PER). PER is a measure of per-minute production factoring in multiple statistical categories standardized so that the league average is 15.0.
Here are the top five PER leaders from the 2013-14 season.
#1) Kevin Durant – 29.8 PER
It looks like the MVP voters got it right. Kevin Durant led the league in PER this past year, barely edging out LeBron James, justifying KD’s most valuable distinction. Durant led the NBA in scoring at 32.0 points per game while also leading the league in total minutes played, field goal attempts, field goals made, free throw attempts, and free throws made. No wonder Durant is No. 1.
#2) LeBron James – 29.3 PER
The 2013-14 season was the year of being No. 2 for LeBron, finishing second in PER and MVP voting while his Miami Heat finished runner up to the San Antonio Spurs. LeBron had led the league in PER in each of the past six seasons before finishing second to KD in 2013-14.
#3) Kevin Love – 26.9 PER
Kevin Love and LeBron James are clearly the two best players in the league. So who is No. 3? With PER as the measure, it’s Kevin Love. The sweet-shooting 6’10” big man recorded a career best 26.9 PER this year while continuing to stuff the stat sheet for the underwhelming Minnesota Timberwolves.
#4) Anthony Davis – 26.5 PER
Anthony Davis erupted in his second NBA season with 20.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and a league-leading 2.8 blocks per game. His PER improved from 21.7 as a rookie in 2012-13 to 26.5 in 2013-14, good enough for fourth in the league.
#5) DeMarcus Cousins – 26.1 PER
DeMarcus Cousins is the unofficial league leader in scowls, tantrums, and hissy fits, but he also cracked the NBA leaderboard for PER. Cousins set career highs in nearly every meaningful statistical category in his fourth season in 2013-14, including 22.7 points, 11.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.3 blocks, and a much improved 49.6% field goal percentage. With stats like that, Sacramento Kings fans can put up with a scowl and a tantrum every once in a while.