65 of 100 NBA MVP Votes Are Already Public & Russell Westbrook Has Won.
The fans? His teammates? His mother? Or even himself?
Russell Westbrook should decide who he’s going to recognize as “da real MVP” right now, because a canvass of public NBA MVP votes show he’s already won the award.
Despite a preponderance of voters publicly proclaiming their votes the NBA MVP won’t be announced until an NBA awards show hosted on June 26th. A full two months after the regular season and over seven weeks from now.
Official NBA MVP ballots were due the Friday before the playoffs, April 14th. And media members and TV personalities continued a long-standing tradition of disclosing their votes, including voters affiliated with the NBA and TNT who will host the awards show.
Since ballots were distributed I used crowd-sourcing and hundreds of Twitter searches to locate what I believe to be 65 of the NBA’s 100 first place votes for the 2017 MVP. Rockets and Thunder fans alike pitched in to identify the first place votes of given media members and affirming the voter had one of the 100 official ballots. This entailed lots of Twitter, podcasts, basketball articles and TV broadcasts.
That’s right. Nearly two-thirds of the votes in the NBA MVP’s race can already be counted and Russell Westbrook has won the award over James Harden.
Where The Race Stands
Through a hard count of the NBA MVP votes the first place tally of votes has Westbrook in the lead:
Westbrook: 41 first place votes
Harden: 18 first place votes
Leonard: 4 first place votes
James: 2 first place votes
First place votes don’t decide the award alone. Each ballot has five places for MVP: first place is worth 10, second 7, third 5, fourth 3 and fifth 1.
For determining the 2017 MVP without access to all the ballots, all that really matters is first, second and third place. As the race is a head-to-head between Harden and Westbrook and neither has placed lower than third in the 23 ballots we have with clear votes 1–3.
As of today (5/5/2017) raw tally of all known first, second, and third place votes gets Westbrook to 507 points and Harden to 360 points.
500 points is not the tipping point for the award. There’s 2,600 total points for all five places over the 100 ballots. The most points a single player could receive is 1,000, or all 100 of the first place votes, which clearly hasn’t happened.
Projecting Missing Votes
To get us closer to complete point totals with the known votes and project a winner we simulating missing second place votes.
For example: Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm and CBS Sports announced his complete ballot with MVP votes 1–5. He’s voting Harden, Westbrook, Leonard, James and Wall.
Meanwhile the three voters for the Associated Press each declared their first place MVP vote in a column, but not who they’re voting for past that. Currently we have 17 Westbrook ballots and 7 Harden ballots without a declared second place vote.
To project where the race really stands we projected second place votes for Westbrook and Harden at the rate they have currently appeared on ballots with a declared first or second place.
For Harden this is 92% and for Westbrook 87% or 6 second place votes for Westbrook from the 7 Harden first place ballots and 16 second place votes for Harden from the 17 Westbrook first place ballots.
Applying this methodology and adding points for the missing second place ballots the MVP race can be brought to Russell Westbrook, 550, James Harden, 470.
While the 80 point deficit doesn’t seem sizable given a first place vote is worth 10 points, it is in the context of the point difference between places.
The only way Harden could chip away at the deficit is in meager amounts. Just three points separates a first and second place vote and two points is the differential between all other spaces.
For example: The two ballots listing LeBron James in first place have not second or third place votes listed. If you assume these voters value a single player’s ability to produce wins over individual stats then you’d guess Harden gets the second place votes and Westbrook gets the third place votes. Doing that for those two ballots only narrows the margin by four points.
Not to mention Houston fans hoping Harden can make up ground have to ignore Westbrook’s more than 2-to-1 advantage in first place votes. Harden would need to have an advantage in the estimated 35 remaining votes to gain ground, which seems entirely unlikely.
Before the deficit got to 80 points, I had a doctor of statistics at Wheelock college, Dr. Samuel Cook, run some numbers. He projected that Westbrook wins the award in 98.9% of 10,000 simulations when we had 59 first place votes. Now we’re at 65 and the lead has only grown.
We probably made a few mistakes in our canvassing. It wouldn’t surprise me if Bill Reiter doesn’t have a ballot this year for example. He has the last two years and has spoken regularly about the MVP race on his daily show, but has never firmly stated if he does or does not have a vote this year.
And there’s the chance someone flipped their vote. It would be a groan-inducing bid for piety if Michelle Beadle were to have voted for Westbrook after announcing Kawhi Leonard was MVP in an ESPN press release a week before ballots went out. But it could have happened.
But with the depth our canvass has reached even three or four mistakes won’t derail the projection. If we’ve got two incorrect voters it’s unlikely they’re being replaced by folks who would put Harden first and Westbrook fourth for a seven point swing. And if someone changed their vote the margin of error is only two or three points.
This year NBA fans won’t need a “Woj Bomb” to know Russell Westbrook is “da real MVP” of 2017. They’ve already got the information to find the answer themselves.
This post updates previous article tracking the MVP vote written for The Dream Shake. You can view the previous articles here.