WIFR TV News Anchor Mike Garrigan started a spirited argument on Facebook. His contention is that LeBron James is this year's NBA MVP.


Anyone who follows Mike, a former sports anchor, knows he's a stats nut. That's why we get along so well. Mike has a long list of reasons why he prefers James over James Harden and his main competition, Russell Westbrook. You can find the thread on his Facebook page.

I disagree. I think the advanced statistics today do a far better job of quantifying a player's actual value. The new metrics take pace of play and usage rate into account. The four I look at basketball-reference.com are Player Efficiency Rating (PER), Win Shares, Box Plus/Minus and Value Over Replacement (VOR).

Here are the top players in Player Efficiency Rating:
1. Russell Westbrook, 30.8
2. Kawhi Leonard, 27.7
3. Kevin Durant, 27.6
4. Anthony Davis, 27.6
5. James Harden, 27.3
6. LeBron James, 27.0

Win Shares
1. James Harden, 14.4
2. Rudy Gobert, 13.9
3. Kawhi Leonard, 13.3
4. Jimmy Butler, 13.0
5. Russell Westbrook, 12.8
6. LeBron James, 12.5

Box Plus/Minus
1. Russell Westbrook, 15.6
2. James Harden, 10.0
3. Chris Paul, 8.4
4. LeBron James, 8.4

Value Over Replacement Player
1. Russell Westbrook, 12.0
2. James Harden, 8.5
3. LeBron James, 7.1

Westbrook isn't just more valuable this year, he is much more valuable. And it isn't as if James is playing for a team that is performing markedly better. If anything, Cleveland is a disappointment this year:

Westbrook's Thunder are 45-33.
Harden's Rockets are 53-25.
LeBron's Cavaliers are 51-27.

If you want to pick the most dominant player on the best team then James isn't the argument, it is Leonard and the 60-18 Spurs since the Warriors clearly don't have a top dog.

So if I had a ballot, I'd cast it for Westbrook. I'd even put Harden ahead of James.

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