The highest individual award that an NBA player can receive is the Most Valuable Player award (MVP). This designation is given to the player who is regarded as the best player in the league that season. Like many of the official NBA awards, the criteria used to determine the winner is "fuzzy" at best - there are many different ways a person can define "best" or "most valuable".
The NBA MVP award has been given out since 1955-56, and started out being awarded to a player based on peer voting. Since 1980-81, however, the award has been voted on by members of the media. Since the criteria used for voting is very open-ended, it's essentially a collection of personal opinions.
Of course, this is SportingCharts, so we will use a more defined approach to determine our list of most valuable players. Two of the most effective metrics we have to determine player value are PER (Player Efficiency Rating), and plus/minus (+/-).
PER takes into account all statistics kept by the NBA, and weights the player's production by minutes played per game, and number of team possessions per game. The PER of an "average" NBA player is 15.0. Plus/minus is a straight-forward calculation made by looking at team scoring when a player is on the court, team scoring when the same player is not on the court, and finding the difference. We also have the ability to estimate PER of a particular player's opponents, thanks to work done at 82games.com.
So, can we use all this information to determine our list of most valuable players? Absolutely! In fact, we can come up with a single number that represents all the data previously mentioned, Roland Beech of 82games calls it his Simple Rating. This metric takes into account offensive PER, defensive PER, and plus/minus and rolls it all into one numerical value.
Now, the hard work is done. We can easily throw out any results that come from this analysis that aren't statistically significant - we're only looking at players who played heavy minutes.
Now, we're ready for the countdown. The five most valuable players in the NBA this season were:
We begin our list of superstars with one of the most brilliant young players in the league, Kevin Durant. He has an electric offensive game, as he can score in a variety of ways, and often does so in spectacular fashion. His defense may be underrated, as his very solid defensive PER would indicate. If there is a weakness here, it would be his plus/minus. For a player of his caliber, +4.2 is pretty pedestrian. However, due to his overall productivity, Durant remains one of the top-ranked players in our race for Most Valuable Player.
Unfortunately, for the Magic, Howard sustained a back injury late in the season, and is now done for the year. Before he was taken out by his ailing back, however, Howard was one of the most dominant players in basketball. His offensive game isn't real flashy, but very effective. He has powerful moves in the post that allow him to get easy layups and dunks on a regular basis. He's added a hook shot that compliments his power moves nicely. Howard is one of the best rebounders in the NBA, and also one of the most feared defenders...a very solid candidate for MVP.
Wade was part of that famed 2003 draft class that included LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh (notice we didn't mention Darko Milicic). Dwyane Wade made an instant impact upon entering the league, playing with poise beyond his years. He can do it all on the basketball floor, offensively and defensively, but what is perhaps most impressive about this 6-4 guard is that he always seems to come through in "crunch time". Wade has made plays at the end of close games time after time, even with a teammate as talented as LeBron James because that's what the great ones do.
Where would the Clippers be this year without Chris Paul? They seemingly gave up quite a bit to acquire Paul back in December, 2011 when they completed a trade with New Orleans. However, they got even more in return as Paul has been nothing short of stellar since joining Los Angeles. His individual production has been amazing, but more importantly, he makes those players around him better. His plus/minus of +14.8 quantifies just how important he is to his club and the Clips simply aren't very good without Paul in there running the show.
1. LeBron James, Miami Heat
By a wide margin, our 2011-12 Most Valuable Player is LeBron James. Everything about his season was exceptional - incredible productivity, outstanding defensive play and huge value to his team, as his +/- numbers indicate. James has found a way to translate his game from being "the man" in Cleveland, to working well with other great players like Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. The fact that James has been able to produce at this level, on a team loaded with talent, speaks volumes. Many wondered how things would work out when James "took his talents to South Beach," but he's definitely found a way to make it work.
Officially: LeBron James won the award for the NBA MVP for the 2011-2012 season, which is the third time he has one the award in four years.