Players Awards preview: Who the numbers pick to win

John G. Mabanglo/EPA Pool/AP Photo

On Sunday the National Basketball Players Association will hand out the first annual Basketball Players Awards in Las Vegas. These – unlike the official awards which are voted on by media members - are voted on by the players. Awards include Most Valuable Player, Best Defender, Best Rookie, Clutch Performer, Hardest to Guard, Global Impact Player and Best Home Court Advantage.

What if these awards were up to the numbers to decide?

With so many different statistics to choose from and so many stats measuring different things, it’s impossible (and not nearly as fun) to pick just one to serve as judge and jury for all of them. So with the caveat that a number couldn’t be used more than once, we present the Basketball Players Awards as voted on by a committee of numbers.

Most Valuable Player

The finalists: Stephen Curry, James Harden, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook

What one number (Real Plus-Minus) says: Curry

Curry led all players in ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus, a metric designed to measure a player’s impact on his team’s overall performance. Real Plus-Minus takes into account the strengths and weaknesses of who a player shares the floor with, the pace at which a team plays and components for offense and defense.

While Curry is most known for offense, his improvement on defense has catapulted him to the top of the RPM leaderboard. Curry ranked second in RPM on the offensive end each of the last two seasons. His defensive ranking jumped from 229th in 2013-14 to 85th last season.

The four finalists for this version of the Most Valuable Player award received the most votes for the actual MVP award handed out by the media. Curry easily won the MVP award handed out by the media, collecting 100 of the 130 possible first-place votes.

Best Defender

The finalists: Tony Allen, Jimmy Butler, Anthony Davis, DeAndre Jordan

What one number (Defensive Win Shares) says: Jordan

While there is a defensive Real Plus-Minus, we’re sticking with the rule of not using one statistic more than once. That brings us to Defensive Win Shares.

Designed by Basketball-Reference.com, Defensive Win Shares estimates how many wins a player contributes with his defense. Our winner: Jordan, who finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting but led all players in Defensive Win Shares. Draymond Green finished a close second.

Interestingly enough, Kawhi Leonard, who won NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and Green, who finished second in DPOY voting, are not among finalists for the player award.

Best Rookie

The finalists: Jordan Clarkson, Zach LaVine, Elfrid Payton, Andrew Wiggins

What one number (points per game scored and assisted on) says: Elfrid Payton

NBA Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins averaged more points per game than any other rookie. He also played more than any other rookie and did so on a team that won a league-worst 16 games.

When taking into account both points scored and assisted on, however, Payton was responsible for the most points per game by any rookie. Payton scored 8.9 points per game while leading all rookies with 6.5 assists per game. He was responsible for nearly 24 points per game, which is enough in this space to give him the title Best Rookie.

Wiggins finished second among rookies in most points per game scored or assisted on at 22.2.

An interesting aside: Similar to the Best Defender award in which Leonard and Green are not finalists, Nikola Mirotic and Nerlens Noel, who finished second and third in NBA Rookie of the Year voting, are not among the finalists Sunday.

Global Impact Player

The finalists: Pau Gasol, Kyrie Irving, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker

What one number (Player Efficiency Rating) says: Gasol

While Global Impact Player is not the same as Best International Player, Player Efficiency Rating had Gasol has the NBA’s best player born outside the United States in 2014-15. Gasol’s PER of 22.7 was the best on the Chicago Bulls and a personal best since the 2010-11 season.

Going strictly by PER, it was the best season in Bulls history by an international player, outpacing Tony Kukoc’s 1995-96 season in which he finished with a PER of 20.4.

Among the other finalists, Irving (born in Australia) had the next-highest PER at 21.5.

Clutch Performer

The finalists: Curry, Harden, James, Westbrook

What one number (points per field goal attempt) says: Harden

Harden scored more points in the clutch (final 5 minutes of fourth quarter/OT, score within 5) than every player in the NBA despite ranking outside the top 10 in field goal attempts in the clutch. Why? Because he knows how to get to the free throw line.

Harden made and attempted more free throws in the clutch than any other player. Of the 52 players to take at least 50 shots in the clutch, only Gasol averaged more points per field goal attempt.

While Curry (eighth) and James (ninth) also ranked as efficient scorers in the clutch, the same cannot be said for Westbrook, who ranked 45th in points per FGA among the 52 players with at least 50 clutch attempts.

Hardest to Guard

The finalists: Curry, Harden, James, Westbrook

What one number (Most Unassisted Field Goals) says: Westbrook

Hardest to Guard can mean a lot of things. For this exercise we will keep the logic simple: Who scores the most without the help of others?

Westbrook led the NBA in unassisted field goals this season, edging out Harden and Chris Paul. Seventy-seven percent of Westbrook’s made shots were unassisted, up from 67 percent during the 2013-14 season.

The four finalists for Hardest to Guard are the same as for Most Valuable Player and Clutch Performer.

Best Home Court Advantage

The finalists: AT&T Center (San Antonio), Chesapeake Energy Arena (Oklahoma City), Moda Center (Portland), Oracle Arena (Golden State)

What one number (difference in home versus road win percentage) says: Portland and Oklahoma City

Portland and Oklahoma City were much better at home than on the road. Portland went 32-9 at home but was just 19-22 away from the Moda Center. Oklahoma City went 29-12 at Chesapeake Energy Arena but 16-25 away from home.

They tied for the largest difference in home versus road win percentage. All four of the finalists finished in the top six in terms of largest different in home versus road win percentage.