Anthony Davis won’t win the NBA MVP award in 2015, and he’ll never win one so long as he plays for the New Orleans Pelicans.
The MVP hype surrounding Davis this season, which is borderline preposterous, would lead you to believe differently.
Don’t get me wrong, Anthony Davis is a really good basketball player. Easily one of the NBA’s ten best players right now. But winning the NBA MVP has proven to be for a very select group of players – a group that’s determined by circumstance as much as it is by otherworldly talent.
Davis qualifies for the latter, but to put it briefly: The NBA MVP is an award almost specifically reserved for guards or wing players that have special seasons on a really good team. And that doesn’t even include the importance of exposure, which you get very little of in New Orleans, LA.
Let me preface by saying this has nothing to do with the Pelicans’ slow start in 2015. It’s something that’s been brewing in my mind ever since I saw the Anthony Davis MVP hype train leave the station in August, naturally culminated by this dweeb tweeting out his vote for Davis on opening night.
My MVP prediction: Anthony Davis. Stephen A's: Westbrook. (Not if Kevin Durant stays healthy.)
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) October 27, 2015
Ironically, Davis and New Orleans played the Golden State Warriors and defending MVP Steph Curry on opening night – which gives us a great point of context to examine why Anthony Davis won’t win the MVP this season.
And why he may never win one.
We’ll start by looking back at all the past MVP winners since the 1999-2000 season (a fair starting point in regards to what today’s NBA game is like). In that time, the splits between guards/wings vs. power forwards/centers winning the MVP is an overwhelming 11-5 split, with the last big man to take it home being Dirk Nowitzki in 2006-2007.
Right off the bat, without considering anything else, AD’s odds to win MVP are reduced because of the position he plays.
The five big-man MVP winners were Shaquille O’Neal (’99-00), Tim Duncan twice (’01-02′, ’02-’03), Kevin Garnett (’03-’04), and the aforementioned Nowitzki (’06-’07).
All four of those players are future Hall of Famers.
His Team And Their Conference Affiliation
The second reason Anthony Davis won’t win the MVP in 2015, and for the foreseeable future, is the team he plays for and the conference he plays in.
The Western Conference is absolutely loaded, and Davis’ Pelicans are absolutely not.
The NBA is a league defined by its players and not the other way around. However, understanding that is imperative in order to see the correlation between a prospective MVP candidate and how well his team finishes the regular season.
If you go back to the year 2000, only two MVP winners were on teams that won less than 50 games. Those two teams were the 2000-2001 Philadelphia 76ers (43-39) when Allen Iverson was crowned league MVP, and the 2011-2012 Miami Heat (46-20) when LeBron James took home his third.
To split hairs, the latter of those shouldn’t even count considering 2011-2012 was a lockout-shortened season and Miami would have cleared the 50-win mark by five or six games in a full season. But you see where I’m going.
The point remains that if your team doesn’t contend in your conference – specifically, clear 50 wins – you’re likely not winning the MVP award. Especially if you’re a big man like Davis.
Out of the five teams with MVP-winning big men since 2000, none of them finished with worse than a 58-24 record (Garnett ’03-’04, Duncan ’01-’02). Shaq’s Lakers won 67 games, and Dirk’s Mavs/Duncan’s ’02-’03 Spurs won 60 games apiece.
For context, Stephen Curry – who might still be the best bet to win 2015 MVP – and the Warriors won 67 games last year.
The third and final deterrent for Anthony Davis’ MVP campaign, at least for the next few seasons, is his age. As of this writing, Anthony Davis is only 22 years old. In the time frame I’ve already set, only one player has won the MVP award at that age and that was Derrick Rose in ’10-’11.
Next youngest is LeBron, who led the Cavaliers to 66 wins at 24 years old.
Those same five big men winners (Shaq, Duncan, Duncan, Garnett, Dirk) were 27, 25, 26, 27, and 28 respectively. Obviously, the age factor can be somewhat arbitrary and guys like Rose and James have proven that you can single-handedly carry a team only one year removed from legally drinking.
However, it still always circles back to the position you play and the team you play for. And while Anthony Davis is as versatile as NBA big men come, carrying a team like the Pelicans to the top of the West, with limited exposure in New Orleans, is a damn near insurmountable hurdle.
I understand why people were quick to hype the Chicago-born product as an MVP favorite this season. At 21 he led his team to the playoffs and its best record since 2010. He’s a certified fantasy basketball god and easy to root for.
But assuming that the step to NBA MVP is imminent for all great players would be blind, to say the least.
There’s a lot more than sheer talent – maybe too much, honestly – that goes into becoming an NBA MVP, and unless all of Anthony Davis’ moons align, he’s not going to be winning one anytime soon.
Or at least until 2022 when he gets the hell out of New Orleans.