Ray Allen is runaway MVP of these Finals
I did a Win Contribution analysis of every player on both teams for every game of the 2008 NBA Finals. From that work three clear MVP candidates emerged, but only one of them is eligible for the award.
The three entities most responsible for the Celtics lock on a 17th World Championship are: Ray Allen, the Boston Celtics defense, and Phil Jackson. I'll deal with the latter two in subsequent posts. For now:
1. Ray Allen is doing what we said he might
In a post prior to the Finals, we laid out the history between Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant since Allen was traded from Milwaukee (I apologize for the purple outline. I can't get rid of it, its very frustrating). We pointed out in that post that Allen has outperformed Kobe by Win Contribution numbers in 13 of their 16 matchups. We further pointed out that in those matchups, Allen has had an spectacular Win Contribution average of +0.938, while Kobe's has been subpar at -0.152.
At the time, one commenter probably summed up the feelings of most readers of this column when he said the post was an "interesting angle" but that we were probably "way off" in suggesting that Kobe would struggle either with the Celtics or Ray Allen. We were actually dead on.
Although Kobe and Allen have not been head-to-head the entire time (that was not the premise of the post anyway) Allen has dominated Kobe once again, and, as we further predicted, the Lakers are sunk because of it.
The matchup between Bryant and Allen has played out precisely as the post would have predicted. Just as in their previous 16 matchups, Ray Allen has out played Kobe in 75% of the games in the Finals, and each of the player's Win Contribution averages are eerily close to the mark as well. Ray Allen has averaged a stunning +1.036 while Bryant has once again been a subpar -0.123.
If you know of anyone besides this stupid little blog who saw that coming, let me know.
2. Walter Ray Allen is the clear MVP
Its not even close. Allen's offense has single handedly carried the Celtics past the Lakers (well, Allen and the team's outstanding defense). Only two other Celtics have even made a positive Win Contribution, James Posey and Leon Powe, and their contributions were "low average" while Allen's +1.000 contribution qualifies as "outstanding". (Note: Incorrect. Eddie House and Rajon Rondo have also made slightly positive contributions).
3. The LVP has been Ronnie Turiaf
All Turiaf has done with his playing time is damage the Lakers chances of winning a championship. By Win Contribution, he is the least valuable player in the series, edging out the useless PJ Brown. With Win Contribution, the player's impact on the overall "Win Score" is actually his Win Contribution times 5. If you multiply Turiaf's negative Win Contribution by five, you get 3.9. Now, if you assume an average producing player took those minutes instead of Turiaf (meaning a player with a Win Contribution of +0.000), the Lakers team Win Score suddenly becomes 39.2. If that were their actual Win Score, I can almost guarantee you this series is 2-2 at worst. That's how negative Turiaf has been to his team. He has had zero "good games" -- defined as games in which he made a positive Win Contribution -- and I believe that in at least three of the four games his Win Score production was actually negative. (And with all of that, I heard Stephen A Smith suggesting Turiaf should start in front of Gasol!! That's Smith's level of expertise for you.)
4. Why does Doc play Brown and Cassell?
Its become comical to watch how bad PJ Brown and Sam Cassell have played in each and every game of this series. Yet Doc Rivers keeps playing them, for some ungodly reason. The two have combined to produce eight "bad" games, I think 7 of which can be deemed "awful". Their combined negative Win Contribution to the Celtics has been -1.3. Again, if you assume that both of them were replaced by players with average Win Contributions, the Celtics would have a Win Score right now of 47.7. If all other things stayed the same, I guarantee categorically that if that were the case this series would have been a 4 game Celtic sweep (I'm making it sound easier than it is. As you can see from the charts, average players are hard to come by. In fact, because of the way talent is distributed in basketball, on every single NBA team the majority of players make negative Win Contributions. The trick is to make sure those negative contributions are as minimal as possible.)
5. Tomorrow I will discuss the curious playing time decisions made by Phil Jackson. For now, however, please notice how many of the Lakers bench players are positive Win Contributors. You will be stunned to learn how minimal their combined playing time has been.