Anthony Davis was a stat-stuffing machine throughout the first week of the 2016-17 NBA season, averaging 37.7 points, 12.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 3.0 steals and 3.0 blocks.
MVP-like numbers, right?
Absolutely, but if history is any indication, he has no legitimate shot to walk away with the revered trophy come next May.
According to an article published on ESPN earlier today, Kevin Pelton reveals that players who have not been on teams in the top-10 have yet to win a Most Valuable Player Award during the modern era (1980-present). And, it hasn’t mattered if any of these teams included the best player in the league (per the statistical measure of WARP) during the season in question.
Even in a season where the normal rules might not apply, odds are this one still will. No player on a team outside the league's top 10 has won MVP in the modern era.
In fact, only one -- Jordan in 1986-87, when the Bulls went 40-42 -- has even finished second. That might rule out Anthony Davis despite his impressive start to the season, and it makes finishing in the league's top 10 a must for Harden, Lillard and Westbrook. After all, they don't want to end up in a no-win lane.
Pelton’s data points out that the best players on the best team have almost always won the award and players in the top-5 on the best team more times than not.
None of this should come as a surprise despite the fact that so many recent preseason articles proclaimed the 2016-17 season was going to be a wide open race, consisting of up to 21 potential candidates. Nearly two years ago, I took a look at the likelihood of Anthony Davis winning the 2015 MVP trophy and my research spit on his chances.
In just looking at the data since the turn of the millennium, it's not preferred that a player's team finish in the top 2 within their conference, it's been mandatory.
There is no doubt Anthony Davis is having a historically fantastic season: a 31.8 PER and a .291 WS/48. However, it's not leaps and bounds better than anything we've seen the last 15 years, so unless the Pelicans somehow manage to go a ridiculous 27-2 after the All-Star break (to get to 54 wins, the lowest team win total from the list above), Davis' first MVP will have to wait for now.
It’s all about the team standings, folks. So with the Pelicans expected to finish at best near the playoff bubble, Davis’ greatness, no matter how truly special it reveals to be, will not be fully recognized.