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Russell Westbrook will win the NBA MVP award over James Harden

We spent two weeks chasing down 62 of the 100 MVP votes. And it appears Westbrook will win.

NBA: Playoffs-Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets
Westbrook will edge Harden for the 2017 NBA MVP trophy
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

This article was published on April 21st. We published a subsequent story which reflects 72 total votes here.

With the help of Twitter and crowd-sourcing we spent 10 days searching for the NBA’s 100 MVP votes in the hope of introducing the world to James Harden, 2017 MVP winner.

Like a mad scientist who began their research with the best intentions, we’re dismayed by our ultimate discovery: Russell Westbrook will win the 2017 NBA MVP award.

Our crowd-sourcing and canvassing has found 62 of the NBA’s 100 first place votes for 2017 MVP. There was no announced list, so we identified the votes and that a voter had a ballot using Twitter, interviews, podcasts, articles and TV broadcasts.

And Westbrook will edge Harden.

And right now we estimate the MVP race, after 62 first place votes, to be at:

Russell Westbrook: 522

James Harden: 456

View our comprehensive spreadsheet of votes and our methodology here

A first-place vote speaks the loudest by carrying a three point margin with it. First is worth 10, second 7, third 5, fourth 3 and fifth 1.

Through a hard count of the NBA MVP votes the first place tally of votes has Westbrook in the lead:

Westbrook: 39 first place votes

Harden: 18 first place votes

Leonard: 3 first place votes

James: 2 first place votes

All that really matters is first, second and third. As we're yet to see Harden or Westbrook placed lower than third in the 23 ballots we have with clear votes 1 - 3.

While the 66-point deficit isn't too sizable numerically, it is in the context of the race. There's only 2,600 points for all five places over all 100 ballots. The most points a single player could receive is 1,000, or all 100 of the first place votes (Westbrook has appeared at third four times to Harden’s one).

The deficit Harden is facing is enormous because Harden only gains three points for each first place ballot, which is of course negated by each Westbrook first place ballot. Harden would need 13 yet-unseen ballots to mirror Kevin O’Connor’s, which is Harden-James-Westbrook, for a five point spread, just to draw virtually even in our estimate.

Sure, there’s a ton of factors here, but it’s unlikely Harden can make up this ground.

Before we got to 62 first place votes counted we asked an associate professor of statistics at Wheelock College, Dr. Samuel Cook, to give us the odds.

With 59 total first place votes counted, Dr. Cook projects if the remaining 41 first and second place votes only go to Harden and Westbrook, and each voter puts Harden in 1st with probability 50%, then in 10,000 simulations Westbrook wins 99.9% of the time.

This probability drops minimally to 98.9% if you assume Westbrook will get more 3rd place votes than Harden at the current trend.

At odds like that, even if we've made three or four mistakes in our canvassing, crowd-sourcing or estimations it's not enough to derail this prediction.

No matter the result of the Rockets-Thunder series Russell Westbrook has won the MVP award.

See all the votes, sources and math here:

View our comprehensive spreadsheet of votes and our methodology here

**UPDATE Noon Central 4/22**

Since publishing we’ve added two more votes to the MVP tracker bringing the total count of first place votes to 64 of 100.

Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald and Antoni Daimiel of Spain’s Moviestar+ both voted for Russell Westbrook.

Those votes bring our real time score estimate to:

  • Russell Westbrook: 543
  • James Harden: 470

That’s a 73 point lead for Westbrook with nearly two-thirds of the first place votes tallied.

MVP vote estimate after 64 votes

**UPDATE 7 p.m. Central 4/24**

We’re still sitting at 64 confirmed votes. Will continue adding to the tally as we find them. With 2/3rds of the votes already discovered progress is a bit slower.

Today the NBA said it will announce the three All-NBA teams before the NBA awards show. Placement on those teams triggers added contract incentives, further making the case for disclosing the winners of the awards sooner, rather than later. This decision partially vindicates our successful endeavor to find the NBA MVP before the awards show.

**UPDATE 3 p.m. Central 5/2**

Shout out to Moe. I have no idea who he is, but he’s our most diligent Twitter vote tracker. Thank you, Moe.

With Moe’s good work we’ve added Michelle Beadle to our vote tracker and she’s Kawhi Leonard. She officially declared on NBA Countdown that she wouldn’t reveal her vote, but in the ESPN press release announcing her new role as Countdown host her quote included a comment that Leonard is the MVP.

She also hosted a Sportsnation show complete with a “Leonard for MVP” banner in March. If she were to have voted for someone else it would be a groan-inducing reversal done to avoid the impression of being a San Antonio homer without the integrity necessary to be a voter.

Her comments have all put Russell Westbrook second. Meaning we should presume James Harden is third and that’s a net of 2 points for Westbrook.

Our model does not project third place votes that are missing for Harden or Westbrook. Meaning our updated margin will reflect a 5 point net for Westbrook over Harden.

After gathering 65 first place votes and 39 second place votes we’re projecting Westbrook will win the MVP award and that the vote we know currently stands at:

  • Russell Westbrook: 550 points
  • James Harden: 470 points

The first place votes we’ve tracked are:

  • Russell Westbrook: 41 first place votes
  • James Harden: 18 first place votes
  • Kawhi Leonard: 4 first place votes
  • LeBron James: 2 first place votes

We’ll keep updating as more votes come in. As the NBA Awards show is still over a month away.

**UPDATE Noon Central 5/8**

Japan’s ballot, held by Toko Miyaji of “Spots Graphic Number,” has been disclosed. Russell Westbrook was first and James Harden second.

This gives Westbrook another three point gain and means we have presumably identified two-thirds of the total votes (66 of 100).

The projection remains, Westbrook will win the MVP award. Our estimation of the MVP vote is:

  • Russell Westbrook: 560 points
  • James Harden: 477 points

Westbrook’s first point lead is 83 points.