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All-NBA vote disclosures confirm Russell Westbrook will win MVP over James Harden

With 72 NBA MVP votes confirmed, Harden is definitely going to lose.

NBA: Playoffs-Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook will capture the 2017 MVP award over James Harden
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

*Scroll to the bottom of this story for the latest vote total — Updated 5/20, 2 p.m. CST to reflect 72 total votes

The NBA’s disclosure of the 100 voters who compose the 2017 NBA awards panel all but confirms our April prediction: the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook will win the 2017 NBA MVP award over Houston Rockets point guard James Harden.

Sure, the NBA awards show on June 26 must go on. It’s unbelievably and inexplicably still five weeks away.

But Russell Westbrook should start practicing this:

And James Harden should start practicing this:

That’s because we spent a month unearthing 70 of the 100 first place votes for NBA MVP and can comfortably project Westbrook will take the award.

The only thing lacking in our previous projection was certainty over the MVP voting panel composition. But the All-NBA voting confirmed our “research” (can we call it that?) (Ed. Note: Yes, we can).

Now that we know the 100 voters, we know who will win the award.

With 70 of 100 first place votes tallied we project the NBA MVP race to have been out of James Harden’s reach for weeks. But the race currently stands at:

  • Russell Westbrook: 600
  • James Harden: 505

Of the 70 first place votes we’ve counted:

  • Russell Westbrook: 46 first place votes
  • James Harden: 18 first place votes
  • Kawhi Leonard: 5 first place votes
  • LeBron James: 1 first place vote

View our comprehensive spreadsheet of votes and our methodology here

If this is your first time viewing our MVP tally here’s how the voting and our prediction works.

In MVP voting a first-place vote speaks the loudest with a three point margin over second place. First is worth 10, second 7, third 5, fourth 3 and fifth 1.

For the MVP race all that really matters is first, second and third. As we're yet to see Harden or Westbrook place lower than third in the 25 ballots we have with clear votes 1-3.

While the 95-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.

Harden is facing an insurmountable lead because The Beard only gains three points for each first place ballot, which is of course negated by each Westbrook first place ballot. And with two thirds of the first place votes identified, it’s highly unlikely the trend of voting will flip against Westbrook and for Harden.

Catching up with Westbrook would require 24 of the remaining 31 ballots to have Harden first and Westbrook third. An entirely unrealistic scenario. Harden winning first place on every remaining ballot isn’t even enough to close the gap if Westbrook placed second on each one.

To produce the 600-505 margin, we simulated the second place votes we’re missing. This is because we know 19 Westbrook first place votes with no identified second place vote and 7 Harden first place ballots with the same circumstances. We estimate how many of those ballots would have their first round foe in second place by awarding second place points at the rate of first or second place ballots a player appears on.

We think this prediction is pretty darn accurate. Before knowing the voting panel, we had identified 66 first place votes. In doing so, we made three mistakes for a solid accuracy rate of 95.4%. We’ve since removed those three votes and replaced them with Sage Steele, Reggie Miller and the Bay Area’s Anthony Slater.

There’s a chance there’s still a few mistakes here with the votes. Michelle Beadle could have spent all year beating the Kawhi for MVP drum and voted Westbrook at the last second, but there’s no chance so many occurrences derail the prediction.

Russell Westbrook’s triple-double season will be immortalized with an MVP trophy. While Harden’s top all-time offensive season will be the runner up.

The question is: Will anyone even remember any of this when the NBA finally hands out the award under the shadow of a Golden State Warriors or Cleveland Cavaliers championship?

There’s certainly no reason for suspense.

**UPDATE Saturday 5/20 at 2 p.m. Central to reflect 72 total votes**

We’ve identified Ron Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal and Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe as Russell Westbrook voters. This brings the total vote disclosure to 72 of 100 first place MVP votes.

Those new votes put the real time estimate of the MVP race at:

  • Russell Westbrook: 620
  • James Harden: 518

And the tally of first place votes at:

  • Russell Westbrook: 48 first place votes
  • James Harden: 18 first place votes
  • Kawhi Leonard: 5 first place votes
  • LeBron James: 1 first place vote