My latest project is to create a Hall of Fame projection system for the WNBA based on the similar system at Basketball-Reference.com. However, in order to complete one of the components, I had to create Most Valuable Player Shares for WNBA players.
What is an MVP Share? The problem with the MVP award is that it's a winner-take-all system. Let's take 2005, which was the closest MVP race in WNBA history. Sheryl Swoopes won the MVP with 327 votes, with Lauren Jackson coming in second by two votes with 325.
Result: Swoopes gets a nice shiny MVP statuette. (And God knows whose window it's sitting in right now - Swoopes went bankrupt and lost it all.) Jackson gets a "nice try". Bumpkus. Not even a pat on the back.
MVP Shares is a system to give "partial credit". For 2005, we assign Swoopes's 327 votes as the MVP standard: she earns 1.00 MVP Shares. However, Jackson earns 325/327 of an MVP Share, or 0.993 MVP Shares for 2005.
player MVP Share for Year X = (MVP votes player receives in Year X)/(Most MVP votes received by any player in Year X)
Every year, a player has the potential for receiving zero MVP Shares - they received no votes, or one MVP Share - they received the majority of votes, or some other number between zero and one. From there, we can tally up the total number of MVP Shares received by any player over the course of her career.
Now all we need are...the vote totals. Lucky that WNBA fan pilight has kept a running total of votes over the years - I couldn't have done this without him. The only fault the system has is that we don't have the ABL MVP vote totals. I believe that they exist, but all of them are hidden behind internet paywalls.
WNBA Career Leaders in MVP Shares
1. Lisa Leslie, 6.40
2. Lauren Jackson, 4.61
3. Sheryl Swoopes, 4.21
4. Tamika Catchings, 3.40
5. Cynthia Cooper, 2.98
6. Diana Taurasi, 2.61
7. Yolanda Griffith, 2.34
8. Becky Hammon, 1.30
9. Tina Thompson, 1.27
10. Candace Parker, 1.12
As you can see, the list above is dominated by former MVP winners. Lisa Leslie is a full MVP Share above her nearest competitor - the only year she didn't get an MVP vote was 2007. Let's do another list:
WNBA Career Leaders in MVP Shares Who Never Won an MVP Award
1. Tamika Catchings, 3.40
2. Becky Hammon, 1.30
3. Tina Thompson, 1.27
4. Sue Bird, 1.00
5. Katie Smith, 0.94
6. Lindsay Whalen, 0.91
7. Katie Douglas, 0.88
8. Jennifer Gillom, 0.72
9. Chamique Holdsclaw, 0.69
10. Sophia Young, 0.65
Catchings probably should have won an actual MVP somewhere along the line. The other players either are known for coming really close to an MVP at some time (Whalen) or gather votes over time (Holdsclaw).