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2016 NBA playoffs: How MVP status, Team Experience and Road Form Affects Finals Success

- investigates the influence MVP status, team experience and road form has on chances of NBA Finals success.

The 2016 NBA playoffs are reaching boiling point, and Thursday could see the first of our last four clinch their place in the Finals as Oklahoma City Thunder take a 3-1 lead over Golden State Warriors into Game 5.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Cavaliers reclaimed a 3-2 lead over Toronto Raptors on Wednesday and are hoping their advantage in star power will be enough to see them through to the last hurdle.

Star power could be just one telling factor, too, as investigates the influence MVP status, team experience and road form has on chances of NBA Finals success.

The More MVPs, The Merrier

The Most Valuable Player award is an obvious indicator of talent, and history suggests the team boasting a greater of these particular accolades is more likely to go on and succeed.

LeBron James (Cavaliers), Kevin Durant (Thunder) and Steph Curry (Warriors) are the only MVP winners present in this year’s conference finals, and the stats show the advantage lies with the Cavs.

MVP Winner's performance in NBA Finals

Championship Team Has Current MVP Finals Success Rate
Yes 23 (38%)
No 37 (62%)

Teams in the NBA Finals boasting more combined MVP awards than their opponents have triumphed in 37 of the 60 finals to date (62%) since the award has been handed out, and LeBron has a gleaming four in his cabinet.

Durant has one to his name and Curry is runner-up with two—not to mention a back-to-back defending champion—but it doesn’t always pay to be the reigning MVP in the Finals; teams with the current MVP have won just 23 championship showdowns (38%).

Age Isn’t Just a Number

It’s often that team who gets the perfect blend of wisdom and youthful exuberance that does well in the NBA Finals, and the figures once again point to the Cavs having the advantage this year.

While Oklahoma’s Nazr Mohammed (38) sits as the oldest player left in the playoffs, Cleveland’s squad boasts an average age of 30, higher than the Warriors (28), the Thunder (27) and the young Raptors (26).

2016 NBA Conference Finalists Average Age

Team Oldest Player Youngest Player Squad Average
Cleveland Cavaliers Richard Jefferson (35) Kyrie Irving (24) 30
Golden State Warriors Anderson Varejao (33) Kevon Looney (20) 28
Oklahoma City Thunder Nazr Mohammed (38) Cameron Payne (21) 27
Toronto Raptors Luis Scola (36) Bruno Caboclo (20) 26

Why is this significant? Because the team with the higher average age has a 10 in 16 chance (63%) of winning the championship.

On The Road Again

Away form is critical to any championship-winning team, evidenced by the fact teams that won more regular-season road games than their Finals opponent claimed 39 championships (65%), while teams with an inferior away record won only 16 (27%).

NBA 2016 Regular season road records

Result Total
Team With Superior Road Form Won 39 (65%)
Team With Inferior Road Form Won 16 (27%)
Tied Regular-Season Road Record 5 (8%)

Of the four teams remaining this season, it’s the Warriors who have looked best on the road, winning 39 times in foreign territory, while the Cavs (24-17), Raptors (24-17) and Thunder (23-18) haven't been quite as impressive.

Should Golden State pull off the incredible and somehow rescue a place in the finals, their road record suggests they’ve got the goods to deliver, while the margins are incredibly slight between the remaining trio.