MediaQuant’s expanded coverage of professional athletes enables us to make quick work of today’s top NBA, NFL and MLB athlete brands.  And since we’re in the midst of an amazing NBA season – less the Knicks of course – we’re at the inevitable point of placing our bets on the NBA’s 2015 MVP.

One of my favorite “new media” sites is where Ian Levy posted a very detailed and insightful take on the top three likely candidates.

No real surprises to anyone following the NBA this year.  From a media perspective, the short list of 3 players are all prominent, but not dominant media brands.

Lets start with Stephen Curry, aka Steph, up +3 or 6 percent at a moderate 55 media rating.  As Ian Levy pointed out in his post, the Warriors are currently having the fourth-most dominant regular season of all-time. This is a team winning basketball games at an .800 clip — and Curry is the heart and soul of the whole operation.  Interestingly, the Warriors themselves are of -10 points or 18 percent at 58, still well above their 12-month average, but off their high of 68 from the All-Star break period in February.

Next up is the man-with-THE-beard James Harden, also up +3 points or 5 percent at 54, well above his 12-month media rating average of 48.  Like Stephen Curry, Harden is only carrying a moderate media rating metric compared to other brands and athletes covered in the broad online and offline media channels.

And last but some consider a league favorite for the MVP title, Russell Westbrook, no change over last month with a current media rating of 59, slightly above both Curry and Harden.

I like to look at the media rating details to see if an athlete brand is outperforming his/her sector.

Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry the media-facing brand is in quite the envious, and well-deserved position.  From core rating metrics to media momentum, the numbers are impressive:

Don’t be confused by what looks like a few complicated charts on Curry.  His numbers are as impressive as they are simple.  His media rating, the core/single indicator of the brand’s media prominence, is significantlly up over the prior 2-season period.  Stephen Curry was a NBA unknown from late 2012 when his media rating went from 32 upwards…and hasn’t stopped since.

Besides his current rating of 55 (which is actually not that high compared to his peers…but I’ll get into that later), there are two related metrics that really help tell the brand’s long and short term media story – CUME value and Media Momentum.   Curry’s CUME value, essentially his cumulative long-term media growth rate is +22 percent.  That is an extremely high value to maintain over 4-years and attests to both his performance in front of both his fans and the media.  The second is his media momentum or MACD (moving average convergence/divergence), is up +42 percent for March. When a brand’s (or trend’s)  long and short term media rating values converge, this metric goes up (positive).  Likewise, when the two values diverge from each other, it goes down (negative).  MACD is used extensively in technical stock trading scenarios and it is perfectly applicable to gauging whether sustained media coverage is building behind a brand or trend, or whether the media coverage is simply spiking for the current period.

As a true media MVP, Stephen Curry has all the key metrics of a true brand on fire in the NBA.  The only exception is his current media rating value in comparison to the broader NBA players ranked above him.

James Harden

James Harden is unequivocally pulling off an amazing comeback this year, and also carrying a team that has not tapped its full potential.

Harden’s media story is not as pronounced as Curry’s as the brand’s long term media rating values have been fairly steady over the last 3-seasons (accounting for the typical seasonality that is the NBA).

If you focus just on the prior 12-month period, you get the whole Harden media story.  The brand rose from a a low of 39 to a peak of 56 last month – an amazing increase that mirrors Harden’s efforts on the court.  Media Momentum (MACD) has moved from a negative position to a consistently strong +40 percent for the current month.  Again, the brand is strong, rising and wrapped in sustained momentum. All in all, very competitive to Curry’s media brand performance.

Russell Westbrook

Westbrook’s media performance is illustrates the classic comeback “U” shaped curve.  Here we have a brand that hit its media rating high in 2011 and again in 2015 –  4 years apart!  The media drops in 2012-2013 are almost entirely due to the injuries that took Westbrook out of the media spotlight.  And as someone who has had my share of sport related injuries, Westbrook is the a model for how recoveries can and will happen.  He bounced back from some serious shit to hit multiple triples within weeks of returning to the league.  But even a few weeks off can sink your media rating as other players quickly backfill the media’s appetite for storylines.

Westbrook’s media momentum ticked upward in June 2014, helping his media position and securing him as the best of the three in overall media rating value at 59 points.   After taking the All Star MVP position in February and solid media numbers towards the end of calendar 2014, Westbrook has given up some media ground on the momentum front at +11% this month.

Overall Russell Westbrook’s current media rating position is moderate to strong and well above his trailing 12-month average.  Momentum has not swung negative and with the playoffs looming, there’s plenty of upside for his steadily improving media brand position.  Will he take the coveted 2015 MVP title?  Media ratings suggest he’s in the race, but Stephen Curry is right there with significantly stronger and consistent momentum going to the selection period.

Checkout full NBA Player media rating news and analytics here.