The debate around the NBA’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award is one of the most controversial sports topics, year in and year out. Seemingly, every year there is a claim that the coveted title should belong to the best player in the sport, while others believe the MVP award should go to the best player on the best team. In recent years, the award has been decided by who had the best season. Still, though, there is room for debate about what it means to have the best season. Russell Westbrook was awarded the league MVP last year based on the context of his season’s historical significance, while pundits argued that players such as James Harden and Kawhi Leonard were more deserving of the award.

To settle this year’s debate we need to define the terms

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “valuable” as “worth a great deal of money,” a secondary definition says “extremely useful or important.” By these definitions, we can look at the question of who is the NBA’s MVP and come to a clear, concise result. The answer this year is none other than two-time MVP, Steph Curry.

According to Basketball-Reference, Steph Curry made $34,682,550 this year, making him worth the most significant amount of money (regarding NBA contracts). LeBron James is a close second at $33 million and some change.

If we were to break the monetary definition of “valuable” down even further, you could say that the most valuable player in the league is the one who gets paid the most by the minutes they play.

Luol Deng made a monstrous $1.32 million for every minute he was on the court in the 2018 season. Worse yet, the former Chicago Bulls Small Forward is under contract through the 2019-2020 season and is scheduled to make a total of $72 million on his current deal.

If making $1.3 million every minute you’re on the floor doesn’t make you the most valuable player in the NBA, at least from a player’s perspective, perhaps we need to rethink the term “valuable.” From an owner’s perspective, there is a case to be made that Clippers Small Forward Jamil Wilson is the most valuable player in the league.

Wilson was paid a smooth $182.48 for every minute that he played this season. I think most NBA fans and analyst would argue that neither Deng, nor Wilson should be considered for the award, yet their value is hard to dispute.

Based on this, who is eligible?

That leaves us with three clear-cut choices for this year’s NBA MVP award: Steph Curry, Luol Deng, and Jamil Wilson.

None of whom will win the award, and that leads us back to the initial question: What does the term “valuable” mean? If we concede that "valuable" does mean "extremely useful or important," then it is likely that this year’s NBA MVP is LeBron James, as he has received more media coverage, be it good or bad, than any other NBA player.

Of course, if we were to dive into the National Basketball Players Association, we would have to conclude that Chris Paul is the NBA MVP as he is the Players Association president, making him the most important player (in a league context).

Advanced metrics at Basketball-Reference have compiled a statistic called Value Over Replacement Player, VORP, that could give us the answer to the question of league MVP.

This year’s VORP leader is LeBron James. The metric is designed to provide an analysis that suggests that if you were to take one player off his team and replace him with a baseline player of -2 box score plus-minus, his VORP is the box score plus-minus, the difference between the two players.

The list of eligible candidates continues to grow

The list of possible candidates has extended to five: Steph Curry, Luol Deng, Jamil Wilson, LeBron James, and Chris Paul. This variety of possible most valuable players should represent a glaring problem with the award; there is no clear-cut definition of what it means to be the NBA’s MVP. Despite not qualifying under any definition of the term “valuable,” James Harden will likely win the award.