Every year during the run-up to the postseason, NBA prognosticators both amateur and professional attempt to forecast the results of the MVP race. In some seasons, like last year with Steph Curry, one player rises so clearly above the rest that the media vote determining the winner is more a point of procedure than anything else. This is not one of those seasons.

This year, four players have established themselves as major contenders in the MVP race—Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, and LeBron James. Each can make a unique argument for why they’re deserving of the league’s ultimate individual award. But instead of comparing the four players to one another statistically, we took a broader look at the context of the award itself to figure out who history says has the best chance of earning the distinction.