Four games, three stars on a Sunday night. As always there are some honorable mention guys left out — Tony Parker with his 21, Monta Ellis with 30 points and 9 assists, and Al Jefferson with 30 against the Clippers front line almost made the cut. But instead, it’s an all-perimeter guys three stars tonight.
Third Star: Tayshaun Prince (20 points, including game winning free throws).
Someone in the comments will tell me that Monta Ellis deserved to be here, and he had a great game including the shot that put the Bucks up two with 1:06 left in the game. But Tayshaun is here because of what happened on the two possessions after Ellis tied this game — the Pistons went to Prince and went with isolation sets. On the first one he backed Monta Ellis down into the paint and hit a hook shot over him to tie it up. Next time down, with 10 seconds left he backed his man down, spun into the lane and drew the foul on the help defender. Then sank two free throws to give the Pistons a quality win at home.
Second Star: DeMarcus Cousins(12 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists)
This is the first career triple-double for Cousins as he had a big night against the Celtics front line — and this is why other teams are interested in him despite his off-the-court issues and fights with coaches. Cousins is talented and that is beyond question. What was impressive is Cousins’ shot was not falling (4-of-12 shooting) but he compensated by dishing assists and also making some key defensive plays to lift the Kings over the Celtics.
First: Caron Butler(29 points, 6-of-6 from three)
The Clippers are up to 17 wins in a row and the Clips can thank Butler, who had 17 of his points in the first quarter and another dozen in the third against the Jazz Sunday.
In a sense I should put Chris Paul here because he made this happen — Butler is not one of the go-to Clippers scorers (9.5 points a game), but he was knocking down everything and CP3 kept feeding him the rock. Butler was 6-of-6 from three and had his 29 points on just 14 shots. But he also hit them at key times — he hit a big three in the third quarter as the Jazz were starting to close in.
Last year, Russell Westbrook had a historic season on his way to the MVP award, with James Harden and Kawhi Leonard right on his heels. But heading into this season, the dynamic for MVP — and many of the NBA awards — feels very different and wide open.
In this latest PBT Extra, I lay out my preseason predictions for every award — LeBron James for MVP, Ben Simmons for Rookie of the Year, and on down the list. There are a few leaps and surprises in there (predicting Most Improved or Sixth Man before the season is a crap shoot, so why not gamble).
Now the predictions season is over, let’s get on to the games.
Jazz: Dante Exum undergoing surgery after shoulder injury
The following is a medical update on Utah Jazz guard Danté Exum who suffered a separated left shoulder on October 6 vs. Phoenix.
After further evaluation, Exum (6-6, 190, Australia) has elected to undergo surgery to stabilize the AC joint of his left shoulder. The surgery is scheduled to take place Tuesday, October 24 in Los Angeles. Further updates will be provided when appropriate.
Exum (obviously) didn’t receive a contract extension before today’s deadline, so he’ll become a free agent next summer. After one full missed season already and two years of limited effectiveness, it’s not even clear Utah will extend Exum a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent. The former No. 5 pick almost certainly won’t meet the starter criteria, which means his qualifying offer would be worth $4,333,931 (down from $6,619,903 based on his draft slot).