Getty Images

Five players most likely to win the MVP Award

1 Comment

Last season, we entered the year with a wide-open MVP race that could have gone a lot of directions, but in the end Russell Westbrook and James Harden had put up such ridiculous numbers they stood out at the top (although Kawhi Leonard was lurking).

This season, we are back to that wide open race — the tectonic shifts in players moving to teams with other superstars this summer has changed the race. Here are the five guys that have the best shot at winning the award.

1) LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s a four-time MVP — and finished in the top three in voting for eight straight seasons until he was fourth in 2017 — who has been so consistently dominant his biggest challenge is we have become accustomed to his greatness. He averaged 26.4 points per game, 8.6 rebounds, and 8.7 assists last season and it was greeted with a shrug. However, with Kyrie Irving traded to Boston and Isaiah Thomas likely a spectator until January, James will have to carry more of a load during the regular season. If the Cavaliers continue to be the dominant force in the East (as is likely), James will get the credit, and that could propel him to MVP No. 5.

2) Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder. He is the reigning MVP and earned it with a historic season becoming only the second player to average a triple-double for the season — 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game. The addition of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to the Thunder roster will mean Westbrook’s counting stats will decline, but if he can lead this team to a No. 2 or 3 seed in the West with at least 57 wins, and he can show true leadership making sacrifices and getting everyone involved, he could pick up a back-to-back MVP win as well.

3) Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs. He led a 61-win Spurs team last season averaging 25.5 points per game, but his legitimate case for MVP was that he was the best defender of anyone in the group (and the Spurs had the best defense in the NBA). He doesn’t tout himself for the award (or for anything), but if he puts up similar numbers again and the Spurs are right there with the Thunder and Rockets for the two seed in the West, Leonard again will be in the mix to win the award. The one question has become will he be healthy enough, after he sat out all of the preseason with a chronic quad issue.

4) Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors. He is a former MVP, the Finals MVP from last season, and the best player — sorry Stephen Curry — on what should be the most dominant team in the NBA this season. The MVP award has often gone to the best player on the best team, which has Durant as the favorite among the Las Vegas oddsmakers. He averaged 25.1 points and 8.3 rebounds a game last season, and likely will have numbers close to that. The one thing that could hold him back is voters fatigued with the Warriors winning everything and looking for a narrative they find more interesting.

5) Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks. He burst into NBA superstardom last season when they put the ball in his hands, made him the defacto point guard, and he responded with 22.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game. He led the Bucks in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. There is almost nothing he can’t do on the court, and he only continues to improve. The key for him is not his jump shot (which is slowly improving), but rather will the Bucks take another step forward — this has been a “two steps up, one step back” team for a few years now. If the Bucks are stagnant or worse this season, it is bad news for Antetokounmpo’s MVP hopes (and maybe Jason Kidd’s job). However, if the Bucks move up the ladder in the East and are winning 50+ games, the Greek Freak will move into serious MVP consideration.

Just missing this list: James Harden, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving.

Russell Westbrook dogs Warriors, Damian Lillard after Paul George misses All-Star roster

Twitter
13 Comments

Ah yes, let the mud-slinging begin.

Russell Westbrook is on a team with three huge stars in the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was always going to be difficult for all of them to make the 2018 NBA All-Star team out west.

But that doesn’t matter to Russ.

After Tuesday night’s win over the Brooklyn Nets (where Westbrook hit the game-winning shot, no less) the reigning NBA MVP had some thoughts about teammate Paul George missing out on the All-Star Game, calling it “outrageous”.

Westbrook wasn’t too happy with teams getting “four people” onto the team (a dig at the Golden State Warriors) and that players are, “Talking about getting snubbed until they get in.”

That last part seems to have taken aim at Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, one of the most talked about snubs in recent years who finally got another All-Star bid.

Via Twitter:

Westbrook also said that George was “Top 2 at his position” which really colors the underlying issue at hand: Russ likes PG and wants him to stay in OKC.

Nobody reasonable would say that George is a Top 2 player on the wing. Not while LeBron James and Kevin Durant are alive, at least. And Westbrook’s comments about folks being stars vs. not stars, even if the voting goes one way says a lot.

The Warriors are the best team of all time. A bunch of guys getting on All-Star teams in their heyday makes sense, even if one of those guys is Klay Thompson (sometimes). We all have Warriors fatigue, I guess.

Meanwhile, Lillard is one of adidas’ biggest athletes when it comes to basketball, the face of a franchise, and has put up numbers deserving of making the team in years past. He’s also a big personality and a rapper. Lillard’s name is in lights each and every night. The issue with him sees to be that nobody watches him consistently east of the Cascades.

But all this arguing gives legitimacy to Westbrook’s point, which is mostly personal. George’s numbers have taken a dip in some areas, particularly when it comes to things like VORP, assist percentage, and true shooting. They’ve gone up in others, like 3-point shooting. He’s still a very good player and very valuable to the Thunder.

Each year, guys get left off the All-Star team for various reasons. Sometimes it’s just their turn to be on it or be off it. Nice of Westbrook to stop by with some takes.

Here’s hoping for him that George stays in OKC.

Russell Westbrook hits game-winning shot to beat Nets (VIDEO)

Getty
1 Comment

Spencer Dinwiddie hit the game-winning shot for the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night. At least, many thought he did.

But that honor actually went to Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook, who had hit the real game winner with a little more than three seconds to go.

Westbrook’s bucket came on after a sideline inbounds play led to a hard drive to the right side of the bucket for the reigning MVP.

Then, Dinwiddie got the ball and had appeared to make a 3-pointer to win the game for the Nets. However, it clanged off the side of the rim, moving the net in a way that many watching on TV and in the arena thought had gone in.

Via Twitter:

OKC beat Brooklyn, 109-108.

Here’s LeBron James scoring the 30,000th point of his career (VIDEO)

AP
3 Comments

LeBron James is officially the youngest player to ever reach 30,000 points in an NBA career.

The Cleveland Cavaliers great, who preemptively congratulated himself in a weird Instagram post earlier in the day, got points 30,000 and 30,001 at the age of 33 years and 24 days, edging Kobe Bryant by a year and 80 days.

The play came with just a second to go in the first quarter while the Cavaliers played on the road against the San Antonio Spurs.

Dribbling on the left arc against Danny Green — a formidable defender — LeBron gave a hesitation dribble before stepping just inside the 3-point line for a pull-up jumper.

Via Twitter:

LeBron still has Dirk Nowitzki, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ahead of him on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

Where he ends up might just depend on how long Nowitzki plays.

Top five 2018 All-Star Game snubs

Getty Images
6 Comments

We fans love to talk about who gets snubbed. There are 68 teams in the NCAA tournament and we argue about who was 69th and deserved to be there.

With the NBA All-Star game, there are always legitimate snubs — and with the Western Conference so ridiculously deep this season good players were going to get left out. Just picking my reserve choices for a podcast felt brutal.

We now know the All-Star Game starters and reserves, so who got snubbed. Here are the top five.

1) Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers. Los Angeles has been devastated by injuries this season (not to mention losing Chris Paul in the off-season) yet they are still in the playoff hunt in the West and the main reason is Lou Williams. The leading Sixth Man of the Year candidate is averaging 23.3 points per game, 5,3 assists a night, and is shooting better than 40 percent from three. He had a red-hot January so far, averaging 29.2 points per game. This may be a case where Damian Lillard got the nod from the coaches for his multi-year body of work (he’s been good a long time), but Williams is having his best season ever and has a great case.

2) Chris Paul, Houston Rockets. He likely didn’t get selected because he has missed 17 games this season — but Stephen Curry missed 15 and is a captain. When CP3 has played he’s been brilliant, averaging 19.1 points and 8.9 assists per game, he’s been crucial to improving the Rockets defense this season, and when he is on the court the Rockets outscore opponents by 10.9 points per 100 possessions. The Rockets are 23-5 when he plays. Houston is the second best team in the NBA, they should have more than one representative tonight.

3) Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons. The coaches went with four guards for the East reserves, and that left just three frontcourt spots and four deserving players. Drummond is the odd-man out. Which sucks — he is averaging 14.3 points per game on 54 percent shooting, and he remains the best rebounder in the game today pulling down 15 a night. He has improved his defensive play as well, but what everyone notices is he hitting his free throws (62.9 percent) and that means Stan Van Gundy can play him at the end of games and not sub him out.

Drummond was more than a little frustrated he didn’t make the cut.

4) Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder. George has played well on both ends this season next to Russell Westbrook. He is averaging 20.8 points per game and shooting 42.9 percent from three on one end of the floor, and defensively he is averaging 4.4 deflections per game and has 93 steals — both tops in the league. George is a four-time All-Star and it feels weird to see him left out, but he came to the ridiculously deep Western Conference and good players were not going to make it. He’s the odd man out in the frontcourt.

5) Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets. Could have got a lot of directions here – Ben Simmons and Goran Dragic can make their cases on appeal — but people have been sleeping on just how well Walker has been playing this season. Walker is averaging an efficient 21.8 points per game, dishing out 5.9 assists per night, and when he is on the court the Hornets outscore teams by 5.1 points per 100 possessions (that’s better than the Celtics or Timberwolves net ratings for the season). The problem is when he sits they fall apart, and Walker pays the price for his team struggling this season. His name has popped up in trade rumors, and he is the best guy available right now (not that he gets moved in a tight market). Walker was an All-Star last season and had a very strong case to be one again.