WEEK 6 POWER RANKINGS

Week 6 NBA Power Rankings

Recently, my power rankings would include the ranked list with a short paragraph for each of the top 10 teams. For the next few rankings I am going to include the ranked list, but at the end of the list I will have a longer write up on 2 teams. This teams will be chosen at random each week. This way I will be able to include a write up on each team in the NBA at least once. 

In addition to this change I am also going to include a new tier based ranking.

  1. Golden State Warriors (12-6) – Previous Rank – 1
  2. Toronto Raptors (13-4) – Previous Rank – 2
  3. Milwaukee Bucks (11-4) – Previous Rank – 3
  4. Boston Celtics (9-7) – Previous Rank – 6
  5. Houston Rockets (8-7) – Previous Rank – 7
  6. Portland Trailblazers (11-5) – Previous Rank – 4
  7. Oklahoma City Thunder (10-5) – Previous Rank – 9
  8. Denver Nuggets (10-6) – Previous Rank – 5
  9. Philadelphia 76ers (11-7) – Previous Rank – 10
  10. Indiana Pacers (10-6) – Previous Rank – 11
  11. New Orleans Pelicans (9-7) – Previous Rank 13
  12. Los Angeles Lakers (9-7) – Previous Rank 14
  13. Los Angeles Clippers (10-5) – Previous Rank 15
  14. San Antonio Spurs (8-7) – Previous Rank 8
  15. Memphis Grizzlies (10-5) – Previous Rank 16
  16. Utah Jazz (8-8) – Previous Rank – 12
  17. Detroit Pistons (7-6) – Previous Rank – 18
  18. Minnesota Timberwolves (7-10) – Previous Rank 20
  19. Charlotte Hornets (7-8) – Previous Rank 17
  20. Miami Heat (6-10) – Previous Rank 19
  21. Sacramento Kings (8-8) – Previous Rank 23
  22. Orlando Magic (9-8) – Previous Rank 24
  23. Washington Wizards (5-11) – Previous Rank 22
  24. Dallas Mavericks (7-8) – Previous Rank 25
  25. Brooklyn Nets (7-10) – Previous Rank 21
  26. New York Knicks (4-13) – Previous Rank 27
  27. Chicago Bulls (4-13) – Previous Rank 28
  28. Phoenix Suns (3-12) – Previous Rank 26
  29. Atlanta Hawks (3-13) – Previous Rank 29
  30. Cleveland Cavaliers (2-12) – Previous Rank 30

Western Conference – Minnesota Timberwolves – (Week 6 Rank – 18)

Free at last!! Free at last!! With the Jimmy Butler drama out of the way now the Wolves can focus on playing basketball. It is hard to argue that the loss of Jimmy Butler will be conducive to winning more basketball games than last season, but I am convinced that the subtraction of his drama filled stay will clear up a lot of behind the scenes distractions. 

With all that said let’s look at some Jimmy/Wolves related stats. With Jimmy Butler this season the Wolves are 3-7. Without Jimmy The Wolves are 5-3. Since the Jimmy Butler trade on November 10 the Wolves are 3-1. This sets the Wolves at 7-10 overall on the season.

Now, the question to ask is if the Timberwolves are the competitive 47 win team they were last season? Or are they the young and growing 31 win team from 2016? My answer is that they probably fall somewhere in between. The Wolves have been on fire from 3 so far this season. Covington in his first 3 games has shot over 50% from 3. On the season Wiggins and Towns, who are below 40% in their careers, have shot over 40% from 3. Although, it is possible Wiggins has taken a step forward and finishes the year above or at 40% from 3. This team will surely welcome that. 

The downfall of this team is its defense. Currently they are giving up 114.1 points per game to opposing teams. Only 6 other teams are doing a worse job of giving up points. However, there is a bright spot within this statistic. In their last 3 games they have given up only 98.7 points to opposing teams (Blazers, Pelicans, Grizzlies). That is 3rd best in the NBA in the last 3 games. After a clear downward trend starting this summer for the Wolves, fans can finally find some things to be hopeful about. 

My current projections for this team would be 40 wins and ending the year around 11th or 12th in the West. The additions of Covington and Saric provide 2 solid roles players and much needed defensive help in Covington. In the end this is still a young team who probably needs 1 more solid piece to be in real contention for a playoff spot. 

 

Eastern Conference – Boston Celtics – (Week 6 Rank – 4)

As I had written last week, the Celtics are still finding their new identity. They have pretty much the same roster as last season, but are a completely different team. Hayward and Kyrie’s injuries and the emergence of Tatum, Brown, and Rozier have all had their separate impacts on how this team is going to operate. 

How much of the Celtic’s slow start to the season should we allow to shape what we think of this team long term? Will they play like a 9-7 team rest of season? Is this start a total fluke and will they easily handle the East like many would have thought entering the season? Well, let’s try to answer these questions. 

First, I really think it’s obvious this team isn’t truly a 9-7 team. The first sign of this is Gordon Hayward. Incorporating Hayward hasn’t exactly been good for winning games. Gordon is shooting under 40% from 2 and under 30% from 3 through 15 games played. He’s also logging over 25 minutes a night. When you have a guy getting 25 minutes plus a night who is taking 12 shots and only hitting them similarly to a rate of players like Mario Hezonja and Cameron Payne then you’re going to have negative results.

Second, similar to Hayward’s struggles are Jaylen Brown’s. Jaylen isn’t coming off a major injury but his efficiency has been way down as if he was. Last season Brown emerged as one of their primary scorers. At the end of the year he averaged over 14 points and shot over 46% from the field. This season Brown is averaging the same amount of shot attempts (11.5), but he is only hitting on 36% of them. 

These 2 problems are not the only problems the Celtics have encountered this season, but to save time they’re the only ones we’ll extensively highlight here. When you add things up Boston is bringing back 2 starters from injuries. They have 2 players taking a combined 23 shots and shooting a career low percentage on those attempts. Boston had also been scheduled 9 road games in their first 13 games of the season. This isn’t easy for any team, but especially when you’re trying to help your young guys figure out their new roles and re-incorporate your injured stars into the roles they expect.

(Other problems they’ve faced include, but are not limited to, Kyrie’s early struggles in the first few games, plain bad luck on a 5 game road trip, averaging the 7th least ppg as a team.) 

I think a lot of these issues will be cleared up and fixed over time. Brad Stevens and the Celtics coaching staff are always making quality decisions. I’m not as high on Boston as I was to start the season. Toronto looks like a legitimate threat and Philadelphia adding Butler will make things interesting as well. My pre-season prediction for Boston was 60 wins and while I still think that team exists I am going to hedge against this a little. My new prediction for this team is 57 wins and I’m still predicting them to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.

Week 6 Tiers

Tier 1

  • Golden State Warriors
  • Toronto Raptors
  • Milwaukee Bucks

Really this tier should be just Golden State. Fortunately, for the rest of the league, they can’t get along. Oh… and Steph hasn’t been playing. 

Tier 2 

  • Boston Celtics
  • Houston Rockets

Both these teams have had slow starts and realistically could end up being in the top 3 teams in the NBA by the end of the season.

Tier 3

  • Portland Trailblazers
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Denver Nuggets
  • Philadelphia 76ers
  • Indiana Pacers
  • New Orleans Pelicans
  • Los Angeles Lakers

Tier 4

  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • San Antonio Spurs
  • Memphis Grizzlies
  • Utah Jazz

This tier is really interesting to me. I could easily see the Jazz jumping at least 1 or maybe 2 tiers very soon or by the all star break. I could also see LA and Memphis bottoming out if just 1 thing goes wrong.

Tier 5 

  • Detroit Pistons
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Charlotte Hornets
  • Miami Heat

All 4 of these teams should have playoff aspirations. If it wasn’t for the weakness of the east I would say all 4 won’t be meeting those aspirations. 

Tier 6

  • Sacramento Kings
  • Orlando Magic
  • Washington Wizards

This is really a strange group of teams. I can’t tell if Orlando’s good start is a fluke like last season. I assume the Kings will start to tank soon, and I am so disappointed the Wizards are in the same tier as both of these teams..

Tier 7

  • Dallas Mavericks
  • Brooklyn Nets

The Mavericks may be my favorite “bad team” to watch right now. Pretty much because of Luka and DSJ. 

Tier 8

  • New York Knicks
  • Chicago Bulls
  • Phoenix Suns
  • Atlanta Hawks
  • Cleveland Cavlaliers

I wrestled with whether or not I should put the Suns, Hawks, and Cavs in a tier of their own, but… 8 is a more round and solid number than 9. Either way 4 of these 5 teams have no shot headlining the bottom tiers for the 2018-19 campaign.

WEEK 5 – NBA POWER RANKINGS

NBA Power Rankings – Week 5

1. Golden State Warriors (11-2)

No shock here. Golden State came out firing on all cylinders. Curry has shot just under 50% from 3 so far. Curry will most likely miss at least one more game with his groin injury. The team was able to fend off Brooklyn without him.

2. Toronto Raptors (12-1)

The Toronto Raptors are quickly becoming the Eastern Conference favorite. The fast start to this season has largely come on the back of Kawhi Leonard proving he is still a top 5 player in the NBA. Kawhi has played 9 games and the team’s future success will largely depend on whether or not he stays healthy. Another beautiful development in Toronto has been the emergence of Pascal Siakam. In his 3rd year he is already averaging career highs in points, rebounds, and steals.

3. Milwaukee Bucks (10-3)

Milwaukee is 2-2 in their last 4 games. However, these games were certainly nothing light. With 4 road games in 6 days the Bucks were able to defeat the Warriors and Nuggets while falling in close games to the Clippers and Blazers. Mike Budenholzer should deserve a lot of credit for their success as Milwaukee had struggled to find the right coach throughout last season. They may have their guy in Bud.

4. Portland Trailblazers (10-3)

After a major let down in the playoffs last season the Blazers have put that all in the past. This team is built for the regular season and between Terry Stotts, McCollum, and Lillard should be a shoe in for a playoff spot. Coming into the season I had plenty of hesitation on this team, but they are consistently tough to beat at home. Barring injury or a major shake up by the front office this team should see steady wins rest of season. That being said, I wouldn’t expect them to be in a top 8 spot for too long.

5. Denver Nuggets (9-4)

It was difficult for me to not put Denver ahead of Portland. I’m excited about the prospects of this young team. This team is led offensively by Jokic, Murray, Harris, and Barton. Millsap is also contributing with just under 13 points a night. Harris has only shot 27% from 3, and this shouldn’t last. He hasn’t performed this poorly from 3 since his rookie season so it is reasonable to expect more from him moving forward.

6. Boston Celtics (7-6)

Boston has lost 4 of their last 5 games with the lone win coming in a tight game against Phoenix. My panic meter for this team isn’t high… yet. Incorporating Hayward is taking time and will continue. Luckily, they have veterans in Kyrie, Morris and Horford while also having one of the league’s best coaches. I would be much more concerned with this team if they didn’t have quality vets, coaching, and miles of depth. Still, Boston should be playing the long game with their injury history. If their losing skid continues my panic meter will rise. For now we stay calm.

7. Houston Rockets (5-7)

If I hadn’t watched last year’s playoffs I would chalk up this slow start to a NBA Finals hangover. Unfortunately, it may just be laziness. Again, much like Boston I’m very hesitant to panic with this team. Especially, after a solid victory last night over Indiana. Houston looked much like themselves in that victory and moving on from Anthony might help them get kick started again. Carmelo will become the scapegoat when they get this turned around, which will distract from the true crime of letting Ariza and Mbah-Moute walk. Morey and the Houston front office deserve much blame for this slow start.

8. San Antonio Spurs (7-4)

When I was putting together my season long predictions this year I projected the Spurs making their 21st consecutive playoff. To my chagrin I saw/heard others counting San Antonio out. Now, it is still very early in the season, but San Antonio seems to be plodding along. They aren’t exciting, but they get the job done. I have an expectation that this should be the expectation rest of season.

9. Oklahoma City Thunder (7-5)

OKC is a candidate to drop furthest in the next power ranking. It seems unclear what Westbrook’s time table is and I’m not sure if they can win without him. Since his nasty ankle injury OKC is 2-1 which is fantastic. Their next 4 games they’ll face Phoenix twice, New York, and Sacramento. This injury really couldn’t have come at a better time.

10. Philadelphia 76ers (8-6)

Philadelphia has made a huge splash with the addition of Jimmy Butler. The 76ers were looking like they needed something more if they wanted to truly compete at the end of the season with Toronto and Boston. They will lose 2 very important pieces in Saric and Covington, but the addition of Butler does increase their ceiling. I’m excited to see what he can add to this already talented team.

 

 

Complete List

  1. Golden State Warriors
  2. Toronto Raptors
  3. Milwaukee Bucks
  4. Portland Trailblazers
  5. Denver Nuggets
  6. Boston Celtics
  7. Houston Rockets
  8. San Antonio Spurs
  9. Oklahoma City Thunder
  10. Philadelphia 76ers
  11. Indiana Pacers
  12. Utah Jazz
  13. New Orleans Pelicans
  14. Los Angeles Lakers
  15. Los Angeles Clippers
  16. Memphis Grizzlies
  17. Charlotte Hornets
  18. Detroit Pistons
  19. Miami Heat
  20. Minnesota Timberwolves
  21. Brooklyn Nets
  22. Washington Wizards
  23. Sacramento Kings
  24. Orlando Magic
  25. Dallas Mavericks
  26. Phoenix Suns
  27. New York Knicks
  28. Chicago Bulls
  29. Atlanta Hawks
  30. Cleveland Cavaliers

 

 

76ers Vs. Heat – Why Miami is now the Series Favorite

After the 76ers pulled out a win in game 1 of their first round the world was ready to crown them as the eastern conference favorites. Ben Simmons and the rest of the crew were electric in that game. Philadelphia shot over 64% from three and forced 16 Miami turnovers. The Sixers routed the Heat 130-103 and were confirming a lot of what people thought may be true. The 76ers are for real.

But are they really? Yes, there may not be another team with so much young talent as the 76ers. The future for this team is bright. The only other teams that much up with their future, in my opinion, would be the Celtics and maybe the Nuggets. This team has 2 stars in Simmons and Embiid surrounded by a host of great role players that complement them well.

Both of these players should have a long career of solid playoff runs and even NBA championship appearances. However, I am not convinced that this year is going to be one of those times. Here are my reasons why.

The 76ers are overrated

Philadelphia has done everything to deserve the 3 seed in the eastern conference, but they are not the 3rd best team in this conference. At the end of the season the 76ers went on an impressive 16 game winning streak without Joel Embiid. No matter who they are playing in those games I do note this as a positive thing.

What I don’t do though is over value this 16 game stretch. In those games the Sixers beat the following teams: Knicks (2x), Nets (2x), Hornets (2x), Magic, Timberwolves (without Butler), Hawks (2x), Pistons, Mavericks, Cavaliers, Grizzlies, Bucks, and Nuggets. The only notable wins here are the Wolves without Butler, Bucks, Cavs, and Nuggets. Is this really that impressive when 11 of your 16 game winning streak comes against teams that are trying to lose games?

Again, I really don’t want to downplay the team’s success this season. They have had an impressive year and I can’t wait to see them dominate in the future. I do, however, want to slam on the breaks.  Their next 5 games in this series won’t be against a team trying to lose. They’ll see maximum effort each game.

They also seem more and more likely to miss Embiid for the entire series. The 76ers are a much worse team without Embiid. During their “win streak” to end the season they went 8-0 without Joel. Outside of these games they were 3-7 without Embiid. They struggled against teams like Chicago and Sacramento over this 10 game stretch.

Home Court Advantage is Even For Now

After the 76ers lost the second game of the series they also lost a tight grip onto home court. Now a team that has been 22-19 on the road this season is in a position where they must steal at least one game on the road. For a young playoff team playing against a more experienced team and coach, this won’t be easy. The experience of facing road teams crowd in the playoffs is going to be brand new for many of these guys, especially their best players.

Coaching Adjustments Favor Miami

The playoffs are all about making adjustments. Whoever can adjust better is going to have the best chance. After Philly shot a ridiculous 64% from three in the first game the Heat adjusted. Spoelstra had his Heat players right up on the Sixers and not backing off. They weren’t going to give up a three unless it were hotly contested. This worked well as the 76ers were only able to shoot 19% from three point land in the second game.

Brett Brown is not a proven head coach in the playoffs yet. It would be silly to assume he is going to be able to match whatever Spoelstra comes up with. Brown has done a fabulous job this season, but there is no reason to believe he has what it takes to match one of the league’s best minds when it comes strictly to making game to game adjustments in the playoffs.

A Dog Fight Favors Miami

Miami wants a scrappy fight. They want to win with defense and close games. They don’t have a star player to lean on to takeover. Any player can lead them in scoring on a given night, whether it’s one of the Johnson’s, D-Wade, Whiteside, or Dragic.

On the other hand Philadelphia leans heavily on Ben Simmons to score and create offense. If this isn’t working and Philadelphia has to scrap for points then they are in deep trouble.

Rookies aren’t Proven

It doesn’t bode well for a playoff run when your team’s best player is a rookie. We’ve seen this happen with rookies like Oscar Robertson, Shaquille O’neal, Michael Jordan, and Carmelo Anthony. All of these players led their respective teams to the playoffs but were defeated in the first round.

Most recently in 2004 The Denver Nuggets leaned heavily on Carmelo Anthony to carry their offense. He wasn’t the same type of passer Simmons is, but he was a dynamic scorer. The load was too much for Melo and the Nuggets lost in 5 games.

It is rare to see a rookie carry their team past the first or second round. Guys like Kareem and LeBron didn’t even make the playoffs. Tim Duncan was able to get to the second round in 1998 but he had a hell of a team around him with veterans like David Robinson and unbelievable coaching. He wasn’t carrying the load like Simmons is.

If Embiid were available for the entire series my mind may have been changed about their chances. Two dynamic rookies are much better than one. Not a single one of these reasons alone are enough to call for the Heat to push past the Sixers, but when you look at all of them collectively you can begin to see how Philadelphia could be sent home early by the Heat.

NBA PLAYOFFS – REACTION TO NBA PLAYOFF ACTION – PART ONE – SATURDAY GAME 1’S

The first weekend of round one was a blast. Don’t worry if you missed a game or two or all of them. I’ve got you covered with the biggest takeaways from all 8 games from this weekend. What teams did right and what teams will need to change going forward if they want to move on. Scroll on down through all 8 games or just find your favorite team to get caught up.

Spurs vs. Warriors

Well, it is confirmed that this series will more than likely be a snooze fest. San Antonio can’t score and Golden State is gearing up on the defensive end.

Takeways

  • Golden State locked in on Defense.
    • Draymond Green showed up in this game and not only him but Durant did as well. The rest of the guys typically don’t have the choice to disengage, but when both of these guys are locked in then it has a serious positive affect on everyone else. Any team would have difficulties scoring on the GSW defense that came to play in this first round game
  • LeMarcus Aldridge struggled scoring and shot a low percentage from the field.
    • Aldridge couldn’t really take advantage in the post in this game. He scored 14 points on 41% shooting which were mainly inside shots. He struggled scoring last playoffs against Golden State and if he does the same this series will be over quick.

Conclusion

The Spurs have been terrible on the road all season long. I don’t expect that to change. Kawhi is clearly not coming back. Those are both large nails smashed into the Spurs coffin. I don’t put anything past Popovich, but I can’t fathom the Spurs taking more than 2 games in this series. I’m expecting another blowout tonight and then some harder fought wins to finish a sweep for the Warriors.

Wizards vs Raptors

DeRozan and Lowry didn’t disappear and John Wall and company didn’t get into a hissy fight on the other end.

Takeways

  • DeRozan and Lowry were awesome
    • After the first half of this game I was a little worried about these two. On one hand they were sharing the ball and staying true to playing the same way they had all season which had brought them a lot of success. When things got tough they kept on trusting their teammates and it was paying off. On the other hand they had only 7 points on 8 shots combined. I was afraid until the moment the second half started. Lowry and DeRozan put up 8 of their first 10 points to begin the half. From here out they led the way on both ends of the floor.
  • Toronto’s support players were not afraid of the spotlight
    • Toronto’s support players were amazing as well. Even without Vanvleet they had a number of guys step up. Anunoby had 8 huge points in the first quarter. Poeltl came off the bench and provided a defense of presence and recorded 2 blocks. Delon Wright provided 18 points on 75% shooting from three point land. CJ Miles was able to knock down some deep threes and wound up 4/7 from three with 12 points.

Conclusion

Washington is going to need Wall to play up to his potential. He played well in the first half with 13 points and 10 assists but his shooting fell off in the second and wasn’t moving the ball as well. Toronto will be locked in and more confident from here on out. Don’t expect Washington to go down easily, though.

Heat vs 76ers

Are you still doubting Philadelphia? Who am I kidding. We’re all on that bandwagon.

Takeaways

  • Ben Simmons is really good
    • I haven’t got to see a whole lot of Ben Simmons this year. I am really impressed. His ability to get into traffic and score or find the open man is supernatural.
  • Sixers fans owe Bryan Colangelo a thank you for Illyasova & Belinelli
    • Both of these players have been a huge asset to the 76ers. Their ability to knock down threes and IQ have really complemented what this team is trying to do with Simmons. Since signing both of these guys Philly is 21-3.

Conclusion

Spoelstra is going to have to pull something out of his for this series. I wouldn’t count Miami out. The inexperience of the Sixers and the experience of the Heat makes me cautious to give this series to Philly too quickly.

Pelicans vs Blazers

Anthony Davis will be the best player in this series and the Pelicans may need some huge games from him before it’s all over.

Takeaways

  • Jrue Holiday led the way in containing the Blazers guards
    • New Orleans won this game by not letting Lillard or Mccollum take over. Jrue Holiday had a fantastic game guarding Lillard and came up with some huge plays late. If Holiday continues this defensive effort the Pelicans may walk away from this series sooner than they expect. Dame only shot 26% from the field while CJ was 39%.
  • Anthony Davis was the best player on the court
    • AD asserted himself on both ends of the floor. Everyone knows what his potential is. It is just up to him to bring it night in and night out. Tonight he brought it.

Conclusion

This series could turn out to be the most exciting one of the entire playoffs. Both teams are giving it their all on the defensive end. I wouldn’t expect Lillard and Mccollum to be denied like they were in this game the rest of the series. I certainly expect a struggle but they should hit a stride in one of these next couple games and look to turn the momentum in their favor.

MVP CONVERSATIONS – RANKING THIS YEAR’S TOP 5 MVP PLAYERS

April 11 ended the 2017-18 NBA regular season and while you may be thinking that the MVP is already wrapped up we have some points that will make you think twice. Before we get into who is the most deserving we really need to have a discussion about the definition of MVP. If you’ve been an NBA fan for a week you should already know that no person has the same definition of MVP as another. We are all jaded by our personal subjectivity and each person values certain stats over others.

For this post I’m going to be upfront and let you know that I am not thinking about this things with perfect objectivity. This is what makes the MVP great. It can literally be anyone any season. The biggest beef NBA critics have with our sport is that you can easily predict who will be bringing home the championship trophy before the first tip ball. The NBA undoubtedly lacks more parity than most sports.

This is why allowing our own opinions and feelings about the definition of MVP is a really good thing. We need some aspect of this sport to be unpredictable. Every year there are players that have a season for the ages that catches us off guard and it is more than okay to reward them for doing so.

Even with my own subjective lens in focus I will still have a second lens to look through. It is important not to just go completely off of what we “feel” or “think”. We can make up arguments for why Brian Scalabrine should have won the MVP back in 2010 but in the end we all that not even one statistical category would compare with the most average of NBA players that season.

The objective lens I will view this discussion through is fairly detailed. I have included a complete explanation at the end of this article if you would like to read further into the statistics I am looking at for each individual player and how I am grading them on those stats. For now, let’s start with our 5th most deserving NBA MVP.

 

5 – Damian Lillard – MVP Score – 22

The Positive

Damian Lillard has gone from an all star snub and rarely being recognized to being in the MVP conversation. I’m not sure how so many people have not recognized how great of an individual player Lillard is. The run that the Blazers went on after the all star break was in large part to Lillard’s phenomenal play. Over one 10 game span this season he averaged over 35 points a night. He is first in the league in points per game this year and the Blazers depend on that scoring every night.

The Negative

Many small guards are going to have similar weaknesses. The common weakness Lillard shares with other guards is on the defensive side of the ball. He isn’t a horrible defender but certainly wouldn’t be in the conversation for best 2 way players. Damian’s defensive RPM is in the negatives and he doesn’t force a whole lot of steals. Without the Blazers grabbing the 3 seed it would have been even more difficult to squeeze him into the top 5 this year.

Conclusion

When all was said and done the 5th spot really seemed perfect for Lillard. Putting someone 5 still gives him plenty of recognition, but also with a little feeling of snubbiness for being ranked last on the list. In the end I didn’t feel right putting ahead of the other guys on this list. The Blazers have had a fantastic season in large part to Lillard’s offense. But, they still finished the season with just 49 wins and the 7th best record in the NBA. With a few more wins I may have felt more confident to move him up to 4 on this list.

4 – Kevin Durant – MVP Score – 22.5

The Positive

The thing that makes Kevin Durant so valuable is his ability to score, defend, and distribute. I was really surprised to find Durant in the top 25 players in assists this season. Especially, with so many injuries to the team this season you think he would fall into the trap of leaning on his own scoring ability more and not involving others. Clearly, Kevin Durant is a force on the offensive end. He is averaging over 26 points a game on a team that maybe only needs him to average 10 with how many other offensive weapons they have.

The Negative

KD would easily get into the top 3 conversation if he wouldn’t have missed so many games. With the record that Golden State has this year and how dominant they can be this is really the only glaring mark against Durant. He’s played in a total of 68 games this season and while that isn’t too terrible it really should be considered when determining how valuable a player is for the course of a single 82 game season.

Conclusion

Durant is obviously a valuable player. He has missed a lot of games this season and Golden State hasn’t been as dominant as they have in the past. If Curry had played as many games as Durant then he would have most likely replaced him here. When it’s all said and done you’ll be very hard pressed to find a player who has had both a better statistical season and led their team to a top 5 NBA record.

 

3 – Anthony Davis – MVP Score – 41

The Positive

Some of this season’s most dominant games have come from Anthony Davis. In one game this year Davis had 53 points, 18 rebounds, and shot 55% from the field. He is the league’s best big man. He’s averaged over 28 points a night and when Cousins went down with an injury this year it didn’t seem to phase him. Losing a player like Cousins would make most teams throw in the towel. Instead the Pelicans, led by Davis, persevered through and wound up with the 6 seed in the west. Often in MVP discussions you’ll be proposed to answer a hypothetical scenario for what a given team’s record would be without their star player. I think that it would be safe to assume that The Pelicans record wouldn’t be close to what it is without Davis. After the loss of Cousins the Pelicans managed to go 21-13 to end the season. With Cousins the Pel’s were 24-24. Once Cousins went down Davis was able to take a now worse team and make them better than they had been with their 2nd best player healthy. This is a huge positive.

The Negative

With most of these guys it is difficult to find negatives. With these last three players it is almost impossible. The one thing we can point to with Davis is the record. Even though he was able to win so many games without Cousins and earn the Pelicans a spot in the playoffs, it is still troubling to see the 24-24 record with Cousins healthy. Maybe it’s that Davis isn’t capable of playing alongside another superstar. If that’s the case then winning championships may avoid him for the rest of his career. Outside of winning the other troubling thing with Davis is his consistency. In a game in January against the Hawks he was only capable of putting up 8 points and grabbing 7 rebounds across almost 40 minutes of action. Obviously, this game resulted in a loss for a team that relies so much on his success. Davis can have some dominant games where he is the best player on the floor and still at times he can have nights where he looks like he just isn’t ready to be the league’s best player.

Conclusion

AD has probably been the best 2 way player this season. He plays the offensive and defensive side as well as anyone. He is going to be in these conversations for years to come as long as he can stay healthy. If he had one more games and proven a little more consistency he could have locked up maybe the 2 or even 1 spot. When it comes to being the league’s MVP you really need to have every area of your game down and then be dominant on the offensive floor. For now we will wait for Davis to make a more compelling case next year.

 

2 – LeBron James – MVP Score – 36.5

The Positive

The case for the last 2 guys are both quite strong. You couldn’t go wrong choosing either of the final guys as your 2017-18 MVP. A few people are saying this is Lebron’s best season yet. He is in the top 3 in the league in scoring, assists, and RPM wins. He does just as much offensively for his team as anyone else in the league. When you look at ESPN’s best single game performances for 2017-18, LeBron is listed more than any other player. You can find his name 11 times. This means that just over 10% of the NBA’s top 100 games played this season are held by LeBron. I believe that the most valuable single season should be made up of a large amount of valuable single games. All of this is being done without Kyrie and at age 33. LeBron may be the most feared offensive player during the regular season.

The Negative

I do believe that LeBron has a stronger offensive case for winning the MVP than any other player. You can’t find much negative in his offensive game. With that being said, you can see how important the other aspects of the game are. Offense is not the only important factor or thing we should look at. Obviously, his offense has not been enough to win more games than the Raptors, Celtics, and 76ers in the east. If you would have told me that the 76ers would have won more games than the Cavaliers at the beginning of the year then I would have assumed LeBron had joined them. When you have a player as polarizing as LeBron then he is going to affect every aspect of the game no matter what. If he is going hard on both ends of the floor then everyone else will follow suit. If he doesn’t seem to care on a given night, then that is going to affect how everyone else plays that night. He reminds me of how a mother can put a sense of either a dark cloud or a bright ray of sunshine over a household. The only team in the NBA with a worse defensive rating than the Cavaliers is the Phoenix Suns.

Conclusion

While team defense shouldn’t be the deciding factor for most MVP conversations I do believe it plays a huge role in this scenario. As we stated above, James is such a polarizing player that whatever he does affects his team. A team like the Cavaliers are so dependent on LeBron that he almost decides what kind of they will have. When it comes to the defensive floor in the regular season LeBron rarely gears up to play. He is at many times careless and lacks effort. When you get that from your most skilled and probably most talented defensive player that is going to cause you problems. When a player isn’t maximizing what their team could be in the regular season that causes them to lose value. LeBron could easily lift his team up toward the 1 or 2 seed every year with an increased effort on the defensive end.  Only getting the 4 seed coupled with his lack of effort really makes it difficult to give him such a prestigious and important award that other players have worked harder for.

 

1 – James Harden – MVP Score – 42

The Positive

Just like LeBron, Harden is in the top of the league in plenty of offensive categories. He is in the top 10 in assists, steals, overall RPM, and 3 pointers made. Not to mention that he leads the league in the following categories: points per minute, overall win share, offensive win share, points per game, offensive RPM, and RPM wins. The dude has led the Rockets to overtake the Warriors for best record in the league. This really is an impressive feat that needs to be at the least recognized if not rewarded. Without Harden the Rockets would probably have a really difficult time squeezing into the tight western conference playoffs. Not only this but he does crack the top 10 in a defensive category. That’s right, Harden is averaging almost 2 steals a night. The Rockets do not lean heavily on Harden to play defense but the fact that he is attributing in some noticeable way on that end is a huge positive.

The Negative

The negatives with Harden are going to be similar to Lebron’s. Although, with Harden his team is one of the best defensive teams in the league. He is notoriously bad on the defensive end, but this really has improved quite a bit over the last couple season. Like said above he is forcing steals and he isn’t easy to back down. The most negative thing we can find on him is his negative defensive RPM. Outside of this the worst we can say about him is that he has a stigma as one of the worst defensive players in the NBA. One thing we do wish was higher was his 3 point shooting percentage. He takes more threes than anyone else in the NBA and hits them at a 36% clip. This isn’t horrendous but isn’t to the level of some of the league’s best. Gerald Green has shot better from 3 this year, although that is in much less time. James actually doesn’t even crack the top 10 for best 3 point shooting percentage. Granted, he is most likely shooting plenty of step back threes but this is still a little troubling for someone so offensively praised.

Conclusion

The final 2 spots between Harden and LeBron really were not easy to determine. Overall Harden bests LeBron in a number of categories. The offensive categories are really close and LeBron probably has the edge on him here. On the defensive side of the ball it is basically impossible to argue for LeBron since he doesn’t give an effort. Harden is producing steals and his team’s defensive rating is ranked 6th. The last category that Harden has a huge advantage in is that his team has been the best during the regular season. The Cavaliers didn’t have an answer for them when they played back in February. The regular season MVP should be capable of leading his team to beat the best teams. James Harden does this all while producing the gaudy statistics everyone is looking for. In the end your MVP needs to not just be dominant in one facet of the game. He needs to be dominant in all areas. The closest player we have to that this season is James Harden.

 

MVP Scoring Explained

 

 

MVP CALCULATOR EXPLAINED

Category 1 Single Game Performances + 1 Point per Mention -0.5 Points per loss
Category 2 Points Per Game Top 3 = 3 Points Top 4-7 = 2 Points Top 8-10 = 1 Point
1 point for top 10 in league
Category 3 RPM – Offense Top 3 = 3 Points Top 4-7 = 2 Points Top 8-10 = 1 Point (If a negative RPM is present then player will earn -3 Points)
1 point for top 10 in league
Category 4 RPM – Defense Top 3 = 3 Points Top 4-7 = 2 Points Top 8-10 = 1 Point (If a negative RPM is present then player will earn -3 Points)
1 point for top 10 in league
Category 5 RPM Overall Top 3 = 3 Points Top 4-7 = 2 Points Top 8-10 = 1 Point (If a negative RPM is present then player will earn -5 Points)
1 point for top 10 in league
Category 6 RPM Wins Top 5 = 2 Points Top 6-10 = 1 Point
(If a negative RPM is present then player will earn -5 Points)
Category 7 Team Record Top 3 = 5 Points Top 4-8 = 3 Points Top 9-12 = 2 Points Top 13-16 = 0 Point 17 + = -3 Points
Category 8 Steals Per Game Top 3 = 3 Points Top 4-7 = 2 Points Top 8-10 = 1 Point
No Points for top 10 in league
Category 9 Blocks Per Game Top 3 = 3 Points Top 4-7 = 2 Points Top 8-10 = 1 Point
No Points for top 10 in league
Category 10 Games Played Top 100 – 3 Points Top 161 – 2 Points Top 240 – 1 Point 240 + = -1 Point
1 point for full season
Category 11 True Shooting % Top 3 = 3 Points Top 4-7 = 2 Points Top 8-10 = 1 Point
1 point for top 10 in league
Category 12 Assists Per Game Top 3 = 3 Points Top 4-7 = 2 Points Top 8-10 = 1 Point
1 point for top 10 in league
Category 13 Rebounds Per Game Top 3 = 3 Points Top 4-7 = 2 Points Top 8-10 = 1 Point
1 point for top 10 in league
Category 14 Defensive Win Shares Top 5 = 2 Points Top 6-10 = 1 Point
Category 15 Offensive Win Shares Top 5 = 2 Points Top 6-10 = 1 Point
Category 16 Win Shares Top 5 = 2 Points Top 6-10 = 1 Point
Category 17 Points Per Minute Top 5 = 2 Points Top 6-10 = 1 Point

 

Definitions
Category 1 – This statistic is found on ESPN and lists the 100 best single game performances for a given NBA season. I have included this stat because I believe that a great single season is made up of great single games. A player will earn a point for every time they record a game that earns a spot in the top 100 single game performances for that season. The player will lose -0.5 points if they record a loss in that same game.
Category 2 – This stat takes into account points scored per game for the course of the season.
Categories 3-6 – These categories take into account a players Real Plus Minus statistics. A player may record great box score statistics, but does this actually mean they are contributing to the team’s success thus creating great value? These statistics help us get a better idea of what is happening on the defensive and offensive end when a player stops off the court and is no longer contributing. We can more objectively value a given player’s “contribution” to their team’s success when looking at RPM.
Cateogry 7 – Assessing a certain player’s team record will help give us a better look at how much his statistics are creating wins for his team. The ultimate goal of a great player is to help his team win. Box Score stats do not always produce W’s and a selfish player can hurt his team’s success. This stat helps us weed out the stat sheet stuffers and find the players who are adding real value every game of the season.
Category 8-9 – Too often defensive statistics are overlooked and undervalued to offensive ones. Given, they are less precise, we must include them in this calculation anyway.
Category 10 – To have a great individual season one must play in the games. Players who play more games are therefore rewarded for doing so. A player who is capable of playing 30 games compared to one who can only manage 20 should be considered more valuable
Category 11 – A player can average 30 points a night but if it takes them 50 shots to get there and they only make 30% of those shots then they are doing their team much more harm than good. This stat helps us see who is making the most of the shots they take.
Category 12 – Assists are a great way to help us see who is creating points for their team outside of their own shot and also who is setting up other teammates for success.
Category 13 – Rebounding is another undervalued stat that provides tremendous value on both ends of the floor.
Category 14-16 – This stat is just another avenue to help us determine a player’s contribution to W’s. You can read more in depth on what it is here – https://www.basketball-reference.com/about/ws.html
Category 17 – I believe points per minute is more helpful in assessing how well a player is scoring when they are on the court. One player my play 25 minutes and score 30 points while another plays 35 and scores 30. Points per game will tell you the second player is the better scorer when in reality the first player who only played 25 minutes could have easily produced more points if he had the opportunity for more minutes.
Top* – When using the word top we are only taking into account the listed contestants for a given season. We are not including players that are not a listed contestant. For Example – Michael Jordan may be 10th overall in the league in points per game. But he is 1st overall amongst the contestants provided. This would earn him a top 1 position in the category for points per game thus earning him 3 points.
Top Exception – For Category 10 Top will refer to the entire league instead of the contestants only.

2017-18 NBA END OF SEASON AWARDS

Ahead of my MVP post I wanted to compile a complete list of each award for the NBA season. After this is published I will post my full and complete thoughts on the MVP award. Also not included are the all defensive and rookie teams. This post includes no commentary for any award.

Coach of the Year

  1. Dwane Casey
  2. Brad Stevens
  3. Mike D’antoni
  4. Quin Snyder
  5. Greg Popovich

Defensive Player of the Year

  1. Rudy Gobert
  2. Joel Embiid
  3. Anthony Davis
  4. Dejounte Murray
  5. Jimmy Butler

Rookie of the Year

  1. Ben Simmons
  2. Donovan Mitchell
  3. Jayson Tatum
  4. Luari Markkanen
  5. Kyle Kuzma

6th Man of the Year

  1. Lou Williams
  2. Eric Gordon
  3. Jordan Clarkson

Most Improved Player

  1. Victor Oladipo
  2. Aaron Gordon
  3. Spencer Dinwiddie

All NBA 1st Team

  • G James Harden
  • G Damian Lillard
  • F LeBron James
  • F Kevin Durant
  • C Anthony Davis

All NBA 2nd Team

  • G Stephen Curry
  • G Victor Oladipo
  • F Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • F Lamarcus Aldridge
  • C Joel Embiid

All NBA 3rd Team

  • G Russell Westbrook
  • G Kyle Lowry
  • F Paul George
  • F Karl Anthony-Towns
  • C Nikola Jokic