The NBA is in its fourth week of action and it has certainly been terrific. Several players have really stood out with their early season performances.
I will take a weekly look at the top players who should get consideration for MVP in 2017-18. So, without adieu here is my first Power Rankings of MVP candidates in 2017-18.
Honorable Mention (no particular order):
Miles Turner, Hassan Whiteside, Joel Embiid, Devin Booker, Reggie Jackson, Jeff Teague
No. 30 through No. 22:
30. Tobias Harris, Pistons, 29. Goran Dragic, Heat 28. Kevin Love, Cavs 27. Carmelo Anthony, Thunder 26. Paul George, Thunder 25. CJ McCollum, Blazers, 23. Klay Thompson 22. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets 21. DeMar DeRozan, Raptors
Top 20 Candidates For The NBA MVP Award
20T. Evan Fournier, Magic
20.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.5 APG, 50.7% FG, 47.4 3PT%, 96.3% FT
Fournier is on pace for a career year. The 6-7 wing is currently averaging 20 points for the first time in his six-year career. He has always been seen as a good shooter, but consistency has always been an issue. This year that has not been the case so far.
Fournier has been the most efficient he has ever been. He is posting a 63.5% true shooting percentage, which is .038% better than his previous career-high. The 25-year-old is scoring a personal-best 1.37 points a shot as his shooting efficiency in almost at 60.0%. This year, Fournier has improved his shooting at every level except at the rim, where he is making a career-worst 52.9%.
Fournier is very versatile and can do a little bit of everything. He has scored in double-figures in nine of the first 10 games, tallying at least 20 in eight of those games. He also has five games where he hauled in five or more rebounds and two games between 5-9 assists. In addition, he has recorded a steal in nine games
20T. John Wall, Wizards
20.5 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 10.4 APG, 40.6% FG, 29.4% 3PT
Wall, relatively speaking, is off to a slow start. But if the Wizards are going to make noise this year, Wall and Bradley Beal will be the catalysts.
Make no mistake about it, Wall is a top-five point guard regardless of his shooting struggles. The reason, he can score with the best in the league and is one of the top distributors. And he is one of the top defensive point guards in NBA history.
Wall has racked up four double-doubles in eight contests. The 27-year-old has also scored in double-figures all eight games with four games of 20-plus points. He also has recorded a steal and/or block in seven games.
19. Marc Gasol, Grizzlies
19.9 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 3.0 APG, 44.7% FG, 36.0% 3PT, 81.0% FT
Gasol is off to a very good start to the 2017-18 season. He already has picked up five double-doubles and is the most efficient he has been in recent years.
However, it is on the defensive end where Gasol is making the biggest impact. The 32-year-old is ninth in the league in defensive rebounds and 10th in blocks.
Gasol has scored in double-digits in nine of 10 games, including five games of 20-plus points and one game of at least 30. He also has grabbed five or more rebounds in every game while he recorded a block in seven contests.
18. Kemba Walker, Hornets
21.9 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 6.1 APG, 45.0% FG, 35.2% 3-PT, 90% FT
Walker is attacking the basket more than ever before and, as a result, his efficiency and shooting percentage. He is producing a career-best 1.45 points a shot as he is attempting a personal-best 7.1 free throws a game, making a career-high 90.1% of those shots.Walker ranks seventh in the league in both free throw attempts and free throws made this year.
The 6-1 point guard also ranks seventh in offensive wins shares, 10th in win shares and eighth in offensive plus/minus. Walker, who has posted six games of 20-plus points, has one double-double thus far.
17. Aaron Gordon, Magic
19.1 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 2.3 APG, 53.3% FG, 55.9% 3PT, 78.5% FT
Gordon’s offensive game has really grown. The 22-year-old came into the league four years ago as an athletic defensive specialist with a limited offensive game. Now, he is averaging 19.1 points and ranks third in the league in three-point shooting percentage (55.9%).
Gordon is playing terrific defense though he does not record an enormous amount of steals or blocks. However, he is collecting 24.1% of all defensive rebounds which is a career-best.
Gordon has two double-doubles. He has scored in double-figures in each of his eight games, which includes a career-high 41 points in his second game of the year.
16. Blake Griffin, Clippers
23.7 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 4.3 APG, 49.3% FG, 42.2% 3PT, 74.3% FT
Griffin, like Gordon, has expanded his offensive game this season. Unlike Gordon, Griffin has been a perennial 20-point scorer in the past though he now has a reliable perimeter jumper. The 28-year is also getting to the free line more often than ever before, helping him register a career-highs in 1.49 points per shot and 60.9% true shooting percentage.
Griffin has posted three double-doubles in nine games. He has scored in double-figures in every game, which includes six 20-point games and one 30-point effort. Griffin also has grabbed at least five rebounds on eight occasions as well as one steal seven times.
15. LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs
22.4 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 48.3% FG, 75.8% FT
With Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker out with injuries, Aldridge has had to take more of the scoring load and he has delivered. Aldridge is on pace to having his best season since coming to San Antonio three years ago. His jumper has been more reliable from mid-range out to three-point range.
What he has improved the most is his offensive rebounding. Aldridge is grabbing a career-high 3.4 offensive rebounds which he has turned into a personal-best 4.7 second-chance points as he is drawing over five fouls a game. As a result, the 6-11 big man is producing 1.27 points per shot though he should be able to increase that number if he increases his free throw percentage to his career average of 80%.
Aldridge has four double-doubles. He has scored at least 20-points on eight occasions and at least five rebounds in every game. Aldridge ranks eighth in the league in offensive rebounds and is turning over the ball 7.6% of the time, which ranks 10th best.
14. Bradley Beal, Wizards
25.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.1 APG, 50.3% FG, 36.2% 3PT, 82.0% FT
Beal is balling in 2017-18. Beal, who is coming off a career year, is scoring at a career-best 1.48 points per shot as he is attempting over three more free throws than his career average. Another reason for the increase in efficiency is that the 24-year-old is taking fewer attempts from beyond the arc and is finishing an incredible 87.1% of his attempts at the rim.
Beal has gotten off to a great start in November. He has scored at least 36 points in the three games during the first week of the month. He is averaging 38.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists while shooting 57.1% from the field and 47.8% from beyond the arc during this stretch. Beal has made 11-of-his-last-23 three-point attempts.
Beal ranks ninth in the league in scoring and 10th in offensive plus/minus.
13. Victor Oladipo, Pacers
23.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.8 APG, 48.0% FG, 44.6% 3PT, 86.0% FT
Oladipo is shining as the lone wolf in Indiana. The 25-year-old, who has had to share the backcourt with a score-first point guard in his previous stops in Orlando and OKC, is on pace for a career offensive year playing alongside Darren Collison and Cory Joseph. It will be interesting to see if he can keep up this pace with Myles Turner returning to full strength after missing several games with a concussion.
The biggest differences in Oladipo’s game is two-fold. He is getting out in transition more often, has improved scoring off the bounce, and attempting more free throws. Oladipo is averaging 1.37 points per shot as he has increased his true shooting percentage to above 60.0% for the first time in his five-year career.
Of his 10 double-digit scoring games, Oladipo has tallied 20 or more points seven times including two contests of at least 30 points. He has five games of at least five rebounds and four games of at least five dimes.
12. Russell Westbrook, Thunder
20.1 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 11.4 APG, 44.4% FG, 35.7% 3PT
The reigning MVP has taken a back seat in that department this year with the addition of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. But he is still the catalyst of the Thunder. While his scoring has taken a dip, he is still rebounding and distributing the ball at a high rate. Plus, Westbrook is more efficient shooting wise through his 58.8% free throw percentage is a bit of a concern.
Westbrook has produced six double-doubles and four triple-doubles in the first nine games. He has five games of at least 20 points as well as five games of double-digit rebounds and six games of 10 or more assists.
The 28-year-old point guard tops the league in assists per game with 11.4, assists percentage (55.4) and ranks second in the league in assists (103) overall. He also ranks ninth in win shares, defensive win shares (10th) and box plus/minus (9th).
11. Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves
21.8 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 55.4% FG, 33.3% 3PT
Towns is not having a great season comparatively speaking to his first two seasons, at least on the offensive end, though he has been a touch better defensively. While his scoring numbers have dipped a little, Towns has become more efficient as he is making a career-best 89.6% of his free throw attempts. Overall, he is averaging 1.47 points per shot which is a personal best.
Towns has seven double-doubles. He has scored 20 or more points in seven contests, including two 30-point games, to go along with seven games of at least 10 rebounds.
Towns ranks in the top-10 in the league in several block and rebound categories with the exception of offensive rebounding. He is also 10th in personal efficiency rating and 10th in win shares.
10. Damian Lillard, Blazers
27.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 6.6 APG, 42.3% FG, 33.8% 3PT, 93.0% FT
Lillard has developed a reputation as a preeminent scorer who is also a dangerous three-point shooter. He is currently struggling with his shot, but he has found other ways to help his team as he is shooting free throws at a fantastic rate and has hit the offensive boards more often.
Lillard has picked up his offensive production lately, scoring 30 or more points in each of his last four games. He also picked up two double-double since the calendar turned to November where he is averaging 33.0 points along with 8.7 assists and 7.0 assists while shooting 47.6% from the field. He also has made all 34 of his free throw attempts.
Lillard leads the league in free throws made with 82. He also ranks in the top-10 in the league in several other categories: points (seventh),free throw percentage (10th), points per game (seventh), player efficiency rating (eighth), offensive win shares (fourth), win shares (third), box plus/minus (5th), and offensive box plus/minus (fourth).
9. Kristaps Porzingis, Knicks
30.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 50.0% FG, 36.6% 3PT
Porzingis is making the most of being the “face” of the Knicks. The 7-3 Latvian is off to an incredible start to the season as he has made a gigantic jump in his development.
Porzingis is coming off a career-performance where he set personal-bests in points and field goal makes against Indiana on Sunday. Against the Pacers, KP6 went for 40 points, on 15-of-24 shooting, along with eight rebounds, six blocks and one assist. 24 of his points came over the final 13 minutes and 30 seconds of the game to help the Knicks overcome an 18-point deficit. It marks Porzingis’ seventh 30 point game.
Porzingis has posted two double-doubles. He also is averaging 2.2 blocks a game, which ranks third in the league.
Porzingis has the highest usage rate at 35.5 and is second in the points per game at 30.2. He ranks in the top-10 in the league in field goals (fourth), free throws made (eighth), blocks (third), points (seventh), player efficiency rating (fourth) and block percentage (third).
8. Anthony Davis, Pelicans
27.4 PPG, 12.7 RPG, 2.4 APG, 54.4% FG, 33.3% 3PT
Davis has been a model of consistency for the Pelicans, recording five straight double-doubles and eight in his first nine games. In his last five games, the 6-10 big man has scored 30 or more points three times and is averaging 30.0 points — on 55.2% shooting — to go along with 12.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.6 blocks.
Davis is still an elite finisher at the rim though he is trying to stretch the floor a little more as 15% of his attempts are coming from beyond the arc. While he is only making 33.3% of his, the 24-year-old is averaging 1.59 points per shot as he has produced a true shooting percentage of 63.3%.
Davis has five games of at least 30 points and four games of more than 15 boards He is also ranked in the top-10 in most of the major categories.
7. James Harden, Rockets
29.5 PPG, 9.7 APG, 4.4 RPG, 46.4% FG, 40.4% 3PT, 80.0% FT
The two-time MVP runner-up has been very consistent with his production across the board for the most part in the early going though he didn’t really do anything out of the ordinary until Sunday. Then on Sunday, against the Jazz, Harden exploded for a career-high 56 points on 19-of 25 shooting from the floor. He was also 7-of-8 from beyond the arc and 11-of-12 from the free throw line.
Harden also has doled out 13 assists for his fifth double-double in 11 games. The 28-year-old has now compiled a stat line of at least 29 points along with seven assists, three three-pointers and seven free throws made the last four games.
Harden is stroking the ball the best he has, shooting 64.5% from the field and 40.4% from beyond the arc as he has made a personal-best 4.2 triples a game. However, his points per shot has dropped to 1.44 as he is not getting to the free throw line as much as his previous few years. Also, he is not rebounding the ball very well and still has issues with turnovers.
Harden has topped the 20-point plateau in each game while tallying 30-plus points twice. He leads the NBA in points, three-points makes and assists. He is ranks in the top-5 in several other categories.
6. DeMarcus Cousins, Pelicans
28.6 PPG, 13.7 RPG, 5.8 APG, 47% FG, 32.9% 3PT
Cousins and Anthony Davis are producing like the Pelicans imagined when they acquired the malcontent big man prior to the trade deadline last year. Cousins is on pace to place career-highs in nearly every category with the exception of offensive rebounds. The 6-11 big man has posted nine double-doubles and one triple-double through the first 10 games. Following the trade last season, he compiled 12 double-doubles in 17 games last season.
Cousins tops the league in free throws made and defensive rebounds, He also ranks in the top-5 in the league in scoring (fourth), rebounds (fourth), total rebounds (second), blocks (third) and blocks per game (fifth). On the negative side, Cousins leads the league in turnovers and fouls.
Cousins has scored in double-figures in all 10 games this season, including three 30-point efforts and one 40-point game. He also has nine double-figure rebound games and seven games of at least five assists.
5. Kyrie Irving, Celtics
22.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 5.7 APG, 2.2 SPG, 45.8% FG, 35.1% 3PT
Irving is a major reason why the Celtics have run off eight straight wins. The 25-year-old, who is coming off his best performance of his career on Monday, is a big-time shot maker but what has been the most impressive is his defense and that he has cut down on his turnovers. Irving scored 35 points, on 14-of-22 shooting, and doled out seven assists while turning the ball over just twice against the Hawks (Nov. 6). His 2.86 assists-to-turnover and 1.06 steals-to-turnover rate are both career highs.
Irving, who has one double-double, has produced nine games of 20 or more points and eight games of at least five assists. He also has come up with at least one steal in 10 of his 11 games.
Irving leads the league in steals with 32 though he is third in steals per game and steals percentage. He is also seventh in field goal mades, 10th in scoring, seventh in defensive rating, second in defensive win shares, and seventh in defensive rating.
4. Kevin Durant, Warriors
24.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 5.0 APG, 2.5 BPG, 53.0% FG, 46.4% 3PT
Like his fellow star teammates, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry, has sacrificed individual scoring numbers for team success. There are really two big differences in the 29-year old’s stat line from a year ago, he is shooting better from long-distance and turnovers. Durant is making a personal-best 2.9 triples a game while shooting a career-high 46.4% from long-distance.
Durant, who is playing excellent defense, has registered two double-doubles. He has scored 20 or more points in 10 of his 11 games and has seven games of at least five assists. Durant also has five games of at least three blocks.
The 6-9 forward leads the league in blocks. He also ranks second in blocks per game, second in player efficiency, fifth in field goal makes, sixth in three-point makes, sixth in points and 10th in points per game. In addition, Durant is sixth in blocks per game and ninth in true shooting percentage.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
31.0 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 5.0 APG, 58.3% FG, 33.3% 3 PT
The Greek Freak has been freakish, sorry for the pun, on the court. Antetokounmpo has been fabulous despite basically having to carry the Bucks by himself. Granted, he has gotten a little help from Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon. We’ll see how much of his workload decreases with the proposed acquisition of Eric Bledsoe.
Antetokounmpo has been great on both ends of the court. He has five double-doubles and leads the league in points per game as well as player efficiency ranking. Antetokounmpo has five games with at least 30 points, including one 40-point effort, and five games of double-digit rebounds.
The 6-11 forward’s two biggest weaknesses are three-point shooting and turnovers. In the meantime, his strength in terms of scoring is around the rim –where he is making 82.6% of those shots — and within 10 feet of the bucket. Antetokounmpo has posted a 64.3 true shooting percentage.
2. Steph Curry, Warriors
26.7 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 6.6 APG, 49.7% FG, 41.2% 3PT, 94.2% FT
Hard to believe, but Curry may be stroking the ball better than he ever has. The two-time MVP is averaging 26.7 points a game, second highest of his career, while shooting 49.1% from the floor, 41.2% from beyond the arc and 94.2% from the charity stripe. Curry, who started the year with 52 consecutive free throw makes, is 64-of-69 from the charity stripe. His 6.9 attempts per game is a career-best.
Curry’s numbers are similar to his 2015-16 MVP campaign. The big difference right now is that 29-year-old is taking about four fewer shots (minus-.07% shooting percentage) and has grabbed one less rebound. His steals are slightly lower than last year though he also has cut down on his turnovers (3.3-to-2.6). In terms of shooting percentage, Curry is making a higher percentage of shots from 3-10 feet, 10-16 feet and 16 < 3pt than ever before.
Curry picked up his first double-double of the season against Denver (Nov. 4), tallying 22 points to go along with a season-high to go along with two steals.Curry has scored at least 20 points in each of his 10 games, including three 30-point games. He also has six games of 5-to-9 rebounds and eight games of five or more assists as well as eight games of eight steals. The 6-3 point guard, who is a plus-+13.3, posted a career-best +44 plus-minus rating against the Nuggets.
1. LeBron James, Cavs
29.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 8.4 APG, 60.8% FG, 35.9% 3PT, 84.6% FT
First off, I’m not a fan of James. So much so, that I don’t enjoy giving him any love. I have, however, come to enjoy his magnificence on the court as he really has made himself into one of the top players of all time — full disclosure I was never a fan of Michael Jordan but I have the same respect for his game as I do James.
Alright, I’m off the soapbox. The truth is the King deserves to be No. 1. He has been fabulous this season, shooting a career-high 60.8% from the field. James, who poured in an NBA-high 57 points on Friday against Washington, became the youngest player to reach the 29,000 point mark.
James has seven double-doubles and a triple-double through the first 10 games. He has posted the highest rating (55.45), true shooting percentage (68.0%) and shooting efficiency (64.6%) of his career. His 1.52 points per shot is just slightly below his personal best that he set (1.54) in 2013-14.
I don’t expect James to stay No. 1 though it will be interesting to see if the Cavs can fix their defensive issues. And how everyone meshes when the team is fully healthy.