Absurdly Early MVP Rankings
Last night’s games capped the first full week of NBA action. Obviously sample sizes are small, and plenty of results we’ve seen so far are unlikely to be sustained. Still there have been some eye-popping statistical performances that deserve to be recognized. MVP Rankings will most likely not be a regular feature here this season, but I just couldn’t resist taking a swing at them when I could include these five players and still have it be completely defensible.
1. James Harden – Houston Rockets – 2-1 Record
Key Stats – 41.7 MPG – 35.3 PPG – 6.3 RPG – 6.3 APG – 11.0 FTA/G – 52.9 FG% – 35.0 3PT%
Harden has been as good as advertised and then some as a first option. Through three games he’s leading the league in scoring, while shooting a robust 52.9% from the field and getting to the line 11.0 times per game. His 35.3 points per game account for 40.3% of the Rockets’ total scoring. His 6.3 assists per game account for 32.2% of their total. In the span of a week his presence has transformed the Rockets from a collection of players to an actual basketball team, and one that looks capable of competing for a playoff spot in the Western conference.
2. J.J. Redick – Orlando Magic – 2-0 Record
Key Stats – 34.0 MPG – 22.5 PPG – 2.5 RPG – 6.0 APG – 64.0 FG% – 75.0 3PT%
The Orlando Magic played two games last week, winning both. Be honest. Did you think the Magic would win two games in the entire month of November? Glen Davis has been scoring at a ridiculous clip but Redick has been the glue holding everything together. He’s scoring 22.5 points per game while making nearly two-thirds of his shots. If those numbers aren’t impressive enough, how about a PER of 30.1 and an individual offensive rating of 149? His overall offensive game is what’s driving the Magic, and may help them avoid the cliff of atrociousness they appeared to be headed for just a few weeks ago.
3. Mike Dunleavy – Milwaukee Bucks – 2-0 Record
Key Stats – 28.5 MPG – 18.0 PPG – 9.0 RPG – 4.0 APG – 70.6 FG% – 87.5 3PT%
The Bucks are off to a great start and Dunleavy’s hyper-efficiency is a big reason why. Like all of these numbers, they come from an extremely small sample but 12 of 17 from the field and 7 of 8 on three-pointers is nothing to sneeze at, regardless of where it comes in the season. The Bucks are scoring at a rate of 107.7 points per 100 possessions, with eFG% of 57.4% when Dunleavy has been on the floor. Both of those numbers would put the Bucks in the top seven, league-wide, if they were sustained across the entire season. The Bucks are team built to score and with Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings and Tobias Harris they have a ton of weapons. Dunleavy is the grout that fills in all the cracks with smooth jumpshots and crisp swing passes.
4. Kyle Lowry – Toronto Raptors – 1-2 Record
Key Stats – 36.0 MPG – 23.7 PPG – 7.3 RPG – 7.0 APG – 57.5 FG% – 50.0 3PT%
Lowry slides down this list a little because of his team’s rough start, but his individual production has been every bit as impressive as Dunleavy, Redick or Harden’s. His stat line is LeBron-ian and I didn’t even mention that he’s also adding 3.7 steals per game. His presence also lets Jose Calderon move to the bench and carve up opponents’ second units, another huge advantage. Although they’ve lost two of three the Raptors, under Lowry’s guidance, are ranked 11th in both offensive and defensive efficiency. As the teams settles in and begins to execute better down the stretch there is every reason to think they could compete for a playoff spot in the East.
5. Jamal Crawford – Los Angeles Clippers – 2-2 Record
Key Stats – 29.5 MPG – 24.0 PPG – 2.0 RPG – 1.0 APG – 53.6 FG% – 48.1 3PT%
There are plenty of players who could have fit into this slot, but I gave Crawford the nod for his unbelievable jump in efficiency. Through four games he’s shooting 13 percentage points above his career averages from both the field and the three-point line. He’s also posted a career low TO% of 8.8 % to go along with a career high in usage, 27.9%. Playing alongside Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, and seeing just under 30 minutes a game, Crawford has accounted for 37.1% of the Clippers scoring. He’s been the consistent perimeter scorer the Clippers lacked last season and done it with an incredible level of efficiency. There will certainly be some regression to the mean over the course of the season but it’s safe to say he’ll be a huge upgrade over Randy Foye and Mo Williams.