Russell Westbrook is charging into the MVP race
Stephen Curry remains on top of our MVP Power Rankings, but another point guard has zipped onto the list and could threaten that No. 1 spot soon if his play keeps up.
Stephen Curry remains on top of the 2014-15 NBA MVP Power Rankings and the top five features the same names as last week, although there has been some reshuffling with the order. However, another Western Conference point guard is knocking on the door of the top five and could find himself in there very soon.
1. Stephen Curry, Warriors (Last week: 1)
Will the Warriors ever lose again? Of course they will, but Golden State has won a whopping 16 games in a row, with the last three victories coming without Andrew Bogut against tough Western Conference opponents. In those three wins, Curry averaged nearly 28 points and over seven assists while shooting 48 percent overall and 46 percent from three-point land.
Curry is averaging over 23 points, seven assists and five rebounds, something only 10 other players have done in NBA history, according to Basketball-Reference.com. If Curry kept those averages and also keeps his three-point shooting rate over 40 percent, he would be just the third player ever to reach all those marks in a season. The other two? LeBron James and Larry Bird.
2. James Harden, Rockets (Last week: 3)
Harden continues to carry the Rockets, who sit at 18-5 on the season despite missing Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones for a significant amount of time. Houston has won six of its last seven games and that one loss came against Golden State in a game Harden dominated until the final minutes.
Harden scored 34 points in the loss to the Warriors, which was followed up by a 44-point overtime effort in Sacramento. And in the Rockets’ last game, the guard made a huge impact despite shooting just 7-of-20, notching his first triple-double on the season against Denver.
3. Marc Gasol, Grizzlies (Last week: 4)
The Grizzlies narrowly escaped from both the 76ers and Hornets over the weekend and Gasol played a role in both wins. Mike Conley was the hero in Philadelphia, but Gasol got credit for the assist on Conley’s game-tying three that sent the game to overtime, and the big man also set the screen that helped free the point guard. Against Charlotte, Gasol caught fire down the stretch in fourth quarter and overtime.
4. Anthony Davis, Pelicans (Last week: 2)
Davis takes a small tumble, mainly because he suffered an injury early in a win over the Cavaliers and has basically missed the last two games. In the last full game the big man played, he scored 31 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in a loss to Dallas.
5. LeBron James, Cavaliers (Last week: 5)
James struggled with his shooting to start the season, but those issues appear to be a thing of the past. In his last three games, the four-time MVP is averaging over 34 points while shooting over 62 percent from the field. Here’s the shot chart from the three games:
Those mid-range numbers aren’t sustainable, but the high percentage in the restricted area is more of what we’re used to seeing from James. He shot just under 62 percent from the restricted area during Cleveland’s 5-7 start, per NBA.com, which is better than league average, but nowhere near his usual dominance at the rim.
6. Russell Westbrook, Thunder (Last week: Unranked)
Westbrook’s numbers scream top three MVP candidate, and maybe even No. 1. But I can’t put him there just yet simply because he has missed more games than he has played.
But my word, those numbers. In the eight games since returning from a broken hand, Westbrook is averaging 27/7/7 while shooting over 50 percent from the field. Over 44 percent of his attempts in those games have come at the rim, per NBA.com, and Oklahoma City is 7-1 over that span.
Westbrook’s hot streak has him leading the league in PER, just slightly ahead of Davis, and the electric point guard is doing all this with a massive usage rate of 38.5. Considering Westbrook’s volatility, the efficiency will likely come down a bit as the sample size grows, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be going down in these rankings anytime soon.
This guy is just the best:
7. Kyle Lowry, Raptors (Last week: 6)
Lowry has the Raptors on a three-game winning streak, albeit against some of the dregs of the Eastern Conference. The feisty point guard didn’t have any especially superb performances, but he was steady enough in the three victories.
Wall’s excellent play has the Wizards at 17-6 and second in the East behind only Lowry’s Raptors. Wall has seven double-doubles in eight games this month, and in the one game he didn’t record a double-double, he flirted with a 5×5 game by putting up 16 points, eight assists, six rebounds, five steals and three blocks.
Wall has also been money in the clutch this season, as we saw in two consecutive games last week. After almost single-handedly dragging Washington to a double-overtime victory over Boston last Monday, the point guard scored six straight points late against Orlando before Bradley Beal won the game at the buzzer.
Wall is sixth in the NBA in field goal attempts in “clutch” situations (five minutes or less left in fourth quarter/overtime with scoring margin at five points or less) and he’s shooting nearly 52 percent on those attempts, per Basketball-Reference.com.
9. Klay Thompson, Warriors (Last week: 11)
Thompson has rewarded the Warriors’ faith in him by having his best season yet. The second Splash Brother is posting numbers that would be career-highs nearly across the board, and his development has been a major part of the 21-2 start.
Thompson has always been a superb shooter, but it has been his improvements off the dribble that have him as arguably the second-best shooting guard in the league. Last season, less than 15 percent of his shots came at the rim and he made just over 60 percent of those shots, per NBA.com. Those numbers are up to 21 percent and 65 percent this season.
In addition to this, Thompson is getting to the line at a higher rate. The 24-year-old set a career-high last year by going to the line just over twice per game, but he’s taking over four shots from the charity stripe this season. That’s nothing compared to the Hardens and Jimmy Butlers of the world, but it still represents improvement.
But wait, there’s more! In 747 minutes with Thompson on the floor this season, the Warriors have outscored opponents by over 22 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com. In 362 minutes with Thompson on the bench, the Warriors have been outscored by over eight points per 100 possessions. That’s a very, very large difference.
10. Chris Paul, Clippers (Last week: 7)
Paul didn’t do anything all that notable in the past few games, but the other players in contention for this final spot didn’t distinguish themselves either. Despite some sub-par efforts by his standards, Paul still ranks in the top 10 in PER.