#27 – Kyle Kuzma – Los Angeles Lakers
Happy Holidays to all, particularly these preventing their manner by way of the Most Valuable Player gauntlet.
With Christmas Day video games within the rearview mirror, each crew and their respective stars can set their sights on the second half of the season to claim their dominance. Since we final checked in on the MVP race, not an excessive amount of has modified. Those on the prime haven’t given a lot motive to suppose they’ve been supplanted. However, a pair of teammates has swapped out spots on the ladder from our final replace (I’m certain you could possibly in all probability guess who).
Without ruining an excessive amount of of your post-Christmas current checklist, let’s get into the motion.
- Joel Embiid
Despite enjoying simply 4 of the seven video games on the Philadelphia 76ers schedule because the final ladder, Joel Embiid has performed sufficient to stake his declare nonetheless.
After a scorching begin to the season, thanks largely to Embiid’s availability, the Sixers have struggled mightily in December. Over their final 10 video games, the Sixers are 2-Eight. Since beginning 13-9, they’ve dropped general to 15-18. During their final 10 sport stint, Embiid has performed in simply half of these contests, fueling most of their shedding methods.
Granted, it’s arduous to win an award should you can’t keep on the courtroom, particularly MVP. We noticed that final season with Embiid and Rookie of the Year. But this yr, the Sixers have playoff hopes that fall squarely on the massive man’s shoulders. And when he’s on the market, he delivers.
The Sixers are 14-11 with Embiid on the courtroom. His averages are well-known and past spectacular. His plus/minus benefit on each ends of the courtroom has been harassed sufficient. Embiid is necessary, plain and easy.
On Christmas Day in opposition to the New York Knicks, Embiid propelled the Sixers to a decent 105-98 victory. However, in accordance with ESPN Stats and Info, when Embiid was on the courtroom the Sixers outscored the Knicks 90-65. Not way more must be mentioned after that.
- Kyrie Irving
Since final checking in with Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics, the crew being carried by younger gamers has cooled off a bit from their league-leading scorching begin within the wins column. As a outcome, Irving hasn’t made up a lot floor on his contemporaries within the MVP race.
Over their final eight video games, the Celtics are even at Four-Four. Despite Irving notching 30-point video games in 5 of these contests, Boston simply hasn’t been capable of get it performed with the extent of effectivity they had been used to in the beginning of the season.
Regardless, the dynamic level guard continues to be placing himself and his teammates in one of the best possession to be a attainable menace come playoff time. Over the identical stretch of video games, Irving has upped his manufacturing, scoring 28.Three factors per sport to associate with 5.5 assists.
After shedding an in depth one to the Washington Wizards on Christmas day, the Celtics will look to regroup going into the brand new yr, and hopefully get again to their profitable methods.
For Irving, nonetheless, barring a supernova second half of the season, the narrative of him profitable MVP throughout his first season together with his new membership has all however light away at this level. There are just too many higher choices presently.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
For Giannis Antetokounmpo, dropping on this week’s ladder isn’t an indicator of him enjoying poorly, however merely being outshined by one specific particular person (we’ll get to that in a second).
Since our final cease with the Milwaukee Bucks and Antetokounmpo, the squad has cut up their six contests however stamped an enormous win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Greek Freak poured in 27 factors, 14 rebounds, eight assists, and two steals. Battling LeBron James and the Cavs head-to-head and coming away with the victory was an announcement by Milwaukee that they’re right here to play, and they are going to be right here in May when the depth is kicked up a notch.
The uncooked numbers for Antetokounmpo are nonetheless as spectacular as they’ve all the time been, and any participant averaging 30 factors and 10 rebounds a sport whereas serving as the principle initiator of his crew’s offense will all the time be inside arm’s size of grabbing the MVP trophy. With the stiff competitors he’s going up in opposition to this season, it’s an excellent factor Antetokounmpo has that ridiculous wingspan.
- Kevin Durant
During our final ladder, Kevin Durant’s celebrity teammate, Steph Curry, was holding on to the final spot. Being sidelined with an ankle damage has price Curry his likelihood of constructing a long-lasting impression on the MVP race, however the unlucky damage has given Durant trigger to make his.
Since Curry went down, Durant has saved Golden State afloat, going Eight-1 in these 9 video games and posting completely gaudy averages on each ends of the ground: 29.9 factors, Eight.9 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and three.1 blocks.
When Durant and Curry are on the ground collectively, it virtually makes every of their circumstances for the award nullified, contemplating the assistance they supply one another. But as one of many celebrity duo sits for an extending time period and the crew as a complete doesn’t skip a beat, it makes the case for his or her counterpart to obtain a bit of additional credit score.
In the wake of Curry’s loss, Durant has reverted again to his Finals MVP type and put the Warriors on his again. During the all-important Christmas Day Finals rematch with LeBron and the Cavs, Durant had 27 factors, seven rebounds, and 5 blocks en path to a victory. He additionally supplied some key stops down the stretch (foul or not) that allowed the Warriors to carry onto their lead, proving his significance goes properly past his means to shoot a basketball.
Durant has some critical floor to make up on the highest two spots on this race, but when Curry begins to overlook extra time than anticipated, he might have the chance to do exactly that.
- LeBron James
There are not any extra phrases for what LeBron James is doing within the 15th season of his profession.
At this level, nothing will do his ridiculousness justice. James was 18 years outdated when he entered the NBA, a bodily marvel the likes of which we hadn’t seen. Nearly 15 years later, as James lives his second life within the league he entered as a young person, he’s nonetheless each little bit of that very same bodily marvel.
While this model of James might not rattle the rim as incessantly together with his violent dunks (although he’s nonetheless very a lot able to doing so), he has begun to adapt and evolve with the occasions. His taking pictures percentages, perhaps as soon as thought this season to be the results of some scorching streak, seem like staying put. James is taking pictures 56 p.c from the sphere, 40 p.c from three, and 77 p.c from the road, all a number of factors above his profession averages. He’s 4 days away from this 33rd birthday.
At one level this season, the Cavs had been 5-7 and plenty of declared the sky falling post-Kyrie Irving. Since then, all James has performed is lead his crew to a 19-Three document, together with his different All-Star level guard, Isaiah Thomas, nonetheless sidelined by damage.
The numbers are there. The wins are there. The MVP mentality is there.
James might lock up the award within the second half of this season with ease throughout every other marketing campaign. Unfortunately for him, there’s this man with a beard larger than his who’s matching his performances evening for evening.
- James Harden
Over the final week, the Houston Rockets have appeared to fall underneath some arduous occasions. After their Christmas Day debacle in opposition to Oklahoma City, Houston claimed their first three-game shedding streak of the season.
Before that vacation mishap, the Rockets dropped back-to-back video games to subpar groups within the Clippers and the Lakers. Even worse, James Harden scored 51 factors in every of these video games. It wasn’t sufficient, although.
This slight tough patch has introduced Harden’s MVP case again down a notch and inside attain of LeBron’s clutches. Obviously not a perfect situation for Harden to be in. But the NBA season nonetheless has it’s second half to get into and it wouldn’t be smart to suspect that James and the Rockets will unexpectedly start to lose video games.
Despite not having Chris Paul alongside him on Christmas, Harden is accustomed to profitable with out him ought to his fellow all-star level guard miss prolonged time with a left adductor pressure, although that’s not anticipated to be the case.
With upcoming street video games in opposition to Eastern Conference heavyweights in Boston and Washington, Harden has the right alternative to reaffirm himself because the league’s MVP with a few wins and big-time performances. Should his crew proceed to flounder, although, Harden will go away the door open at this time limit to the likes of LeBron and Durant.