3-Ball, Corner Pocket: 7 December

3-Ball, Corner Pocket is your weekly look at the league’s leading MVP candidates, most outstanding rookies and best and worst performing teams.

MVP Watch

Deron Williams, 21.8ppg, 4.2rpg, 10apg: Not much has changed since last week; D-Will still looks like the best point guard in the business and his Jazz continue to make sweet music, winning 8 of their past 9 games. He’s just one of five players (Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love) averaging 20/10.

Russell Westbrook, 23.7ppg, 5.5rpg, 8.6apg: Received the Player of the Week honour and led the Durant-less Thunder to a triple-overtime victory with 38 points, 15 rebounds, 9 assists, scoring all 13 of OKC’s points in the third OT. Oh, and he did this as well.

Dirk Nowitzki, 24.9ppg, 7.7rpg, 2.2apg: With his Mavericks playing so well, I simply could not keep him out any longer. He’s shooting 55% from the floor for the season so far, and is averaging just 2.3 turnovers a game; while that’s a superb figure for someone that uses nearly a third (29.3%) of their team’s possessions, if the season ended today it would be a career-high turnover average. Amazing.

Amar’e Stoudemire, 25.3ppg, 8.9rpg, 2.3apg: He’s averaging 34.2 points and 11 rebounds per game as the Knicks have won 5 straight. He’s not only developed into a locker room leader, but he’s also developed the chemistry with Ray Felton that allows for a devastating pick and roll game. His efforts were rewarded with a well-deserved Player of the Week honour.

LeBron James, 23.7ppg, 5.7rpg, 7.3apg: Took to the stage of the most anticipated game of the still-young NBA season, his return to Cleveland, and was booed mercilessly every time he touched the ball. Did it affect him? I’m not sure, but he torched his former team for 38 points, 24 in the third quarter, as his Miami Heat went on to win 118-90. Looks to be more comfortable on the floor with Wade, and the Heat have won 5 in a row.

On the bubble: Chris Paul, Dwight Howard

Eye on ROY

Blake Griffin, 20.2ppg, 11.8rpg, 2.9apg: It’s looking more and more likely the Rookie of the Year award is Blake’s to lose, but there are still those out there that like to remind us that the Clippers still aren’t winning many ball games. True, but historically, most of the NBA’s best rookies have come from terrible teams. Furthermore, BG led the Clippers to a 2-2 week, including a win over the Spurs, while averaging 20.5 points and 12.8 rebounds. He even has room for improvement, which is just ridiculous considering how good he is already.

Landry Fields, 10.4ppg, 7.5rpg, 1.8apg: OK, since the second week of the season, I’ve focused on Blake Griffin and John Wall in this space, and no-one else. Well, I’ve decided it’s about time I show Fields a bit of love. He won’t win ROY, but to go from second-round draft pick, to opening night starter, to being a key part of the Knicks 13-9 start to the season, Fields will likely get a few votes provided he can stay consistent on the boards over the course of the season. It will definitely help his case if the Knicks make the playoffs.

Power Rankings – who’s hot

Dallas, 17-4: They haven’t lost in the past week, so there’s no reason to drop them from the top of the rankings. They didn’t have the toughest week, with wins over Minnesota, Sacramento and Golden State, although there was the victory over Utah that ended their 7-game winning streak. The Mavericks, statistically, have played one of the toughest schedules so far and emerged with the West’s top point differential, so their record may be for real.

Boston, 16-4: Like the Mavs, the Cs have had a pretty easy week, defeating Cleveland, Portland, Chicago and New Jersey, but they’re tops in the East and have won 7 straight, so they return to the top-5 after dropping out in the past couple of weeks. Despite Rajon Rondo missing games here and there, Nate Robinson continues to step in and play well as a starter, and it would seem the veterans are happy with how the team’s going right now.

New York, 13-9: I don’t know how many times we’re going to see the Knicks this high for the rest of the season, but they’ve won five straight, Amar’e Stoudemire is looking every bit of an MVP candidate and the folks at Madison Square Garden finally have a reason to be optimistic again. One thing worth mentioning: they’ve played one of the league’s easiest schedules so far, and 7 of their next ten games are against above-.500 teams (Denver, Boston, Miami (twice), Oklahoma City, Chicago and Orlando). We’ll have a much better idea of what NYK are by January.

San Antonio, 17-3: The Spurs are still winning, and despite dropping a couple to the Mavericks, then the Clippers, they have the league’s best record. Here’s a look at the Spurs’ new offence this season.

Utah, 16-6: The Jazz are receiving solid contributions from everyone, 5 guys are averaging double-figures, and with D-Will playing at an MVP-level, this team has the potential to be a true contender. They’ve won 8 of their last 9, their only loss coming at the hands of one of the only teams in the league that’s hotter right now, Dallas.

Power Rankings – who’s not

Sacramento, 4-15: Another week gone and the Kings are still the worst of the worst. They had a chance to tie/go up one on the Mavericks the other day, but rookie DeMarcus Cousins struggled to execute the play. Here’s a good look at the play and why it was the right call. These kids are going to learn, and they’ll get better. There is reason to be optimistic about the Kings, especially if Tyreke can get healthy.

Cleveland, 7-14: The Cavs have been pretty dreadful lately, dropping their last 5 by an average of 22.2 points per game. They didn’t put up much of a fight in LeBron’s return to Cleveland, dropping that game 90-118 (which you can read more about here, here, here or here). Unlike Sacto, though, there’s not much to look forward to, unless you think Hickson’s going to blossom into a superstar.

New Jersey, 6-16: New Jersey suffered through a couple of tough losses while Harris sat a couple of games with a strained knee, coming up empty against OKC in triple-overtime, then falling to the Bobcats in overtime once again. With Harris back against Boston, however, things didn’t exactly go any better, losing the contest 75-100. There’s some good news, though, with Terrence Williams averaging 28/11/11 in his D-League stint and being recalled to the big league. He said all the right things; now maybe they’ll look for him to spark them out of the slump.

Golden State, 8-13: They have a pretty solid record, considering that they’re pretty much rebuilding (yet again), but that record is thanks to their strong start, as they’ve only won one of their past 10 games. And that win was against Minnesota. And Dorell Wright hit 9 threes. And they shot 67% from distance. While there are some nice pieces, this team’s not quite ready to compete every night, and they’re just not very good right now.

Minnesota, 5-16: Can we just mention that Kevin Love has bumped his season averages to 20 points and 15 rebounds, and move on? Cool.

The brand-new Awards Mini-watch:

MIP

I was thinking that Roy Hibbert, Kevin Love/Michael Beasley and Paul Millsap would have to be the leading candidates for Most Improved at this stage, and then I found this article, which mentions not only them, but a bunch of other guys that could be considered also. Go check it out.

Sixth Man

This one is pretty tricky to predict, as a guy can go from the bench to starting at any time, but to win the award you only have to come off the bench in more games than you actually started. So far I think the leading candidates are Jason Terry, C.J. Miles and Ben Gordon/Charlie Villanueva.

Terry started out the season as a starter, but since being moved to the bench after 5 games, Dallas has gone 14-2, while Terry chips in 16 points per game;

Miles candidacy is certainly helped by the fact that Utah are winning, as he’s come off the bench every game this season and is scoring 11 per game;

Finally, BG/Charlie-V – while Detroit may not be winning so much these days, these guys are a part of Detroit’s best 5-man combination according to +/-, and Villanueva especially is putting up some nice numbers per-36. BG’s always been good off the bench, winning sixth-man in 2005.

DPOTY

There aren’t many stats that can show you how good a defender actually is. Sure, you have your usual blocks/steals per game, but a guy can rack up a ton of either and still be a poor defender, be it gambling for the steal in the passing lane, or coming across for the weak-side block. Both instances need you to leave your guy, and if you gamble and lose, your team and the defensive rotations suffer.

Advanced stats help somewhat, with a players individual Defensive Rating (an estimate of how many points allowed by a team per 100 possessions when that player is on the floor) now available. Also, it helps that Dwight Howard’s such a good defender that we have a clear candidate year in, year out. The early candidates for Defensive Player should include Dwight, Kevin Garnett, Chris Paul and Andrew Bogut.

Dwight and Bogut are among the league leaders in blocks per game, CP leads the league in steals per game, and KG is second only to Dwight in Defensive Rating. Furthermore, Orlando, Boston, New Orleans and Milwaukee are among the leagues top-6 defences.

Actually, I should make a mention of Tyson Chandler; his Mavericks are 5th in the league defensively, while he sits third in the league in Defensive Rating, behind Dwight and KG, and ahead of CP and Bogut.

Now to some news:

The NBA has recently purchased the New Orleans Hornets, after owner George Shinn could not find anyone to buy the team. Shinn did have a deal with minority owner Gary Chouest, but the deal has since fallen apart;

Nuggets coach George Karl had the chance to win his 1000th game today, but Denver came up short in Charlotte 98-100;

Joe Johnson will be out for four-to-six weeks after having surgery on his right elbow;

Finally, the Wolves say that backup forward Anthony Tolliver will be out between 6-8 weeks with a sprained knee, but have cleared Martell Webster for action following pre-season back surgery.

Finally, links:

A while ago, waaaay back at the start of November, the Memphis Grizzlies offered point-man Mike Conley a 5-year, $45 million extension. Now, I didn’t have a problem with the deal; plenty of people wanted to go on about how the Grizz bid against themselves to keep Conley around, while I wanted to point out that this has been happening for a few years.

Well, it seems that Matt Moore of CBS Sports, who had the most scathing take on the situation, has come out and admitted that he may have overreacted, and that he may have been wrong about some things. So, does this mean that I was right? That it is in fact a reasonable deal? Yeah, pretty much.

The other day, Sporting News’ top-50 NBA players list appeared; this pretty much sums up my feelings about what’s wrong with it. Oh, that and Russell Westbrook at 30?

Speaking of Westbrook, this article has an interesting, if entirely ridiculous, take on whether Kevin Durant and Westbrook are too good for one-another, a la Shaq and Kobe. I don’t think so, simply because KD has such a good head on his shoulders. He knows that it takes multiple stars to win championships. Further, he’s such a good guy that I’m sure he’s happy for Russ, that he’s been able to take his game to the next level.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this – Earl Barron, this is unacceptable.

Thanks for reading.

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