3-Ball, Corner Pocket: 23 November

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

We’re just about a month into the NBA season at this point, and there’re a few things starting to get sorted out. Who’s established themselves as a legit MVP-level player, and which teams have shown that they’re the ones to beat? Let’s see:

MVP Watch

1. Chris Paul, 16.8ppg, 4.9rpg, 10.5apg: Just as I said last week, his stats don’t leap off the page, but how can I drop him down the list when he’s the guy that led his team to a 3-0 week, and a record of 11-1 for the season? He’s still flirting with 50-40-90 shooting numbers and is second in the league in PER, at 26.4.

2. Russell Westbrook, 23.5ppg, 5.2rpg, 7.8apg: With Kevin Durant injured, all Westbrook did was lead his Thunder to a victory against the Celtics, at Boston, with Jeff Green also missing the game. In fact, the Thunder haven’t lost since he snuck into the MVP watch last week, and he just continues to climb. He was rewarded for his tremendous efforts with Player of the Week honours.

3. Pau Gasol, 22.8ppg, 12.1rpg, 4.1apg: Fresh off his perfect 10-10, 8-8 28-point performance against Golden State, he’s playing fantastic and making folks wonder whether he’s the best player in basketball right now.

4. Dwight Howard, 21.4ppg, 11.1rpg, 1.3apg: Returns after dropping out of the rankings last week, his Magic went 2-0 last week while he averaged 22 points and 12 boards, along with 2 blocks. He’s looking much more comfortable on offence, showing off more than just dunking (even a 15-foot bank shot), but he must improve at the line (just 54% so far this season).

5. Deron Williams, 21.6ppg, 4.4rpg, 9.8apg: His Jazz cooled off a bit after their historic Eastern road trip, but they still went 2-1, dropping a game to the white-hot Spurs. He had consecutive 23-point efforts before shooting just 3-13 his last time out. Still, he’s done nothing that suggests he drops out of the top-5.

On the bubble: Al Horford, Michael Beasley, Serge Ibaka (Ok, maybe they’re some of my favourites right now…)

Eye on ROY

1. Blake Griffin, 18.5ppg, 10.9rpg, 2.1apg: There’s no rookie even close to BG right now, as he bounced back from a rough week (he averaged just 12.5 and 8.75 from November 9-15) to average 27.3 points, 13.3 rebounds and 3 assists in the week since the last post. Not only that, he erupted for 44 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists in the Clippers loss to New York, a game where he had a series of spirit-crushing dunks and had long-time Clippers play-by-play man gushing that it was the best performance ever by a Clipper. I’m trying not to get ahead of myself, especially after everyone said Brandon Jennings had ROY locked up after dropping 55 on the Warriors in November last season, but it’s hard not to get excited about Blake Griffin.

2. John Wall, 18.1ppg, 4rpg, 9.8apg: Wall hasn’t gotten on the court since last week’s post, so he loses the top spot to BG, but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s been phenomenal in the 8 NBA games he was able to participate in. It also doesn’t change the fact that there’re no rookies that are even close to John and Blake at this point.

Power Rankings – who’s hot

1. San Antonio, 12-1: They’ve won 11 straight, and have the best record in the NBA. Tim Duncan is averaging just 13.7 points and 9.6 rebounds, but Richard Jefferson is much improved this season, his scoring is up from 12.3 to 16.3 points per game.

2. New Orleans, 11-1: Still one of the class teams of the league, and one that nobody saw coming.

3. Oklahoma City, 10-4: The Thunder makes their debut in the Power Rankings top-5 for this season, thanks to winning games on the road without their superstar and leading scorer Kevin Durant.

4. L.A. Lakers, 12-2: Andrew Bynum still hasn’t returned to full practice, but is anyone really too worried about the Lakers right now? Pau is playing like the league’s standout big and Kobe doesn’t look too troubled by his myriad of injuries so far. They definitely look primed to three-peat, even early in the season.

5. Utah Jazz, 10-5: Wrapping up our all-West top-5, with the Utah Jazz, who just keep on keeping on, and despite a middling stretch where they lost to OKC and SAS, they’ve earned the right to remain top-5 with that ridiculous road trip and those comeback victories.

Power Rankings – who’s not

30. L.A. Clippers, 1-13: Not even BG’s career night can hide the fact that they’ve lost 9 straight (well, maybe a little).

29. Houston, 3-10: This is not where I expected to be ranking the Rockets just one month in, but without Yao and Brooks they’ve struggled, dropping their last 3 straight and are relying heavily on Kevin Martin (averaging around 23/3/3).

28. Philadelphia, 3-10: They’ve been without Andre Iguodala for the past week, but actually managed to snap a 5-game losing streak against Milwaukee their last time out. Thad Young has stepped up while ‘Dre has been out, he’s still coming off the bench but has averaged 17 points and 6 boards over the past week.

27. Sacramento, 4-8:  The Kings just completed a 2-1 week against the ‘New’ teams, dropping games to York and Orleans while managing a victory over Jersey. No King that’s averaging more than 10 minutes per game is shooting over 50% from the floor (Carl Landry is leading at 47.4%).

26. Minnesota, 4-10: The Wolves split a pair of games in a lean week of hoops, defeating the Clips before losing to the Lake Show. It’s not all doom and gloom for Minny though, as Beasley and Love have formed a potent forward combo that’s averaging 39.5 points, 20 boards and 4 assists. I love this story about Mike Beasley’s crazy scoring binge that stemmed from Jonny Flynn telling him ‘you got to be that Mike Beasley that I remember growing up’. It’s a good story, go check it out.

That’s all for this week, cheers for reading.

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