Welcome back to NBA Star Power Index – a weekly survey of the players who most control the hum around the league. Reminder: Inclusion on this list is not necessarily a good thing. It simply means keeping an eye on the attention of the NBA world. This is not a location either. The players listed are in no particular order as it relates to the buzz they generate. This column runs each week until the end of the regular season.
Edwards dropped 42 points, seven assists and six rebounds in Minnesota’s loss to Memphis on Wednesday. He shot 17 against 22 from the field, including 8 of 9 from 3-point range, joining LeBron James as the only teens in history to post more 40-point games. He is also the only teenager to have ever scored at least 40 points while hitting at least five 3-pointers in a single game.
Edwards is the third-youngest player in history to post another 40-point game, sandwiched between Kevin Durant at No. 2 and Carmelo Anthony at No. 4.
For most of the season, it pearled as if LaMelo Ball were to be the current Rookie of the Year winner. Even when Ball went down, several scouts told CBS Sports that they thought Ball had already done enough to seal the price without playing another game. But Edwards does this very interesting.
Since the All-Star break, Edwards averages 23.7 points and 5.4 rebounds on 44 percent shooting, including 35 percent from 3 (32 points on 55 true shots per 100 possessions).
During his last 15 games, Edwards is at 37 percent from 3-point range. He has the potential for a future 40-percent shooter from the depths. His setback 3 is already a signature shot, and it’s virtually unprotected in combination with his downhill explosiveness. Edwards is already the Wolves’ clear heartbeat, responding to his energy and scoring in a way they never really have with Karl-Anthony Towns. If this is not already Edwards’ team, it will be soon.
LeBron is not a fan of the NBA’s new play-in tournament, where his Lakers, who are currently No. 6 in the West, are dangerously close to falling. “Whoever came up with that s – must be fired,” LeBron said recently.
I wrote about how wrong LeBron is and why his grip bees of bias after years of the post-season scale that was certainly toppled in his favor as he navigated the inferior Eastern Conference. Here’s a bit of that piece:
LeBron’s grip repeats Luka Doncic and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, both of whom have recently been critical of the new play-in format. Not coincidentally, the Mavericks and Lakers are both in danger of having to play their way into the playoffs through the play-in tournament. Clearly, they will not think it is fair that a team that played the entire season to earn a playoff spot should then get through an additional potential series of three games.
But here’s the deal: Things are changing. And this change is, like Major League Baseball’s expansion of the wildcard after the season, in the NBA and its players. Keeping multiple teams in search of a play-in spot counteracts refueling, and the play-in series itself is an extra revenue stream that will eventually flow into the pockets of the players and the team. When these guys start accepting less money, they can complain about how that money is generated.
Will LeBron really play the stock card just because the new post-season system may not work to his advantage this year? The guy played in the Eastern Conference for 15 years. Did he really travel the fairest path to his eight straight final places? Go talk to Chris Paul or Damian Lillard about how fair the traditional two-conference setup is. These guys have been killed for years for not being able to get to a final despite having to navigate far more competitive fields.
LeBron has had the advantage that it basically does not even have to show up before the second round of the playoffs, if so for most of his career after the season. Now we have to cry for the man because he suddenly has to lead his team to a top-six seed? If anything, he should direct his frustrations at his teammates, who have allowed the Lakers to slip into this precarious position in LeBron’s extended absence.
For years, the NBA playoffs have rewarded relative mediocrity. Basically, every team comes in with a functional heartbeat. Now that’s not true. The Mavericks, Lakers and Blazers are all good teams and they are fighting to win every game. Previously, it would be nothing more than a bunch of seeds mixing and resting. The difference between a 6 and 7 seed was not punitive enough to give high priority to sowing. Now, it is.
Every seed you drop down to 10 has legitimate consequences. This gives what has become a largely irrelevant regular season a shot of intrigue down the stretch. At the end of the day, it’s all about entertainment. This is about engaging as many fans as possible. That’s why these guys make hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s not about equity. It’s about the product. The play-in tournament must be adopted permanently.
Whether LeBron likes it or not, the play-in tournament is probably here to stay and it’s on the hunt for the Lakers, who have a half game leading over the No. 7 Blazers with a matchup left Friday night. LeBron is already out for the Lakers’ Thursday game with the Clippers as he rests his still injured ankle and there is no word on whether he will play against Portland.
If he does not play against the Blazers, the Lakers are really playing with fire. Will one more day of rest get LeBron healthy? He has already said that he will probably never be 100 percent again with all the wear and tear he has put on his body over the years. If the Lakers mess and lose the game to Portland, they may well find themselves in a potential do-or-die play-in game just to make playoffs with a less than 100 percent LeBron and a still-not-back-in-rhythm Anthony Davis.
Antetokounmpo took a total of 66 shots, 14 of which were 3s, in Milwaukee’s two straight wins over Brooklyn, which has enabled the Bucks to jump the nets to the No. 2 seed – only one loss left with tiebreaker in hand. GIannis scored 87 points in those two games. This is bidding aggression and production if the Bucks are to beat Brooklyn in a likely second-round matchup.
Giannis has taken 20 3-pointers in three games against the Nets this season, or nearly seven per. Match. Brooklyn will dare Giannis take 3s, as all teams do, and how he balances taking those shots and using the space given to him as a runway to the edge will be of utmost importance in the post season.
It can not be one or the other. See the first two clips below. The first pulls Giannis up while Blake Griffin fires. The other, Griffin is still fired, but this time Giannis gets a steam vapor and overpowers Griffin.
If it weren’t for the voters ’fatigue at the back of his winning two straight MVPs, you would hear a lot more about Giannis as a top MVP candidate this season. He is spectacular at both ends. With the height of Durant’s release and the separation he’s getting, you wouldn ‘t think a player on the ground could block his bounce shot. Except Giannis …
Low key, that’s perhaps the most amazing picture I’ve seen this season.
Westbrook posted another triple-Wednesday Wednesday night: 29 points, 17 assists and 12 rebounds in Washington’s loss to Milwaukee. That makes 179 triple-doubles for Westbrook’s career, two shy of Oscar Robertson’s record. Westbrook has chopped a triple-double in nine of its last 11 games and has already sealed a fourth season with an average of a triple-double. Robertson did it once. No one else in history has ever done that.
On Monday night, Westbrook put up 14 points, 21 rebounds and 24 assists on the Pacers. Yes, you are reading these statistics correctly. It’s just the third time in NBA history that someone has recorded a 10-20-20 game, and Westbrook is responsible for two of them. Wilt Chamberlain hooked the other with 22 points, 25 rebounds and 21 assists against Detroit in February 1968.
Westbrook’s triple double has unfortunately been increasingly dismissed as empty statistics. Oscar Robertson, who, as mentioned, is about to have his record passed to Westbrook, criticized the critics who point to Westbrook’s lack of championship as the basis of their empty statistical argument.
“I think it’s ridiculous that some sports writers criticize him for not winning a championship,” Robertson said. “Players do not win championships alone. You have to have good management. You have to come with the right group of players.”
This is absolutely true. When Russ was in his prime and had good players around him, he lived in the conference finals and made an NBA final. The notion that he has never been a winning player is false. That said, he hasn’t been that for some time.
Since Durant left his side, Westbrook. who has released 50 assists in his last three games and double-digit assists in 17 of his last 20, has not won a playoff series, even with people like Paul George and James Harden as teammates. We’ll see what he can do with Bradley Beal this time – if the guides get into the play-in tournament, that is. When they enter the game on Thursday, they are No. 10 seeds at. 30-36 with a three-point lead over No. 11 Rtors.
One thing I will say for sure: Westbrook is not the second-best point guard in history, as Wizards coach Scott Brooks recently claimed. I do not know what exactly constitutes a point guard these days. It is best to just call them leading guards. And Brooks’ point about what Westbrook is doing across the entire state sheet is fair.
But come on. If Magic Johnson is No. 1, try not even putting Westbrook over Stephen Curry. It’s just silly. The same can be said about Isiah Thomas, Chris Paul, Steve Nash and John Stockton. I guess most people will agitate Jason Kidd and James Harden over Westbrook, which I personally would place in the Gary Payton category. In the end, it’s going to be a tough call between Westbrook and Damian Lillard and / or Kyrie Irving.
Now these are good players. Hall of Famers. This is no bank on Westbrook, which is definitely the most athletic and powerful of the big point guards. He’s a minor LeBron James that way; a beautifully realized embodiment of what a healthy Derrick Rose might have become. But the second best point guard ever? There is not a chance in the world that is true.
- Stephen Curry: Curry became the fastest player in history to reach 300 made 3-pointers in a season and registered the mark on Tuesday in just his 58th season match.
- Carmelo Anthony: Monday night, Anthony moved past Elvin Hayes to a 10th spot on the NBA’s list of ever. He got a little emotional about the performance and good for him? Being one of the top 10 in the history of anything in this world, scoring a basketball or anything, is almost impossible to understand. That people thought this guy no longer had a place in the NBA is embarrassing.
- Nikola Jokic: After Denver’s victory over the Clippers on Tuesday, Jokic essentially said he doesn’t care about the MVP, repeating the previous comments he made about always feeling like an underdog. It’s a refreshing twist on so many other superstars always ringing their own bell. Jokic may not care about winning the MVP, but he is walks to win. It’s a wr.
- Jayson Tatum: Tatum went to career-high 60 points in Boston’s 32-point comeback over San Antonio last Friday. Tatum put up 27 points and was plus-28 for the game in Boston’s win over Orlando on Wednesday, which moved them out of the play-in tournament and back into No. 6 seed (tied in the table column with No. 7 Miami) so far.