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The Extra Pass: Our awards at the quarter pole, plus Monday recaps

Dec 3, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT

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Believe it or not, we’re nearly at the quarter mark of the NBA season already. That means it’s time to start believing a little more in what we’ve seen so far, and maybe even time to dish out a few awards.

Remember, these aren’t predictions for what will happen at the end of the season. These awards are based solely on performances thus far.

MVP of the Quarter: LeBron James, F, Miami Heat

I almost went with Chris Paul or Paul George here, but it all felt a little too Karl Malone for my taste. Maybe we’re just a little bored by LeBron’s dominance at this point, but once again he’s been the best player in the league.

James is shooting nearly 60 percent from the field, he has a true shooting percentage of nearly 70 percent (which only two players in NBA history have ever achieved over a full season), he’s first in the league in PER and the Heat are 14-3. There are trendier choices out there, but this is LeBron’s award.

Coach of the Quarter: Terry Stotts, Portland Trail Blazers

This one is a no-brainer. The Portland Trail Blazers have been the surprise of the league thus far, as most pundits didn’t even have them pegged to break .500 or make the playoffs. Stotts has built one of the best offenses in the league, and the incorporation of multiple new players off the bench has been seamless. Frank Vogel and Gregg Popovich deserve praise at every turn, but Stotts trumps everyone right now.

Rookie of the Quarter: Michael Carter-Williams, G, Philadelphia 76ers

This hasn’t been much of a race. Victor Oladipo is the only competition at this point for Carter-Williams, but he’s averaging more turnovers per game than assists.

Carter-Williams has been the better distributor and has the higher PER on the year, and it’s also pretty impressive that he currently leads the league in steals per game. He’s been a great fit in Philadelphia’s uptempo offensive system, and believe it or not, the 76ers are only one game back of a playoff spot.

Sixth man of the Quarter: Isaiah Thomas, G, Sacramento Kings

DeJuan Blair has done a fantastic job off the bench in Dallas, but there’s a reason this is an award traditionally reserved for scoring guards. Thomas has legitimately been Sacramento’s best player next to DeMarcus Cousins, as he’s putting up 17 points a game and a gaudy PER of 21.2.

Thomas’ PER and 5.9 assists per 36 minutes is higher than J.R. Smith, James Harden, Jamal Crawford and Jason Terry in their Sixth Man of the Year winning seasons. Thomas may not have the benefit of playing for a winning team, but so far he’s been one of the best bench players we’ve seen in years.

Defensive Player of the Quarter: Roy Hibbert, C, Indiana Pacers

Blocks are generally a bit overrated as a stat, but it’s hard to overstate just how good of a rim protector Hibbert has been. Hibbert’s ability to remain vertical and stay out of foul trouble has made Indiana even stingier defensively than last season, which is no easy feat.

It’s hard not to reward the anchor of the league’s most dominant defense here, particularly because Hibbert’s ability to man the paint allows everyone else on the floor to stay home and defend one-on-one. He’s been a complete game-changer.

Most Improved Player of the Quarter: Arron Afflalo, G, Orlando Magic

There’s a tendency to hand the Most Improved Player award to a young player who has received a spike in minutes or opportunity, but I find that to be a little silly. This should be an award that recognizes a player who improved their game and didn’t just benefit from outside factors, more exposure or a natural maturation process.

Afflalo fits my criteria as a 7th year player who is posting career highs in PER (20.7), points (21.4), rebounds (4.4), assists (4.4) and three-point percentage (48.1%) even though he’s playing close to the same amount of minutes as he did last year. Afflalo has turned himself into a post-oriented guard who is also a dead-eye spot-up shooter from behind the arc, and that’s proven to be a deadly combination.

—D.J. Foster

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Wizards 98, Magic 80: With the win the Washington Wizards are 9-9 — they are at .500 for first time since Nov. 3, 2009. The reason they won this game is the reason after a slow start to the season they are even now — coach Randy Wittman is just leaning on his starters. There isn’t much depth for the Wizards’ starting five Monday played 20 minutes and they were +18. Trevor Ariza was red hot for Washington with 24, Arron Afflalo had 21 for the Magic.

Pelicans 131, Bulls 128 (3OT): No Derrick Rose. No Anthony Davis. This game was supposed to be a disappointment and it turned into one of the more epic clashes of the season. Despite the stars being out both teams got plenty of offense on the night (Chicago had 109.4 points per 100 possessions, the Pelicans 115, via NBA.com). Luol Deng had 37 points and Taj Gibson 36 for Chicago. For the Pelicans Ryan Anderson had another big game with Davis out and had 36 points, Eric Gordon had 23. But the Bulls had a big defensive breakdown on the final play of the game, a clever design from Monty Williams that had Jrue Holiday getting to the rim for an and-1. Quality road win for New Orleans.

Spurs 102, Hawks 100: Mike Budenholzer has seen Tim Duncan rip the hearts out of teams for years as a Spurs assistant, I don’t think he liked it as much from the other bench. The Spurs were a bit sloppy in this one and the Hawks almost made them pay with a balanced attack — Jeff Teague led the way with 19 including an amazing pull-up three to tie the game at 100-100. But Duncan was too much and rescued the Spurs, finishing with 23 points, 21 rebounds and one dramatic game winner.

Jazz 109, Rockets 103: Gordon Hayward had 17 first quarter points, Trey Burke added 10 and it was everything that has been wrong with Houston’s perimeter defense this season in one shining quarter. And it cost them, Utah was up 36-23 after 12 minutes. The Rockets battled back, even took the lead for a stretch, but they had given the Jazz confidence by that point. Houston couldn’t get stops. James Harden did finish with 37 points and 8 assists. Hayward had 29 on the night, Burke is finding his groove and had 21, as did Alec Burks. Quality win for the 3-15 Jazz. Houston should feel sick.

Trail Blazers 106, Pacers 102: Great win for the Trail Blazers, who were able to come from behind on Indiana (who was on the second night of a rough back-to-back after facing the Clippers). LaMarcus Aldridge played like an All-Star despite Roy Hibbert being in his path all night, scoring 17 of his 28 points in the second half. Damian Lillard had 14 of his 26 in the fourth quarter and hit a lot of big shots. Paul George almost turned the fortune of this game himself, scoring 43 points on 30 shots and looking like an MVP candidate.

Portland did it again with offense, scoring at a 107.6 points per possession pace on the best defense in the league.

  1. unxpexted1 - Dec 3, 2013 at 9:03 AM

    I know Lebron is the best player on in the league, but right now I still have to go with Paul George right now at the moment for MVP. Best player on the best team (at the moment) and he is backing it up with performance.

    Aaron Affalo is an interesting choice but I think I’d go with Evan Turner at the moment for most improved player. He’s really ballin after being pretty awful the last couple years.

    • pbtunpaidwriter - Dec 3, 2013 at 12:43 PM

      George’s stats aren’t all that great and he’s not very efficient and are no comparison to Lebron’s efficiency. I don’t need to go into details.

      Also, the Heat and Pacers have pretty much the same record but the Heat rely much more on Lebron since Wade is out almost every other game. George has MUCH more help and his team is STACKED.

      If anything Chris Paul is Lebron’s competition at the moment.

      • gostlcards5 - Dec 3, 2013 at 1:41 PM

        I agree that LBJ is the MVP, but to discount PG because of his team’s talent and saying his stats aren’t that great is doing him a disservice.

        PG is the primary reason that Indiana has the best record in the league. When they have been pulling away from opponents in 85-90% of their victories (during the 3rd quarter), it is because he has taken over the games. His ppg in the 3Q is by far the highest in the league (at least, it was a week ago).

        By the way, his stat line:
        24.9 ppg / 5.9 rpg / 3.4 apg / 2.2 spg / 47.6% FG / 41.2% 3-pt / 83.9% FT

        I’d say that’s pretty freaking awesome. He’s a well-rounded player, and I said it early-middle of last year. If he keeps working at it, he will be a top 3-5 player in the league. Trust me, it’s coming….the kid wants it.

      • bougin89 - Dec 3, 2013 at 2:21 PM

        “George’s stats aren’t all that great and he’s not very efficient”

        LOL. That’s just funny.

        I do agree that he isn’t as efficient as Lebron. How many players ever have been as efficient as Lebron has been this past one and a quarter seasons? Oh, I don’t need to go into details…

      • theromeo2k - Dec 3, 2013 at 3:59 PM

        Very well said @pbtunpaidwriter^

        Adding to what you said, the Pacers have been cruising with one of the easiest schedules to start the year. So far they have only beaten 1 (one, uno, un) team with a winning record. Even Philly have beaten more than one of the top teams in the NBA.

        Overall, yeah Indiana is good. But they’re getting too much hype that Portland should be getting since they have been the real surprise this year (they have beaten: SA, HOU, GSW, so far).

      • pbtunpaidwriter - Dec 3, 2013 at 8:58 PM

        Btw PG is great and he’s going to battle KD for the MVP in the future as Lebron gets older and slows down, no one can dispute that.

        As far as the MVP voting this year goes, you HAVE TO be compared to Lebron’s efficiency that’s just how the voting works. If Lebron had a rim protector like George does (Hibbert), he’d win 70 games, no question.

        I’m discounting him when comparing him to Lebron, not the league.

  2. flyrocket31 - Dec 3, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    Jrue Holiday, who is on the PELICANS, led the way in a game with the SPURS vs HAWKS?

  3. innovativethinking87 - Dec 3, 2013 at 10:22 AM

    Love Lebron but MVP? Nah buddy it’s Paul George

    • bougin89 - Dec 3, 2013 at 10:43 AM

      It’s hard to argue Lebron isn’t deserving the MVP. As good as George has been(and he’s been fantastic) Lebron is clearly the best player in the league.

      • david0303 - Dec 3, 2013 at 10:47 AM

        Don’t matter if he’s the best player in the league, the award goes to the most valuable

      • bougin89 - Dec 3, 2013 at 1:38 PM

        True. If you go by +/- of the MVP candidates George would be the winner.

      • unxpexted1 - Dec 3, 2013 at 10:48 AM

        I agree, but best player doesn’t always equate to MVP’s. I think by the end of the year its Lebron. But at the moment, i’d give it to PG.

  4. verndiggity - Dec 3, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    Had to make an excuse for Indiana. They actually arrived a few hours early as the Blazers were on LA also, playing the second of a back to back. Your bias is showing….

  5. homergreenz - Dec 3, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    “James is shooting nearly 60 percent from the field, he has a true shooting percentage of nearly 70 percent (which only two players in NBA history have ever achieved over a full season), he’s first in the league in PER and the Heat are 14-3. There are trendier choices out there, but this is LeBron’s award.”

    Lebron is not even leading his own team in +/-. Last season he was 2nd in the league, trailing only Durant. No, it’s not “Lebron’s award” and simply handing it to him seems a bit lazy to me.

    George is my MVP thus far. He’s leading the league in +/- and has the 8th highest PER (or 7th if you don’t count Brook Lopez who has played roughly 40% fewer games than the rest of the league leaders).

    1. George
    2. Love
    3. Lebron

    • Kurt Helin - Dec 3, 2013 at 2:12 PM

      The flaw with +/- is it says as much about the guy replacing you as it does you.

      • bougin89 - Dec 3, 2013 at 2:27 PM

        I agree with what you’re saying, but then doesn’t it mean the person who has a better +/- more valuable to their team?

        I’m not trying to dispute Lebron is the best player in the league because he is but if his backups or teammates are so good it’s almost like saying they could win without him because they actually are.

      • homergreenz - Dec 3, 2013 at 5:41 PM

        So the Heat bench players are better than Lebron? Your comment makes little to no sense.

      • homergreenz - Dec 3, 2013 at 5:50 PM

        I appreciate the response, Kurt, but no it doesn’t have anything to do with the guy replacing you. +/- is the point differential of the score for a player WHILE ON THE COURT.

        People say that Kevin Love doesn’t “make his teammates better.” However, he’s leading his team in minutes and by far in +/-. i.e. some of his minutes are with the bench guys and even in those situations, the T-Wolves are outscoring their opponents.

      • Kurt Helin - Dec 4, 2013 at 8:42 PM

        I suggest reading up on stats, start with Basketball on Paper.

      • homergreenz - Dec 3, 2013 at 5:54 PM

        Or better yet, using the Heat bench example (and assuming we were talking about on/off stats and not +/- (your mistake), the Heat bench players are much more talented and effective than the opposition’s bench players than Lebron is more talented and effective than the opposition’s starters?

        Your arguement against +/-, which is really an arguement against on/off stats, is a dig against Lebron, not in favor of him.

      • savvybynature - Dec 3, 2013 at 6:25 PM

        Yeah, but the problem’s with PER are just as bad. It’s almost entirely an offensive stat that rewards volume shooting.
        Yet tons of writers and pundits cite this statistic as if it is a true measure of a player’s impact on the court.

  6. miamatt - Dec 3, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    Ahhh the old definition of the MVP award debate.

    Now, if you ascribe the best player on the team with the best record ethos, then George is your pick.

    If you believe it goes to the best player period, it is James.

    But really, this all is complicating a relatively simple issue. Put James on the Pacers and George on the Heat. Are the Pacers title hopes better or worse under this scenario? What about the Heat’s shot at a 3-peat? This is the meaning of Most Valuable Player.

    It isn’t just who is most valuable on their given team, it is who would be most valuable for any team, league-wide. And that is still James, hands down.

    • topdawg4ever - Dec 3, 2013 at 11:48 AM

      Excellent description of what is usually a confusing award.

      • gostlcards5 - Dec 3, 2013 at 1:52 PM

        I agree somewhat…

        – Indy’s record is only 1 game better than Miami’s at this point, and (again) LBJ is clearly the best player in the league. That true shooting percentage is unbelievable to maintain through almost 20 games.

        – I’m not certain that the Pacers chances improve that much more with LeBron, because of how well PG has been playing. Clearly, both of them are complete players, and LBJ is still better. Their stat lines are not that far apart.

        PPG / RPG / APG / SPG / FG% / 3P% / FT% / TOPG
        James 26.2 / 5.8 / 6.3 / 1.1 / .598 / .481 / .806 / 3.53
        George 24.9 / 5.9 / 3.4 / 2.2 / .476 / .412 / .835 / 2.78

      • tfyjman - Dec 8, 2013 at 8:11 PM

        If that’s the case, then why hasn’t a certain SF in Oklahoma’s name not come up? If people think PG’s numbers compare favorably with LeBron’s, more or less, then what do they think about KD’s numbers? They’re almost identical, especially when you consider KD’s been stepping his game up this season to overcome his media-given #2 status.

        Putting all fandom aside, how differently, really, is KD’s and LeBron’s games? What would the outcome be if you put him on the Heat, and LeBron on the Thunder? Would the Thunder be contenders then? Would the Heat’s three-peat be in jeopardy?

    • unxpexted1 - Dec 3, 2013 at 2:46 PM

      Honestly, I’m not sure how much better the Pacers would be with lebron the way currently instructed. Not saying they’d be better, but the reason why the PG’s assist numbers are so low is they the pacers still don’t have much outside shooting. Lebron is able to drive and kick to top notch shooters all game. You see how hard PG has to work get an assists? How many open threes Lance and George Hill miss. I’m just saying, if the pacers had some bonafide shooters PG’s numbers would probably be better.

  7. styleelements015 - Dec 3, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    @miamatt spot on. PG is playing great but stats never lie.

  8. kastout11 - Dec 3, 2013 at 12:32 PM

    Clearly Lebron is the best player in the league, but I think if Minnesota makes a push and ends up as a 4 or 5 seed in the conference, Love should garner some consideration.

    • tved12 - Dec 3, 2013 at 1:44 PM

      I’m a T-Wolves fan and I love the respect, but they need to stay above .500 for a bit before this conversation.

      My biggest issue w/ K-Love is he doesn’t make people around him better. Great scorer, great rebounder, not such a good leader. He’s becoming a guy who needs to be the 2nd best player on a team to win a title.

    • tved12 - Dec 3, 2013 at 1:46 PM

      Then again, if he does get them to a 4 or 5 seed in the West he would have to be playing out of his mind. So with that caveat you have a good point.

  9. dallasstars9 - Dec 3, 2013 at 2:11 PM

    MVP? Has to be LaMarcus Aldridge… Go Rip City!

  10. golfrangeman - Dec 3, 2013 at 2:16 PM

    I’m surprised nobody has mentioned K.D great numbers, teams right up there and he’s been considered 2nd best player for a while now. He’s doing this with Westbrook’s numbers down a little.

    • theromeo2k - Dec 3, 2013 at 4:14 PM

      Indeed, KD is being playing way better than P.George

      Paul George:
      PPG 24.9
      RPG 8.1
      APG 5.5
      SPG 1.4
      BPG 0.7
      FG% 0.458
      FT% 0.874
      3P% 0.371
      MPG 39.2

      Kevin Durant
      PPG 28.3
      RPG 5.9
      APG 3.4
      SPG 2.2
      BPG 0.4
      FG% 0.476
      FT% 0.835
      3P% 0.412
      MPG 36.3

      • bougin89 - Dec 3, 2013 at 4:28 PM

        Switch the PPG and names around and these stats would be accurate.

      • homergreenz - Dec 3, 2013 at 5:42 PM

        PG is a much, much better defender.

  11. abxyer - Dec 3, 2013 at 3:57 PM

    Most Valuable Player….LBJ……He can effectively defend AND play all 5 positions if needed.

    • bougin89 - Dec 3, 2013 at 4:54 PM

      Nobody in the NBA can effectively guard all 5 positions, including Lebron. Lebron doesn’t guard true big men nor should he have to. It’s not a dig on Lebron but he didn’t develop as a true big man because he was so good as a perimeter player. His post game is developing but when he goes into the post it’s because he’s trying to take advantage of a mismatch not because he’s going against a PF or C.

      • progress2011 - Dec 3, 2013 at 8:07 PM

        Of Course LBJ can effectively guard all 5 positions!

        He regularly checks the opposing teams best guard. I remember when he checked a healthy D.Rose, on their way to a Chip.

        This is 2013 and the new “Finesse” NBA. This is not the 80/ 90’s when “Big Men” PF/ Centers had true back to the basket moves, had foot work and enforced their dominance with authority….aka – Shaq, Moses Malone, Karl Malone, Barkley, Olajuwon, The Admiral, Oakley, Kareem, Parrish, McHale etc. etc. etc.

        Could LBJ guard any of those guys effectively……..HECK NO! He would be boxed into the stands!

        But pertaining to the current PF/ Centers….he can certainly “EFFECTIVELY” check the current ineffective, no back to the basket game having, self-checked guys of today. Many of todays Centers can’t get 20 points practicing, by themselves !

        I can count on one hand, the guys LBJ has absolutely NO CHANCE against, in today’s NBA. Meaning they’d get 20pts + and 20 boards, if he tried to check them.

        Duncan
        Hibbert
        Bynum (if his knees work that day)
        D12
        Aldridge

        Alternate: Cousins (if his attitude doesn’t get him kicked out)

        etc. etc. etc. etc.

      • bougin89 - Dec 4, 2013 at 9:24 AM

        Well you’re missing a few guys like Brook Lopez, Al Horford, Al Jefferson, Marc & Pau Gasol, Boozer, Zach Randolph just off the top of my head. I’m not trying to discredit Lebron but to say he actually guards all 5 positions effectively is more myth than reality.

      • progress2011 - Dec 4, 2013 at 6:26 PM

        Ahahahahaha !

        I think I mentioned, half the “Big Men” in today’s NBA have VERY limited skills. The guys you reference:

        1. Brook Lopez body is broke 75% of the time .
        2. Al Horford & Pau – Soft as Charmin
        3. Boozer and Mark Gasol – Depends on which one shows up. Both are VERY inconsistent
        4. Jefferson and Randolph…two rambling bulls…LBJ would get them to foul out…This is a Finesse league.

        The league has changed! Big men are not as skilled and the league wont tolerate true Power Play.

        LBJ holds his own against the guys you mention. They wont average 20 and 20, in a five game series.

        Since they won’t…..Miami Wins.

      • bougin89 - Dec 5, 2013 at 10:27 AM

        1. Brook Lopez body is broke 75% of the time. But Lebron wouldn’t be able to stop him.

        2. Al Horford & Pau – Soft as Charmin. OK…

        3. Boozer and Mark Gasol – Depends on which one shows up. Both are VERY inconsistent. When have either of these players been labeled as inconsistent? Boozer is a consistent just shy of a double double player.

        4. Jefferson and Randolph…two rambling bulls…LBJ would get them to foul out…This is a Finesse league. This makes absolutely no sense. Jefferson is extremely skilled with his back to the basket. Randolph is a bully on offense but that doesn’t mean he fouls. He’s averaged 2.4 fouls a game for his career…

        Arguing points with cliches isn’t effective.

        I don’t think you’re getting my point though, this doesn’t discredit Lebron, nobody can effectively guard all 5 positions in the NBA.

    • homergreenz - Dec 3, 2013 at 5:43 PM

      Did he effectively defend Tony Parker in the finals? No, Parker ran circles around Lebron when Lebron tried to cover him.

      • progress2011 - Dec 3, 2013 at 8:11 PM

        Parker runs circles around EVERYONE…including himself !

        MVP means, LBJ is the only guy on the Heat that have any hope at all, of staying in front of Parker.

        Wade can’t, Chalmers can’t, Allen can’t, Cole is too little and still can’t !

        Therefore, LBJ was the only option and did the best possible job on arguably the fastest guy in the NBA…..with the ball!

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