5. REGGIE JACKSON
With Westbrook out, Jackson will have his chance to showcase his full arsenal. He could push to the top of this list or fall off over the next month. (Similar to teammate Kevin Durant in the MVP race… although it’s safe to assume KD is going to put up MONSTER numbers without Westbrook.) Jackson has a knack for scoring and like Evans, can contribute in other places on the court. Given that he will likely start a lot over the next month, his per game numbers should see a spike, rising from their current averages of 12.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.6 dimes.
Against the Timberwolves on Saturday, Jackson only took six shots and Kevin Durant was forced to carry the offense, taking 32. No doubt Jackson was told after the game he needed to be more involved. And so he came back Sunday against the Celtics and had 27 points on 12 shots, shooting 75 percent at home. Those numbers aren’t sustainable but Jackson’s contributions allowed Durant to play within himself, only taking 13 attempts. Jackson isn’t Westbrook but he will have to do his best Westbrook impression if the Thunder want to retain the West’s No. 1 seed.
4. NICK YOUNG
Swaggy P is similar to Jamal Crawford in that he comes off the bench and gets the green light to shoot away, especially now that he’s in L.A. Nick Young is also higher on this list than Crawford, despite similar raw statistics, because he has slightly better percentages across the board. Over the last 10 games, Young has averaged over 21 points per game and is shooting 43 percent on the year, and 83 percent from the line. He’s a scoring machine even if it hurts the team at times, proven by the fact that over that ten-game stretch he shot under 40 percent five times.
With Kobe on the shelf, Pau Gasol halfway out the door and a limited group of role players filling out the Lakers roster, Young will be leaned on heavily to supply offense. Ironically, he’s been much better coming off the bench (26 games, 45 percent shooting, 18.0 points per game) than he has been as a starter (eight games, 36 percent shooting, 12.3 points per game).
3. MARKIEFF MORRIS
I’m going to list the Western Conference Players of the Week thus far. You tell me who seems out of place:
- Kevin Love
- Markieff Morris
- Blake Griffin
- Kevin Durant
- LaMarcus Aldridge
- LaMarcus Aldridge
- Blake Griffin
Phoenix has been special, and Morris is a big part of that. The Suns were a sure bet to utterly suck this year. Somewhere between a Jeff Hornacek meeting, an Eric Bledsoe highlight, and several light bulbs turning on in young players who hadn’t put it together, this team is making noise. I think they know the secret, word to Bill Simmons. Regardless, Morris has the second-most win shares of players mentioned on this list. He has the second-highest field goal percentage (nearly 49) and he’s the only one to win a Player of the Week award. Morris is also a big man, so more power to the guy. He makes great use of the 25 minutes a game he’s given, bringing energy, scoring, rebounding, and efficiency to the lineup. He also is a solid free throw shooter, further adding to his value, which currently sits at 12.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game.
2. TYREKE EVANS
Remember when he was an electrifying rookie and we all thought he was a mini LeBron James? Evans never again found the magic that led to such a great first season, but now in New Orleans, Evans has begin to sink into a new role. He was awful — repeat: AWFUL — to start the season, twice being shut out and earning himself a negative PER at one point. But since then? He’s been fantastic, averaging 17.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists over his last 10 games. His shooting percentages are terrible — 42 percent from the field and 17 percent from the three-point line — but he’s contributed in a jack of spades role and at least makes his freebies. He scores, rebounds and assists at above-average rates, all while subbing in at different positions.
According to 82games.com, the Pelicans’ five best units in terms of +/- all have Evans on the floor at either the shooting guard or small forward position. Evans is the only Pelicans player who resides in all five, and with the way he’s improving as the season goes, Evans could easily end up winning this award.
The biggest reason why we rated Evans above players like Young and Morris is because he’s been so utterly unstoppable for the last few months, scoring in double-figures in 21 of his last 23 after such an embarrassing start to the season.
1. MANU GINOBILI
Ginobili won this award back in 2008 on much prettier per game numbers. I concede that whole heartedly, but, remember, he’s playing eight minutes less a game this season than he did in 2008 and oh yeah, he’s also still playing for Gregg Popovich, who always finds a way to limit his players’ minutes/statistics.
In 2007-08: 46 percent field goals, 40 percent three-pointers, 86 percent free throws, .232 WS/48 (win shares over 48 minutes)
In 2013-14: 47 percent field goals, 37 percent three-pointers, 91 percent free throws, .200 WS/48
We’re talking about a 36-year-old who is still taking the kids to school. And although, on the season, his numbers are down, he also had a slow start. Since December, Ginobili has averaged 15 points, five assists and four rebounds a game on 50-39-90 shooting. That’s damn good and would put him in the upper echelon of NBA shooting guards.
Ginobili may run out of gas. His numbers may level out and he may fade into the background just as he did during last year’s postseason, but we’ve been saying this about the Spurs as a whole for years now. If the season ended today, I’d have to give it to Ginobili, who leads this list in win shares, WS/48 and player efficiency rating.
A few guys who didn’t make the cut were Jeremy Lin, who has now started too many games, and Isaiah Thomas, who is a full-blown starter at this point. There’s also Victor Oladipo, who will also likely have started too many games at the end of the year. Finally, anyone wondering where Harrison Barnes is, make sure to look his numbers up and then look at Michael Beasley’s numbers and you will have your answer.
Who do you think deserves to win this award?
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