Giannis Antetokounmpo: I’m Still the NBA’s MVP Favorite

Everything was in place. It was going to be the year of Giannis.new nike nfl jerseys cheap

Through his first 10 games, Giannis Antetokounmpo was on a tear and the prohibitive favorite to win MVP. Averaging roughly 32 points, 10 rebounds and five assists while shooting 60 percent from the field, the Greek Freak was stuffing the stat sheet and one-upping himself with highlight after never-before-seen highlight on a nightly basis.765411d17725169d71089726a3114703_crop_north

After a 32-point effort on 14-of-18 shooting in the Milwaukee Bucks’ 116-107 win over the Golden State Warriors, buy nike nfl jerseys cheap there’s no doubt that Antetokounmpo remains one of the league’s most dominant and valuable players. James Harden and LeBron James may have overtaken him in the public narrative, but he certainly doesn’t think things have changed.

“I still am,” Antetokounmpo told Bleacher Report when asked if he is still the MVP favorite. To be sure, that’s his opinion, yet he acknowledges the public narrative. “I’m one of the best players in the league. We’re going to the playoffs. I’m still in the discussion. I might not be the favorite anymore, but I’m still in the discussion. That’s how I feel.”cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Bucks forward Jabari Parker added: “He’s the MVP in all our books. nfl nike jersey cheap He’s a great teammate, and we love what he does for us.”

Things have leveled out a little bit. His season numbers normalized to a cool 27-10-5, and his field-goal percentage dipped to 53. He was bearing a Westbrookian load at 34.7 percent usage through his first 10 games, and it might have been difficult to keep up,cheap nike nfl jersey  but that’s hardly reason enough to kill off his MVP case.

“I thought he was too, s–t,” Warriors forward Jordan Bell said when asked if he thought Antetokounmpo would be the MVP. “I don’t think the hype died down. I guess it did, but he’s still killing it. His numbers are the exact same.”

Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors

In February, ESPN.com’s Kevin Pelton went through a detailed statistical analysis of the Rockets, attempting to determine whether they’d become the biggest threat to the Warriors’ longstanding dominance. Here’s the key takeaway:authentic nfl jerseys cheap

“While the Warriors should probably still be favored in a playoff matchup because of their potential to tighten up their rotation and play harder when necessary, the gap between them and the Rockets no longer looks nearly as large as we expected before the season.nfl jerseys for cheap  By virtue of their success at full strength, the Rockets have played their way into serious championship contention.”

The gap has closed since Pelton posted that article Feb. 27. While the Warriors have suffered numerous key injuries and continued to hemorrhage points on the defensive end, the Rockets have kept rolling toward the NBA’s best record. Since Feb. 28, Houston’s 9.6 net rating literally triples Golden State’s 3.2.38d293d6cecab58641b36fe098fd9581_crop_exact

Could that change when the Dubs are once again at full strength? Sure. Will it matter that they can “tighten up their rotation and play harder” cheap nfl jerseys during the Western Conference Finals? Of course.

But the Rockets can rely on their starters for more production, too. They’ll also have the luxury of continuity while Golden State attempts to rejigger the offense upon Stephen Curry’s return to the lineup. Perhaps most importantly, they’ll get to play the decisive Game 7 in front of their hometown cheap nfl authentic jerseys faithful at the Toyota Center, where they’re 30-6 with a 9.0 net rating.

This is Houston’s season. The 2017-18 campaign presents a chance for James Harden to shatter the narrative that his performances decline in the postseason, and he’s never before played better basketball. Chris Paul finally gets to go both to and beyond the Western Conference Finals.nfl jersey cheap

Though it’s worth noting you can easily pull a surplus of statistics that support either of these squads, a feeling can sometimes supersede everything else. And this year, Houston has inspired a lot of positive feelings.

Toronto Raptors vs Philadelphia 76ers

Talented and dangerous as the 76ers may be, they’re going to nfl online store  run into the same problem that first stopped the Cavaliers in these predictions: The Raptors are just…better.

So much of the analysis of the No. 1 seed centers on the team’s depth. Fred VanVleet has been excellent off the pine. Ditto for Jakob Poeltl, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles, Pascal Siakam and virtually nfl jersys everyone under head coach Dwane Casey’s purview who happens to begin games on the bench. Toronto’s 9.5 net rating from its second-string players easily outpaces the mark earned by the No. 2 Houston Rockets (7.9). The Sixers, meanwhile, are down at No. 18 (minus-2.7).10a7f8913e2ae879252ca4f1c22e0052_crop_exact

But as illuminating as that focus can be, it also prevents the starting lineup from receiving due credit.the nfl store

If you’re worried that the Raptors will have to shrink their rotation in the postseason, as so many teams often do, don’t be. Not only should they be able to keep relying on a bench that’s taken down plenty of opposing outfits comprised solely of starters, but their opening bunch has been deadly in its own right. Take a gander at the top net ratings for starting lineups in the Eastern Conference this season:

Philadelphia 76ers, 7.8
Toronto Raptors, 6.8
Boston Celtics, 6.6
Indiana Pacers, 3.9
Milwaukee Bucks, 3.4

No, it’s not a coincidence that the two top marks belong to cheap nfl merchandise our representatives in this penultimate round of the playoffs.

But Toronto has a number of advantages that allow it to make up for the deficit. nike nfl hats Given its playoff experience, the fact its top players have gone through a full professional season before, the high-powered bench and the ability to win nfl official store games on either end of the floor, it should put an end to the upstart Sixers’ deep run.

2001-02 Shaquille O’Neal, Los Angeles Lakers

DeMarcus Cousins currently possesses the NBA’s best combination of overwhelming physicality and pirouetting finesse, but he still can’t hold a candle to the exploits of prime Shaquille O’Neal. The Los Angeles Lakers center was an absolute monster around the turn nfl replica jersey of the century, throwing opponents for loops in every manner imaginable.

How important was O’Neal to the Purple and Gold?

Well, the team was loaded with talent, featuring O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Rick Fox and Robert Horry leading the charge. It went 58-24 during the regular season, then charged through the playoffs, bookending hard-fought victories over the San Antonio Spurs and Sacramento Kings with sweeps of the Portland Trail Blazers (opening round) and New Jersey Nets (NBA Finals).nfl replica jerseys china hi-res-2a839d64c8fe2fb29297d624a604f2d0_crop_exact

And yet, the team could still only muster a meager 1.4 net rating when its bruising big man was pondering new nicknames on the pine. That number skyrocketed to 11.3 when O’Neal played, and his on/off differential (9.9) was rather easily Los Angeles’ replica nfl jerseys wholesale best mark. Bryant, by contrast, saw the team improve by two points per 100 possessions when he wasn’t playing.

Despite operating on the wrong end of 30, Larry Bird shot 52.7 percent from the field, 41.4 percent from three-point territory and 91.6 percent from the charity stripe for the Boston Celtics in 1987-88. And these marks weren’t coming with limited volume, as he took 3.1 attempts per game from beyond the arc and still found time to average six trips to the stripe.

Bird enjoys a well-deserved reputation as one of the best shooters in NBA history, but this was his coup de grace. He’d never averaged more points (nor did he again), and that career high was established while he spent every game with an unconscious shooting touch. replica nfl jerseys china

This season couldn’t quite stack up with his MVP-winning efforts in 1984, ’85 and ’86, but that was largely due to declining defense as back injuries started to factor into his game. His scoring was still top-notch—especially when you remember that many of the team’s key pieces were starting to show signs of wear and tear, no longer able to draw quite as much defensive attention away from the Indiana State product.

Bird had four other campaigns that didn’t result in trophy ceremonies but replica nfl jersey still deserve historical credit. None can touch this one.

1960-61 Elgin Baylor, Los Angeles Lakers

This is why it’s important to put numbers in historical context.

Just three seasons removed from Seattle University, Elgin Baylor produced a staggering 34.8 points, 19.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists during his average contest for the Los Angeles Lakers in their nfl youth jerseys first campaign after moving away from Minneapolis. But those per-game marks don’t tell the full story, since the entire league operated at a break-neck pace, sprinting up and down the floor and barely hesitating before launching up attempts.

Baylor’s Lakers used 124.9 possessions per 48 minutes, and that mark topped only youth nfl jerseys the New York Knicks (122.9) and Cincinnati Royals (122.8) in the eight-team Association. For the sake of comparison, the Brooklyn Nets are currently the NBA’s fasted team, making the most least of 101.2 possessions per 48 minutes.

This isn’t to discredit Baylor. The Hall of Fame small forward still produced an all-time great season, even pacing the league in PER while he converted one shot after another. But it’s just not quite the same as averaging even 27 points in today’s landscape, if only from a pace perspective. 9bd875ef7ae2ea40026cb37048aa081b_crop_north

It’s the win shares that doom Westbrook.

And while that’s by no means a perfect metric when analyzed in a vacuum, it does bring to light the one glaring flaw with the dynamic point guard’s resume: His team isn’t winning games at an elite level. No matter how much he does by himself, there’s only so many win shares to divvy out when the nfl youth jerseys cheap Oklahoma City Thunder aren’t working their way toward the top of the Western Conference.

Last year’s 55-win campaign had no such drawbacks, and Westbrook was still operating at a historic level, even if Stephen Curry’s exploits were sucking away all the attention.

When you hear Dirk Nowitzki’s name, you should immediately conjure images of him torturing defenses with jumpers. Whether he’s knocking down spot-up triples, rising and firing over an undersized assignment or kicking out with one limb to complete his patented one-footed fadeaway, he’s always had an uncanny ability to pick apart the opposition without sticking near the hoop.

That was never more true than in 2005-06.

This wasn’t his famed 50/40/90 campaign, which came one season later and led to an actual MVP award. He’s even had five years with superior true shooting percentages.

But Nowitzki coupled volume with efficiency better than ever, cheap nfl youth jerseys which led to career highs in PER, offensive win shares, overall win shares and offensive box plus/minus. He admittedly sacrificed some defensive intensity to bring out his best on the scoring end, but it paid off for a Dallas Mavericks squad that won 60 games and advanced to the NBA Finals before falling victim to Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal and the Miami Heat. nfl youth jersey

Perhaps more importantly, he succumbed to the efforts of his former teammate in the MVP race, then beat Steve Nash’s Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Finals. replica nfl jerseys

Too early to panic, but banged-up Cavaliers unimpressive getting swept in Los Angeles

Kevin Love should be back in a week or so, providing an offensive boost and a passer out of the post/elbow in the half court the Cavaliers need. Tristan Thompson will be available again to bang with guys like the Lakers’ Brook Lopez or wholesale nfl jerseys cheap Julius Randle (that pair torched the Cavs to the tune of 58 points Sunday). Rodney Hood and Cedi Osman should be back and providing depth and shooting. Once guys are healthy, the rotations should stabilize and improve. Plus, with more time together for this revamped roster, the offensive sets and defensive communication should improve. Coach Tyronn Lue said pregame they were still in the “simplistic” phase of implementing what he wants this team to do on offense.gettyimages-929961688-e1520832038381

Still, Cavaliers fans might want to locate that panic button. Just in case.cheap nfl jerseys wholesale

Since the All-Star break the Cavaliers are 4-6, with the 13th ranked offense and 22nd ranked defense in the NBA. Cleveland just got swept in Los Angeles over the weekend where in consecutive games the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan and the Lakers’ Julius Randle bullied Cleveland’s small-ball lineups to the tune of 56 combined points.

Cleveland’s new, younger core is at least trying on defense — a step up from what the Cavs did in January — but this not a team of great individual defenders after LeBron. Plus, building a cohesive team defense takes time this group hasn’t had (and will not have enough of): Cleveland’s communication on nfl jerseys cheap wholesale things such tagging roll guys, helping the helper, and challenging shooters at the arc have a long way to go. On Sunday, the Lakers’ league-leading pace scrambled the Cavaliers defense on multiple occasions (the game was played at a 104 possession pace). Most glaringly on Sunday night, the Cavaliers just did not have an answer for the Lakers’ big men Randle (36 points, a career high) and Brook Lopez (22 points).

“We knew if we got out in transition on this team, we could have some success,” Randle said.nfl jersey cheap wholesale

“I think the rebounding hurts us, I think the physicality on the block, having to double team the post left us scrambling around,” Lue said after the Lakers’ loss. “That’s what we have to do right now, so no excuses. But we’ve got to play better.”

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