Well, we’re only two games into the 78th season of the National Basketball Association, but with the league featuring top tier teams and top tier names for their Opening Night games, it’s tempting to start talking about considerations for Most Valuable Player.
While that may seem as premature as a 12 year old’s first exposure to Las Vegas or Bourbon Street, some performances did stick out rather prominently in last night’s games.
It’s easy to give the early nod to Nikola Jokic, especially after he posted his 107th career triple double against the Los Angeles Lakers, in the Opening Night 119-107 win for the reigning champion Denver Nuggets. Jokic looked at ease, dropping 29 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists in his first defense of the Nuggets’ title. To be honest, it hardly looked like he broke a sweat, much different than the weight of carrying the Nuggets against the Miami Heat just a few months ago. To go out on Night One and lead like that makes it easy to see why people jump on the Jokic bandwagon.
In the first half, Anthony Davis looked like he belonged right there alongside Jokic in the MVP conversation. David ended up with 17 points and eight rebounds in the game, and looked washed up in the second half of the game, despite the Lakers switching Rui Hachimura onto Jokic throughout much of the latter stages of the game. To be honest, newcomer Taurean Prince had a better outing. That’s the knock on Davis – lack of consistency. He’ll need to improve that to remain in the running. But it’s just one game.
Media and voters may have to consider Devin Booker as a viable MVP candidate this season. Booker led the Phoenix Suns to victory No. 1 last night against his former backcourt teammate, Chris Paul, and the Golden State Warriors, 108-104. Booker posted a game high 32 points and added six rebounds and eight dimes. Booker also put the Suns up for good with just under five minutes left in the game scoring a lay-up and then a three-pointer to seal the deal without Bradley Beal.
And, of course, it can’t be an MVP conversation without someone mentioning LeBron James’ name, so that might as well be me. Granted, James’ minutes were monitored with 29 played; but the ageless talent made the most of his time on the court, despite the loss. James held a commanding presence with a team-high 21 points, eight rebounds, and five assists. James shot .625 from the field, only Prince and Christian Wood shooting better at .750 on the night. James was also incredible in coaching his teammates through situations if you paid attention to the audio during times out.
Players like Jayson Tatum and Jimmy Butler get their turns tonight, while others under consideration like Giannis Antetokuonmpo and Damian Lillard tip on Thursday evening. And Kevin Durant could be in the running as well, despite a modest 18 last night.
New York Knicks
|New Orleans Pelicans
|Oklahoma City Thunder
San Antonio Spurs
Los Angeles Clippers
Tracy Graven is the Senior NBA Analyst for BackSportsPage.com.
He has written the NBA, done NBA Radio, and appeared as a guest for the last 24 years for HoopsWorld, Swish Magazine, HoopsHype, the Coach Scott Fields Show, NBARadioShow.com, and is also tackling the NFL, NCAA, and will be pinch-hitting on some Major League Baseball coverage for BackSportsPage.
He’s spent 21 years in locker rooms in Orlando, Boise (CBA, G League), San Antonio, Phoenix, Denver, Oklahoma City, and Atlanta.
A corporate trainer by day, he currently resides in SEC Country near Knoxville, Tennessee.
Reach him on Twitter at @RealTMoneyMedia