Talk about putting the squad on your back! This week we got a handful of performances from star players that most would define as “Herculean Efforts.” 30-point games, 60-point games, big time comebacks, and one-possession games.
In a week filled with thrillers and big-time performances on a nightly basis, it was so hard to choose one guy from each conference that really stood out over the rest. Nonetheless, I narrowed things down and the themes of the week is “Putting on Superman’s Cape!”
The players that fit this description are guys that not only balled out, but guys who were the SOLE REASON their team was even competitive in the games played this week. So, with that, the Players of the Week are Bradley Beal in the Eastern Conference and Stephen Curry in the Western Conference. I also sprinkled in two honorable mentions just because this week was such a toss-up!
Talk about serious deja vu. Tell me if you have heard this story before. Washington Wizards All-Star guard Bradley Beal is being asked to average career highs across the board statistically while also increasing his usage but doing so in losing efforts. Why does that sound so familiar? Oh, that’s right, because that was the narrative in DC practically all of last season!
Just when Wizards fans felt like maybe there was a chance for Washington to make some noise in the playoffs as a lower seed in the Eastern Conference, the team so far has basically looked like a carbon copy of last season. Star point guard John Wall was out for the entire season due to injury. This year Star point guard Russell Westbrook has been constantly in and out of the lineup due to injury. Last year the Wizards looked to 9th overall pick Rui Hachimura to hopefully develop quickly and be a consistent contributor alongside Beal. This season they are looking to this year’s 9th overall pick, Deni Avdija to do much of the same. And once again Bradley Beal is asked to play out of his mind and average 30+ just to end up with a 2-7 record to show for it.
Despite all the frustration surrounding the Wizards’ performance over the last few games, the problem has definitely not been Beal. In the two losses suffered this week to the hands of playoff-caliber teams in the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, Beal rose to occasion and did more than his fair share of the heavy lifting. Going for a combined 101 points in just those two games alone, the performance of the week for Beal came in the form of 60 points, seven rebounds and five assists on 20-of-35 shooting from the floor, 7-of-10 from three and 13-of-15 from the free-throw line. This man has been carrying Washington for the better part of the last three years and at this point I’m surprised his back is broken.
Unfortunately, I have to inform Wizards fans, this will continue to be the narrative this season as long as Davis Bertans continues to underperform, and Westbrook continues to act as damaged goods.
Nonetheless, Beal is averaging a career-high 35 PPG along with 5.0 RPG and 4.6 APG which are numbers that are very comparable to Rockets star guard James Harden’s MVP season back in 2017-2018. Considering the lack of team success, I doubt he’ll finish as a top-5 MVP candidate, but I highly doubt voters will be able to snub Beal for an All-Star spot two years in a row. Beal gets into the All-Star game or Wizards fans riot!
I also have to give a quick shout out to my honorable mention Zach LaVine who balled out for the Chicago Bulls this week. After dropping 39 points last Sunday on the Dallas Mavericks, LaVine followed that up with a near double-double against the Portland TrailBlazers in a close 111-108 win. Then followed that up with 32 and 38 points against the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers in close losses that included a missed go-ahead step-back jumper that could have put away the Lakers. On a team full of young and developing talent, LaVine has cemented himself as the de-facto leader in Chicago and continues to show his own improvement every year.
The man with the Game Heard Around the World! After dropping a 60-piece of his own with a career-high 62 points in the win over Portland last Sunday, Curry pretty much kept the flamethrower going throughout this week.
Outside of a lackluster 13-point performance against the LA Clippers in their first meeting of the year On Wednesday night, he has been a scoring machine. 30 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists against the Kings. 38 points, two rebounds, and 11 assists in a payback win against the Clippers. But the most impressive part is how well he has been shooting from three this week.
In the games this week, Curry has shot a combined 15-of-32 from beyond the arc which is a whopping 46.8% from distance. Golden State has their work cut out for them if they look to be a playoff team in the competitive Western Conference, but anything is possible when Steph is playing out of his mind like this. Did someone say Dark Horse MVP candidate? Keep a look out for Curry’s MVP stock as the season progresses.
Once again I have to slide in another honorable mention this time for the Western Conference and that’s Nikola Jokic.
Despite the underwhelming 3-5 start to the season for the Denver Nuggets, Jokic has quietly been playing like a top-3 MVP candidate. He posted a double-double in every game this season. He has only had one game where he shot less than at least 53% from the floor. He even has had four triple-doubles this season. This week the Joker went for a combined 72 points, 26 rebounds, and ten assists on 16-of-22 shooting from the floor against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks.
Again, I am well aware that Denver does not look anything like the team we saw in last season’s playoffs but Jokic alone has shown significant promise as one of the few bright spots for this Nuggets team so far. If this team can get a little bit of a streak going, I would not be surprised if Jokic’s name were to come up more often as a legitimate MVP candidate in a season where the MVP race is stacked with potential.