We’re about a dozen games into the 2011-2012 NBA season, so talking about the All-Star game seems a bit hasty, doesn’t it? Possibly, but it was this, ranking position players or MVP watch, so maybe just be happy with what I give you, eh? I could be even lazier if I wanted, you know.
1. Ryan Anderson (PF, Magic)
Anderson hasn’t exactly come out of nowhere this season — his per-minute stats have been good for years now — but he’s exceeded all expectations with extended playing time. Anderson is currently eighth in the NBA in PER (player efficiency rating), turns the ball over at the lowest rate of any starter and is shooting an absurd 44.8% from behind the arc while attempting eight(!!!) threes per game. He’s second on the Magic in points and rebounds (behind Dwight Howard in both categories) and has provided Orlando a legitimate second option for the first time since Jameer Nelson’s red-hot start in 2008. Anderson’s numbers might not be as flashy as other candidates, but he’s providing a peerless balance of volume and efficiency to start the season.
2. Andre Iguodala (SG/SF, 76ers)
Iguodala’s play — along with the contributions of Spencer Hawes and Lou Williams — has been a major factor in the 76ers’ 10-3 start, and while Iggy has been a good player for practically his entire career, he’s now playing better than ever. Iguodala, a career 32.6% three point shooter, is knocking down 42.9% of his threes this season on nearly four attempts per game. His true shooting percentage is the highest it’s been since 2006 and his steals are up by 0.7 per game over last season, despite playing fewer minutes. Iguodala’s stellar perimeter defense is also a major factor for the 76ers, who lead the NBA in defensive efficiency. With the likes of Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce under-performing, Iguodala would be an excellent choice for replacement.
3. Greg Monroe (PF/C, Pistons)
Monroe is 5th in the NBA in PER. He’s first among centers, even over Dwight Howard, and his averages are steadily approaching the 20-10 mark, despite playing for the Pistons, who are last in the NBA in pace. Monroe’s numbers are even more impressive when you take his team’s point guard play into account. Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, and Will Bynum are averaging a combined 8.9 assists and 6.5 turnovers per game, forcing Monroe to create most of his own offense, and even act as the team’s primary distributor at times. His progress — Monroe is dropping 17.2 points, grabbing 9.1 boards, and dishing out 2.8 assists in 32.4 minutes per game — is making Monroe look like the clear steal of the 2010 draft and possibly its best player.
Others to consider: Spencer Hawes (C, 76ers), Paul Millsap (PF, Jazz), Kyle Lowry (PG, Rockets)
1. Kevin Garnett (PF, Celtics)
Garnett, who was voted in as a starter in 2011, has seen his Celtics stumble to a 4-8 start, in addition to a steep drop in his own production. He is shooting 46.1% from the field, down from 52.8% last season, and is posting the lowest PER of his career. His rebounds are down from 8.9 to 7.5 per game, he’s turning the ball over more frequently, and his defensive impact isn’t what it once was. The Celtics are currently 21st in the league in defensive efficiency with Garnett as their anchor, despite playing one of the easiest schedules in the NBA. It appears that Garnett’s age is finally catching up with him.
2. Amar’e Stoudemire (PF/C, Knicks)
Stoudemire has probably been the biggest factor in New York’s disappointing 6-7 start. He’s seen major drop-offs in his points per game (25.3 to 17.9), field goal percentage (50.2% to 42.0%), assists (2.6 to 1.2), and PER (22.7 to 16.3). Without an impressive offensive resume to compensate for his poor defense and average rebounding numbers, Amar’e just isn’t a viable All-Star candidate.
3. Tim Duncan (PF/C, Spurs)
Duncan is still excellent defensively, but his offensive impact just isn’t what it used to be. He’s playing 26.3 minutes per game and only scoring 12.8 points on 11.2 field goal attempts. Duncan is shooting 47.3% from the field and 66.7% from the free throw line, both down from last season, and is rebounding at the lowest rate of his career. Like Garnett, he’s one of the greatest forwards ever to play the game, but Duncan can’t keep getting by on past achievements.
Others to consider: Deron Williams (PG, Nets), Blake Griffin (PF, Clippers), Russell Westbrook (PG, Thunder)
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