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Paul George Needs To Be In The MVP Conversation
Plus, a look at this year's best and worst NBA City Edition jerseys!
Note: statistics accurate through Tuesday morning, Nov 8, 2021.
It’s way too early for an MVP conversation: sample sizes are still small, team success is still unknown, etc. But we’re about to have one anyway!
Let’s compare two star players:
Player A: Averaging 25 points, six rebounds, six assists, and two steals on 53/31/84 shooting splits (FG%/3P%/FT%)
Player B: Averaging 27 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and three steals on 46/36/88 shooting splits
Which of these would you prefer for MVP? Player A has slightly worse counting stats and slightly more efficiency than Player B, but they’re close statistically. Player A has a tiny advantage in some advanced stats1, but Player B is the better distance shooter.
Player A is Jimmy Butler, the NBA.com third-place candidate for MVP while leading the stacked 7-3 Heat. Player B is Paul George, carrying a 5-4 Clippers team without any semblance of other offense around him2 and listed as the 12th-best MVP candidate in the same list. He has the sixteenth-best odds of winning, according to Vegas. Other lists similarly discount Paul.
PG came in third in MVP voting in 2018-2019 for the Thunder, and he’s playing at an even higher level this year. So why does he get no love?
Well, Paul George can be a tough guy to root for. He tends to stick a foot (or feet) in his mouth, he famously struggled badly in the bubble playoffs (which he attributed partly to mental health issues and depression), and his shooting is prone to bouts of maddening inconsistency. He’s open and honest in interviews but can be finger-pointy and insecure, and he’s had plenty of personal dramas and controversies in the past. It’s understandable why many fans dislike him, but the MVP award is not a referendum on character.
Don’t let the noise detract from the fact that he’s one of the absolute elite two-way forces in the NBA. He’s fourth in the league in scoring, seventh in threes made, 31st in assists, second in steals, and carrying the team in Kawhi Leonard’s absence.
He’s been one of the top five defenders in the league for nearly a decade. How many other alpha offensive options can stonewall Karl Anthony-Towns…
…and also pickpocket dribbling wizard Ricky Rubio?
Opponents guarded by George are shooting nearly 15% worse at the rim than expected. He gets a ton of steals without fouling much.
According to Bball-Index, George spends 25% of his time guarding point guards and almost 40% of his time defending power forwards, showcasing his defensive versatility. He has even played some center in the Clippers’ dangerous small-ball lineups.
He’s shooting an equal number of mid-range and three-point shots this season (meaning, a lot of both), but he’s hitting the two-point jumpers at an elite 52% clip. He’s one of the few high-volume mid-range artists with solid efficiency in the game right now.
People tend not to think too much about down-ballot MVP votes. 99% of NBA fans don’t care about who comes in fourth for MVP in a given year. But it matters for the kind of frivolous but fun conversations we have about legacies, rankings, etc. When the NBA does its “Top 100 at 100” list in a quarter-century, Paul George is going to be a guy who gets consideration (I hear your gasp of disgust, but it’s true!). Having another top-5 MVP finish on his resume would be a huge boost to his chances.
Several other MVP candidates have similar or better statistical cases, and George’s team likely won’t be good enough to merit serious consideration for the top spot on the ballot. There’s also always a health concern with George, particularly given the load he’s carrying. George is not going to win MVP outright. But with the evidence we have so far, it’s silly not to include him in the conversation.
Worst And Best Of The New NBA City Edition Jerseys
The new City Edition jerseys are out, and many have already seen live action. They are supposed to be inspired by a team’s past, and they’re generally quite lovely! But that’s not going to stop us from passing judgment on them. For what it’s worth, my wife took a look at all the jerseys, reviewed my selections, and told me my fashion taste is shameful. So maybe take this with a microscopic grain of salt.
What is the point of throwback unis if they reference something ugly? Dallas always seems to miss the mark, and this year is no exception. The cowboy hat on the D is corny, and not in an endearing way. At least the sponsored ad on the shoulder matches the rest of the jersey.
People loved these last year, so Nike didn’t bother to change them. It’s unfortunate because all I see is a Brick Breaker level:
The colors make me want to eat a McDouble. The throwback logos look like clipart from Microsoft Office 95. The Cavs have an exciting young team, and they deserve equally fun uniforms. Nike needs to throw all of their art out and start from scratch.
Oklahoma City Thunder
I like the idea of all-white uniforms. When done correctly, they can be extremely fresh. But there’s a little too much grey here, and the bright yellow corporate sponsor logo on the shoulder is distracting, like food in someone’s teeth. We’ll see if they look better on the court.
They’re not terrible. I miss the angry horse and the teal, even though they were hated at the time. Also, the Pistons basketball logo (as seen on the shorts) is possibly the most boring in the NBA, and the lightning bolts are cheesy.
They definitely aren’t for everyone, and there’s a lot going on. But pinstripes are always a plus here at Basketball Poetry, and the orange-and-stars are eye-catching. Even the shoulder logo is barely noticeable. Enjoyable jerseys for a fascinating team.
The cartoon raptor. Pinstripes. The maple leaf on the waistband. Black and gold, evoking OVO and the Raptors’ recent championship. These are just superb uniforms all-around.
Following in the footsteps of legends is never easy. The original Miami Vice jerseys might very well have been the best and most popular alternate jerseys of all time (the black ones from 2017 outsold all 29 other City Edition jerseys combined), for good reason, so reactions to whatever came next were always going to be negative by comparison. The ransom note look is controversial, but I love that it pays homage to different Heat jerseys from the past. The colored basketball on the shorts (and at center court for the matching hardwood design) should become the new default logo for the Heat, who, frankly, have had pretty boring standard jerseys and art for most of their lifetime. Bonus points for letting players pick the fonts they want for their individual numbers, which is unbelievably cool. Nike and Miami did great work with an impossible task, even if people can’t appreciate it today.
The yellow is vibrant and unforgettable, and the red evokes the Olympic torch, which is a nice touch. The cartoon hawk logo is classic, while they still keep the fan-favorite Pac-man logo on the waistband. These are the kind of threads a dynamic young team (*coughCLEVELANDcough*) deserves!
I don’t know how the Bulls always do so much with so little. The red and black is classic, listing the championship years on the bottom of the jerseys is cool, and the nodding-to-the-past pinstripe cutouts on the shorts add juuuust a little sizzle to otherwise elegant uniforms, like a bright pocket square on a tuxedo.
That’s it for today! Check out SI.com if you want to see the rest of the jersey closeups. Please, if you like Basketball Poetry, please subscribe below and share with your friends, family, and worst enemies (that’s how you make them friends!)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Reggie Jackson is the Clippers’ second-leading scorer at 17 points per game, shooting a remarkably inefficient 37.5% from the field.