MVP of the Week – DeMarcus Cousins
In the hotly contested Western Conference, the New Orleans Pelicans are regarded as a fringe playoff team. If they’re to make the playoffs, it is going to require an enormous effort from their two stars, DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis. This week it was Cousins’ turn to ball out as Davis spent time on the sidelines and the Pelicans headed to Sacramento for the first time since Cousins was traded.
In a match that was obviously important to the Pelicans center, Cousins showed the Kings what they were missing out on with a dominant performance. He posted 41 points, 23 rebounds and six assists, draining buckets at the death to lead his side to a 114-106 win. That match was the highlight of an outstanding week in which Cousins averaged 36.3/16.0/6.3 across the first three games before putting up a triple-double to lead the Pelicans past the Cavs on Sunday night.
Team of the Week – Orlando Magic
Are the Magic for real? Sitting among the playoff spots in the Eastern Conference standings, Orlando have defied all expectations. Many tipped them to struggle this season, but early indications point to the opposite. The highlight of their week was a win over San Antonio on Saturday night when they thoroughly outplayed the Spurs to win 114-87.
A top-five team in pace and offense, Orlando are a far cry from last season's side which had the second-worst offense in the league. Their offense has been led by the trident of Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon and Evan Vucevic, who have all averaged more than 20 points per game. Time will tell whether the Magic will continue to be good, but they’re one of the NBA’s surprise packets.
A shout out must go to Detroit, who are also defying negative expectations by toppling teams such as the Warriors and Clippers on back-to-back nights.
Rookie of the Week – Jayson Tatum
With Gordon Hayward out of the rotation after his gruesome injury on opening night, the Celtics have required a largely unproven roster to step up, not least rookie Jayson Tatum. Though he was already regarded as a silky smooth scorer, Tatum is exceeding expectations. Having lost the opening couple, Boston sit 4-2 after games played through Sunday, and that wouldn’t have been possible if Tatum hadn’t stepped up so quickly
In an undefeated week for Boston, Tatum averaged 18.0/3.7/1.7 across three games, all on 60% shooting and 64% from behind the arc. Nobody will be happier about that than general manager Danny Ainge, who passed on Markelle Fultz and traded out of the number one draft pick to take Tatum.
For a team with Kyrie Irving at the point, it's also interesting to see them ranked second in the league in defense. Tatum has played his part in that department, showing he has far more defensive ability than people expected of him when he came into the league.
Breakout Player of the Week - Victor Oladipo
An interesting case study for playing alongside Russell Westbrook is Victor Oladipo, who has been putting up solid numbers since his move to Indiana. Last season, Oladipo was forced to play second fiddle to Westbrook, but is now leading a Pacers offense which was fourth in offensive rating at the time of writing.
Taking 17 shots per game, up from 13 last season, Oladipo's usage has now topped 30%, a rise from 21% last term. The new responsibility is suiting Oladipo as he’s averaging 26 points per game.
It raises questions about his former dance partner. The NBA world lauded Westbrook for carrying the Thunder alone. If Oladipo could contribute why didn’t they let him?
Worst of the Week – Philadelphia 76ers
A franchise littered with injury troubles in recent history, it’s hard to see why the Sixers would be so careless with their number one draft pick. Fultz and his much-changed shot have been one of the NBA’s great mysteries early this season.
Over the summer, Fultz’s shot changed and around the same time his shoulder began to hurt. It hardly matters which event caused the other as the 76ers had a highly prized asset who was doing damage to his body by playing with a shoulder injury. Why wasn’t he shut down earlier?
In fact, Fultz was only sidelined once his agent came out in the press with his client’s shoulder problems, which makes you think the former Washington Huskies star would still be playing and doing more damage if he hadn’t.
The result is that Fultz is sidelined indefinitely and will come back onto the court with a serious injury cloud looming so early in his career. The 76ers have a plethora of talent on their team, they need to be better at managing it.
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