Jay is on a break again, so he let me (the crazy New Yawk cuzo) do a lil guest post. I’m not as sappy as him, so I’m here w/ some sports jabber.
It’s easy to do a list of MVP candidates. A 5 year old could do that. For the most part, the players in the race are the same guys every year. But what’s more interesting for a sports-lover like myself is to look at the guys who ar playing very well yet get overlooked because they either play in smaller market or are over-shadowed by their more famous teammates. If you’re a true fan of the game itself, then you may appreciate who I think are the top 5 guys that are going unnoticed.
Jared Dudley: The Suns lost a lot when Stoudemire came to NY. The rest of the Suns roster leaves much to be desired outside of vets Nash and Hill. So a role player like Jared Dudley has his time in the spotlight. In his 6th year, he’s started in 37 out of 42 games and is averaging 37 minutes per game. He’s also set a new benchmark for his career points per game (15 ppg) and just had a season high 28 pts against the Timberwolves. Dudley does a lot of the little things that a contending team benefits from; low turnover ratio and decent shot selection. After this year, the Suns will probably be in a rebuilding phase and Dudley will be 1 of the primary pieces they keep around.
Rodney Stuckey: I think if he started more consistently, he’d find his rhythm and be able to run the offense more efficiently. In 38 games, Stuckey is shooting 57% overall and has improved his 3pt shooting by almost 10%. He’s the 2nd leading scorer on the team, behind center Greg Monroe. So why do the Pistons suck ass? Well, statistically they have the same problem as the Wizards; they don’t like to pass the ball. In his season-high 36 pt. game against the Kings, he had 0 assists. That’s a big problem when you play the point position.
Mike Conley: The Grizzlies, in general, fly under the radar because they’re a smaller market team. So it’s obvious that they’d have a couple players whose work go unacknowledged. Right now though, they’ve snuck into the 5th overall seed in the West and now they’ve signed the vet Gilbert Arenas as a backup. I’m not a Conley fan because he’s a Buckeye. However his leadership on the floor is respectable. He’s not a heavy scorer, but he’s a great ball-handler and keeps his teammates involved. With Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, and Zach Randolph as teammates, I suppose Conley is comfortable being the “Turtle” in that entourage.
Ersan Ilyasova: With the newly-traded Monta Ellis, the offense may get a well-needed makeover. But it’ll continue to involve Turkish big man Ilyasova. He’s an incredible shooter from mid-range and he can hit the long 3 too. Unlike some big men, he’s not a turnover machine and he’s 81% from the free throw line. In the Bucks last 5 games, he’s averaged 19 and 9. He seems to always be in the right spot for the offensive board too. He’s no Kevin Love, but he has a lot of potential.
Arron Afflalo: In my opinion, when Melo left, Afflalo became the equivalent to what Chris Bosh is in Miami. The Nuggets have 1 of the deepest benches in the league in every way. So having 1 of the heavy contributors as a starter boosts the offensive production. Afflalo plays the pesky type of defense that is needed against premiere 2-guards like Kobe and D. Wade. He’s also an underrated offensive weapon and that has worked in the Nuggets’ favor. With Wilson Chandler over in China, Afflalo has started in every game this season. Per 36 minutes, he’s shooting 43% (down from last year’s 49%) and averaging 15 pts ppg. He’s also turned the ball over less this year. I’ve liked this guy’s style of play since he played at UCLA. Even though Will the Chill is back, I think Afflalo will still be the go-to guy heading into the tail end of the regular season.
Honorable Mentions: Jeff Teague (ATL), Ramon Sessions (CLE, even though he’s a Laker now), Marcin Gortat (PHX), and Kawhi Leonard (SA)
Did I miss anyone?