The Minnesota Timberwolves had been rolling before falling apart in the fourth quarter of their loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night. Prior to the loss, the Timberwolves ran off a season-high five straight wins.
The play of Jimmy Butler is the reason why Minnesota is tied for the seventh best winning percentage this month with a 9-5 record. Butler, a fantastic two-way player, has led the Wolves on both ends of the floor. The T-Wolves are producing the fourth most points in December, at 109.9 points a game, and are fourth in scoring margin (+4.2) for the month.
Butler leads the team with 29.6 points a game this month, which ranks 10th in the league, as he is shooting 49.6% from the field. He has also compiled 5.4 rebounds and 5.3 assists while registering a plus-minus of +5.6.
Here is the sixth edition of my MVP rankings. All stats are up-to-date as of December 29.
Honorable Mention (no particular order)
Andre Drummond (down from 21) and Kyle Lowry
25 (tied). Andre Drummond and Kyle Lowry 24.Chris Paul (-2 spots) 23. John Wall (+2 spots), 22.Paul George (+2 spots), 21. Klay Thompson (-3 spots)
20. Kevin Love, +2 spots
Love is having the best month of this season, averaging 22.4 points and 10.1 rebounds while shooting 49.5% from the field and 48.2% from long-range as he has drained 3.3 triples a game in December.
19. CJ McCollum, no movement
McCollum exploded for 34 points on Thursday against the 76ers for his second 30-point game of the season. McCollum is producing 21.0 points a game in December -- his highest scoring month of the season -- despite shooting just 42.9% from the field and 29.7% from beyond the arc.
17. Damian Lillard, -2 spots
Lillard, who has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, has failed to top the 20-point mark in three of his last four games though he has produced two double-doubles during this four-game stretch.
17 Joel Embiid, no movement
Embiid tallied 29 points, marking the seventh time he has topped the 20-point mark this month, and made a season-high six triples against Portland (Thursday). He is averaging 26.3 points and 10.3 rebounds along with 3.8 assists in eight December games.
16. Jimmy Butler, +4 spots
Butler has continued his torrid December pace the last five games, compiling 27.8 points along with 5.4 assists and 4.4 caroms while shooting 50.0% from the floor.
15. Bradley Beal, -1 spot
Beal has been very inconsistent in December. He has topped the 20-point mark in five of his last seven games, although he has shot over 45.0% from the field just three times during this stretch.
14. LaMarcus Aldridge, +1 spot
Aldridge has scored at least 20 points in four of his last five games, while also hauling in 7.6 caroms during this stretch.
13. Kristaps Porzingis, -2 spots
Porzingis, who is going through a cold stretch shooting the ball, has recorded 15 blocks and grabbed 34 rebounds over his last five games. He is averaging 18.6 points while shooting 44.4% from the floor and 27.3% from beyond the arc in his last five games.
12.Anthony Davis, +2 spots
Davis has four double-doubles and 20 blocks over his last six games. He is the only player who is ranked in the top-10 of ESPN John Hollinger’s value added and estimated wins who is not in my top-10 list of MVP candidates.
11. DeMar DeRozan, -3 spots
Despite struggling with his shooting over the last three games, making just 16-of-52 (30.7%) shots, DeRozan is still having a fantastic December. He is averaging 25.2 points and 5.1 assists while shooting 46.7% from the floor and 37.8% from beyond the arc for the month.
Top 10 Candidates For The NBA MVP Award
10. Karl-Anthony Towns, no movement
20.4 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.5 BPG, 53.1 FG%, 40.4 3PT%
Towns, who has shot at least 50% from the floor in each of his last five games, has four double-doubles as well as four games of multiple 3-pointers during this stretch. He also has made at least one triple in eight straight games and is averaging 1.9 treys a game while shooting 46.4% from long-distance for the month of December.
Towns is on-pace to set season bests in three-pointers made (1.5), 3-point percentage and steals per game (0.9). The 7-0 center is posting 22.8 points, 12.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists per 40 minutes. His 62.9% true shooting percentage is a career-best.
Towns is sixth in the league in both values added and estimated wins.
9. Russell Westbrook, +3 spots
24.0 PPG, 10.0 APG, 9.3 RPG, 41.9 FG%, 31.4 3PT%
Westbrook’s play is a major reason why the Thunder are 7-1 in their last eight, which includes six straight wins. He has scored at least 24 points in each game during this stretch while also compiling two triple-doubles and six double-doubles. The dynamic point guard has topped the 30 point mark in four of his last six. Westbrook is averaging 26.3 points, 10.7 assists and 9.6 rebounds in December.
Westbrook is producing 26.5 points, 11.0 assists, 10.3 rebounds per 40 minutes. He is ranked seventh in PIE (18.2).
Westbrook is seventh in value added and tied for sixth in estimated wins.
8. Steph Curry, -1 spot
26.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 6.6 APG, 47.3% FG, 38.1 3PT%
Curry has been out since Dec. 6 with an ankle injury. However, he could return to the lineup on Saturday when the Warriors host Memphis.
Curry is turning a career-low 2.9 times a game and his turnover ratio of 9.7% is a career-best.
Per 40 minutes, Curry is producing 32.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 8.1 assists to go along with a true shooting percentage of 64.3%. His true shooting percentage is usage rate (30.5) are the second best of his career while his rebound rate of 8.6 ties his personal best.
The Davidson College product, who ranks 5th in the league in PER (27.80), ranks in the top-20 in both value added and estimated wins.
7. DeMarcus Cousins, +2 spots
25.9 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 5.2 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.5 BPG, 47.9 FG%, 35.2 3PT%
Cousins has shot over 50% from the field in each of his last three games while posting two double-doubles. He has also scored between 23 and 40 points in nine of his last 10 games and is averaging 27.3 points, 11.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks in December.
Cousins is on pace to set personal-bests in 3-point makes (2.2), assists (5.2) and turnovers (5.0) per game. The 27-year-old is compiling 29.5 points, 13.8 rebounds along with a career-best 5.9 assists per 40 minutes. His true shooting percentage of 58.6% and the assist percentage of 16.0 are career-highs.
Cousins is eighth in value added and estimated wins.
6. Victor Oladipo, no movement
24.9 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.0 BPG, 1.8 SPG, 48.5FG%, 42.3 3PT%
Oladipo will miss his second straight game on Friday night with a knee injury. He had his lowest scoring game of the season in his last outing on Wednesday, versus Detroit, with 13 points.
Oladipo is compiling career-best numbers across the board with the exception of assists. The 25-year-old is averaging 28.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists per 40 minutes. He is setting career-highs in points and rebounds per 40 minutes along with a true shooting percentage (59.9%), usage ( 29.2), rebound percentage (8.9) and PER (24.01).
Oladipo is ninth in both value added and estimated wins.
5. Kevin Durant, no movement
26.1 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 5.1 APG, 2.3 BPG, 50.3 FG%, 38.2 3PT%
Durant, who has been unbelievable on the defensive end the whole season, has been equally amazing on the offensive end over the last few weeks. Since Dec. 6, KD is averaging 29.1 points, which is tied for second most during this period, as well as 8.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game.
The University of Texas product is on pace to set a career-high in blocks. He is producing 30.1 points, 8.2 caroms and 5.9 assists per 40 minutes
Durant is 10th in the league in both value added and estimated wins.
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, no movement
29.3 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.4 BPG, 1.7 SPG,54.5 FG%, 26.8 3PT%
Antetokounmpo racked up his second double-double in his last four games and 16th of the season on Thursday, tallying 22 points and 10 rebounds in win over the Timberwolves. Thursday’s night game marked the first time he did not record either a steal, block or free throw attempt this season. He has topped the 20-point mark in 30 of his 31 contests.
The Greek Freak is on pace to set personal-bests in all statistical categories with the exception of 3-point percentage, assists per game and blocks per game.
Per 40 minutes, Antetokounmpo is compiling a career-high 30.8 points along with 10.9 caroms and 4.8 assists. His true shooting percentage of 61.2%, usage (30.2), PER (30.23), turnover rate (9.2) and rebound percentage (16.2) are career bests.
The 6-11 forward is third in the league in PER and second in PIE (20.0). He is also third in value added and third in estimated wins.
3. Kyrie Irving, no movement
24.7 PPG,5.0 APG, 3.0 RPG, 48.9 FG%, 40.4 3PT%
Irving has been excellent the entire season, but he has upped his game in December, particularly over the last 10 games. He pumped in 26 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the floor in a victory over the Rockets on Friday, helping the Celtics overcome a 26 point deficit. Irving has scored 20 or more points in each of his last 10 games, producing 27.3 points along with 5.6 assists while shooting 48.9% shooting from the field and 40.4% from beyond the arc.
Irving is on pace to set personal-bests in shooting percentage and three-pointers a game (2.6).
Per 40 minutes, the 25-year-old point guard is compiling a career-high 30.5 points to go along with 6.2 assists and 3.7 rebounds. His true shooting percentage (60.4%), usage (30.7) and PER (25.46) are all career-bests.
Irving’s PER ranks ninth in the league. He is also fifth in value added as well as fifth in estimated wins.
2. LeBron James, no movement
27.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 9.3 APG, 1.0 APG, 56.0 FG%, 40.1 3PT%
James has struggled with his shooting in the last two games, making just 13-of-35 shots and 2-of-9 from the three-point line, as he totaled 36 points while also accumulating 11 turnovers. He did, however, post his seventh triple-double of the season -- tying his second-most in his career -- with 16 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds and five steals against Sacramento (Dec. 27). James has scored 20 or more points in 12 of 13 contests in December, averaging 27.4 points along with 10.6 assists and 8.2 boards while shooting 52.2% from the floor and 36.6% from beyond the arc.
The 32-year-old is compiling 29.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 9.9 assists per 40 minutes. His assists per 40 minutes and assist ratio (26.4) are career-bests.
James ranks third in both PER (30.51) and PIE (19.9). The King also tops the list in value added and estimated wins.
1. James Harden, no Movement
32.5 PPG, 9.2 APG, 5.2 APG, 1.8 APG,44.8 FG, 39.2 3PT%
Harden once again upped his season offensive numbers across the board with a magnificent four-game stretch. He struggled shooting for the second straight game though he still poured in 34 points, on 7-of-27 shooting and 5-of-15 from beyond the arc, in a 99-98 loss to the Celtics on Thursday.
Harden had consecutive 51-point games against the Clippers and Lakers and then pumped in 29 points against the OKC for a 164 point week (41.0 ppg). He posted two double-doubles during this stretch as he doled out 41 assists (10.2 apg) and 21 boards (5.2 rpg) over the past week. The 6-5 combo guard also shot over 50% from the field in two of the four games, knocking down 44 of 100 (44.0%) overall and 22-of-46 (47.8%) from beyond the arc. In addition, the league’s leader in free throws attempts was 57-of-65 (87.6%) from the stripe during this stretch of games.
Harden, who is posting a career-high 32.4 points a game, has been consistent throughout the season. He is producing 32.4 points in 16 games with Chris Paul by his side, and 32.1 points in 17 games without the point guard. However, the Rockets are 15-1 with Paul in the lineup and 10-7 without him.
The NBA leading scorer tops the league with 35.6 points per 36 minutes. He is contributing 10.1 assists and 5.7 rebounds per 36 minutes. His PER of 31.03 and PIE of 19.3 are career-bests, ranking first and fourth in the league, respectively.
Harden is also second in the league in assist percentage (45.3%), and first in usage (35.6%). In addition, he is second in value added and estimated wins.