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The Starting 5: What an MVP Race!

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook puts his hand on the backs of his fellow players during the national anthem in the second half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York, Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. The Thunder defeated the Knicks 112-103. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the internet

1. MVP Ladder: Week 5 – Why this year’s MVP race is the most competitive ever – Kelly Scaletta, BBALLBREAKDOWN

You may have heard that Russell Westbrook has been turning in a lot of triple-doubles, or that James Harden is scoring and distributing like Mike D’Antoni’s specially created Frankenstein 1/2-guard, or that Anthony Davis’s PER is off the charts again. The 2016-17 season is where the real players play. Because of this, the MVP race could be cloudier than ever. Scaletta gives us the numbers to prove just how much of an aberration this season is for the cream of the crop, and wades through advanced/counting stats, narrative and all the other elements that make the conversation fun while putting together his current MVP rankings.

2. Mission Impossible: Defending Anthony Davis Is A Terrifying Proposition – Rob Mahoney, Sports Illustrated

Again, Anthony Davis is a monster. Expectations for him have only diminished over the last year because of health concerns, and a couple months of healthy play this season have reinforced just how special he is. Teams are loading up to stop Davis (often the Pelicans’ only legitimate offensive weapon on the court), but his bag of skills and tricks are too much to bottle up. Mahoney details the freaky big man’s improved proficiency as a shooter and ball-handler, summing up the exciting nature of his game: “The wonder of watching Davis to this point stemmed from the fact that his ceiling was never fully in view.” Yes, he could actually get better.

3. Eulogizing Kevin Martin’s NBA Career – Patrick Johnston, A Wolf Among Wolves

Kevin Martin just retired, one of the pseudo-journeymen of the NBA whose careers heights can’t really be pinned to one team. He won’t really be remembered as a Timberwolves great, but he spent three seasons in Minnesota in what turned out to be his last bout of effectiveness. Martin’s whole body of work, from college on, is examined by Johnston here. From the unsightly (but effective) jumper to the unsightly (and very ineffective) defense, the crafty, atypical guard’s game is given its just due.

4. Alex Len must be made the starting center for the Phoenix Suns – Deadpoolio, Bright Side of the Sun

Since unleashing a surprisingly good young squad in the 2013-14 season, the Suns have bungled their team’s progress in about every way imaginable. The three-headed point guard experiment blew up in their faces, and the pursuit of LaMarcus Aldridge left them with Tyson Chandler on a big contract for no good reason. Now their balance of youth and veteran talent is compromising for another head coach looking to secure his job with wins, not development (Earl Watson). Phoenix did not reach a rookie-scale extension agreement with Alex Len, who has been both disappointing and stuck behind Chandler for the last couple seasons. Deadpoolio suggests that the time is now to punt on short-term success so they can have a better handle on their long-term options. Starting Len, even if he hasn’t technically earned the role, is a necessary move to make to that end.

5. Why Nuggets’ Wilson Chandler is having his best start ever – Christopher Dempsey, The Denver Post

Wilson Chandler is having a career year, and I’m much more interested in a peek at his preparation changes now than the “best shape of his life” stuff that fills up the offseason. Chandler credits some holistic sleep and diet adjustments for his boom in productivity this year.

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