Welcome back to NBA Star Power Index: A weekly gauge of the players getting the most buzz around the league. Inclusion on this list isn’t necessarily a good thing — it simply means you’re capturing the NBA world’s attention. This is also not a ranking. The players listed here are in no particular order. This column will run every week throughout the regular season.
The Clippers are now 0-6 since the Harden trade and 0-5 with Harden actually in uniform. We know that single-game point differentials don’t mean much of anything, if anything at all, but I still find it funny that Harden was a minus-3 in his 35 minutes against the Nuggets on Tuesday, and the Clippers, ultimately, lost by three.
Point differentials tell a lot fewer lies over longer spans, so take this for what it’s worth: Through five games, the Clippers have lost Harden’s minutes by 70 points. In all other minutes this season, they have outscored their opponents by 85 points.
A couple of my favorite lowlights just because it’s so easy to root against Harden, and, therefore, a heck of a good time watching him do things like this:
Maxey cooked up a 50 burger for the Pacers on Sunday before Indiana got its revenge on Tuesday behind the masterful Tyrese Haliburton, whom we’ll get to shortly.
It’s not a stretch to say Maxey is a legitimate early season MVP candidate. He won’t win the award, at least I don’t think he will. Reigning MVP Joel Embiid is playing brilliantly, too. But Maxey is getting all the buzz right now for the simple fact that he, who, at the moment, feels like one of the most unlikeable players I can recall.
Maxey is the opposite. He’s all energy and joy. He’s part of a system, not the system — and that system, instituted by early Coach of the Year favorite Nick Nurse, is getting everyone moving and involved in a way that Harden’s presence never allowed for.
The Sixers, who have been one of the league’s most frustrating, paint-drying teams dating back to the Ben Simmons/late-stage Brett Brown days, are actually fun to watch. It’s almost impossible to believe, but it’s true. And it has more to do with Maxey than anyone else.
Tatum had a season-high 35 points in Boston’s win over the Knicks on Monday, accounting for 22 of the Celtics’ 30 fourth-quarter points via assists and buckets. This was Tatum’s sixth 30-point game this year, his 97th since 2020-21 (more than Stephen Curry over that same span), and the 137th of his career, which is also more than Kawhi Leonard despite playing in 200 fewer games.
Tatum, who is already the fastest player in Celtics history to reach 10,000 career points, is. Last season, Tatum notched at least 30 points 42 times, or, put another way, in 57% of his games.
For reference, Curry scored at least 30 in 50% of his games last year, while Kevin Durant, in the last season he played at least 50 games, did it 45% of the time. Even LeBron James, in the highest-scoring season of his career (2007-08, 30 PPG), failed to match Tatum’s standard, registering a 30-point game 52% of the time.
So let’s make some projections: If Tatum were to play until he’s 38 (not totally unreasonable), and average 26 PPG over an average of 65 games per season (both reasonable), he would finish with more than 32,000 career points, which is right in range to surpass Michael Jordan, who’s presently fifth all time.
Jokic is hilariously great. Like, this whole “best player in the world” debate isn’t even close. He’s so far above everyone else that it’s not even worth discussing anymore. He was robbed of his third MVP last season, and, barring injury, if he doesn’t get it again this season, it will almost certainly be another crime.
Over his last six games, Jokic has tallied 199 points, 94 rebounds and 55 assists on 56% shooting. Like I said, hilarious. He made mincemeat out of the Clippers on Tuesday as the Nuggets improved to an NBA-best 9-2.
The gap between how good Haliburton is and how good a casual NBA fan probably thinks he is continues to widen. Simply put, the guy is a bonafide superstar. Entering play on Tuesday, Haliburton, the league’s assist leader, had created an NBA-best 269 points via those assists, per PBP stats.
On Tuesday, Haliburton added 15 more assists to that total in a win over the Sixers — which pushed the Pacers’ record to 7-4. Haliburton had already totaled 17 assists on Sunday. Add it up, and that makes for 32 assists over his last two games, with zero turnovers. For good measure, he chipped in 33 points and seven rebounds Tuesday.
Shout out to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, who did the legwork to confirm that Haliburton is just the fifth player in history to put up a 30-point/15-assist game with no turnovers.
Haliburton is averaging just under 30 points and 14 assists over his last three games. He had 43 and 12, on eight 3-pointers, against the Hornets, and he’s sporting 56/47/94 shooting splits in November. The Pacers are one of the NBA’s surprise success stories in the early going, although they shouldn’t have been this big of a surprise given how good Halibuton is. Barring serious injuries, the over on their 38.5 win total was a lock from the start.
Remember at the top where I noted that Star Index inclusion isn’t necessarily a good thing? That was for Draymond Green, who got ejected Tuesday night, and, for putting Rudy Gobert in a completely unnecessary, full-on WWE-style chokehold.
Steve Kerr tried to claim afterward(who started the fight in the first place with Jaden McDaniels) before Green simply came to the aid of his teammate.
Bogus. Look at this shot and tell me you see Gobert with his hands around Thompson’s neck.
Now, care to see what it actually looks like when a grown man has his hands around another grown man’s neck?
Green always has to prove he’s the toughest guy in the room, and he has documented beef with Gobert, which you can read about in the column I linked above. He made this personal. He saw what he believed would amount to a justified opportunity to attack Gobert, and he got ejected for it. He should be suspended, too.