1. Markieff Morris – Markieff Morris picked the perfect time to have a “down-week,” as his main competitor for the top spot on the list also struggled. However, Morris’ down week wasn’t exactly horrible, as he still managed to average 7.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game. The older Morris had been playing some of his best basketball of the year, so it was surprising to see him struggle a bit; however, Markieff Morris remains the CLEAR CUT choice as the number one Jayhawk in the NBA… for now. Markieff Morris currently leads all Jayhawks with a 2.4 estimated wins added (up to this point), a number that weighs the value of a specific player versus having an average league player at their position. In fact, Markieff Morris has a higher EWA than guys such as Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay, Joe Johnson, Jeremy Lin, Ricky Rubio, and Deron Williams, which is quite impressive. Morris continues to be the best rebounder out of all the Jayhawks in the NBA, and he’ll have a couple of opportunities to get back on track as the Suns will face off against the sub-.500 Grizzlies and Bucks later this week.
2. Mario Chalmers – Mario Chalmers (pictured above) had a very complete week, which I will specifically break down later in this post (as he is this week’s player of the week), but he really has had a complete season. Chalmers is now averaging 9.1 points, 5.1 assists, and 2.8 rebounds per game, which is the perfect compliment of numbers for a player starting alongside the best player in the world (maybe the best player of all-time). In fact, Chalmers has gotten better each year since LeBron joined forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, improving on his player efficiency rating and assists per 40 minutes year-after-year. Furthermore, Chalmers is on pace to set career highs in player efficiency rating, rebound rate, assist ratio, rebounds per 40 minutes, and assists per 40 minutes this season. Now, I understand that those statistics can be a lot to take in, so here’s a much shorter way of saying all that… Mario Chalmers is the PERFECT point guard for a star-studded team. Chalmers plays fantastic defense, and he is continuing to improve on getting his teammates the ball… Just look at this ridiculous steal and assist from Chalmers, as he dished the ball to LeBron who powered down the windmill jam. Additionally, Chalmers can take a lot of pressure off of the “Big Three” with his three-point and clutch shooting skills. Chalmers does all the things that it takes to win in the NBA, and if he continues to improve, he may end up being the starting point guard for three, four, five, or even six championship teams (or to put it in “LeBron-ian” terms… not two, not three, not four, not five — you get the point)
3. Marcus Morris – Any other week Marcus Morris would have been in great position to win player of the week, or at least to move up on the list. Morris averaged nearly 15 points per game, along with 3 rebounds per game, but it wasn’t quite enough for him to move up, as Mario Chalmers leapfrogged the younger Morris to claim the number two spot on this list. Because of the team that Chalmers plays for, it is unlikely that he will be able to put up the numbers to dethrone Markieff Morris, meaning that the next logical contender for the top spot may indeed be Markieff’s teammate and younger brother, Marcus. Over the last seven days Marcus Morris was efficient, shooting 46.9% from the field, 45.0% from three, and 83.3% from the free-throw line. In fact, Marcus Morris has risen up all the way to 12th out of all power forwards when it comes to True Shooting Percentage. On that list Morris is ahead of guys such as Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Serge Ibaka, and Paul Millsap. Morris is also 4th in three-point percentage for power forwards. Marcus Morris has emerged as a solid scoring option for the Phoenix Suns, and he should continue to score ten-to-twelve points per game barring an injury, which is something that has plagued this next man…
4. Paul Pierce – After his great performance two weeks ago Paul Pierce seemed poised to take over the top spot in our list with another awesome week… right? There’s a reason why you don’t play these games on paper. The Nets started the week with two losses, and Pierce looked dreadful in those two games. In those two contests Pierce shot a combined 1-15, and was even held scoreless against the Indiana Pacers. As the end of the week drew near, Pierce picked up his game a bit, scoring in double figures in back to back games, including in a rematch against the Pacers. Pierce shot an atrocious 30% from the field last week, and if you take out his final game against the Pacers, that number dips to 19%… NINETEEN PERCENT! Pierce also shot an abysmal 22% from three-point range, which begs the question; who is the real Paul Pierce. Is Paul Pierce still a guy who can take over a game, or is he simply a man far past his prime who needs to learn how to limit his shot attempts? While we all continue to figure this out, I dropped Pierce to fourth on this list, but I could genuinely see this being Pierce’s lowest position on the list for a long time if he can find a way to bounce back, although I will say that I could just as easily see this being the beginning of the end of the storied career of Paul Pierce. There are a lot of question marks surrounding the future Hall of Fame small forward, and it will be up to him to prove that he can still play at a high level.
5. Xavier Henry – Xavier Henry (pictured above) finally played a full week without dipping toward the end, and it earned him the number five spot on the list. In three games Henry averaged 13 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game, and he didn’t stray from any one of those numbers by more than three in a single game. A big part of Henry’s performance over the last week was his aggressive play. Henry got to the line 23 times, for an average of 7.7 free-throw attempts per game. Henry wasn’t sloppy with the ball either, as he had no turnovers in one game and just one turnover in another. While the Lakers’ lost all three of their games, Henry’s play did not suffer. Xavier Henry has put together a solid stretch of games dating back to the first of the month; he is averaging nearly 14 points per game in that time. Currently Henry has a five-game streak of scoring in double figures, and he has recorded 10 or more points in 10 of his last 13 games. If Henry can continue his run of productive play, then there is no reason that he can’t stay on this list, and he may just move up a couple of spots by the end of next week.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Mario Chalmers
The race for player of the week came down to the final day. I had decided that barring something incredible, either Mario Chalmers or Marcus Morris would earn this award. Marcus Morris and the Suns played first on Saturday, and the younger Morris scored a very respectable 18 points. Then it was Mario Chalmers’ turn to answer. Chalmers put up nine…
On Saturday the Heat were facing the extremely talented Portland Trail Blazers without superstar LeBron James. Chalmers stepped up with nine assists and nine rebounds, putting together a stat-line that led to a narrow win. Chalmers certainly stuffed the proverbial stat sheet this week, averaging 9.8 points, 7.5 assists, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game. Additionally, Chalmers had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.5 or greater in three of his four games, and he even had a remarkable 10-assist outing against Sacramento, where he only committed a single turnover. I’ve said all year that the value of Chalmers won’t show itself in one particular number, but rather in the aggregate of his complete stat-line; this has remained true throughout the 2013-2014 NBA season up to this point. Chalmers isn’t at his best when he’s scoring 25 points, or racking up 15 assists. Rather, Chalmers is the most lethal when he has a nine, nine, and nine-type game, adding in a few steals and his trademark toughness on both sides of the ball. Chalmers had four complete games this week, which is why he was truly the best candidate for player of the week. Oh, and it never hurts when you can lead your team to three wins, two of them coming against teams that are all but guaranteed to make the playoffs.
Overall, it was a fun week to watch the Jayhawks in the NBA, as guys like Xavier Henry, Mario Chalmers, and Marcus Morris had really consistent weeks. Additionally, Paul Pierce seemed to get better as the week went on, so while he did slide from last weeks rankings, Pierce has a chance to bounce right back and crack the top three again. Kirk Hinrich is another player who is on the rise, as he returned from injury and looks to be ready to get back into the swing of things for the Chicago Bulls. Hinrich has been off of the list since week six. Finally, you might notice a name missing from the list: Ben McLemore. In fact, this is McLemore’s first time off of the list since week four of the power rankings. McLemore had a really disappointing week, and it has become apparent that he and Rudy Gay are not meshing well in Sacramento. Hopefully McLemore will be able to bounce back, and he’ll have a solid opportunity in the upcoming week…
This week there are three key matchups I would like to highlight. The first game will be when the Miami Heat take on the Denver Nuggets on December 30th. Obviously it will be exciting to see what Chalmers does as an encore to his player of the week performance, but there will be another wrinkle to the game. Facing off against Chalmers will be Darrell Arthur, his former Kansas teammate. Arthur and Chalmers were the two key players for Kansas in the 2008 Final Four, and all things considered, Darrell Arthur was probably more deserving of the title of Most Outstanding Player, minus one shot… The Shot. Regardless, Arthur is looking to bounce back from an injury that did keep him out of two games last week, but all indications are that he will be ready to go for this game, which will be a closer contest than most people think. The second game will be on Tuesday, New Year’s Eve, when Ben McLemore and the Kings head over to Houston to take on James Harden and the Rockets. The last time these two teams faced off McLemore struggled. The first meeting between these two teams was also the first home game for Rudy Gay in Sacramento. Coincidence? I think not. It will be interesting to see how McLemore does against a very good team, but a positive sign heading in to the game is the fact that he actually averages 2.3 more points per game on the road than at home. Sometimes players can put a little too much pressure on themselves at home, and it seems like McLemore has taken to the role of crowd silencer, rather than crowd igniter. Matchup number three will come on Thursday, January 2nd, when Paul Pierce and the Brooklyn Nets face off against Nick Collison and the Oklahoma City Thunder, in Oklahoma City. Collison has been solid over the last few weeks, and he even had a four game stretch where he was averaging 7.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game from December 17th, to the 22nd. Nick Collison also played a fairly important role as the Thunder beat the Knicks on Christmas day, adding this BEAUTIFUL dime to Steven Adams for an easy dunk. Additionally, this will be a good test for Pierce as he will face off with one of the five best players in the league: Kevin Durant. Finally, I will leave all of you with a recap of the first nine weeks. As always, if you have any comments or question please write them below or send them to me on twitter: @ScottChasen1994.