The Kia Race to the MVP Ladder generates plenty of attention along with the new Kia MVP Tracker, but the format for those features doesn’t grant the word count for proper recognition of several high-level hoopers playing on sizzling teams.
Hopefully, we can remedy that by recognizing some of the most impressive players since the All-Star break.
The NBA’s post-All-Star break scoring leaders, as well as the leaders in effective field goal percentage in that span, showcase the players making noise as teams rev up for the sprint to the finish line.
Boston owns the best record (12-2) since the NBA jumped back into action after the All-Star break, followed by Milwaukee (9-3), Minnesota (11-4) and Phoenix (11-4). Outside of the Bucks, none of those teams feature players that figure prominently in the MVP conversation. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take a minute to examine their play, especially since they all serve as catalysts propelling their teams into hyperdrive for the stretch run.
Here’s a quick look at some of the most impressive performers since the All-Star break, listed alphabetically:
Post All-Star break stats: 28.2 ppg | 4.6 rpg | 7.0 apg | 1.8 spg
Booker checked in at No. 9 on the last edition of the Kia Race to the MVP Ladder, but he’s definitely been Phoenix’s MVP with Chris Paul out of the mix, even after a four-game hiatus in the league’s COVID-19 protocols. Booker increased his scoring average to 28.2 points from 25.5 before the All-Star break, improved his field goal percentage from 44.6% to 52.1%, and 3-point percentage from 36.9% to 40.3%, in addition to upping his assists (from 4.5 to 7.0) and steals (1.0 to 1.8). It’s been a month since Paul last played, but that hasn’t stopped Booker’s Suns from capturing their second consecutive Pacific Division crown. Winners of six straight, Phoenix can clinch the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs with a win against the Denver Nuggets on Thursday.
Post All-Star break stats: 38.7 ppg | 4.0 rpg | 5.7 apg | 2.0 spg
You can make the argument that nobody else is playing better right now than the new full-time player in Brooklyn. The sample size is small because he has played in just 20 games, but Irving has been lights out in the games he has suited up for. Irving averaged 24.1 points in 14 games before the break and increased that output to 38.7 points going into Saturday’s game against Miami. We’d be remiss to not mention his 60-point gem, as Irving posted both a career high in scoring and a Nets franchise record to go with four assists and four steals. Now that Irving is eligible to play in home games, you can bet the top seeds in the East are watching the standings closely.
Post All-Star break stats: 24.2 ppg | 4.7 rpg | 3.5 apg | 0.8 spg
The man is instant offense off the bench, and Miami could have used his services in a loss to the short-handed Golden State Warriors on Wednesday. Herro shot 37.4% from deep prior to the All-Star break, but he’s since knocked down those shots at a clip of 45.3%. The field goal percentage is up, too, from 42.7% before the All-Star break to 50.7%. Having started just 10 games this season (none after the All-Star break), Herro still ranks second on the team in scoring (20.9 points per game) and leads all NBA reserves in scoring. Herro deserves to be squarely in the mix for Kia Sixth Man of the Year.
Post All-Star break stats: 32.1 ppg | 7.1 rpg | 4.6 apg | 0.8 spg
On the verge of cracking the top five in the Kia Race to the MVP Ladder after blessing us with 30-plus points in three consecutive games recently, including a 36-point performance against Oklahoma City that included seven rebounds, six assists, a block and two steals. Before the All-Star break, Tatum averaged 25.7 points. He raised that to 32.1 ppg in the 14 games after as Boston has won 10 of its last 11 outings after Wednesday’s victory against Utah. The shooting percentages have gone up, too. Tatum hit 43.4% on field goals before the break and 50.7% after, while increasing his 3-point percentage to 43.8% from 32.9%.
Post All-Star break stats: 25.8 ppg | 10.4 rpg | 2.7 apg | 1.3 bpg
Minnesota had won 10 of its last 12 games before Wednesday’s loss against the Phoenix Suns, with Towns shooting the ball at an unbelievable clip. Towns was already hitting 52.2% from the floor prior to the break, and he’s since increased that to 54.5%. And who could forget Towns’ night at the Alamo? The Wolves star scored a career-high and franchise-record 60 points to go with 17 rebounds, becoming the first player in franchise history with multiple 50-plus point, 10-plus rebound games. Towns is one of the main reasons the Timberwolves are likely headed back to the postseason for the first time since 2018.
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