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NBA Star Energy Index: Chris Paul doing Level God issues; Donovan Mitchell has turn out to be bankable playoff star

Welcome again to the NBA Star Energy Index — a weekly gauge of the gamers who’re most controlling the thrill across the league. Reminder: Inclusion on this record is not essentially factor. It merely implies that you are capturing the NBA world’s consideration. Additionally, this isn’t a rating. The gamers listed are in no specific order because it pertains to the thrill they’re producing. 

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When Chris Paul suffered what was deemed a proper shoulder contusion in Recreation 1 of the Phoenix Suns’ first-round sequence vs. LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, nearly everybody thought that was the top of the Suns because the worst-possible-time harm bug had stung the Level God once more. 

Suppose once more. 

The Suns picked up their chief by staying alive lengthy sufficient for Paul to return to what seems to be full well being, or one thing fairly near it, defeating the Lakers in six video games earlier than leaping out to a 2-0 lead on the Denver Nuggets with a convincing Recreation 2 victory Wednesday evening during which Paul was completely sensible with 17 factors and 15 assists. 

Paul, who’s now the only player in NBA history to document a 15-assist, zero-turnover postseason sport with three totally different franchises, has now tallied 38 assists towards two turnovers over his final three playoff video games. One of many clearest indicators that Paul is again to his regular self is that he is taking, and making, effort-free 3-pointers. He was not ready to do that a couple of weeks in the past: 

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By means of seven playoff video games, Kevin Durant is averaging 32 factors on 55 p.c taking pictures, which is the second-highest field-goal share amongst all postseason gamers (minimal 100 makes an attempt) behind solely Kawhi Leonard. 

Brooklyn skunked Milwaukee in Recreation 2 to take command of that sequence. Durant went for 32 factors and 6 assists. He shot 12 of 18 from the sphere and 4 of 6 from 3. There’s actually no protection for this man. Per StatMuse, 90 p.c of Durant’s 3-pointers this postseason have been contested (highest mark amongst all gamers), and he is nonetheless taking pictures 50 p.c on over 5 makes an attempt per sport. 

The talent, and the discharge level, are simply too excessive:

However it’s not simply the offense. Everybody needed to know the way the Nets had been going to carry up defensively within the postseason, and they’re wanting higher each sport. Giannis Antetokounmpo is hitting his proverbial wall once more, and Durant is a big a part of that. He is averaging two blocks per sport — a postseason profession excessive — and he is on level together with his rotations. 

I really like this play beneath. The Nets neglect Giannis for a cut up second and it seems he has a runway for a minimize to the basket. He catches the ball on the transfer and Durant, who was initially monitoring Brook Lopez down towards the baseline, rapidly jumps as much as minimize Giannis off, then holds sturdy on Giannis’ second penetration try earlier than forcing him right into a one-foot fallaway: 

We all know the Nets can rating a zillion factors. However protection like that’s how they’ll win a championship. For his play on each ends, Durant is again to having a legit case as the most effective participant on this planet. 

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Mitchell erupted for 45 factors (32 within the second half) in Utah’s Recreation 1 victory over the Clippers. Our Sam Quinn detailed how Mitchell mercilessly switch-hunted the Clips, ready for the matchup be desired earlier than placing the pedal down. It is one thing the Clippers may stand to do much more of themselves. Too typically, the Clippers simply accept no matter matchup they occur to search out themselves in and go into random pull-up jumpers. 

Again to Mitchell, who’s rapidly turning into one of many extra bankable playoff performers within the league. He is been doing it since he was a rookie. He averaged 36 a sport within the bubble. He is at 31.8 PPG thus far this postseason, and have a look at the corporate during which his title now resides:

Utah, in case you have not seen, is for actual. 

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Damian Lillard is out of the postseason, however his title remains to be making headlines because the Path Blazers seek for a brand new coach. Lillard went on document that he needed Jason Kidd, who promptly eliminated his title from consideration. The explanations for Kidd doing that aren’t precisely clear, however I’d posit that he is aware of there’s an opportunity Lillard may not be lengthy for Portland. 

Which is the opposite a part of Lillard’s headline making. Is he going to be traded? Blazers normal supervisor Neil Olshey refused to even reply the query as as to whether Portland would possibly think about hitting the reset button and dealing Lillard, however Lillard has but to demand something. If he does, every little thing adjustments even supposing he’s below contract with the Blazers by means of 2024. 

Keep in mind, James Harden was locked up for 2 extra seasons (with a participant possibility on a 3rd) in Houston, and when he needed out from a franchise that had appeared to have hit its ceiling, he received out. No one’s saying Lillard goes to try this; he is been as dedicated to the native trigger as any famous person in sports activities. 

However Portland’s choices for getting meaningfully higher are minimal. They haven’t any cap house. They haven’t any younger gamers anybody goes to be notably occupied with. Buying and selling CJ McCollum might be the one instant route, and even his $100 million contract is reportedly seen as having destructive worth across the league. If the Blazers are certainly caught the place they stand, how lengthy will Lillard stay affected person?

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Nikola Jokic was formally named the league’s MVP on Tuesday evening, turning into the third European-born participant to win the award (Giannis Antetokounmpo and Dirk Nowitzki had been the opposite two). Jokic was spectacular this season, and he simply led the Nuggets previous the Blazers regardless of his wingman, Jamal Murray, being out for the season. 

Jokic already has a case as the best worth draft decide in historical past. He was taken forty first total in 2014 — by far the bottom slot a future MVP has gone (Steve Nash and Antetokounmpo, each of whom went No. 15 total, beforehand held that distinction). 

From our Sam Quinn, who additionally wrote an attention-grabbing piece making the case for Jokic as essentially the most unlikely MVP in historical past:

Jokic turned the primary participant in NBA historical past this season to common not less than 26 factors, 10 rebounds and eight assists on higher than 52 p.c taking pictures. He made 56.6 p.c of his subject objectives, dwarfing those that approached his uncooked numbers. His 8.3 assists per sport simply barely missed Wilt Chamberlain’s document of 8.6 for many by a middle in a season, and he got here solely three 3-pointers and 13 free throws away from turning into the primary middle ever to affix the 50-40-90 membership. He did all of it with out lacking a single regular-season sport. 

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