NBA Playoffs Roundtable: Round 1 MVP
The second round of the NBA playoffs is underway and the dust has finally settled on one of the most entertaining first rounds in recent memory.In this roundtable, we make our pick for the MVP of the first round.
Preston Ellis - @Preston Ellis
Jrue Holiday. A sensational positive net rating of 17 (!) in 37 minutes per game, 28 points on 57% shooting, 35% from three with seven assists and four rebounds to just three turnovers.
If that isn’t enough to get your attention, how about the way he demoralized Jusurf Nurkic following a monstrous Anthony Davis putback with a finger point GIF for the ages, his late game swats on CJ McCollum and Pat Connaughton, his clutch step up three pointer in Game Two, or his individual defensive performance on MVP candidate Dame Lilliard? Lillard over the four game series shot just 35.2% from the floor and posted a negative 14 net rating!
Evan Dyal - @EvanDyal
The first round MVP has to be Jrue Holiday. You can say Anthony Davis as easily after the dismantling of the Portland Trail Blazers, but it was Holiday who took his game to another level. First, on defense, he completely shut down Damian Lillard who may be a first-team all-NBA point guard. His defense forced Lillard into awful shots and a heap of turnovers. On offense, he controlled the tempo of the series and combined great aggression with remarkable efficiency. Check out these numbers: 27.8 points per game on 56% shooting with 6.5 assists per game. He constantly was attacking the lane and putting the pressure on the defense, which opened things up for his teammates. Holiday has been the first round MVP, whether he can keep it up or not is fascinating.
Mike Ciervo - @4th_Mike
Donovan Mitchell has spun, shot, and knifed his way into playoff lore amassing more points than any other rookie in NBA history in his first four playoff games with the exception of two guys you might have heard of before: Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Averaging 27.5 PPG, Mitchell has been unstoppable, spotting up on a dime to nail dagger 3’s and driving the lane at Super Sayan-like speeds, leaving any Thunder player in the paint looking like they are literally standing still. He broke Karl Malone’s rookie playoff game scoring record with 33 points in Game 4 where he literally did everything imaginable to break the defensive will of OKC, short of slicing open their guts and using their intestines as streamers for a victory lap through the streets of Salt Lake. Jazz fans already be like “Gordon who?” after watching Mitchell dismantle Russ and company in the first round. You could see it in the eyes of the OKC players after every Mitchell basket, collectively asking each other “Who the fuck is this guy and why can’t we stop him?” It’s Donovan Mitchell and homie is ballin’.
Quinton Hoey - @quintonhoey
LeBron Freaking James. The numbers are spectacular and the eye test backs it up. He has led all players in scoring, averaging 34.4 a game and shooting 55.3 percent from the field, doing it on 41.2 minutes a game. He hit a baller three at the buzzer to win Game 5, and has won every other game almost single handedly. Indiana was clearly the better team in this series, they had several games where Victor Oladipo was not the best player. LeBron did not have this luxury, his team would have gotten swept in the most embarrassing of fashion without him. I’m keeping it simple, there is really only one right answer to this one.
Jonathan Ebrahimi - @Awrashoo
The MVP of the first round has to be LeBron James. Without him and his otherworldly play, the Cavaliers surely would have been swept in their first round meeting with the Indiana Pacers. Not only did The King average 34 PTS, 10 REB and 8 AST, but his box plus/minus is +16.9 and he’s shooting 55% from the field and 82% from the charity stripe. The rest of the Cavaliers played awful on both ends of the floor through the first round, and no one other than LeBron was able to score 20+ in a game. Thankfully they have the best player in the world to lean on.
Kory Waldron - @Kwalhoops
The Pacers were the better team, but they played against the best player on the planet. LeBron James had help for durations of time, but nothing consistent. James had to put the team solely on his back and go to work, and he did just that. He even put in a gaming winning 3-pointer that will surely be seen in his career highlight reel.
Steve Lerner - @LernerSteve1
I gotta go with Playoff Rondoooo. We all knew that Anthony Davis was going to be brilliant, and Jrue Holiday blacking out was always a possibility. (Maybe not to the extent that it happened -- that was nuts -- but still.) Rondo, though -- my lion in winter, my erstwhile captain. Every year we assume that Rondo is washed, that nobody could possibly give so little effort in the regular season and then flip the switch so brazenly come April. Then the playoffs start and he throws out assists like candy from a parade float. Stop doubting Rondo, guys. The smartest guy on any basketball court, one of the only basketball players you could convincingly describe as "persnickety" -- I love Rondo so much, and his chess-not-checkers PG play is a huge reason the Pelicans pulled off the sweep.
Ryan Wheeler - @MrWheeler18
Ricky Rubio is the MVP of the 1st round of these playoffs. His numbers have been great (18.5 pts, 8 assists, 7.8 rebounds) and the advanced stats are nice (PER of 19, box score +/- of 5.7). The real story, however, is how much Rubio has disrupted Russell Westbrook. The Spanish point guard had absolutely gotten into Russ’s head after a Rubio triple-double; so much so, that in a post-game interview Brody vowed to shut down Rubio the next game...spoiler alert, it didn’t work. Rubio still chalked up 13 points, 8 assists and six rebounds in a 17-point Jazz win. Great stats are well and good but making Russell Westbrook take personal offense to one’s performance makes Ricky Rubio the 1st round MVP.
Dominic Roney - @DomRoney
The argument could be made for Ben Simmons as first round MVP. Throughout the whole season, and through the entire first round of the playoffs, coaches still can’t find a way to guard him. Simmons (partly without Joel Embiid) led his team to a 4-1 series win over the great defensive coaching of Erik Spoelstra. With Ben Simmons’ ever growing skill-set of rebounding, passing, and scoring, future matchups will have very little answer for him as he continues to lead his team through the postseason.