Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Three things to know: Giannis Antetokounmpo makes MVP case, drops 47 on Lakers

Although it's early in the season, Kurt Helin and Corey Robinson make their predictions for which players already have made a strong case for MVP.

Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks going that make the NBA great.

1) Giannis Antetokounmpo makes his MVP case, drops 47 on Lakers

It’s too early to have a serious MVP frontrunner, despite what Stephen Curry did to the Nets on Tuesday night. If the league held the vote today Curry might well win, but we are five miles into the marathon of the NBA season, nobody is running away with anything. At best, there is a college football award-style watch list of players who have started the season playing at an MVP level.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has to be on any MVP list — and he dropped 47 points on 18-of-23 shooting in a win against the Lakers Wednesday to make his case.

Antetokounmpo averages 28 points on 51.5% shooting (30.8% from 3), plus grabbing 11.1 rebounds and dishing out 5.8 assists a night, and the Bucks are +20.8 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court. If you prefer your stats in the advanced variety, he is seventh in win shares (despite the Bucks slow start), third in box score +/-, third in VORP, and second in PER.

Antetokounmpo has earned his place in any early-season MVP discussion. So has Curry. You can add Nikola Jokic (he has better advanced stat than last season when he won MVP), Kevin Durant and Jimmy Butler to any list. Paul George and Anthony Davis are lurking just behind that first group, along with others. It’s early, there is a lot of MVP race to go and a lot more names that could go on that list.

As for the Bucks beating the Lakers Wednesday, here is the big takeaway:

Milwaukee had Antetokounmpo and got Khris Middleton back, and the Lakers missed LeBon James. A lot.

Deep stuff there, I know. You can try to make this game a puzzle piece in a larger picture if you want, but sometimes over the grind of an NBA season, it’s about who is available, and the Bucks had more of their good players on the court. Middleton scored 16 points and looked a bit rusty but did play 30 minutes. As the Bucks get healthy, that slow start to the season will be a distant memory — this team is still a contender.

The Lakers could get LeBron back Friday against the Celtics. Let him play a few games upon his return and then we can have a serious Lakers’ discussion. Right now, there are concerns but LeBron fixes a lot of them.

2) Suns win streak reaches 10 with win over Luka-less Mavs

The Suns look like the Suns again.

For the first four games of the season, Phoenix looked like it had a Finals hangover. They were a step slow and seemingly disinterested in the regular season. Then starting on Oct. 30 against the Cavaliers, the schedule got soft, and now Phoenix has rattled off 10 wins in a row.

The latest was 105-98 against the Mavericks without Luka Doncic. Devin Booker had 24 to lead a balanced Suns attack, and he stuck the dagger in Dallas late — the man needs just a sliver of space to make a defense pay.

Booker was putting on a show all night.

The Suns are playing top-five defense this season and their offense has been top 10 over the last eight games.

The Suns are the Suns again, which means they are contenders in the West.

3) The Kings can frustrate a veteran player like no other: The Tristan Thompson rant

Tristan Thompson —in his 11th NBA season and with a championship ring — has joined the long and storied club of veteran players frustrated with the Kings.

Sacramento just brings it out of players. Thompson went on a profanity-laced rant after the Kings came apart late and lost to the Timberwolves 107-97 Wednesday night.

“It’s a compound thing and what guys gotta understand is those little things over the course of 48 minutes, the ‘my bad’ after ‘my bad’ after ‘my bad’ is what is going to cost you a game in the fourth quarter and the reason why we got a loss...

“I’m gonna say this,” Thompson said. “I think no man in this world should rely on another man to inspire them. Point-blank, period. You can put that in all capitals. Me personally, no one should ever need a coach to inspire you. If you don’t get inspired in the game, then you shouldn’t be on the court. Losing teams, losing players, you need to get inspiration from your coach, and I’m not with that s***

“My teammates aren’t with it, because I know guys want to win and win badly. It’s not about coach Walton inspiring you, this is not no freaking Glory Road s***. You gotta be ready to play. Your number’s called, you in the damn game, I don’t need no f****** coach to inspire me. Never have, never will. The day I need a coach to inspire me, is the day I’m f****** retiring, I’m going to go play with my kids in the park. I speak for my teammates with that quote, we don’t need a coach to inspire us...

The Kings are actually a little better than their 6-9 record would indicate. They have the ninth-ranked offense in the NBA (and that despite the fact De’Aaron Fox is off to a slow start), but the Kings are 23rd in defense. The Kings have a +0.2 net rating, meaning they should be more like 8-7, but they cannot close out games.

Which frustrates Thompson.

Luke Walton’s seat got a little warm, and he is undoubtedly a part of the issues in Sacramento, but the bigger problem is this is a play-in level roster, and right now they are performing at a play-in level (they are 11th in the West now, in the mix for a play-in spot). They are who we thought they were. They are what their record says they are.

We’ll see if Thompson lit a fire under the Kings.

Highlight of the night: Franz Wagner is a highlight machine

If you had told me before the season Franz Wagner would have a couple of the best dunks of the year so far, I would have asked you where you buy your edibles. But here we are. He had this throw down on the Knicks.

Last night’s scores:

Charlotte 97, Washington 87
Detroit 97, Indiana 89
Atlanta 110, Boston 99
Brooklyn 109, Cleveland 99
Miami 113, New Orleans 98
Orlando 104, New York 98
Milwaukee 109, LA Lakers 102
Minnesota 107, Sacramento 97
Oklahoma City 101, Houston 89
Phoenix 105, Dallas 98
Portland 112, Chicago 107