It’s too early. Obviously. Three weeks into the NBA season, no team has played more than 11 games. There’s still about 85 percent of the schedule left. It’s not even reasonable to start talking playoff matchups or gauging Lottery odds.
But it’s never too early to start compiling contenders for the league’s Most Valuable Player award. And while the early MVP debate has centered around Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol — and even Joakim Noah according to some national analysts — right now Deron Williams should be ahead of the pack.
The numbers are there. Deron is averaging 21.3 points (19th in the NBA, 3rd among point guards), 10.1 assists (4th in the NBA) and a career-high 4.7 rebounds. He’s notched two games of 30 points, and four of 14 or more assists.
But the MVP is never solely about numbers. You have to find the right mix of team success, memorable moments, and perhaps most important, exceeded expectations that put you in good standing with the voters.
The Jazz are 7-3 overall and riding a 5-game win streak. At the beginning of the streak, D-Will made a coast-to-coast layup in double-overtime to beat the Clippers. Then he spearheaded four second-half comebacks on the road against Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Charlotte, including three games where he posted at least 20 points and 10 dimes. Deron capped the road trip with a buzzer-beating floater on Saturday to beat the Bobcats.
Now about the exceeded expectations. Going into this season, the Jazz weren’t seen as an elite team in the talent-depleted West. At best, they were expected to be playoff fodder (again) for the Lakers and a footnote in L.A.’s three-peat plans. After losing Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver to free agency during the summer, Utah’s significant roster additions included Al Jefferson — who had played on one above-.500 team in his six-year career — along with 20-year-old rookie Gordon Hayward, and 34-year-old Raja Bell. Plus starting center Mehmet Okur is sidelined with an Achilles injury until next month at least.
And yet, as Rondo threatens to break all-time records for assists and Paul has the Hornets undefeated, D-Will is holding on strong to whatever claim he may have as the best point guard in the world. His teammates have a combined two All-Star appearances between them, and Andrei Kirilenko is the only Utah All-Star actually playing right now. (Okur was an All-Star in 2007.) Deron is helping set Paul Millsap (21.9 ppg, 9.3 rpg) up for a career year, and may actually deliver Jerry Sloan his first-ever, long overdue NBA Coach of the Year award.
Is D-Will the best PG in the game? That’s an argument in which the answers change every day. But you don’t have to be the best to be the most valuable. So far this season, Williams is at least in the driver’s seat for that title.