NBA Star Power Index: Kyrie Irving more trouble than he’s worth. Russell Westbrook takes the bench role well

Welcome back to NBA Star Power Index: A weekly measurement of the players who have the most buzz in the league. Being on this list isn’t necessarily a good thing — it just means you’re getting the attention of the NBA world. This is also not a ranking. The players listed are in no particular order. This column will run weekly during the regular season.

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Just when you thought Irving couldn’t get any more toxic, he tweeted a link to a 2018 documentary “Jews on Negroes: Awakening Black America,” which Rolling Stone described as “filled with anti-Semitic tropes.” Then, when asked about it, he said he’s “not going to give up on anything I believe in,” and pretty much lashed out at ESPN reporter Nick Friedell, who, you know, was just doing his job asking Irving about it.

The day after Kyrie posted the link, which he eventually took down, Nets owner Joe Tsai he tweeted: “I’m disappointed that Kyrie seems to be endorsing a movie based on a book full of anti-Semitic misinformation.”

Who knows what Kyrie really believes anymore, and how much of the wild conspiracy theory craziness he spews is just a counter-need to be, or at least feel, more enlightened and smarter than his growing list of adversaries. Either way, Irving can’t be good for a basketball team right now, even averaging over 26 points per game.

Truth be told, even if Irving was the best player in the league, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to move him aside for a team. At some point, even Irving himself won’t be able to part with all the drama he’s created and keep producing. That process may have already begun Tuesday, when Irving scored four points and was a game-worst minus-14 in a loss to the Bulls.

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Russell Westbrook’s first game off the bench went about as well as anyone could have hoped. Westbrook finished with 18 points, eight assists and eight rebounds on 6-of-12 shooting. It was a plus-18 game (the first time they posted a positive point differential this season) and the Lakers got their first win of the year, defeating the Nuggets.

Westbrook has even managed to turn a Lakers crowd that has spent most of the season moaning every time he touches the ball in his favor.

Through two games in a bench role, Westbrook is averaging 18 points (while operating mostly in the paint, which is pretty cool), eight rebounds and 5.5 assists, and probably most importantly, he finally seems to be okay with the idea of ​​not being a starter. On Tuesday, he acknowledged that the bench’s role is in everyone’s best interest.

“It’s a win-win in my opinion,” Westbrook says he said. “My job is to find ways to keep improving my team. Whatever it is that we need that night, whether it’s assists, rebounds, scoring, defense, I’m a person who prides myself on doing everything every night and I want to be able to have that trickle down effect with the guys with which I am on the floor”.

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The Bucks are the only undefeated team at 6-0 and Giannis was just named Eastern Conference Player of the Week. After being held to 21 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists and three blocks in the Bucks’ season opener, here are Antetokounmpo’s last five rebound totals:

Not much else to say: Giannis is playing at an MVP level and the Bucks look like title contenders at the top again. Business as usual.

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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was named Western Conference Player of the Week after the Thunder won three straight. Over the span, SGA averaged 31.7 points, 7.7 assists and 5.3 rebounds. He’s currently sixth in the league in scoring and good defense: his 2.5 steals per game tops the league among all players not playing for the Raptors’ 48 Minutes of Hell.

This looks good too:

Like Luka Doncic (the next player on this list), SGA creates a ton of offense for himself. 80 percent of his buckets are unassisted. He might be the best infiltrator in the game. His 27.7 drives per game, as usual, leads the league, but it’s the work he’s started to do in the middle that stands out.

With the downhill pressure SGA puts on defenders, stop-and-pop foul jumpers are pretty much defenseless if they can hit them at a steady clip, which they have so far. So far only three players are attempting more shots per game in the 10-14 foot range than SGA, and between 10-19 feet he is shooting just under 53 percent (19 to 36).

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Doncic’s last three games: 116 points, 30 rebounds, 29 assists and five steals. He is the first player to score at least 30 points in the first six games of a season since Michael Jordan in 1986-87. Doncic’s 36.7 points per game leads the league and he creates almost all of that offense by himself. Entering Wednesday’s game, 92.2 percent of Luka’s buckets were unassisted, according to NBA.com.

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