To be the best, you have to beat the best.
The theory behind the official NBA Math crown isn’t any more complicated than that. To dethrone whoever’s holding this ultravaluable headdress, you have to outplay him in a head-to-head matchup.
This coveted crown is up for grabs at the beginning of the season, handed out to whichever player posts the highest Game Score on opening night. Game Score isn’t a perfect metric—far from it—but it does remain our best all-inclusive measuring stick for singular outings.
When the current holder is an action again, the crown is available. And if one of his teammates or a member of the opposition posts a higher Game Score, he’ll wrest it away and take over as the new standard-bearer.
In the event of an absence from the man in possession, the crown will still be obtainable—we want to reward durability and avoid any unfortunate circumstances that would otherwise see the crown retired for the year in the event of a season-ending injury.
The Reign of King Stephen Curry IV: April 5 – Present
4/10/17: 28 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 9-16 FGs, 6-8 3Ps, 4-5 FTs, 24.0 Game Score
4/5/17: 42 points, 5 rebounds, 11 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 3 turnovers, 15-26 FGs, 8-13 3Ps, 4-7 FTs, 38.6 Game Score
That makes 10 straight games that the Golden State Warriors have retained the crown, though it’s been passed from Klay Thompson to Stephen Curry to Andre Iguodala to Stephen Curry to Klay Thompson to Stephen Curry during that stretch. The point guard took it back from his backcourt teammate with another downtown exhibition against the Phoenix Suns, but he wasn’t the only player who outperformed Thompson (12.2 Game Score). Patrick McCaw (12.6), Jared Dudley (16.1) and Alan Williams (21.2) produced superior scores, as well.
Curry’s three-point barrage continued fight nights later in a loss to the Utah Jazz, as he drained six more treys in eight attempts. It wasn’t enough for him to propel the Warriors past their foes, but it did give him the top Game Score with only a bit of room to spare (George Hill’s 21.5 was second).
Below, you can see the full progression of the crown’s ownership throughout the 2016-17 season. Descriptions of the individual reigns will come afterwards:
|Date||Player||Game Score||Relinquishing Crown|
|4/5||Stephen Curry||38.60||Klay Thompson|
|4/4||Klay Thompson||32.60||Stephen Curry|
|3/28||Stephen Curry||24.90||Andre Iguodala|
|3/26||Andre Iguodala||24.40||Stephen Curry|
|3/21||Stephen Curry||19.80||Klay Thompson|
|3/20||Klay Thompson||27.90||Russell Westbrook|
|2/13||Joffrey Lauvergne||18.10||Russell Westbrook|
|2/3||Russell Westbrook||37.50||Marc Gasol|
|2/1||Marc Gasol||20.20||Mike Conley|
|1/30||Mike Conley||37.10||Eric Bledsoe|
|1/28||Eric Bledsoe||32.50||Nikola Jokic|
|1/26||Nikola Jokic||30.30||Tyson Chandler|
|1/24||Tyson Chandler||27.00||Karl-Anthony Towns|
|1/22||Karl-Anthony Towns||27.60||Nikola Jokic|
|1/16||Nikola Jokic||30.00||Elfrid Payton|
|1/14||Elfrid Payton||28.80||Nikola Vucevic|
|1/13||Nikola Vucevic||29.80||Aaron Gordon|
|1/11||Aaron Gordon||19.90||Chris Paul|
|1/8||Chris Paul||27.90||Willie Reed|
|1/6||Willie Reed||23.00||Tyler Johnson|
|1/4||Tyler Johnson||21.70||DeMarcus Cousins|
|12/28||DeMarcus Cousins||23.20||C.J. McCollum|
|12/26||C.J. McCollum||19.70||Kyle Lowry|
|12/23||Kyle Lowry||29.50||Gorodn Hayward|
|12/21||Gordon Hayward||19.90||DeMarcus Cousins|
|12/18||DeMarcus Cousins||19.10||Deron Williams|
|12/16||Deron Williams||18.20||Rodney Hood|
|12/14||Rodney Hood||17.60||Rudy Gobert|
|12/8||Rudy Gobert||20.90||Gordon Hayward|
|12/6||Gordon Hayward||24.70||Eric Bledsoe|
|12/3||Eric Bledsoe||24.80||Kevin Durant|
|11/25||Kevin Durant||26.60||Stephen Curry|
|11/21||Stephen Curry||23.10||Jeff Teague|
|11/20||Jeff Teague||32.40||Russell Westbrook|
|11/18||Russell Westbrook||31.40||Victor Oladipo|
|11/16||Victor Oladipo||25.50||Russell Westbrook|
|11/11||Russell Westbrook||20.60||Blake Griffin|
|11/9||Blake Griffin||25.90||Chris Paul|
|11/7||Chris Paul||29.50||Blake Griffin|
|11/5||Blake Griffin||23.70||Kawhi Leonard|
|11/1||Kawhi Leonard||24.50||George Hill|
|10/30||George Hill||14.00||Blake Griffin|
|10/27||Blake Griffin||22.80||Damian Lillard|
And now, you can view the total number of days each king has held onto his jewelry, as well as the season’s longest streaks:
|Player||Days With Crown||Longest Streak|
The Reign of King Klay Thompson II: April 4 – 5
4/4/17: 41 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 1 turnover, 13-24 FGs, 7-14 3Ps, 8-9 FTs, 32.6 Game Score
It would’ve taken a masterpiece to end Stephen Curry’s third reign of the season, and that’s exactly what Klay Thompson provided. Though his point guard had a decent game of his own, the 2-guard couldn’t miss from anywhere on the floor. His seven triples helped spark a victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, despite standout showings from Karl-Anthony Towns (21.8 Game Score) and Shabazz Muhammad (20.6). And as a result, the Golden State Warriors retained the crown for the ninth straight game.
The Reign of King Stephen Curry III: March 28 – April 4
4/2/17: 42 points, 1 rebound, 8 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 15-22 FGs, 9-14 3Ps, 3-3 FTs, 37.3 Game Score
3/31/17: 24 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers, 8-18 FGs, 4-9 3Ps, 4-5 FTs, 19.4 Game Score
3/29/17: 29 points, 3 rebounds, 11 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers, 9-20 FGs, 4-8 3Ps, 7-7 FTs, 24.2 Game Score
3/28/17: 32 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 6 turnovers, 11-22 FGs, 3-11 3Ps, 7-10 FTs, 24.9 Game Score
Andre Iguodala’s reign didn’t last long, but Stephen Curry ensured the Golden State Warriors held onto the crown for the fifth consecutive game. He narrowly outplayed James Harden (20.2 Game Score), who recorded a triple-double in the Houston Rockets’ losing efforts. And while Curry’s three-point stroke wasn’t all the way back, he did make a dagger in the third quarter and managed to contribute in every area.
His next two games, coming in victories over the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets, were fairly pedestrian by the point guard’s standards. But he exploded against the Washington Wizards, thriving on the offensive end as he dropped 42 points and eight dimes in the team’s 11th consecutive win. Doing so allowed him to tie Nikola Jokic for the longest reign by a player not named Russell Westbrook and extend his hold on second place for most days with the crown.
The Reign of King Andre Iguodala: March 26 – 28
3/26/17: 20 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 7-8 FGs, 2-2 3Ps, 4-5 FTs, 24.4 Game Score
Klay Thompson and Mike Conley both outplayed Stephen Curry during the Golden State Warriors’ victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, but it was Andre Iguodala who stood out as the star of the night. He put together a nearly perfect performance over the course of 32 minutes, only missing a single shot from the field and putting up goose eggs in both the turnover and personal-foul columns. Perfection is necessary for role players to earn the crown, and it allowed Iguodala to become the third straight Warrior to wear the headpiece without ceding it to another team.
The Reign of King Stephen Curry II: March 21 – 26
3/24/17: 27 points, 7 rebounds, 12 assists, 6 steals, 3 turnovers, 9-18 FGs, 5-11 3Ps, 4-4 FTs, 31.9 Game Score
3/21/17: 17 points, 5 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals, 7-14 FGs, 3-9 3Ps, 19.8 Game Score
It didn’t take long for Klay Thompson to relinquish his title. Fortunately, he did so by giving it to a teammate. Stephen Curry (19.8 Game Score) barely outplayed him (19.7) in a blowout victory over the Dallas Mavericks, thanks primarily to his work as a set-up man. The point guard scored six fewer points than his backcourt mate, but his nine dimes helped stake the Dubs to an early lead.
He was even better after two days rest, finally drawing some whistles and converting all of his charity attempts. But it was his non-scoring contributions that stood out most against the Sacramento Kings, allowing him to outduel Buddy Hield and Co. with ease. Between his distributing and thievery, he was a force to be reckoned with as the Golden State Warriors retained the crown for a third consecutive game.
The Reign of King Klay Thompson I: March 20 – 21
3/20/17: 34 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 turnover, 12-21 FGs, 7-15 3Ps, 3-3 FTs, 27.9 Game Score
There’s plenty of bad blood between the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder. That probably won’t change after Klay Thompson ripped away the NBA Math Crown from Russell Westbrook, scoring an efficient 34 points while sparking a blowout of his team’s Western Conference rival. Thus ended one of the great runs of our time, keeping Westbrook from holding the crown for a 14th consecutive contest.
The Reign of King Russell Westbrook IV: February 15 – March 20
3/18/17: 28 points, 8 rebounds, 10 assists, 4 steals, 7 turnovers, 9-20 FGs, 4-9 3Ps, 6-7 FTs, 24.4 Game Score
3/16/17: 24 points, 10 rebounds, 16 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers, 8-17 FGs, 4-8 3Ps, 4-4 FTs, 27.7 Game Score
3/14/17: 25 points, 12 rebounds, 19 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 5 turnovers, 6-18 FGs, 2-7 3Ps, 11-13 FTs, 27.8 Game Score
3/11/17: 33 points, 11 rebounds, 14 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 5 turnovers, 9-26 FGs, 3-10 3Ps, 12-13 FTs, 29.5 Game Score
3/9/17: 23 points, 13 rebounds, 13 assists, 2 steals, 3 turnovers, 7-21 FGs, 1-6 3Ps, 8-9 FTs, 23.1 Game Score
3/7/17: 58 points, 3 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals, 1 blocks, 4 turnovers, 21-39 FGs, 3-9 3Ps, 13-16 FTs, 43.6 Game Score
3/5/17: 29 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 1 turnover, 8-24 FGs, 2-10 3Ps, 11-13 FTs, 20.0 Game Score
3/3/17: 48 points, 17 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals, 4 turnovers, 14-30 FGs, 3-12 3Ps, 17-18 FTs, 41.4 Game Score
3/2/17: 45 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal,, 1 block, 4 turnovers, 12-36 FGs, 6-16 3Ps, 15-15 FTs, 28.3 Game Score
2/28/17: 43 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, 8 turnovers, 13-28 FGs, 6-9 3Ps, 11-12 FTs, 30.1 Game Score
2/26/17: 41 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, 1 steal, 9 turnovers, 14-29 FGs, 2-8 3Ps, 11-12 FTs, 28.9 Game Score
2/24/17: 17 points, 18 rebounds, 17 assists, 3 steals, 6 turnovers, 4-18 FGs, 1-5 3Ps, 8-9 FTs, 20.3 Game Score
2/15/17: 38 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 6 turnovers, 13-22 FGs, 3-5 3Ps, 9-13 FTs, 37.7 Game Score
In his final game before the All-Star break, Russell Westbrook posted his 27th triple-double of the 2016-17 campaign, throwing up 38 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists against the overmatched New York Knicks. Though he struggled with turnovers, the good more than outweighed the bad, giving him a 37.7 Game Score that allowed him to steal back the crown from teammate Joffrey Lauvergne.
At first glance, his return from the midseason break appears fantastic. Since the start of 1983, only he, Magic Johnson and Rajon Rondo (during his prime years with the Boston Celtics) have recorded at least 17 points, rebounds and assists in the same game. But the gaudy counting numbers masked his shooting struggles, and his Game Score (20.3) only narrowly edged out D’Angelo Russell’s 20.2 in a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Two nights later, Westbrook earned another narrow win—this time by virtue of a tiebreaker. Thanks to some last-quarter heroics that propelled the Oklahoma City Thunder past the New Orleans Pelicans, the point guard was able to overcome his turnovers and rough shooting start. He and Anthony Davis (who he trailed in Game Score for nearly all of the proceedings) finished in a literal tie at 28.9, but Westbrook retains the crown due to the Thunder’s team victory.
The crown was never in doubt against the Utah Jazz, though. Gordon Hayward finished second in Game Score (17.0), and this night unquestionably belonged to Westbrook. Scoring 43 points on just 28 shots from the field tends to do that, especially when the point-producing performance is part of another triple-double. If you need an example of how to provide positive impact while turning the ball over eight times, there you have it.
Of course, his next game—the fifth in a row in which he held the crown—wasn’t so positive. Westbrook’s gigantic scoring contributions ensured that he outpaced Damian Lillard and the rest of the Portland Trail Blazers, but his cold shooting down the stretch and penchant for calling his own number allowed Rip City to steal away a victory and climb closer to the Western Conference’s No. 8 seed.
Westbrook finished the Thunder’s back-to-back in early March with a second straight loss (and a second straight failure to hit double figures in three different box-score categories). But that doesn’t mean he played anything less than fantastic basketball, putting together an incredible and efficient individual line against the Phoenix Suns. No one else on either team was close to his Game Score (41.4), with Eric Bledsoe (14.6) in second place.
His next game was decidedly less special, as he narrowly staved off Seth Curry (15.4 Game Score) while submitting a lackluster performance in a loss to the Dallas Mavericks. But he followed that up by exploding against the Portland Trail Blazers, dropping a career-high 58 points and single-handedly keeping OKC in the game. Though it would also result in a failed outing, thanks in part to some of his misses down the stretch, it’s hard to blame Westbrook too much when he carried his squad for lengthy periods of the contest.
Over the next three outings, Westbrook went for three more triple-doubles, which came in victories against the San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz and Brooklyn Nets. None of the contests featured anyone pushing him for the crown as he kept questing toward his season-long goal of a cumulative trip-dub. That endeavor continued with another massive triple-double against the Toronto Raptors, but the Sacramento Kings ended his streak (not his reign) two nights later.
The Reign of King Joffrey Lauvergne: February 13 – 15
2/13/17: 17 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 turnover, 6-7 FGs, 1-1 3Ps, 4-4 FTs, 18.1 Game Score
Sources* told NBA Math that Joffrey Lauvergne’s willingness to capitalize on an off night from Russell Westbrook and end the point guard’s reign served as the primary reason the Oklahoma City Thunder traded him to the Chicago Bulls at the deadline. It took an epic convergence of factors, as this was rather easily Lauvergne’s top Game Score of his OKC tenure, while Westbrook posted his third-worst mark (10.5) in a blowout loss to the Washington Wizards that prevented anyone from receiving too many minutes.
*Note: These sources do not exist.
The Reign of King Russell Westbrook III: February 3 – 13
2/11/17: 47 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal, 11 turnovers, 14-26 FGs, 3-10 3Ps, 16-18 FTs, 30.9 Game Score
2/9/17: 29 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, 4 steals, 7 turnovers, 11-27 FGs, 2-6 3Ps, 5-5 FTs, 21.6 Game Score
2/6/17: 27 points, 18 rebounds, 9 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 4 turnovers, 10-27 FGs, 4-10 3Ps, 3-4 FTs, 21.4 Game Score
2/5/17: 42 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 turnovers, 16-34 FGs, 1-6 3Ps, 9-11 FTs, 25.8 Game Score
2/3/17: 38 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists, 3 steals, 5 turnovers, 8-20 FGs, 5-7 3Ps, 17-17 FTs, 37.5 Game Score
Prior to this stretch, Nikola Jokic and Kevin Durant were the only players to hold the crown for four consecutive games. Russell Westbrook topped that during a sequence in which he added another three triple-doubles to his ever-growing tally.
Though he occasionally struggled with his shot and racked up turnovers, the dynamic point guard averaged 36.6 points, 11.6 rebounds, 9.6 assists and 1.8 steals before relinquishing his title to a teammate.
The Reign of King Marc Gasol: February 1 – 3
2/1/17: 24 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, 9-15 FGs, 3-4 3Ps, 3-3 FTs, 20.2 Game Score
No one stood out in this Feb. 1 contest between the Memphis Grizzlies and Denver Nuggets. Between Nikola Jokic missing the game as his hip healed and Memphis’ blowout victory on the road that prevented star players from receiving much run, only three men posted Game Scores north of 15: Marc Gasol (20.2), Vince Carter (16.6) and Mike Conley (15.7).
The Reign of King Mike Conley: January 30 – February 1
1/30/17: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers, 12-18 FGs, 7-10 3Ps, 7-8 FTs, 37.1 Game Score
Scoring 38 points on 18 field-goal attempts is utterly insane when you’re only taking single-digit free throws. It requires proficiency from beyond the arc and near-perfection from both the field and the stripe. Players simply aren’t supposed to be this skilled, and yet Mike Conley made it look rather easy against the Phoenix Suns, thereby joining the only other 16 players who have accomplished the feat since 1983.
The Reign of King Eric Bledsoe II: January 28 – 30
1/28/17: 41 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, 3 turnovers, 12-27 FGs, 3-8 3Ps, 14-15 FTs, 32.5 Game Score
Eric Bledsoe didn’t make the All-Star team. He didn’t even populate many lists of snubs. But he played fantastic basketball for the Phoenix Suns throughout the season’s initial half and this, according to Game Score, was his No. 2 performance, trailing only a Jan. 22 showdown with the Toronto Raptors in which he exploded for 40 points, six rebounds and 13 assists.
The Reign of King Nikola Jokic II: January 26 – 28
1/26/17: 29 points, 14 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 3 turnovers, 12-21 FGs, 0-2 3Ps, 5-6 FTs, 30.3 Game Score
After two games without the crown, Nikola Jokic got his revenge, dominating the Phoenix Suns while coming close to a triple-double. Even though he couldn’t connect from beyond the arc, his touch around the hoop on his patented one-handed pushes from five feet helped the Denver Nuggets earn a seven-point victory. Unfortunately, a hip injury toward the end of the contest would end his night prematurely and knock him out of the lineup for the next three games, leaving him unable to defend his second reign during the second half of the home-and-away against the Suns.
The Reign of King Tyson Chandler: January 24 – 26
1/24/17: 22 points, 17 rebounds, 2 blocks, 9-9 FGs, 4-5 FTs, 27.0 Game Score
At this point in the season, Tyson Chandler was one of only five players to take nine shots from the field and make all of them; no one had done so with double-digit attempts. But whereas Pau Gasol, Rudy Gobert, Marcin Gortat and Dwight Howard couldn’t produce any more than 12 rebounds during their qualified performances, the Phoenix Suns center racked up 17.
The Reign of King Karl-Anthony Towns: January 22 – 24
1/22/17: 32 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 blocks, 6 turnovers, 13-19 FGs, 6-8 FTs, 27.6 Game Score
If it weren’t for turnovers, Karl-Anthony Towns would’ve submitted one of the season’s most impressive games. Not only did he end Nikola Jokic’s four-game reign—the second longest prior to the All-Star Game—but he thrived in every category while maintaining his efficiency and coming close to matching the triple-double he earned in his late-December showdown with the Denver Nuggets.
The Reign of King Nikola Jokic I: January 16 – 22
1/21/17: 19 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 turnovers, 8-11 FGs, 2-3 3Ps, 1-1 FTs, 16.6 Game Score
1/19/17: 35 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, 3 turnovers, 14-22 FGs, 2-4 3Ps, 5-5 FTs, 30.8 Game Score
1/17/17: 29 points, 15 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 blocks, 2 turnovers, 12-22 FGs, 1-5 3Ps, 4-6 FTs, 24.5 Game Score
1/16/17: 30 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 13-19 FGs, 1-2 3Ps, 3-5 FTs, 30.0 Game Score
Midway through January, the NBA began to realize Nikola Jokic could pick everyone apart with his passing chops. So it adjusted, throwing extra defenders into the painted area and forcing the sophomore center into a new role as a featured scorer.
He did just fine.
During this four-game stretch, Jokic averaged a staggering 28.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists while shooting 63.5 percent from the field.
The Reign of King Elfrid Payton: January 14 – 16
1/14/17: 28 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 1 turnover, 10-17 FGs, 1-3 3Ps, 7-11 FTs, 28.8 Game Score
From one member of the Orlando Magic to another…and then to another still.
Elfrid Payton followed up Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic’s reigns with a brief one of his own, thanks to his near triple-double and efficient shooting performance against the Utah Jazz. This was his No. 2 Game Score prior to the All-Star break, trailing only his 30.7 in a victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
The Reign of King Nikola Vucevic: January 13 – 14
1/13/17: 30 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steals, 2 blocks, 1 turnover, 13-18 FGs, 4-4 FTs, 29.8 Game Score
Any guesses how many players have posted at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in a 2016-17 game while taking no more than 18 field-goal attempts? Anyone? Bueller?
Fourteen. That’s it. And Nikola Vucevic is one of only five to join the club while also dishing out at least four dimes.
The Reign of King Aaron Gordon: January 11 – 13
1/11/17: 28 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 turnovers, 11-17 FGs, 4-8 3Ps, 2-4 FTs, 19.9 Game Score
The 2016-17 campaign has been filled with struggles for Aaron Gordon, as Orlando Magic head coach Frank Vogel has insisted on trying to make him fit at small forward. The youngster hasn’t taken to the position with aplomb, but he has occasionally parlayed his athleticism into some big numbers, as he did in this single-digit loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Unsurprisingly, Gordon’s standout showing came while Serge Ibaka was sitting out, which allowed him to slide up to the 4.
The Reign of King Chris Paul II: January 8 – 11
1/8/17: 19 points, 6 rebounds, 18 assists, 2 steals, 1 turnover, 7-11 FGs, 1-3 3Ps, 4-5 FTs, 27.9 Game Score
Whenever Chris Paul earns the crown, he manages to produce some sort of historically unique night. Against the Miami Heat, it was his ridiculous playmaking: The Los Angeles Clippers point guard recorded 18 assists with only a single turnover, which just 32 different players have done since 1983.
Even more impressively, this was the fifth such game of Paul’s career. Only John Stockton (10 times) has joined the club on more occasions.
The Reign of King Willie Reed: January 6 – 8
1/6/17: 22 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks, 10-15 FGs, 2-5 FTs, 23.0 Game Score
Prior to the All-Star break, no player more anonymous managed to get his hands on the crown. And this was a helluva performance from Willie Reed, who posted a monstrous and efficient double-double while thriving on the defensive end.
Sure, Reed’s efforts came during a blowout loss to the Los Angeles Lakers while his Miami Heat were playing without Hassan Whiteside. But let’s still be glad this 26-year-old big man had a chance to shine and managed to earn the crown.
The Reign of King Tyler Johnson: January 4 – 6
1/4/17: 23 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steals, 2 blocks, 2 turnovers, 7-11 FGs, 2-4 3Ps, 7-9 FTs, 21.7 Game Score
When a player like Tyler Johnson earns the crown, you can’t help but feel happy. The hard-working sixth man for the Miami Heat has struggled with injuries throughout his junior season, but he’s been able to show off his athleticism and burgeoning skill whenever health allows. Such was the case against the Sacramento Kings, when he constantly attacked the hoop and still found time to pepper the opposition with some silky jumpers.
The Reign of King DeMarcus Cousins II: December 28 – January 4
1/3/16: 31 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 block, 10-25 FGs, 3-7 3Ps, 8-8 FTs, 23.0 Game Score
12/31/16: 26 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 steals, 5 turnovers, 7-18 FGs, 0-3 3Ps, 12-13 FTs, 21.8 Game Score
12/28/16: 28 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 8-19 FGs, 3-6 3Ps, 9-10 FTs, 23.2 Game Score
When DeMarcus Cousins is really feeling it, he’s not just a scorer. Sure, he’s capable of thriving with his unique blend of physicality and finesse, but he can also contribute in so many other ways. Chief among them? His impressive passing.
During this three-game stretch, the big man averaged 28.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.7 assists.
The Reign of King C.J. McCollum: December 26 – 28
12/26/16: 29 points, 3 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal, 4 turnovers, 12-23 FGs, 3-7 3Ps, 2-2 FTs, 19.7 Game Score
Playing without Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum had to take on extra offensive responsibilities. And though he couldn’t single-handedly carry the Portland Trail Blazers to a victory over the Toronto Raptors—Mason Plumlee was the team’s second-leading scorer with 13 points—he thrived as an individual. As always, it was McCollum’s smooth mid-range game that did the trick.
The Reign of King Kyle Lowry: December 23 – 26
12/23/16: 36 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 4 turnovers, 15-20 FGs, 4-8 3Ps, 2-3 FTs, 29.5 Game Score
When Kyle Lowry is feeling it, few players are capable of slowing him down. Such was the case against the Utah Jazz, who were going to war without George Hill. Shelvin Mack and Raul Neto couldn’t prevent Lowry from rising and firing from beyond the arc, and it’s not like he struggled from two-point territory, either.
The Reign of King Gordon Hayward II: December 21 – 23
12/21/16: 28 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 turnovers, 9-18 FGs, 2-5 3Ps, 8-9 FTs, 19.9 Game Score
Gordon Hayward’s second stint with the crown featured an efficient double-double, even if the versatile small forward wasn’t able to make many contributions on the defensive end. Unfortunately, he and the Utah Jazz weren’t able to defeat the Sacramento Kings, giving up far too many fourth-quarter buckets and failing to hold onto the lead they’d earned through 36 minutes.
The Reign of King DeMarcus Cousins I: December 18 – 21
12/20/16: 55 points, 13 rebounds, 1 assists, 1 steal, 3 blocks, 5 turnovers, 17-28 FGs, 5-8 3Ps, 16-17 FTs, 42.9 Game Score
12/18/16: 33 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 12-24 FGs, 2-6 3Ps, 7-10 FTs, 19.1 Game Score
Though DeMarcus Cousins’ game to take the crown from Deron Williams was nothing special, his follow-up performance was. Heading into the All-Star break, Klay Thompson was the only player to score more points (60) in a single game. Similarly, just six players had posted a higher Game Score than Cousins’ 55—none of whom took over the crown while doing so.
The Reign of King Deron Williams: December 16 – 18
12/16/16: 18 points, 7 assists, 2 steals, 1 turnover, 6-11 FGs, 1-4 3Ps, 5-5 FTs, 18.2 Game Score
Fittingly, a former member of the Utah Jazz was the man who ended Salt Lake City’s tenure. Though this was by no means one of the season’s best performances, it was more than enough in a battle that morphed into a defensive struggle during the second half.
The Reign of King Rodney Hood: December 14 – 16
12/14/16: 25 points, 1 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 9-14 FGs, 5-9 3Ps, 2-2 FTs, 17.6 Game Score
The Utah Jazz held onto the crown for a fourth consecutive contest, but it was a third different player who wore the headdress. Rodney Hood didn’t contribute much when he wasn’t scoring against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but his efficient shooting won out. Going 9-of-14 from the field and 5-of-9 from downtown tends to do that.
The Reign of King Rudy Gobert: December 8 – 14
12/10/16: 17 points, 14 rebounds, 6 blocks, 2 turnovers, 5-6 FGs, 7-8 FTs, 20.8 Game Score
12/8/16: 20 points, 17 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 8-8 FGs, 4-7 FTs, 20.9 Game Score
Gordon Hayward couldn’t outshine his bigger teammate, who thrived on the boards while refusing to miss a single shot from the field. To be fair, none of Rudy Gobert’s shots came from further than three feet against the Golden State Warriors—though the ability to get up eight attempts around the hoop is impressive in and of itself. And though Gobert missed a shot in the follow-up performance against the Sacramento Kings, he was even better on the defensive end, rejecting everything within his general vicinity.
The Reign of King Gordon Hayward I: December 6 – 8
12/6/16: 28 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 1 turnover, 8-16 FGs, 2-3 3Ps, 10-13 FTs, 24.7 Game Score
Attack, attack, attack.
Gordon Hayward can contribute in so many different ways, but he’s at his best when able to burst toward the hoop and force referees into blowing their whistles. He did that on 13 occasions and connected on 10 of the freebies, which helped him score an impressive 1.75 points per shot on the night.
The Reign of King Eric Bledsoe I: December 3 – 6
12/3/16: 27 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 steals, 1 turnover, 10-19 FGs, 5-8 3Ps, 2-2 FTs, 24.8 Game Score
Shockingly, it didn’t take an out-of-this-world performance to end Kevin Durant’s reign. Eric Bledsoe was good against the Golden State Warriors, but his performance came in a blowout loss that ushered the Dubs stars off the floor sooner than expected.
Still, we can’t pin the blame on Bledsoe. His team was outscored by 14 points while he was on the floor in the 29-point loss, but he avoided making many negative contributions.
The Reign of King Kevin Durant: November 25 – December 3
12/1/16: 39 points, 14 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks, 2 turnovers, 12-28 FGs, 3-11 3Ps, 12-12 FTs, 32.1 Game Score
11/28/16: 25 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 4 turnovers, 8-16 FGs, 1-3 3Ps, 8-8 FTs, 21.3 Game Score
11/26/16: 28 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 6 blocks, 3 turnovers, 10-17 FGs, 3-4 3Ps, 5-5 FTs, 28.6 Game Score
11/25/16: 29 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 2 turnovers, 11-19 FGs, 3-6 3Ps, 4-6 FTs, 26.6 Game Score
Retaining the crown for a lengthy stretch is tough for any member of the Golden State Warriors. Not only do they have to fend off charges from the opposition, but they have to consistently outplay the other stars wearing the same jersey. Kevin Durant, for example, couldn’t succumb to Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson or Draymond Green during this four-game reign.
And he didn’t, averaging 30.3 points, 11.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.3 steals and 3.3 blocks while shooting 51.3 percent from the field, 41.7 percent from downtown and 93.5 percent at the stripe.
The Reign of King Stephen Curry I: November 21 – 25
11/23/16: 31 points, 5 rebounds, 9 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 11-18 FGs, 7-12 3Ps, 2-2 FTs, 30.2 Game Score
11/21/16: 22 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 6-11 FGs, 2-6 3Ps, 8-8 FTs, 23.1 Game Score
Stephen Curry, as the two-time reigning MVP, was almost guaranteed to earn the crown at some point. He first did so with a solid but unspectacular performance against the Indiana Pacers, but he followed that up with an offensive explosion that featured seven triples in just 12 attempts during a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Reign of King Jeff Teague: November 20 – 21
11/20/16: 30 points, 5 rebounds, 9 assists, 6 steals, 3 turnovers, 9-16 FGs, 3-4 3Ps, 9-9 FTs, 32.4 Game Score
Jeff Teague almost literally ripped the crown away from Russell Westbrook, racking up six steals in addition to his sterling offensive contributions for the Indiana Pacers. Though one of his thefts came at Steven Adams’ expense and another at Victor Oladipo’s, the remaining four contributed to Westbrook’s seven turnovers in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s home loss.
The Reign of King Russell Westbrook II: November 18 – 20
11/18/16: 30 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists, 1 steal, 3 turnovers, 13-21 FGs, 0-1 3Ps, 4-5 FTs, 31.4 Game Score
Russell Westbrook wouldn’t let his teammate have the crown for long. With a triple-double against the Brooklyn Nets, he snatched it back from Victor Oladipo, despite yet another impressive outing (20.0 Game Score) from the young 2-guard.
The Reign of King Victor Oladipo: November 16 – 18
11/16/16: 29 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 3 turnovers, 12-18 FGs, 5-7 3Ps, 25.5 Game Score
The first Russell Westbrook era wouldn’t come to an end because an opponent put together a superior performance. It was Victor Oladipo who topped him, earning his best score prior to the All-Star break. The other member of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s starting backcourt was unconscious from beyond the arc and still found time to contribute in just about every area imaginable.
The Reign of Russell Westbrook I: November 11 – 16
11/14/16: 33 points, 15 rebounds, 8 assists, 7 turnovers, 11-21 FGs, 0-2 3Ps, 11-12 FTs, 24.6 Game Score
11/13/16: 41 points, 12 rebounds, 16 assists, 2 turnovers, 14-21 FGs, 0-3 3Ps, 13-18 FTs, 42.7 Game Score
11/11/16: 29 points, 14 rebounds, 9 assists, 1 steal, 4 turnovers, 9-25 FGs, 3-5 3Ps, 8-9 FTs, 20.6 Game Score
This was the first time Russell Westbrook wore the crown; it wouldn’t be the last.
Astoundingly, his three-game stretch of superiority only included a single triple-double. Of course, it was a special one. That 42.7 Game Score against the Orlando Magic was one of the NBA’s 10 best marks heading into the All-Star break.
The Reign of King Blake Griffin III: November 9 – 11
11/9/16: 22 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 7-14 FGs, 0-1 3Ps, 8-10 FTs, 25.9 Game Score
The Los Angeles Clippers stars just kept trading the crown back and forth.
After Chris Paul’s historic outing, Blake Griffin was the star against the Portland Trail Blazers, showing off his facilitating chops when he wasn’t doing the heavy lifting as a scorer. His Game Score might’ve been even higher if he’d played more than 26 minutes, but he wasn’t needed for any longer since his team outscored Rip City by 34 points in that time.
The Reign of King Chris Paul I: November 7 – 9
11/7/16: 24 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 8-10 FGs, 5-5 3Ps, 3-4 FTs, 29.5 Game Score
Chalk this up as a classic Chris Paul performance, as the point guard played with unrelenting efficiency in all facets of the offensive game.
Scoring at least 24 points on no more than 10 field-goal attempts is a rare feat; only 108 different players have done so in the last decade. So too is dishing out eight dimes with nary a turnover, as just 191 different players have throw up that line since the start of 2007-08.
Paul, though, became the only one to do both in the same game during this victory over the Detroit Pistons.
The Reign of King Blake Griffin II: November 5 – 7
11/5/16: 28 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 13-19 FGs, 0-2 3Ps, 2-3 FTs, 23.7 Game Score
While Kawhi Leonard struggled his way to a 3-of-13 performance from the field, Blake Griffin forgot how to miss. He was utterly dominant inside the arc, refusing to let up with his mid-range assault. During the Los Angeles Clippers’ 24-point victory, he knocked down seven of his nine two-point jumpers from outside the paint.
The Reign of King Kawhi Leonard: November 1 – 5
11/4/16: 29 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 1 turnover, 9-18 FGs, 1-5 3Ps, 10-10 FTs, 27.6 Game Score
11/1/16: 30 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers, 10-18 FGs, 5-7 3Ps, 5-5 FTs, 24.5 Game Score
The first player to retain the crown for at least two games, Kawhi Leonard was in attack mode throughout this stretch, which resulted in a home-and-away split against the Utah Jazz. When he wasn’t drilling jumpers and single-handedly carrying the San Antonio Spurs’ offense, he was charging toward the hoop and earning trips to the free-throw stripe, where he remained perfect while wearing the ornamented headdress.
The Reign of King George Hill: October 30 – November 1
10/30/16: 18 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers, 8-13 FGs, 2-4 3Ps, 14.0 Game Score
Heading into the All-Star break, no player had earned the crown with a less-impressive showing. George Hill was the beneficiary of a sloppy contest that featured just four players posting a double-digit Game Score: himself (14.0), crown-holder Blake Griffin (13.3), Austin Rivers (11.6) and Chris Paul (11.4).
The Reign of King Blake Griffin I: October 27 – 30
10/27/16: 27 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 1 turnover, 9-22 FGs, 1-3 3Ps, 8-9 FTs, 22.8 Game Score
Damian Lillard did everything he could to retain the crown before fouling out against the Los Angeles Clippers, but his teammates weren’t able to connect when he got them the ball in advantageous spots. His Portland Trail Blazers succumbed to Los Angeles’ defensive intensity, and Blake Griffin was the clear-cut standout with this all-around showing.
The Reign of King Damian Lillard: October 25 – 27
10/25/16: 39 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 turnovers, 13-20 FGs, 4-6 3Ps, 9-9 FTs, 32.3 Game Score
With plenty of stars in action on the 2016-17 season’s opening night, we saw numerous impressive showings. None surpassed Damian Lillard’s performance, which featured him scoring 39 points on just 20 shots from the field in a convincing victory over the Utah Jazz.
Had Kawhi Leonard (31.7 Game Score) done just a bit more in the San Antonio Spurs’ blowout of the Golden State Warriors, the crown might have followed a drastically different path.