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DeMarcus Cousins posting MVP-caliber numbers for New Orleans Pelicans at start of 2017-18 campaign

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Giannis Antetokounmpo has rivaled Boogie in the raw stats, but only one player has been infinitely more valuable to their team’s bottom line.

Cleveland Cavaliers v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Extraordinary statistics are the cat’s meow of every sports fan.

Only four players in NBA history have managed to average 30+ points, 10+ rebounds and 5+ assists for an entire season: Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, and Russell Westbrook.

It’s early, but this season has witnessed two players get off to extremely rarified starts: Giannis Antetokounmpo and DeMarcus Cousins.

Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Threes TS%
Giannis Antetokounmpo 35.0 10.6 5.6 2.4 1.2 0.6 67.5%
DeMarcus Cousins 32.3 13.8 5.7 1.3 2.3 2.5 61.9%

The NBA Most Valuable Player Award is most often given to a top player on the best team or the best player on one of the best teams. Russell Westbrook, however, bucked that trend last season by walking away with the honor, narrowly edging out James Harden.

The Oklahoma City Thunder finished with the 10th best record in the league during the 2016-17 campaign. Previously, only twice had the best player in the league on a top-10 team won the MVP — Michael Jordan and Moses Malone, but Kevin Pelton of ESPN foresaw a path where Westbrook could steal the hardware.

So, there is a path here to the MVP award. If Westbrook sets a record for triple-doubles, Harden leads the league in both scoring and assists or Lillard maintains his 35-point scoring average, one of them could follow in the footsteps of Jordan and Moses Malone in 1981-82. But they probably need to be unprecedentedly spectacular, not just really good.

Unlike the Pelicans, the Bucks are off to a 3-2 start and a very good bet to make the playoffs in the weaker Eastern Conference. Even if you’ve missed every Milwaukee game so far, I’m sure you’ve caught a Giannis highlight or two as they’ve pervaded every corner of social media. At a tender 22 years of age, there is little argument he is already a certifiable stud.

Yet, it must be noted there has been one glaring difference between Antetokounmpo and Cousins in the early goings: their on/off splits data.

ORating On DRating On NetRating On ORating off DRating off NetRating Off
Giannis Antetokounmpo 104.5 107.0 -2.5 100.1 90.5 +9.6
DeMarcus Cousins 113.2 103.9 +9.4 86.5 109.4 -22.8

The New Orleans Pelicans have been an astounding 32.2 points better with Cousins on the floor; conversely, over in bizarro world, the Milwaukee Bucks have been a head-scratching 12.1 points worse with Antetokounmpo in the game!

Did you need to pick your jaw up off the ground, too?!

Yes, the season is not even close to 10% over so these small and likely very noisy sample sizes must be taken with a grain of salt. And, of course, there’s still the matter of the Pelicans winning enough games in the much tougher Western Conference to make Cousins a legitimate candidate — should he maintain something similar to his current production in the first place.

But through ten days of the schedule, it’s clear as day which supreme stat stuffer has meant more to his team in the early goings. Just ask Jrue Holiday.

Hey, I suppose my preseason MVP dark horse wasn’t such a wildly ridiculous guess after all. Now, please excuse me while I go and keep boogieing the rest of this glorious weekend.