The Los Angeles Lakers lug an eight-game losing streak into Friday's visit to Philadelphia. The Cinderella shine stemming from the Lakers' 10-10 start under rookie coach Luke Walton has quickly, sadly faded.
We face a tough choice here at Stein Line HQ as we hand out the season's first round of award grades.
Given L.A.'s current 29-win pace, Lou Williams is bound to have little shot at the real-life Sixth Man Award in the spring, which means we should think about downgrading him for our purposes here.
Or we can go the irresistible route: Reward Lou Will now when we have the chance.
His team's win total, like it or not, will probably do real damage to his vote total on actual award ballots come April.
Houston's Eric Gordon is a highly viable Sixth Man Award candidate from a team on a 60-win pace. Denver's Wilson Chandler and Memphis' Zach Randolph are two more standout sixth men through the opening third of the season, but Gordon is Williams' biggest problem at present.
Gordon came to the Houston Rockets with just 19 previous non-starts in a eight-season career. He has responded to his new role by averaging 17.0 points, shooting 43.5 percent from 3-point range, draining at least three 3s in each of his past 11 games and rising to No. 2 in the NBA behind Golden State's Stephen Curry in 3-pointers made (99 to 93) despite playing 70 fewer minutes than Curry.
That's a lot to overcome.
Williams, though, has the requisite résumé. He's averaging 19.2 points in just 25.1 minutes per game, putting him on pace to become the first player to lead any NBA team in scoring without starting a single game since ... Lou Williams of the Philadelphia 76ers in 2011-12.
With a career-best Player Efficiency Rating of 24.3, Williams is on pace to record the highest PER for any shooting guard in history in his 12th season or later not named Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant.
For now, though, Williams is first among sixth men in our eyes.
Gordon, in a word, has been great. Chandler is averaging career bests in points (17.2) and rebounds (7.3) in Denver. Z-Bo is threatening to join Clyde Lovellette (1958-59) as just the second player in league history to average at least 13 points and eight rebounds in fewer than 23 minutes of play nightly. And we haven't even mentioned the San Antonio Spurs' Patty Mills yet, which is a real slight given how much sharper Mills has been to start the season than Tony Parker.
For now, though, in our eyes, Williams is first among sixth men.
He recently ran up a spree of 137 points over a four-game stretch, which, according to Elias Sports Bureau research, had never been done since the league began recording starts and non-starts in the 1970-71 season.
Williams has never averaged better than 15.5 points in any prior season.
At 30, Lou Will looks better than ever.