These NBA players are putting teams on notice that they’re capable of much more than anyone expected.
Whether it’s Kristaps Porzingis continuing to prove he’s part unicorn, or Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant trash talking each other face-to-face, the 2017-18 NBA season has been nothing short of exciting.
That being said, let’s look at some players who are contributing to this exciting NBA start — particularly the players that no one thought would blossom into possible starters, or even All-Star status this year. These players are proving that they can handle more of a workload than expected. Here’s the NBA Early Season All-Breakout Team:
Guard: Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers
The Pacers sit at 11-8 this year, and if they stay near that .500 mark they could very well sneak into the playoffs in a weaker Eastern Conference. The only way this Pacers team stays near .500 though is if Oladipo continues his stellar play. As the number-one scoring option in his first year with the Pacers, Oladipo has made upticks in numerous offensive categories.
Oladipo ranks 14th in the league in points per game at 22.8, which is big jump compared to his total last year at 15.9. Oladipo’s PER has also had a huge uptick to 21.1 compared to his PER last year at 13.6.
Even with Oladipo’s usage rate up almost 10% from last year (21.4% to 30.6%), his true shooting percentage has only grown, sitting at 57.2% opposed to his TS% last year of 53.4%. Oladipo also seems to have finally found a consistent stroke from three-point range. His three-point percentage is 44.9% this year compared to shooting 36.1% last year.
Guard: Jeremy Lamb, Charlotte Hornets
The 2012 12th overall pick was considered a bust prior to this season. It looks like after five NBA seasons it’s finally starting to click for the former University of Connecticut shooting guard.
Averaging an immensely big uptick in minutes per game (29.2 MPG this year, opposed to 18.4 MPG last year), Lamb is serving as a great scoring option for Charlotte. Lamb has almost doubled his points per game scoring with 16.2 PPG compared to 9.7 PPG last year.
Not only are his points per game numbers good; they’re also coming very efficiently. Lamb is shooting 45.6% from the field while shooting 38.9% from three-point range. His three-point percentage might be the most breakout worthy stat Lamb has, since he’s never been a reliable three-point shooter (averaging 33.1% from three for his career).
Lamb’s consistency as a perimeter shooting this year has made him a much more versatile scorer. He can spot up and shoot, make good basket cuts, and is much more effective on the drive where he excels at because defenders are now going over screens on him. Lamb is making a strong case for himself as the early-season front runner for Sixth Man of the Year.
Forward: Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
Brown has been a huge part in the Celtics’ NBA-best 16-3 start. Head Coach Brad Stevens has clearly been impressed with the maturation Brown has displayed. Stevens has almost doubled Brown’s minutes this year (averaging 32.3 minutes per game opposed to 17.2 last year). Since the loss of Gordon Heyward, Brown has been asked to fill a bigger role than expected and has flourished in it.
Brown has increased his points per game to 15.9 this year from 6.6 last year. What’s impressive is that Brown’s field goal percentage has also improved while seeing more minutes and field goal attempts per game. Brown’s field goal percentage sits at 46.6% this year, up 1.2% from his field goal percent of 45.4% last year.
Brown has also shown confidence and improvement in his three-point shooting. Brown is shooting 41.5% this year opposed to 34.1% last year. He hasn’t been shy about shooting that shot either. His three-point attempts per game is at 4.7 this year, as opposed to last year where he only attempted 1.7 threes per game.
Brown’s most important asset to the Celtics is his defense. Brown has been the anchor for the Celtics defense, which leads the league in defensive rating at 96.8. Brown has emerged as an early Defensive Player of the Year candidate, ranking second in the league in defensive win shares at .070.
Brown has not only been productive, but he’s also been a human highlight reel too. The other-worldly athletic Brown has been making big-time slams for the Celtics that just add to their dominance.
Forward: Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic
Gordon was looking like he was just a one-trick pony before entering this season. Gordon’s most impressive moments in the NBA had come when it didn’t matter, in the dunk contest. This year it’s a whole different narrative.
Gordon has boosted his scoring numbers by 4.9 points from last year, now averaging 17.6 points per game. A major component to his scoring uptick has been the addition of shooting the three-ball effectively. Gordon never shot higher than 29.6% from downtown in his career prior to this season. This year Gordon is shooting 41.5% from three.
No, that is not a typo. That’s 41.5% from THREE-POINT RANGE. That’s better than Paul George, Ryan Anderson, James Harden, and JJ Redick.
Gordon finally coming into his own offensively lead to him setting a new career high at 41 points in a game against the Nets a few weeks back.
Center: Dewayne Dedmon, Atlanta Hawks
Dedmon, a seven-foot, 245-pound center has bounced around the league for a few years now. After finding a nice role and playing well under Gregg Popovich last year, Dedmon decided to take the route where the money was in the offseason.
Dedmon headed to Atlanta, where it was skeptical to suggest whether he could sustain good overall play without the coaching of Popovich. Most role players under Popovich usually don’t turn out to be more successful without him, but Dedmon has been producing quite well and has been a bright spot for an Atlanta team that is hard to watch.
Even though Dedmon currently has the highest usage percent of his career (17.9), he is still putting up career highs in true shooting percentage (68.3), effective field goal percentage (67.3), assist percentage (8.6), player efficiency rating (19.0), and player impact estimate (13.0).
Always known for his presence as a rim protector, Dedmon is posting the highest defensive rating of his career at 108.0 (minimum of 10 games played).
Dedmon has also vastly improved as an offensive contributor. Dedmon is looking to achieve his first season as a double-digit point per game scorer. Dedmon currently is averaging 11.2 points per game, over double his career high last year of 5.1.
Dedmon has served as a nice pick and roller for the Hawks, he has also been able to put it on the floor a bit and create his own points off drives. Dedmon has even been able to shoot a couple open threes this year as well.
Kelly Oubre (Washington Wizards), Brandon Ingram (Los Angeles Lakers), Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers)
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