SH Blog: Top 10 surprises of the young NBA season

Averaging 12.6 assists per game over his last three contests, including a 17 assist effort, will certainly help Bryan Colangelo’s leverage. If he can continue to prove his worth as the trade deadline approaches, there will likely be a team out there that needs a solid point guard in its rotation for the playoffs and is willing to overpay for one. This season, Calderon is that guy.

Chicago is 5-3 without Derrick Rose, Milwaukee is 5-2 and Charlotte is 4-3: The Bulls are missing the 2010-11 MVP Derrick Rose, yet they’ve been battling hard enough one both ends to win games this season. Five guys are averaging double figures, yet none of them are averaging 20 points per game. With Tom Thibodeau coaching, you know they’re gonna play their asses off defensively; true to form, the Bulls are 6th in the NBA in points allowed (92.5) and 9th in opponents field goal percentage (42.8%). The Bulls are a team that is finding a way without its superstar while patiently awaiting his return.

After trading for Monta Ellis, many questioned whether the Bucks backcourt duo of Jennings and Ellis could co-exist in Milwaukee from a chemistry standpoint, since both players thrive with the ball in their hands. So far, so good as the Bucks are 5-2 in the early going, Ellis (20 ppg) and Jennings (16.9) seem to be playing nicely off of each other. Milwaukee might be playing the deepest rotation in the league right now, as they have 11 players averaging double figures in minutes per game. Tobias Harris is emerging as a legitimate option at the small forward position, Mike Dunleavy (11.3 ppg) is scoring off the bench, Larry Sanders is providing an extremely efficient 25 minutes of playing time a night, contributing 10.1 points and 8.6 rebounds off the bench, Beno Udrih (3.8 assists per game) has been facilitating) and Ersan Ilysasova, Ekpe Udoh, Samuel Dalembert and John Henson provide depth in the frontcourt. Milwaukee is yet to prove itself against elite competition, but at least it hasn’t stumbled too much against their competition so far.

Charlotte is certainly the most impressive of this group. In the first two weeks of the season they’ve already reeled off 4/7ths of their win total from last season. Moreover, the Bobcats look like a completely different team, which is really a credit to first year head coach Mike Dunlap, his staff and their young players. In summer league in Vegas the team was pressing and working on their defensive assignments while building chemistry on the offensive end, especially between BJ Mullens and Kemba Walker in pick-and-roll situations. While Mullens has been on and off shooting the ball thus far (boy, when he breaks out is he going to break out with a big-time scoring game), Walker, Ramon Sessions and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist have been phenomenal so far. After the rough season (understatement!) the franchise had last year, hopefully the Bobcats can continue to mature and stay competitive this season.

DeAndre Jordan, Larry Sanders and Brandan Wright are the FG% leaders: DeAndre Jordan (71.4%) has been building an offensive post game ever since he entered the NBA as a raw big man who left Texas A&M after one season and the hard work he’s put into his game and body is paying dividends this season. The Clippers center is a legitimate threat in the post, has become an adequate passer and plays with loads of energy on both ends.

Sanders of Bucks was mentioned earlier in this article, but is worth mentioning a second time. The second-year player by way of Virginia Commonwealth University has been excellent around the rim, converting 4.3-6.6 (65.2%) attempts per game. Sanders has been extremely dependable and Bucks coach Scott Skiles has to be loving the contributions so far this season.

A beneficiary of Dirk Nowitzki’s absence, Wright is making the most of his minutes at the offensive end. He’s taking a career high 6.8 shots per game and making 4.4 of them (64.8%) in a career high 21.6 minutes per game. He’s been given an opportunity, and he’s producing.

Greivis Vasquez 3rd in league in assists at 8.8 per game: Alright, hands up if you thought that when Vasquez was taken with the 28th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, he would ever be third in the NBA in assists per game (there should be zero hands up outside of Venezuela). Vasquez’s playmaking, ability to control the tempo and shooting ability have been vital to the Hornets being 3-3 so far this season.

JJ Hickson is averaging 11.9 rebounds per game: Is this the craziest item on the list? Actually, it could be: Out of the top 10 rebounders in the NBA right now, Hickson is playing the least minutes (29.4) out of any of them. He’s always been an excellent rebounder, but now he seems to be gaining more of a nose for the ball that comes with having experience at the professional level. He’s also paired alongside LaMarcus Aldridge, who is a less-than-stellar rebounder in his own right.


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