Of course, there is still a lot of basketball left ahead and plenty of questions continue to linger: can teams like the Houston Rockets, New Orleans Pelicans, Washington Wizards and Milwaukee Bucks salvage what has turned out to be a disastrous beginning? They are all on the outside looking in after advancing to the playoffs last season (some did plenty more than that). As the Memphis Grizzlies have shown, though, early crisis can easily be averted with a solid two-week run and all of the teams listed still have time to turn things around.
Onto more positive things, we have seen some unbelievable display of high-level basketball from a number of players that we didn’t necessarily expect. Needless to say, Stephen Curry is at the top of that list. After winning the MVP award last season, Curry has somehow elevated his play to the point where some are even considering him the Most Improved Player of this season. The point guard has shown a level of dominance on the floor that is simply unmatched by any other in the league, and it’s been quite a sight to behold. Every single Warriors game is full of highlights because of him, and you’re truly missing out if you’re not watching him play on a regular basis. It’s early, but something would have to change quite drastically for him to lose the momentum on winning MVP for a second consecutive season.
Curry is not alone in surprising a lot of people this year, as Paul George has returned with an absolute vengeance after spending most of last season on the shelf due to a broken leg. George has improved astronomically – particularly in the scoring department as he is averaging 27.4 points on 60 percent true shooting percentage – and is showing that he has what it takes to be a true franchise player. Right behind him is another budding superstar waiting to happen in Kawhi Leonard, who is embracing his role as the go-to guy in San Antonio and averaging career-highs across the board while showing what a dominant two-way player truly looks like.
It’s probably way too early to start thinking about end-of-the-season awards, but that’s where Bill Simmons went with the following tweet, including some of the names that have already been mentioned:
Paul George looks like a 1st-team All-NBA guy this year. I’d pick Curry, PG-13, LeBron, Kawhi and Russ as my 5. (Lotta time left… I know)
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) December 3, 2015
It’s pretty hard to argue with the list right now. Russell Westbrook put up Oscar Robertson numbers last season, and he has somehow improved this season statistically across the board despite playing alongside Kevin Durant. LeBron James, of course, seemingly never declines.
If there are some names that are hard to leave off right now, Durant and Draymond Green immediately come to mind.
Durant has missed some time due to a bum hammy, but he has been lights out in the games he has played (12 games). And by lights out, we’re talking 50-40-90 club lights out, as he is averaging 28.4 points on 52.2 percent shooting from the field, 47.3 percent from the arc on 6.2 attempts, and 91.1 percent from the stripe on 6.6 tries. In case you think he only puts up ridiculous offensive numbers, he’s also averaging 7.4 rebounds and a career-high 1.8 blocks. If he continues at this pace, he is likely going to replace James or Leonard on the First Team All-NBA list.
Then you have Green, whose impact on the floor cannot be explained by numbers. He is a point forward who leads the Warriors in rebounds (8.3) and assists (7.2), while having the ability to guard every position – sometimes in a single possession – and is the sole reason the Warriors are able to dominate the way they do while playing small ball that no team has figured out how to resolve. When you stack him up numbers wise against some of the competition, you obviously can’t stack him up against the best of the league. When you’re talking about the level of impact, made in a basketball game, he’s about as good as any forward the league has to offer.
Jim Park is a blogger and Tweet of the Night author of Sheridan Hoops. Follow him on twitter @SheridanBlog.