The young 2011-12 NBA season has been filled with a number of surprising individuals performances, from Andrew Bynum's emergence to Norris Cole's explosive performance off the bench for the Miami Heat.
Year in and year out, there are players who start off the year extremely well, but fizzle down the stretch because they don't have what it takes to take their game to the next level.
Whether it is a lack of polished offensive skill, an inability to stay healthy for a whole season, or just being on a below average team, there're players who started this year off hot that will undoubtedly cool off as the season heats up.
Here is a list of players who have started the year off better than most expected, but whose performance will undoubtedly decrease by the season end.
This return to reality has already begun after Rajon Rondo started his 2011-12 season with two impressive performances against the Knicks and the Heat, games in which he scored 31 points and 22 points respectively. After those performances many were ready to crown Rondo the King of "B-town", and put his name in the NBA MVP hat. Lucky for all of us, Rondo helped silence all that talk by reverting to his weak offensive play in his next four games.
There is no doubt that Rondo will at least a few times throughout the NBA season put up 20 or more points in a game like he did to start off the season, but it surely won't be the norm. With Paul Pierce finally re-entering the lineup and looking like his old healthy self, Rondo's offensive production will decrease.
Rondo's brief stay at the top of the points per game NBA leader-board, after the first two games of the season, was just a mirage and it will be near impossible for him to replicate that. Boston fans, don't count on Rondo to put up 30+ points more than one more time in his career, like he did against the Knicks.
Final Statistical Prediction: 12.0 points, 10.0 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game
The Norris Cole hype train has been in full swing ever since his "breakout" performance against the Boston Celtics, when he accounted for 20 points, 14 in the fourth quarter, on 50 percent shooting.
Cole has backed up that performance thus far with an impressive 11.4 points and 3.4 points per game average in eight games with a minutes per game average of 22.4. Many think that there is a very real possibility that Cole will continue to average those kind of numbers throughout the entirety of the 2011-12 NBA season, but I disagree.
The main reason I disagree is because Heat's starting point guard Mario Chalmers has produced on a similar level to Cole, but he has done so with a much better field-goal percentage of 61 percent as compared to Cole's 47.8 percent. Because of Chalmer's increased production, Cole will not see the court as much as he needs to if he wants to produce a double digit points per game average. Chalmers is also a little more offensively explosive, with more quickness than Cole, within the Heat's pick and role offense.
Cole will have a solid rookie year, but he will without a doubt not win the Rookie of the Year trophy as some have said he will.
Final Statistical Prediction: 8.5 points and 3.0 assists per game.
I know a lot of people thought Andrew Bynum had a bright future in LA, but not many people predicted that Bynum would be putting up the monster numbers he has put up so far this year. Bynum is currently averaging 22.3 points and 15.8 rebounds per game, which significantly more than his career averages of 10.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.
Bynum, after serving his four game suspension from last year's playoffs, returned to the Lakers with a new found passion for the game, and there's no doubting that he can keep that up throughout the entire 2011-12 season. The only question is whether or not Bynum's body will be able to keep up with him. Bynum scared Lakers fans two days ago when he "tweaked" his ankle against the Trail Blazers, and they have every reason to be concerned.
If Bynum can stay healthy for all of 2011-12 he can still continue to produce at a ridiculous rate, but I don't see him staying healthy with the chronic health problems that have plagued his career. Bynum's only complete 82 game season was in 2006-2007 and that was because he was coming off the bench. Bynum's knees will keep him out of at least 15-20 games in 2011-12 which will ultimately cool off his production throughout the year.
Final Statistical Prediction: 14.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game
The play of Tracy McGrady has been a pleasant surprise for fans of the Atlanta Hawks. In just seven games so far McGrady has gone for 10+ points five times already in the 2011-12 season, on his way to earning averages of 10.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game thus far. While his production isn't exactly lighting the world on fire, it definitely is a surprise for a player who's career seemed to be on the decline in recent years.
McGrady's offensive production has been the spark off the bench that the Atlanta Hawks expected to lack after they lost 2010's Sixth Man of the Year, Jamal Crawford, to the Portland Trailblazers in fee agency last month. Unfortunately for the Hawks, the one thing that has plagued McGrady's career, will continue to do so this season, and that is the health of his aging knees and left shoulder.
In his last three seasons, totaling 246 games, McGrady has only played in 102 of them, and the main reason for that is the fact that he had to undergo surgery on both his left shoulder and his left knee. McGrady's previous injuries are already starting to creep up on him, as evidenced by missing the Hawks last game with a "bruised knee". McGrady's decrease in production won't be because he can't play, but rather because his knees and shoulder won't be able to keep up with him and his increased minutes in Atlanta.
Final Statistical Prediction: 7.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists per game
What have the Orlando Magic been feeding power forward Ryan Anderson? Whatever it is, I want some of it because Anderson has turned into a seriously above average power forward thus far in the NBA season. averaging 19.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Anderson's per game averages are seriously improved when compared to his career averages of 9.0 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.
The meteoric rise of Ryan Anderson on the Orlando Magic is in large part due to his increased minutes and the double teams that fellow front court partner Dwight Howard demands on defense. While both of those things will endure throughout the shortened 66 game NBA season, I don't see Ryan Anderson's production doing the same, mainly because he has yet to play a stretch of serious defensive NBA talent.
The Magic have played only one team who plays legitimate post defense, and that was the Houston Rockets. In that game Anderson returned to his old self, with only 8 points and 5 rebounds. Sorry Ryan Anderson fans, he will ultimately return to the old Ryan Anderson of the past that was a solid bench player at best, especially when the Magic get into the heart of their schedule.
Final Statistic Prediction: 11.3 points, 6.9 rebounds per game
I was one of the many who thought that Spencer Hawes left college way too early, after only two years with the Washington Huskies. Hawes made it to the NBA, as the 10th overall pick of the 2007 NBA draft, on the potential that came with his 7'1'', 245 pound frame. After a solid sophomore year with the Kings, Hawes was trade to the 76ers, where he's finally starting to re-find his offensive post game.
Hawes is averaging the first double-double of his career, with 13.0 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game thus far. While Hawes' points per game production is reminiscent of his sophomore season in Sacramento, his rebounding and block statistics are a big increase over any previous year in his career. Hawes is currently benefiting from a weak 76ers schedule thus far, playing only one above .500 team in the Portland Trailblazers.
Spencer Hawes is on pace to set career marks in 2011-12, but I don't see that coming to fruition, mainly because he has yet to see serious defensive talent, aside from LaMarcus Aldridge of the Blazers. Hawes will struggle when he plays against defensively-minded centers from the Eastern conference like Joel Anthony, Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler and Brook Lopez. Hawes' production will also decline based on the youth of the 76ers not being able to sustain their recent success. I expect Hawes to revert to his 2009-2010 form, and do so relatively soon, ultimately ending 2011-12 without his first career double double season average.
Final Statistical Prediction: 8.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 0.9 blocks per game.
Kyle Lowry's emergence as a legitimate offensive threat at the point guard position for the Houston Rockets has been one of the biggest surprises of the 2011-12 NBA season so far. Lowry's offensive production has consistently increased over the past five years, culminating by having the best year of his career last year with a season average of 13.5 points and 6.7 assists per game.
This season, Lowry is averaging a double-double for the first time in his career with 15.3 points, 10.0 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game so far. One other statistical category that Lowry is having a career year in is turnovers, with Lowry averaging 3.2 per game. Lowry's 3.2 turnover per game average is one of the main reasons why he won't be able to carry his career highs throughout the entirety of the 2011-12 season.
Lowry also doesn't have the legitimate talent around him that he needs to sustain a double-double average throughout the entire season. Aside from Kevin Martin, who is an above average NBA player at best, the Rockets don't have any legitimate top-tier NBA talent. The Rocket's lack of talent will put more pressure, at least offensively speaking, on Lowry than he will ultimately be able to handle, resulting in decrease in production from last year in points per game, a slight increase in assists per game and an increase in production in the turnover category.
Final Statistical Prediction: 11.8 points, 7.5 assists and 3.9 turnovers