10 NBA Players Off to Sizzling Starts Who Won't Cool Down
The opening to the 2012-13 NBA season has been littered with shocking statistical phenomenons.
A bunch of players have posted eye-catching individual game totals. This early in the season it is easy to get carried away with assumptions. One player is in a funk, but it won't last long. Another may be lighting up poor defenses, but once the elite come to town, he'll fade.
These ten players fit in that first category. Some of their early-season stat lines require a double-take. However, unlike the vast majority of players posting gaudy totals right now, these ten are unlikely to have their volume turned down.
Some may come as no surprise, while others are newcomers to this level of production. Consistency is key to an 82-game season. Whether this production keeps up or not could make or break some organizations. Their responsibility is to keep an even keel throughout the season, and if this is that keel, then lookout stat books.
As you might say; These starts are here to stay.
You may have thought it was only a matter of time before Kyle Lowry broke out in the NBA.
For six seasons, we've been seeing bits and pieces of the complete player. Lowry has shown us this type of elite production only in spurts before.
With the Toronto Raptors, it appears he is finally being utilized properly. Lowry was not a happy camper at the end of his Houston Rockets tenure and felt he was wildly underused. Early returns paint Lowry as the correct side of that argument.
In three games with the Raptors, Lowry has surpassed 20 points in each game, while maintaining a 57.5 percent shooting clip, to go along with 50 percent from downtown and 94.4 percent from the foul line.
Lowry's scoring has been a boon to Toronto, somewhat of a pleasant surprise. He was, of course, brought in to run a more athletic offense than what Jose Calderon could produce. This has been a resounding success as well.
The Raptors, who averaged just 78 shot attempts per game in 2011-12, are now pumping out more than 86 attempts. Lowry is averaging seven assists per game while pushing tempo. He is, of course, doing his usual all-around effort as well. He is currently third in the NBA in steals with almost four a game and snatching up 7.3 rebounds a night.
Despite the 1-2 record, the Raptors were two-point losers against the Indiana Pacers, fell to the Nets in Brooklyn's opening extravaganza and took care of business blowing out the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Lowry is producing all this because he is finally being given the opportunity. At 26, he is in entering his prime and showing the player he will be. The Raptors are looking better with him running the show, and those minutes are not going anywhere.
Let's not get out of control here, James Harden isn't going to average 35 points per game this season.
Still, through three games, he does lead the NBA with that astonishing total. The 2012 Sixth Man of the Year appears to be making a rather seamless transition to leading man with the Houston Rockets.
The early returns of the blockbuster trade that sent Harden to Houston look like a fleecing for the Rockets. Kevin Martin has been decidedly average with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Jeremy Lamb hasn't found much court time.
Harden's impressive trio of games is not limited to monstrous scoring totals. In helping the Rockets to a 2-1 record, Harden has wracked up assists and rebounds as well. Averaging more than six of each per game, the new starter has inserted himself into the flow of Jeremy Lin's offense.
The duo are suddenly a very formidable, and even frightening, backcourt. Playing with Lin is fairly reminiscent of a less-athletic Russell Westbrook. Lin has the point guard skills to run with Harden but is also a capable enough scorer to switch positions. On top of that, Lin doesn't have the entitlement of Westbrook. This opens up Harden to run the show on certain possessions, something he did fantastically in Oklahoma City.
We have known Harden was a great player since he entered the league. He is riding high on the adrenaline of the trade and new situation right now, which is what has led to two-game point totals of 45 and 37.
There is no denying that he is taking a leap, though. He appears not only invigorated, but on a mission. Harden maintaining this immediately legitimizes the Rockets.
What Carmelo Anthony is doing right now is making a case to play a whole lot more power forward, even when Amar'e Stoudemire returns.
A couple of games with 27-plus points is usually nothing to bat an eye at from Anthony, but the New York Knicks' first two games have been different.
With Stoudemire out, the Knicks have been starting three guards, with Anthony in the frontcourt alongside Tyson Chandler. The result: two blowout victories.
While that may seem shortsighted (and it is), there is something about him in this situation. Of course, he has to pick up the offense as the only true threat in the unit. He has also grabbed considerable rebounds and blocked a couple shots.
Against the Miami Heat in the opener, Anthony tested the waters inside, but was largely unsuccessful. He put up 11 of his 28 shots inside the key, hitting only two of them. That right there could have been the end of that experiment for the player. Impressively, he returned to the area in game two, this time with more enthusiasm.
Against the Philadelphia 76ers, Anthony connected on 5-of-7 attempts below the free-throw line.
He'll never be a true post player, but as LeBron James has shown, developing that part of your game can truly make a player unstoppable. Anthony has the opportunity over the next few weeks to work on and showcase this part of his game.
The Knicks are much better for it.
Yes, the 27-point outburst in New York was nice, but it isn't what I'm looking at.
In that game, Jrue Holiday connected on five of his six threes and shot 61 percent from the field overall. Those days will happen, but they aren't the norm.
In the Philadelphia 76ers' season opener, Holiday struggled shooting the basketball. In the past, that usually meant for a subpar game from the starting point guard. In his fourth NBA season, the 76ers are looking for him to take a step forward.
The two top guards from a season ago are gone from the roster, and Holiday needs to improve. That is what made his home opener so impressive. Despite missing 11-of-16 shots, Holiday had a very productive game.
He got to the line for five free-throw attempts, grabbed six rebounds, distributed 11 assists and played stout defense. Ty Lawson missed 10 shots, and Holiday notched a pair of steals.
This showed Holiday's evolution as a player. If he can give us a few more examples of fighting through poor shooting performances, the 76ers should feel they have their point guard of the future.
J.J. Redick is starting off his contract year with a bang.
The shooting guard's three-year deal with the Orlando Magic is expiring at the end of the season, and Redick will be in line to get paid.
Redick's situation is perfect for him going into free agency. He is going to be able to wrack up stats on a poor Orlando team to go along with his already-impressive resume.
Redick's first two games already have him looking like a possible Sixth Man of the Year sleeper. He came off the Magic bench to post 21 and 24 points while connecting on 16-of-25 shots, including 6-of-8 threes.
He is also proving an ability to run the second unit's offense, tallying six assists in each game. The Magic have a dearth of experience on their roster, making Redick a valuable piece to their rebuilding.
With this new leadership role and increased responsibilities throughout the offense, coupled with him playing for a new contract, Redick looks to be in for a career year.
Rajon Rondo has been in line with his expected improvement thus far in 2012-13.
However lackluster the Boston Celtics start has been, their point guard is as vibrant and explosive as ever.
He has posted a double-double in all three games and is averaging 15 points, 12 assist, five rebounds and two steals. The points are the thing to keep an eye on. Over three games, there is obviously margin for error in extrapolating, but that is a three-point increase over last season. That is exactly what Boston needs from him.
On top of that production, Rondo has been efficient. For all the talk about his inability to shoot the basketball, Rondo has connected on 56 percent of his shots through three games. He has also hit 2-of-5 three pointers.
Rondo's opening may not seem as striking as some others on this list, but he has improved over last season, and that slight improvement is what Boston needed. It appears there once again is one more automatic 10-plus assist player in basketball.
The way he finished last season out leaves no doubt that he can continue this production throughout the 2012-13 season.
Paul George is taking Danny Granger's absence as a blessing in disguise.
George is the wild card on an Indiana team that might not be able to improve in other areas. The Pacers roster changed slightly, but in terms of an overall team improvement, it has to start with George.
The 22-year-old is taking this opportunity seriously and showcasing his talent while also helping the Pacers to a 2-1 start.
On display has been George's all-around skill. He is wracking up an astonishing 13 rebounds per game from the small forward spot. Nothing has been sacrificed either. George's field-goal percentage is down a tick, but that should work itself out, and he is still contributing to the offense in other ways with five assists a game.
George's defense is showing in spurts as well. He tallied four blocks and two steals against the Sacramento Kings.
Granger's missed time has allowed Gerald Green a chance to start, but it is Paul George who is taking the most advantage. When Granger returns, George will have a whole new set of experiences to draw on and help the Pacers advance deep into the postseason.
An admittedly obvious choice, there is more to this story than just Kevin Durant being Kevin Durant.
Durant's torrid start has little to do with scoring. After leading the league in points in 2011-12, Durant's game is expanding both out of desire and necessity.
Coming into 2012-13, he knew he needed to do more to get his first ring, then the James Harden trade compounded that idea. Durant appears to have gotten the message in the early going and is doing a fine job of rounding out his game.
With Harden gone, the Oklahoma City Thunder lost a true playmaker, both for himself and teammates. That is the major aspect Durant is replicating through three games.
He is still, obviously, posting north of 20 points per game, but he is active in other areas as well. The rebounding has been a revelation. One of the major knocks on a player with such great length is a lack of intensity on the glass. Thus far, Durant has battled Atlanta and San Antonio in games and came out with 12 and 14 boards, respectively. These are two teams with very talented frontcourts.
The playmaking has been equally impressive. Durant has taken it upon himself to better distribute the ball. This has taken the form of his seven assists per game.
There is a void in Oklahoma City, and who better than Durant to fill it.
The NBA's most impressive rookie thus far hasn't had an easy path.
One would be hard-pressed to find a more difficult three-game stretch to open a career with. The Portland Trail Blazers' rookie point guard Damian Lillard kicked off his NBA career with games against the Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder and the James Harden Express Houston Rockets.
He has passed this early test with flying colors, leading his team to a 2-1 record with the stats to back it up.
Lillard immediately assumed control of the Trail Blazer offense and has it flowing at a respectable rate that wasn't present last season. Portland's offense has scored 101 points per game and is flying up and down the court. They are averaging the fourth-most shot attempts per game in the league at 88.3. All of this is a tribute to Lillard's hot start.
As a rookie coming out of a mid-major program and instantly starting on an NBA team, this is nothing short of amazing. Lillard is averaging 21 points and nine assists a game right now.
A small sample size, sure. However, consider the competition he has faced; Steve Nash, Russell Westbrook and Jeremy Lin are not easy guys to keep up with. Yes, defense is lax with those three, but they all keep games moving, and Lillard has done more than keep up.
The Trail Blazers aren't going anywhere without their young floor general, and he will continue to be given every opportunity for success as a rookie.
Winning a championship will do a lot to calm a player's nerves and allow them to grow at their own rate. For Bosh and the Miami Heat, this is exactly the case. It took a little extra time, but through three games in the 2012-13 season, it appears Bosh has embraced and is excelling in his role.
He has been immense in the Heat's two victories on the season and fought through a poor shooting performance to earn a double-double in their loss.
Focusing on those two wins, Bosh has been clutch. In the season opener against the Boston Celtics, Miami had a decent lead throughout much of the game. James came down with a minor injury, but stayed in the locker room for treatment in the fourth quarter. Boston staged a decent comeback and got the Heat lead down to two. That was all Bosh would allow, though.
The end of that rivalry matchup was all Chris Bosh. He tallied eight huge points and some crucial free throws while hammering the nail in the Celtics' coffin.
Similarly, against the Denver Nuggets, Bosh saw his teammates struggling to put points on the board at the rate the Nuggets require, and he turned up his offense.
Bosh dialed up 22 shots, seven more than he had in either previous game, and connected on 15 of them en route to a 40-point eruption. He also worked his way to the line 10 times.
This is a pleasing sight for Heat fans. Knowing Bosh is capable and now willing to step up when the team needs him to win a game is a remarkable confidence boost.