HOOPSWORLD Week In Review
NBA Rookie Watch: November 20th
By Stephen Brotherston
Inconsistent play from rookies should not come as much of a surprise. Every rookie enters the NBA with a lot to learn and this year’s crop isn’t an exception. Anthony Davis had a couple of subpar performances this past week, but the shooting of Dion Waiters (9-45 from the field) and Bradley Beal (7-31 from the field) over their past three games could not be ignored and allowed two newcomers to join our top five.
1. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers: 19 points, 6.1 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 1.5 steals
Averaging 21.7 points on 56 percent shooting, Damian Lillard led his team to a 3-0 week that evened the Trail Blazers record at .500 and moved the conversation in Portland from likely lottery team to possible playoff contender. This is the type of discussion that can help a player win the Rookie of the Year award at the end of the season.
NBA AM: Another NBA Power Ranking
By Steve Kyler
I Can Rank Them Too: HOOPSWORLD’s Eric Pincus handles the Power Rankings for the site, but this year I thought it would be fun to offer a sometimes conflicting view of the world. So while Eric’s Week 3 Power Rankings went live yesterday, here are my rankings today:
NBA Power Rankings – Week 3
|7||8-2||How about those Clippers? Chris Paul makes the game so much easier for everyone and now that he has a full year with his core guys and a bench that can produce major offense the Clippers are trucking along. What’s been most impressive about the Clippers isn’t their offense, it’s their defense. Provided they stay healthy, which has been an issue, the Clippers look like a team to be reckoned with.|
|4||8-2||The Grizzlies are just amazing. They are playing incredibly unselfish and everyone has elevated their game. The “Zoo Crew” bench is really providing a punch offensively and defensively. With Marc Gasol and Big Zach just crushing teams in the paint the Grizz have quietly become one of the best teams in the NBA. How about the play of Rudy Gay? Not sure you can call him an MVP, but is he an All-Star? That is a legit question.|
Contract Year Struggles
By Lang Greene
The free agency class of 2013 will be headlined by Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard and Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul, but there are plenty of players in the midst of contract years who are jockeying to improve their respective positioning.
Some players, such as Oklahoma City’s Kevin Martin and New York’s J.R. Smith (player option), have raised their stock during the early portion of the season, while others have struggled out of the gate.
Here are some players who have yet to hit their stride during the early going:
Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks (Unrestricted)
Smith is in the final season of his current deal with Atlanta and is widely considered to be one of the top five free agency targets next summer. The Hawks traded six-time All-Star Joe Johnson before the season, freeing up future cap space and enhancing Smith’s importance to the team in the process.
Can the Pacers Last Until Danny Granger Returns?
By Alex Raskin
Defense may win championships, but it’s not doing much for the 5-7 Indiana Pacers in the regular season.
Indiana has allowed a league-low 95.5 points per 100 possessions (also known as “defensive efficiency”), largely because it’s the only team in the NBA holding opponents to less than 40 percent shooting from the field.
The Pacers have been particularly good in the paint, where only four NBA teams have allowed fewer points on average, and they’ve kept opponents off the free throw line. In fact, the Pacers have been unlucky in that department. Despite yielding just 20.2 free throw attempts per game (tied for seventh in the NBA), the Pacers’ opponents have hit over 80 percent of those shots, which is well above the league average. So if that trend were to normalize, Indiana’s defense could be even better.
NCAA: Top Five Freshmen NBA Draft Prospects
By Yannis Koutroupis
Every year a new freshmen class comes into the NCAA. With youth being valued so highly in the NBA Draft, the top first-year players have a lot to gain in their initial evaluations. With most teams playing anywhere from 3-6 games we’ve had the opportunity to see a lot of the top freshmen in action and five players have separated themselves from the rest from a NBA Draft perspective:
Nerlens Noel, Kentucky, Power Forward/Center
Looked at by many as the top recruit in the 2012 freshmen class, Noel has shown serious flashes of how good he can be. He’s contributing across the board, showing the ability to seriously impact the game in multiple ways. Noel is notching 11 points a night along with eight rebounds, two assists, two blocks and three steals.
Given the impossible task of replacing last year’s NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player Anthony Davis, Noel is definitely intriguing in his own right even if he’s not as good as his predecessor. As he develops physically and becomes a more viable threat on the offensive end Noel’s stock will get back into the top five status it used to be in. Currently he has slipped, but that’s due to some excessive expectations being set for him on the outset. He’s still very high on everyone’s draft board, though.
NBA Early-Season Surprises: Players
By Alex Kennedy
The NBA is full of surprises. Every year, players from a wide spectrum of situations catch everyone off guard and exceed expectations. Some rookies outperform their draft position, some veterans find the fountain of youth and some new acquisitions thrive like never before after a change of scenery.
This season is no different. Three weeks into the 2012-13 campaign, several players are already turning heads and playing better than anyone expected. Later in the week, we’ll look at several teams that have been surprisingly good in the early stages of the season, but today we’re focusing on individuals. Here’s a list of players who have emerged as early-season surprises and come up big for their respective teams.
James Harden | Rockets | 26.7 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.6 SPG, 21.57 PER
While Harden has cooled down since scoring 37 points and 45 points in the first two games of the season, the 23-year-old has proven that he can be a franchise player. Harden’s 26.7 points per game is the second-highest average in the league, trailing only Kobe Bryant. Harden has been everything the Rockets were hoping he’d be and then some. He’s much further along in his development than most players his age and he clearly has superstar potential. Harden has singlehandedly kept Houston in some games and, keep in mind, he’s still getting acclimated to a new city, team, coaching staff, system and starting role. He’ll only continue to get better as he gets more comfortable with the new situation. While Harden’s scoring has made him a household name, he’s also exceptional in the pick-and-roll and one of the best non-point guard facilitators in the league. He can create for others just as well as he can create for himself. Harden has been outstanding through nine games and, right now, the thought of him signing for anything less than a max-level deal seems absurd.