There have been a plethora of record breaking performances so far this season, and we aren’t even two weeks in. Some performances are expected, but below are six players who have surprised me with their play thus far.
1. DeMar DeRozan
It appears the 2016 Summer Olympics helped DeMar DeRozan. While last year Kyle Lowry was probably the best player on the Raptors, DeMar DeRozan seems to be aiming for that spot now. He just became the 1st player since Michael Jordan in 1986 to start an NBA season with 5 consecutive 30+ point performances. With DeRozan playing this well, the Raptors may be able to remain at 2nd place in the Eastern Conference this season.
2. James Harden
James Harden isn’t known for his passing abilities, but in Mike D’Antoni’s offense where Harden runs the point guard position, he could actually lead the league in assists. At this rate, he has a chance to lead the league in points and assists — something that hasn’t been done since Nate Archibald. Overall, Harden seems to be adapting well to the point guard position.
3. Joel Embiid
Although Embiid is in his 3rd NBA season, he just played his first NBA game. While he was always expected to be a force on the defensive end, it appears he has managed to develop a smooth offensive game too. Of eligible players, Embiid is leading the NBA in 3-Point field goal percentage. While that won’t last, it’s an encouraging sign he can shoot from deep. Embiid is currently on a minutes restriction, but his per minute production is currently at an All-Star caliber level. I expect big things from Embiid.
4. Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard may be the most scrutinized player in the NBA over the last few seasons. From his days in Orlando as the best center in the NBA, to his dark days in Los Angeles and Houston, his career has been filled with ups and downs. Coming home to Atlanta may have been just what he needed. Although he is only playing 28 minutes per game so far, he is averaging 17 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. He will be crucial to the success of the Hawks this season, and if he continues to produce like he has so far, the Hawks should be a shoe-in for the 2017 NBA playoffs.
5. Dwyane Wade
Dwyane Wade has never been known as a guy who can shoot from beyond the arc at a productive rate. He is one of the best shooting guards to ever play the game of basketball, and amazingly has accomplished that feat without having a consistent outside jumper….until now. Dwyane Wade has already knocked down 10 3-pointers this season, while shooting 48%. To put that into perspective, Wade made only seven 3-pointers during the entire 2015–2016 NBA season. If he can somehow continue to knock down 3-pointers, the Bulls could be a legitimate playoff team.
6. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis, better known as the “Greek Freak,” has seemingly taken his game to a new level this season. Before last night, he was leading the Milwaukee Bucks in points (22.8 ppg), rebounds (8.7 rpg), assists (6.7 apg), steals (1.7 spg), blocks (1.8 bpg), and field goal percentage (54%). With Khris Middleton out for the foreseeable future, a larger load would inevitably fall on Giannis this season. Not only has he been able to put up these impressive numbers, but he is doing it while helping his team get off to a 4–3 start. The Bucks certainly are not a shoe-in for the 2017 NBA playoffs, but if Giannis can continue this level of play, they could create some havoc in the Eastern Conference.