The NBA season is now just over two weeks old, which is a perfect time to take the small sample size we have and examine what's going on in the NBA. Certain teams like the Suns and Heat are, ironically, hot, and teams like the Warriors and the Kings are not. However, there has been a consistent story-line with each team so far, and certain players are really standing out so far this season. Let's take a look at some of these key contributors.
The Pacers are off to a sluggish start, but Brogdon is certainly not the reason why.
After receiving a huge payday over the summer, Brogdon was expected to be a central part of Indiana's team, giving him a bigger role than what he previously received in Milwaukee. Averaging approximately 22 points and 10 assists per contest, Brogdon has been killing it as the focal point of Indiana's offense, truly showing what he can accomplish when given a bigger role in an offense. Brogdon is currently 2nd in assists per game and is 4th in the league in AST% at 43.4% only trailing LeBron James, Luka Doncic, and Derrick Rose.
Brogdon doesn't really wow you with has physical ability or have many highlight-reel plays, but he makes a ton of nice and smart basketball moves that allow him to create for others and himself. Brogdon excels on the fast break, and he likes to sling the ball outside to shooters like T.J. Warren and Doug McDermott whenever they're open. In a normal-paced setting, Brogdon has been making a lot of great reads in the high-pick-and-roll, getting the ball to the bucket at will or pulling up for an easy mid-range jumper. His only difficulty so far is shooting the three, as he's shooting a measly 31.7%, but given his track record he should improve as the season progresses.
Heading into this season, everyone thought that this was going to be a lost season for the Hornets. They let Kemba Walk(er) in free agency, saw Jeremy Lamb depart, and looked like a very mediocre roster heading into the new season.
The Hornets now sit at 4-3, and the point guard leading the way may not be the one you're thinking about.
No, it's not Terry Rozier, but Devonte Graham, the 2nd-year guard from Kansas that has made his mark on this team. Graham had a limited role this season but is thriving off the bench for Charlotte, averaging over 17 points a game to go with 7 assists and 4 rebounds per contest. His real difference this season, however, has been his three-point shooting, as his percentage has skyrocketed from 28.1% last year to 46.7% this year, almost a 20% increase. He had without a doubt the best game of his career against the Pacers, dropping a career-high 35 points to go with 6 assists and 4 threes, and hit the game-winning pair of free throws to put the cherry on top. Those 35 points set a new Hornets franchise record for points off the bench in a single game, a very impressive feat set by a second-year player. Graham and the Hornets are turning heads, and they'll be a team to keep your eye on this season.
This Anthony Davis trade looks like it could be win-win scenario for the Lakers and Pelicans.
A lot of people forget how good Brandon Ingram was last season before we went down with an injury that ended his season early. Post all-star break, Ingram averaged 27.8 PPG and 7.5 RPG on some incredible shooting splits before his season ended in March. He was then dealt to New Orleans along with Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart, and his stellar play has continued in the Big Easy. He's currently averaging 26 PPG to go with 7 rebounds, while shooting 55% from the field and 48% from three, which are all career-highs. This included a career night against Brooklyn, when he dropped 40 points on 17-24 shooting from the field. There isn't nearly as much to talk about on the defensive end, but the entire Pelicans team has lacked defensive intensity from the get go. Ingram's physical attributes, like his 7'3 wingspan, make defending him a nightmare, and even though he is Slender-man, Ingram has been having a field day in the paint and is finishing through contact with ease. Ingram is killing it for the Pelicans, and we're getting a peek of the potential that the former #2 pick is capable of early on this season.
Realistically, everyone on the Phoenix Suns could be given recognition. The Suns are off to their start in years, and the culture in Phoenix is so much different this year. And even without Deandre Ayton, the Suns are still putting the league on notice, and a big reason for that is the play of Aron Baynes.
While he may be known for having one of the best fan pages on Twitter, Baynes is quietly having a stellar start for the Suns so far. Baynes was acquired on draft night along with Ty Jerome, and when Ayton was suspended for 25 games for taking a peeing pill, Baynes stepped in as the starter and has played beautifully. He's crushing his previous career highs with 16 points, 6 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1 block per contest so far, and he's doing a great job spacing the floor and protecting the rim on defense. Monty Williams is really emphasizing the use of the big man early in his tenure with Phoenix, and it's paying dividends so far with Baynes, who was never really much of an offensive threat anywhere in his career. He's also shooting a ridiculous 48% from three, which has been a huge help to the Suns' previous shooting woes. It'll be interesting to see what the Suns do once Ayton is reinstated, as I would love for them to try to start Ayton and Baynes together, as Ayton has previously states he would like to try to play more of his preferred position (power forward). Nonetheless, Baynes is making his presence known this year and is a huge reason for the Suns' early success.
If there's a leader for Most Improved Player so far in this young season, I would say it's down to either Ingram or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for the work they've done so far. We saw glimpses of what SGA could do as a rookie, as he was an integral part of the Clippers team that battled so hard against a loaded Warriors team in last year's playoffs. In this offseason, he was dealt to the Thunder (along with a billion draft picks) for Paul George, and he's already making waves with Chris Paul and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
SGA is already posting some absurd stats for a second-year player: he's logging 22 PPG, 5 RPG, and 5.7 APG as of now, and he's playing the most minutes by a wide margin on the new-look Thunder. It's still early but he's also improved on his shooting splits, as he's increased his FG% to 48.5% and his 3PT% to 40%. He's doing this on about 16 shots per game, which doubles his average from last year's season with Los Angeles. He doesn't have the biggest frame or much muscle, but he is lengthy and knows how to use his body, which really bodes well around the rim against bigger defenders. He excelled at this against the Wizards, when he dropped 28 points and 7 rebounds, and it included an array of creative moves to get easy layups or foul shots. Gilgeous-Alexander is finally getting a true opportunity in Oklahoma City, and it's safe to say that he's making the most out of it so far.