Earlier this week, Terrence Ross scored 51 points when he hit 10 three-pointers in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Don’t know too much about Ross? It’s alright. Not many fans of the game outside of Toronto are aware of the exploits of the 2012 first-round pick.
And why would they? Even after scoring 51, Ross is averaging 10.2 points on 42 percent shooting, to go along with 3.3 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game. He’s also among the league’s top perimeter threats, shooting 41 percent from three, but, still, it was excusable to not exactly recognize Terrence Ross’s name upon first glance.
Ross certainly isn’t the first unexpected player to go for 50. Does the name Tony Delk ring a bell? In 2001, he set a career-high in points when he averaged 12.3 points per game, propped up by the 53 he scored one night in a loss to Sacramento where he played 50 minutes and shot 20-of-27 from the field.
He didn’t score more than 26 points in any other game that year.
Do you recall a 33-year-old Andre Miller going off for 52 one insane night in Dallas when he shot 22-for-31? Dana Barros scoring 50 on 82 percent shooting in a blowout loss to Houston back in ’95? Not enough for you? How about Tracy Murray scoring 50 in one of the two seasons in his career where he averaged more than 15 points per game?
Any NBA player can have their day, even the likes of Tony Delk, Dana Barros, and Jamal Crawford three times with three different teams. Even the everyday role player can have a day where his midrange is falling and it’s causing defenders to play him close, leading to drives that lead to free throws.
However, what is peculiar is how some of the league’s top players have gone without hitting the same mark Tracy Murray and Andre Miller hit.
This can be caused by any number of circumstances. For the ten players that are listed below, some of them just haven’t had the time yet. For others, their situations, whether they play with other scorers or have been stashed away in limited roles, have hindered them from hitting the threshold that Hall of Famers and bench players alike are a part of.
There’s still a chance for these ten, though, as most of them are already impressive scorers with young games that still have the time to develop and mature.
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Career high: 45 points vs. Minnesota; 17-28 overall, 2-4 from three, 9-9 free throws
As easy as he makes it look to get to the rim, you’d assume Russell Westbrook would have gone for 50 points at least on one occasion by now.
Alas, that’s the rub of playing with Kevin Durant. Because as long as Durant is your teammate, the ball is going to end up in his hands more times than not, even if your name is Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook has come within five points of the 50-point threshold, but has scored 40 or more on a few occasions, including a 43-point effort in an NBA Finals loss to Miami. It’s games like the one he had against the Heat that night where you truly become surprised that Russell has yet to join the same club that Andre Miller and Terrence Ross are a part of.
What makes Russell so prolific is his agility and speed off the dribble. He’s too athletic and too quick for a majority of the league’s guards, and is just as capable at finishing, too, as he converted 61 percent of his attempts at the rim in the 2012-13 season.
His jump shot could use some more range, he’s only a 30 percent shooter from beyond the arc, but Westbrook with a consistent three-point jumper would make him as unguardable as his current teammate. Still, he was a 38 percent shooter in the 16-25 foot range last year, where he finished the season averaging 23.2 points on 44 percent shooting.
Once Westbrook’s hitting the midrange jumper, he becomes an impossible defensive assignment. He dribbles with a controlled frenzy, constantly threatening his defender with a drive, only to quickly pull-up and rise off the ground enough so that he’s eye-level with the rim.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Oklahoma City Thunder handle the Westbrook-Durant dynamic from now on. Durant has been playing the best basketball of his career without him and has the Thunder near the top of the West, all while Westbrook, arguably one of the league’s top three point guards when healthy, rides the bench. With the way Durant is developing into an unstoppable scoring machine, do you want to take the ball out of his hands for anyone?
If the Thunder front office believes that Durant is better off without Westbrook, Russell could find himself the primary scoring option on a team that will allow him to be the volatile scorer he’s capable of being, one that can easily score 50 points if given enough shots.
Career high: 46 points vs. Oklahoma City; 14-19 overall, 7-8 from three, 11-12 free throws
How appropriate James Harden would score his career-high against his former team.
Of any player on this list, Harden should be the most likely to go off for 50 points. Even with Dwight Howard and Chandler Parsons as his running mates, Harden can just as easily put the tunnel vision blinders on and shoot and drive his way to the 50-point mark.
Harden has all the qualities of a scorer you want in a shooting guard. He can score from inside and out, although he’s struggled so far from out this year, and draw free throws with the best of them. The 348 free throws he’s attempted this year has him fourth in the league, trailing only Kevin Durant, Howard and Blake Griffin.
Harden is one of only three guards in the top ten in free throw attempts and is the only guard within the top seven. Only DeMar DeRozan and his 299 attempts come near Harden’s impassable mark among guards.
What makes Harden so difficult to guard is that threat of a perimeter jumper. Although he’s only shooting 32 percent from beyond the arc this year, it hasn’t made him any less difficult to defend. He’s still shooting 37 percent in the 16-25 foot range and 68 percent at the rim.
He’s an extremely crafty player when he’s able to get within the perimeter. He’s quick enough to get around defenders, has a crossover that can get him undeterred to the rim, and has the athleticism to rise up over the league’s tallest shotblockers. Plus, he now has the threat of Dwight Howard in the post. With defenders wary of giving up an alley-oop to Howard, Harden, who also doubles as an excellent pick-and-roll player, causes indecisiveness among defenders who have to either consider backing up and guarding Howard or committing to Harden and allowing Howard to get an easy look.
He still has a chance to set the mark this year, though. The 32 percent he’s shooting from three is by far the lowest of his career — he never shot below 35 percent prior — and the law of averages could eventually begin to play a role that would have Harden evening out the poor shooting start he’s dealt with.
He’s averaging 23.7 points this year after averaging 25.9 last year, caused by taking nearly a full shot less per game this year than last, as well as a usage rate that’s declined from 29 percent to 27.3 percent.