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.
Career high: 43 points vs. Portland; 16-30 overall, 7-15 from three, 4-4 free throws
He’s one of the best catch-and-shooters, one of the best pull-up shooters and is a 73 percent shooter at the rim this year. And yet, Paul George is inarguably not one of the two best small forwards in the league. How far have we come that George is putting up such mammoth numbers, while also leading his team to the league’s current best record, but won’t stand a chance at earning the MVP this year? In fact, he may not even be the league’s third best small forward. What a time to be alive.
George, shooting 38 percent on pull-up jumpers and 48 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers, has made quite the impressive jump from All-Star to superstar in the span of an offseason. After putting up only 17.4 points on 42 percent shooting last year, George is leading the Pacers with averages of 23.3 points on 45 percent shooting, both career-highs.
He’s also tied a career-high thus far with his 38 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Of course, that percentage ties the mark he had in his second season, where he was taking three less three-pointers per game than he is this season.
The 85 percent he’s shooting from the line is also a career-high. He’s the lone sliver of hope for a Pacers offense that hopes to secure its first NBA championship, despite currently ranking 18th in offensive efficiency.
With George on the court, the Pacers offense generates 104.9 points per 100 possessions. When he’s off, the offense plummets to a mere 96.1 points per 100 possessions. Without Paul on the floor bailing out the Pacers offense with his long-distance shooting, Indiana has little options to work through. Which is why George achieiving at least 50 points at least once in his career seems something very likely to happen soon. With so few options that are capable of going off, George may feel inclined in some game in the future to simply take over, as he did earlier this year in a game against Portland where he set his career-high in points, while taking 15 three-pointers.
Career high: 41 points vs. Phoenix; 16-25 overall, 9-14 free throws
For players whose residence is in the post, it’s obviously going to be a lot more difficult to score 50 points. All of their shots are going to be two-pointers, with the exception of the few times they can convert and-ones.
Of all the post players in the league, though, DeMarcus Cousins seems to be the most likely to score 50 at least once in their career. His size, 6-11 and 270 pounds, allows him to be such a dominant force that he can become nearly unguardable in one-on-one situations.
Also, it doesn’t matter who’s defending him. In a game against the Indiana Pacers this season, Cousins made short work of the league’s frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year, scoring 31 points on 21 shots on Roy Hibbert and whoever else the Pacers trotted out in hopes of limiting Cousins.
A 50-point game may have been within reach had Cousins played more than 30 minutes as he sat out the entire fourth quarter due to his Kings getting blown out. He also flirted with the mark when he scored 33 points in only 28 minutes in a loss to Phliadelphia, where foul trouble limited him.
It doesn’t take much time for DeMarcus to get what he wants. He recognizes there isn’t a single player in the league who can defend him one-on-one when his back is to the basket and he takes full advantage of that when given the opportunity. He’s also improving on a jumper that was once considered a hindrance in his game. After shooting 32 percent in the 16-25 foot range last year, he’s all the way up to 38 percent this season, while also having his around-the-rim percentage jump from 64 to 69 percent. Did I mention he’s only 23? He’s averaging 22.6 points on 49 percent shooting and has the league’s second-highest usage rate of 30.9. At some point in the future, there will be a game where foul trouble and the score doesn’t play too large a factor to limit Cousins’ minutes.
Career high: 44 points vs. Atlanta; 16-27 overall, 4-7 from three, 8-9 free throws
It may take awhile longer than most of the other players on this list before Derrick Rose comes close to eclipsing the 50-point threshold.
With knee injuries devastating his career as of late, a return to normalcy for Rose is becoming an idea that seems more unlikely as the months pass. He’s played only 49 games since his MVP season back in 2011 and is likely out for another year as he attempts to recover from this latest setback.
Before he got hurt 10 games into the season, Rose was averaging 15.9 points on 35 percent shooting. He was shooting a career-best 34 percent from three, but it’s his explosive first step that makes him one of the most difficult players to defend, not his on-again, off-again three-point shot.
When Rose is healthy, as he was during his MVP season when he scored 44 points in a playoff game against Atlanta, he’s splitting double-teams, using his crossover to get to the rim, and contorting his body in ways that defy physics in order to twist in a layup. He was also a 40 percent shooter in the 16-25 foot range and 42 percent in the 10-16 foot range. In the 10 games he played this season, Rose was shooting 14 percent from 16 to 25 feet. He has a long way to go.
We haven’t seen those key traits of Rose in a long time and it may be awhile before we see them again.
If ever. Rose’s game is styled around his agility, vertical leap and ability to quickly change directions. Obviously those qualities of his game are going to put a lot of stress on his knees.
Rose underwent knee surgery in December to repair a torn meniscus, a year after missing the entire 2012-13 season due to recovery from a torn ACL, and is hopeful that he could be playing for Team USA this July.
Then again, there’s always the chance that Rose does return to form. He’ll be 26 years old by the start of next season. He’ll of course need the months of reacclimation to the pace of the game, which he struggled with upon his return from ACL surgery this year, but only time and his body can truly say whether or not Rose will be capable of putting up a 50-point game, or becoming an MVP who can lead his team to a title for that matter.
Career high: 41 points vs. Sacramento; 13-24 overall, 7-13 from three, 8-8 free throws
There’s only two other players who can even come close to competing with Stephen Curry on the pull-up jumper front. One of those players is Kyrie Irving, who we’ll get to, the other is Damian Lillard. Both of those players have the potential to go for 50 when their shots are on. Lillard this year is shooting 41 percent on 6.1 pull-up attempts and on 3.4 three-pointers per contest, as well. The only other players in the league to be shooting at least 40 percent on pull-up jumpers overall and pull-up three-pointers are Kevin Durant, Irving and Jamal Crawford. Lillard, however, is the only one attempting at least three pull-up three-pointers per. Durant, Irving and Crawford are all taking less than 2.6 pull-up threes per game.
Durant and Crawford have both gone for 50 on numerous occasions. Lillard could be the next in line, although it may be difficult when he has so many teammates who can be relied on. With LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum all playing as well as they have last year, Lillard needing to take an excessive amount of shots hasn’t been a necessity. Players go for 50 points when they put the team on their backs. Lillard hasn’t needed to do so. But give it time. This is only his second year in the league, yet he’s putting up strong averages of 20.6 points on 42 percent shooting, while converting on 41 percent of his seven three-point opportunities per game.
The only thing holding Lillard back is his putrid shooting percentages on drives. Among those who average at least five drives per contest, only Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook have worse shooting percentages than Lillard’s 33 percent. Overall, he’s shooting 47 percent on shots at the rim.
Still, it’s safe to say there will come a time in the future when Lillard will have to put that pull-up jumper expertise to the ultimate test of sustaining it for a full game, as 50-point members Stephen Curry, Jamal Crawford and Kevin Durant have done before.
Career high: 41 points twice; vs. New York: 15-25 overall, 5-8 from three, 6-7 free throws; vs. Washington: 14-28 overall, 4-7 from three, 9-9 free throws
As mentioned before with Lillard, Kyrie Irving is one of those players who can get hot with their jumper and never look back. But in Irving’s case, he will always have the green light because of the state of his Cavaliers. Unlike in Portland where Damian is sharing the ball with arguably the league’s best power forward and two elite shooters, Irving is sharing the ball on a team where Luol Deng is arguably the second-best player.
Kyrie is similar to Damian in one negative aspect, though. Although he’s not shooting as poorly on drives, his 44 percent conversion rate has room for improvement.
At least he still has his shot, even if his three-point percentage has dropped from the previous two seasons. Irving is shooting 37 percent from beyond the arc this year and is one of only four players in the league to be shooting at least 40 percent on pull-up jumpers overall and on pull-up threes.
Irving has the rare ability to get to the rim whenever he feels like it thanks to a sick crossover that can send defenders into another dimension. Couple that with a fearlessness that has had him making game-winners since his rookie year and you have a player who is extremely capable of putting up a gawdy scoring output.
Make sure to keep reminding yourself that he’s only 21 years old to give yourself some nightmare fuel for the next few days.
I’d say to watch out for the next time he plays the Knicks. He scored a career-high 41 on them last year and scored 37 points on 23 shots in only 36 minutes in a 15-point win over the Knicks this season.
Career high: 45 points vs. Portland; 16-28 overall, 2-6 from three, 11-13 free throws
As Jamal Crawford, J.R. Smith and Ben Gordon have done before him, Nate Robinson is a gunner who can be one of the scariest players to face off against when he’s feeling it. In fact, it’s insane that the highest scoring output of his career came in a game where he only made two three-pointers. However, the 13 free throw attempts is indicative of how difficult it can be to defend Robinson. If he’s hitting the jumper, he’s going to cause defenders to play up on him, which will allow him to get to the rim. Once he’s able to get to the rim, it’s easy for his 5-9 frame to draw fouls on the defenders who stand a foot taller and outweigh him by 100 pounds.
Overall, Robinson has gone for at least 40 points three times. On one of those occasions, a 41-point outing against Indiana back in 2009, Robinson attempted 19 free throws. Yet this isn’t even Nate Robinson at his most terrifying.
No, the Nate you’re looking for is similar to what you saw last year in Chicago’s series with Brooklyn, where Robinson is making contested 24-foot floaters. Or the one who shot 7-for-7 from three last year in a loss to Dallas. Or even the one who shot 8-for-9 from three in a loss to Portland back in 2007. That’s the Nate Robinson that every team’s coach is wary of. He’s one of those players who only needs to see one shot go in before he begins consistently throwing in 28-footers over double-teams.
He’s also one of those players who will infuriate his own coach by not recognizing when to stop shooting or when not to shoot three-pointers into your own basket, but that’s why he’s been a member of six different teams, including five over the past four years.
Before he leaves, though, Robinson will have a game where he gives himself the green light. His high in his first season for Denver has only been 24 points, but he’s also yet to play more than 29 minutes in any game this year. There’s still plenty of time for a classic NateRob game. It will come and then we will all be sorry.
Career high: 43 points vs. Philadelphia; 14-27 overall, 5-13 from three, 10-11 free throws
Seven years ago, Arron Afflalo was a seldom-used shooting guard earning garbage time minutes for a Deroit Pistons team that couldn’t find a spot for him in the rotation. In two years with Detroit, Afflalo never averaged more than five points or 17 minutes per game.
Fast forward to 2014 and the same player who scoured for minutes in Detroit is now the Orlando Magic’s leading scorer and in play for a 50-point game in the future. In his second year with the Magic, Afflalo is averaging 20.3 points and shooting 47 percent from the field and 42 percent from beyond the arc.
Afflalo has developed himself significantly since those days in Detroit. He was traded to the Nuggets for a second-round pick, found himself as a significant perimeter threat, and was then traded to Orlando to become a centerpiece in the midst of the Dwight Howard deal he was included in.
With Nikola Vucevic out this year, Afflalo has flourished with Orlando, going off for a career-high 43 points in a loss to Philadelphia and hitting eight three-pointers in a win over Milwaukee. He’s gone off for 30 points at least four times this year.
Afflalo’s points are stemming from his elite level catch-and-shoot percentages. He’s a 46 percent shooter overall and a 45 percent shooter from beyond the arc on his catch-and-shoot opportunities, while shooting 45 percent in the imperative 16-25 foot range. While Afflalo has been among the league’s best shooters, he’s also posting a respectable 61 percent conversion rate on his shots at the rim.
On a bad Orlando Magic team like this one with Vucevic out until further notice, Afflalo has the shot and the ability to finish at the rim that could have him flirting with the 50-point mark.
Career high: 40 points vs. Dallas; 15-22 overall, 1-1 from three, 9-14 free throws
When DeMar DeRozan entered the draft, the main comparison I heard was Kobe Bryant. That seemed a little ambitious at the time, as well as in his rookie year and the years following. This season, however, has been a tad different. With Rudy Gay no longer taking shots and DeRozan’s game maturing, DeMar is beginning to show those qualities and traits that earned him such respect among draft experts. We see it in the athleticism, the size, the shot mechanics, and the ability to get to the rim. He’s lacking with his range, he’s only a 26 percent shooter from three for his career, but that may eventually come for a 24-year-old who is shooting a career-high 31 percent from three this year.
Surprisingly, his jump shooting totals are down from last year, as he was a 39 percent shooter on jumpers last year and only a 37 percent shooter this year. He’s also shooting 36 percent on pull-up jumpers. However, he’s improved at just about every facet of his game and it’s reflected by his 18.0 PER, annihilating his previous career-high of 14.7. He’s also thrived as a catch-and-shoot player, shooting 42 percent overall and 34 percent from three.
There’s obvious improvement in his game. He’s taking smarter shots, making better decisions, and finishing at the rim better than he ever has, shooting 71 percent on shots at the rim this year. A game where he flirts with 50 probably won’t come anytime soon because he still has to create some consistency in his jump shot. But as you can see in the 40-point game he had against Dallas, DeRozan is capable of having nights where his shot is on, otherwise we wouldn’t be considering him an All-Star.
Which player will be the next guy to spring for 50 points?
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