If there’s one thing everyone should learn from the beginning of the basketball season, it’s that overreactions come in a large supply. I mean… after the Sixers started the season 3-0, they appeared No. 1 in many power rankings across the basketball world. Whether that was a huge troll or not, it was still a massive overreaction to a team that won a few early games. The most important thing to remember is that the NBA season is 82 games long. We are only about 12 games in so far. This means only about 15 percent of the season has been played, which is virtually nothing.
Even so, there are many players that went under the radar before the season, but have started the season off with a bang. But are these players the real deal, or just on a hot streak? I believe these 10 players will come back down to earth before the season is over.
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The former No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft has his Philadelphia 76ers at the top of the Atlantic Division. Saying Turner has surprised this season is an understatement for a player that has been given the “bust” label by many unhappy fans. So far this season, Turner is averaging a career-high 22.0 points (shooting 47 percent from the field), 6.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game during the final year of his rookie contract. However, I’ve watched Turner very closely since his rookie season and he will not keep this production up.
Throughout his career, Turner is known for going on rampages that make him look like the No. 2 overall pick, then disappearing for long stretches of games. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. You won’t fool me again, Evan! Last season, from November 24 to December 18, Turner averaged 19.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG and 4.2 APG, while shooting 46.7 percent from the field during this 13-game stretch. Also, during the stretch, Turner didn’t have a game where he scored under 10 points. What happened during the 13 following games? Turner scored 10.7 PPG on 40 percent shooting. Turner also had five games where he failed to score over 10 points during this 13-game regression.
Evan Turner will fall off and come back to earth, as the season trudges on, especially in Philadelphia, where the losses will begin to pile on quicker than my college laundry pile. Also, if Turner is traded (rumors have been circulating), then these numbers will plummet. Turner is not a player that will be able to average 20 PPG over the course of an entire season, so come back to this article in June and I’ll say I told you so.
For his first few years in the NBA, Lance Stephenson was known more for giving LeBron James the choke sign than his play on the court. Stephenson has shown flashes of the player that was nicknamed “Born Ready” this season, however. He’s averaging 13.7 PPG, 5.2 RPG and 5.0 APG. More impressive is his 46 percent shooting from the field and 45 percent shooting from deep. These increased numbers can be attributed to the fact that Stephenson is playing a career-high 34 minutes per game, up from his 29 minutes per game last season. The Pacers are contenders in the East, but Stephenson is a pretender. One reason why? Danny Granger.
Danny Granger can ball; he was the leader of the Pacers for many years until Paul George rolled into town. Over eight NBA seasons, Granger has averaged 18.1 PPG with 5.2 RPG on 44 percent shooting. Granger has battled calf and knee injuries since last season, but he is slated to return to the Pacers lineup within a week or two. If Granger can stay healthy, he is a serious threat to the emergence of Lance Stephenson. With max-contract stars Paul George (17.2 FGA) and Roy Hibbert (9.1 FGA) already demanding over 25 shots a game together, the situation will get foggy when Granger (career 9.6 FGA) returns. Simply put, there won’t be enough basketballs to go around for all four to have success scoring. George and Hibbert will undoubtedly get theirs, but there will be a battle with Stephenson and Granger. If Granger can return to form, expect the hot start of Lance Stephenson to cool off.
We all thought “Linsanity” was over when Jeremy Lin left the Knicks, but we have a sighting in Houston. Lin has exploded this season to average 17.6 PPG and 5.0 APG, shooting 53.1 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from deep. These numbers are insane and there is nothing that makes me believe this production will stay the same. First of all, with Dwight Howard and James Harden in the fold, there’s no way there is room for Lin to average 18 points over the course of an 82-game season. If that’s the case, then the Rockets will be in the Finals, which won’t happen.
Usually when a player explodes like this, it’s because of increased minutes or shots. Lin played 32.2 minutes per game last season; he’s playing 32.9 minutes this season. Lin also took 10.9 shots per game last season; this season it’s virtually the same at 10.8 shots per game. For a player that has averaged 12 points on 45 percent shooting (35 percent from deep), this seems to be nothing more than an explosive start. For Lin to keep this production up, more shots would be needed, which won’t happen with an egotistical James Harden in Houston. Lin may be proving that “Linsanity” wasn’t a fluke, but expect Lin to drop off as the season progresses.
After Andrea Bargnani was traded to New York this offseason, he was expected to be a role player alongside Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and J.R. Smith. Bargnani has been a vocal point of the offense this season, averaging 14.9 PPG and 4.7 RPG on 50.9 percent shooting (39.4 percent from deep). Bargnani’s impressive shooting stroke from outside can be attributed to shooting 40 percent as the P&R man, while also shooting 35.7 percent as a spot-up shooter from deep. Bargnani is looking like a player that was worth giving up Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, Quentin Richardson, a first-round pick and two second-round selections. But will this production last after a long 82-game season? I think not.
Bargnani is an oft-injured player that has only played in a total of 66 games in the previous two seasons. He’s also never played a full 82-game season. Bargnani’s hot shooting from deep has been saving him this season also, as he’s only shooting 35.5 percent (11-for-31) as a spot-up shooter. When Bargnani averaged 21.4 PPG during the 2010-2011 season, he was taking about 18 shots a game, while shooting 45 percent in 35.7 minutes a game as the focal point of the Toronto Raptors offense. Bargnani is only playing 26.3 minutes a game this season. In every season that Bargnani has played under 30 minutes per game, he’s only shot over 40 percent from the field once (’06-07 rookie season). While playing 27.5 minutes per game and taking about 12 shots per game, Bargnani’s production is only slated to drop.
As shown in previous seasons, Bargnani cannot keep this production up while playing reduced minutes with limited shots. Bargnani has been a bright spot to a struggling Knicks team, but Bargnani will find it hard to be this consistent as the season moves forward.
Kevin Martin appeared to be on the decline last year in Oklahoma City, but he has found a new “love” in Minnesota. Martin is definitely taking advantage of the open looks he is receiving because of all the attention being paid to MVP candidate Kevin Love. In 11 games this season, Martin is playing 34.9 minutes per game, while averaging 23.2 PPG on 42.7 percent shooting (45.2 percent from deep) and 91.3 percent from the free throw line (63-for-69). Martin is taking the most shots in his career (17.5) and he’s been knocking most of them down. However, teams will adjust to Martin’s hot shooting and will find a way to contain him.
After being a new piece in OKC last season, Martin started off the season by averaging 17.1 PPG in his first 10 games. The next 10 games saw Martin’s scoring drop to 13.7 PPG, the next 10 saw the scoring improve slightly to 15.4 PPG and the next 10 saw the scoring level off to 13.9 PPG. Martin averaged 14 PPG in OKC last season, so you can see how his scoring began to level off as the games continued to pile on. Expect this season to be no different as trends begin to repeat themselves and Martin comes back down to earth.
The juice man relocated to Milwaukee this offseason and seems to be finding his niche with the Bucks. Mayo is averaging the most points since his rookie season with 18.4 per game, shooting 44 percent from the field and a Steph Curry-esque 53 percent from deep. Mayo is also posting the highest PER of his career, at 16.2. Mayo’s extremely hot shooting from deep has boosted his stats quite a bit. But, when we dig deeper into the statistics, there are issues.
Mayo’s hot start can be attributed to his shooting, particularly hitting 24-for-45 from deep. However, Mayo has only shot over 40 percent from deep once in his career. When a player relies on their jumper for the majority of their scoring, it follows a typical trend. Look at J.R. Smith‘s performance last season. Remember when he went on that tear during the latter half of the season where literally everything Smith put up was finding its way in the basket? That lasted for a little while and then we saw the J.R. Smith in the playoffs who couldn’t buy a bucket if he was at the KFC drive-thru. Smith is a player who relies heavily on his jumper and wound up shooting 33 percent from the field and 27 percent from deep in the playoffs last season.
This is the problem with shooters: they can get hot no sooner than they get cold. Mayo is only scoring 2.0 points a game from drives and is only converting 33.3 percent of his drives. Mayo is also only scoring .5 points from shots 12 feet and closer, converting an abysmal 28.6 percent of his attempts. As we can see, Mayo is relying heavily on his jump shot to be a volume scorer. Mayo isn’t showing the ability to attack the rim and convert, leaving him with just his jumper to rely on. Mayo’s shooting percentages will drop and his scoring will decrease along with that. Don’t be surprised if Mayo looks more like the player we saw struggle for his last two years in Memphis, rather than who he is playing like right now.
I never imagined I’d be writing the name Xavier Henry on a list of surprise players to start this NBA season, but here we are. Xavier Henry started the 2013 NBA season with a splash, scoring 22 points and grabbing six boards in a victory against the Lakers rival team, the Los Angeles Clippers. For a player that has never played more than 50 games in an NBA season and hasn’t started more than two games in the past two seasons, this was quite the surprise. Let’s also remember the Henry went into training camp with the Lakers on a non-guaranteed contract. After his surprising game one performance, Henry has averaged 8.2 PPG, shooting 38 percent from the field (43 percent from deep). No one expected Henry to continue to average 20 points a game, but now Henry is looking more like the player that couldn’t get off the bench his first three seasons in the NBA.
After his 22-point performance on opening night, Henry has only had three performances since that have eclipsed the 10-point mark. In his past three games, Henry has only scored a total of 10 points while not being able to get over 20 minutes of action in any of the games. It seems that after a surprising start, Henry might already be falling off the pedestal in Los Angeles. With Kobe Bryant returning to practice, Henry will become an afterthought. Even if he doesn’t formulate to anything other than a role player in LA, we will always have this:
All the tanking conversation in Phoenix seems to have awoken the beasts named Eric Bledsoe and Markieff Morris. While I have no problem admitting that Eric Bledsoe is legitimate talent, I can’t say the same for Markieff Morris. After not averaging more than eight points a game in his first two seasons, Morris has averaged 13.1 PPG along with 5.7 RPG. Morris is also shooting 54.8 percent from the field and 50 percent from deep (4-for-8). Let’s keep in mind that Morris hasn’t shot better than 35 percent from deep in his first two seasons in the NBA. While I’m all about believing in player improvement, Morris is not one of the best three-point shooters in the league. The sample is way too small to indicate that. Do I think Morris has improved? Without a doubt. Will he keep this production up? No way.
Morris had a streak of four games this season where he averaged 22.8 PPG, while shooting 71 percent from the field. Talk about a hot streak. This performance has severely inflated Morris’ stats. The three games since this four-game streak, Morris has averaged 5.0 PPG, shooting 25 percent from the field. Morris simply streaked together a couple of great games, but don’t be fooled by this streak. Morris has improved as a player, but his statistics will lower significantly as the season moves forward.
Point guard of the Atlanta Hawks, Jeff Teague has surprised many people to the tune of 18.5 PPG and 8.8 APG this season. After struggling for his first few seasons in the Association, it appears Jeff Teague may have finally figured it all out. Teague has definitely made strides to improve as a player, but this production won’t look similar when this season ends.
Teague has increased his scoring and assists from last season, but while only playing about two more minutes a game and only taking about two more shots a game. Teagues three-point shooting is down to 25.8 percent after shooting 36 percent last season. With the minutes and shots not improving substantially, I can’t believe that Teague will keep up this production of 19 and nine… especially for a player that is only making 76 percent of his free throws. Jeff Teague is not yet ready to enter the Chris Paul and Tony Parker point guard conversation this season, even amid his impressive start to the season.
Ty Lawson has been a good point guard for a few seasons now, but he appears determined to become a great point guard this season. Lawson is averaging 22.0 PPG and 8.6 APG so far this season, posting a career-high PER of 23.7. The biggest questions is can Lawson keep this production up? I believe that his success rests solely on the success of the Nuggets, a team that has struggled early this season with a 4-6 record. The Nuggets recently lost JaVale McGee to a stress fracture in his left tibia and Danilo Gallinari is still a couple months away from seeing the court.
As the injury bug continues to sting Denver, more eyes will be paid attention to Ty Lawson, which will make it increasingly difficult for him to keep performing at such a high level. Also, the Nuggets are just a team without a real identity, without any true superstars. Ty Lawson won’t be able to carry this team on his back all season, which is the main reason I believe he will fall off by season’s end. His numbers will regress, just as the Nuggets will as they struggle to find an identity. Lawson has definitely made great strides this season as an improving player, but his 22.0 PPG and 8.6 APG are nothing more than a fairytale.
Which surprise players will come down to Earth?
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