The NBA season powers on entering its fourth week of action and we have a small but effective sample size to evaluate the season’s early surprise players. For purposes of clarity we are discussing the good surprises not the disappointing ones (that comes later).
Whatever the reason, each one of these players has emerged as a key contributor for their team. Here are the Top 10 Surprising Players this season:
10. Kyle Singler: The raw numbers of Singler don’t scream for attention, but the dude is the epitome of steady and efficient. Singler averages 9.3 points while shooting 50% from the field and 46% from three. Head Coach Lawrence Frank recently gave his rookie a vote of confidence saying, “Kyle is a guy that you have a lot of faith in.” With his coach’s endorsement and consistent play, Singler has taken the starting shooting guard position away from Rodney Stuckey (for now). The former Duke standout has carved out a niche as a spot-up shooter for a team that ranked 27th in scoring last season and has only inched up to 24th so far this year.
9. Carl Landry: He might be the most popular and probably the least surprising name on the list, hence why he ranks in this spot. However, with averages of 15.3 points and 7.7 rebounds heading into Sunday’s games, Landry has been heaven sent for Coach Mark Jackson and the Warriors. Golden State expected to be relying on Andrew Bogut for their post scoring and similar production but it is Landry doing all the dirty work down low and contributing in a big way off the Warriors bench in just 26 minutes per game. If he were to keep this up, Landry would have to garner support and consideration for Sixth Man of the Year.
8. Byron Mullens: The Bobcats have been the surprise team of the league and Mullens (along with Kemba Walker) is a large part of the reason why. He’s a big who can shoot from three and he is finally showing signs of consistency. He is putting up solid numbers with 12.1 points and 9 rebounds in the first 8 games of the season, but I think he can get his points up to around 15 a game before the season wraps.
7. Shannon Brown: When the Suns envisioned their new-look lineup without Steve Nash they didn’t really envision Brown as a major contributor. Brown almost left Phoenix as the Suns seemingly courted everybody on the free agent market but him over the summer. Nevertheless after Brown found the market dry he signed a 2-year deal worth $7 million to stay in Phoenix. The early returns on Brown have been all positive and he has outperformed Jared Dudley who is currently the starter at the two for Phoenix. Brown averages 13.4 points compared to Dudley’s 8.5 points and a lineup change may be on the way if that continues. In the meantime, Brown leads a very productive Phoenix bench and is a relative bargain on the Sun’s salary cap.
6. E’Twaun Moore: I feel like Moore has a chip on his shoulder the size of Disney World. He isn’t even two full seasons into his NBA career and Moore is already on his 3rd team. He doesn’t lack a bit of confidence and shoots jumpers with bravado. He filled in admirably as a starter for 6 games with Jameer Nelson out and is a capable backup at both guard positions. He boasts averages of 12.4 points, 4.3 assists, and 3.5 rebounds in this young season. Orlando doesn’t have much to cheer about but Moore has been a bright spot for the Magic early on. Opportunity is everything.
5. Omer Asik: Many have rightfully wondered if Asik would be worth the 3-year $25.1 million poison pill contract he signed this summer. His play thus far has had the antidote for those concerns as he rebounds at a rate Dennis Rodman would approve of. At 13.2 rebounds per game Asik is 2nd in the league in that category and bolsters the Rockets defense with 1.2 blocks per. His offense seems to be coming along nicely too at 11.1 points per game. Not bad for a guy who averaged just 3.1 points and 5.3 rebounds in 15 minutes a game last year.
4. Nikola Vucevic: The Orlando Magic were vilified in the court of public opinion for the presumably meager returns received in their trade of Dwight Howard over the summer. Vucevic stands at 7 feet tall and doesn’t quite fill the void left by Howard but then again who could? The Montenegro native is more than just a “throw-in” player making a name for himself as the Magic’s starting center, posting a near double-double at 11.1 points and 9 rebounds per game. In just his second season in the league he is getting the opportunity to shine and act as kryptonite to the memories of burned Magic fans.
3. Larry Sanders: “Larry! Larry! Larry!” is what the Milwaukee Bucks faithful have begun to chant when Sanders impacts the game with his defense. Mr. Sanders averages 2.4 blocks a game in just 24 minutes good for 7th in the league. He is cutting into the playing time of the newly-rich Ersan Ilyasova and has found his way into meaningful minutes in the 4th quarter. Scott Skiles doesn’t like much but he does seem to like the energy and defense of Sanders. On a personal level I am a bit stunned by his productivity after seeing him at the Vegas Summer League where he showed almost no improvement or life. Luckily Skiles has found a way to utilize Sanders in a way that is translating to wins for the Bucks.
2. Alexey Schved: Schved has been given a chance to prove himself with the myriad of Timberwolves injuries. He is only shooting 38% from the field but appears to be an above average playmaker and rebounder at the guard position. 10.4 points, 4.2 assists, and 3.1 rebounds aren’t too shabby for a guy most fans of the league never heard of.
1. Al-Farouq Aminu: Austin Rivers was supposed to be the beneficiary of Eric Gordon’s absence but instead Aminu has been the one to capitalize. He is contributing across the board which must make fantasy owners happy, but the reality of the situation is that Aminu can really play. His averages read 12 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.1 blocks. While his jumper isn’t silky smooth he is still shooting 50% from the field while building chemistry with Anthony Davis. Nobody saw his hot start coming and he was very much an afterthought in any discussion about the Hornets prior to the season. But that’s why they play the games.
Who did I miss?
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