We’d like to say that we’re pleasantly surprised by Rudy Fernandez thus far this season, but we’ve known that this kid is the real deal ever since he crowned Dwight Howard in the Olympics. However, there is another international talent who headlines our list of the top five surprises thus far this season:
* Yi Jianlian – Though Christian claims that he “still stinks,” I’ve been really surprised at how Yi has toughened up since coming to New Jersey. He’s already boosted his points and boards per game by three a piece since his days in Milwaukee. Even if last night’s 24-point, 10-board rebound night against Miami was slightly inflated, his production is justifying the Richard Jefferson trade.
* Trades – Before this season was five games old, one of the League’s premiere names was traded. And since then, the team that he went to has gone from undefeated to the edge of .500. It was surprising enough to see Iverson traded. It’s more surprising to see how it’s worked out for both teams since the deal.
* Thaddeus Young – While Andre Iguodala could make this list for just how bad he’s been, Thad has helped keep the Sixers out of last place thus far. Heading into the season, we said that the Sixers would be a legit four seed if they could add someone to stretch the defense beyond the three-point line. Thad’s done that. AI just hasn’t done his part.
* The Atlanta Hawks – Who would have said that the Hawks would have rattled off five straight wins, with Orlando, Philly, Toronto, and New Orleans among the defeated? They’ve gone from the sexy pick to fall flat on their face to one of the toughest defensive teams in the NBA.
* Nene – First of all, Nene has played 34 minutes per game this season. That’s a shock in and of itself. Two years ago, he didn’t make it to 27 minutes per night. During the sixteen games that he played in last year, he didn’t make it to 17 minutes per night. Now, he’s leading the League in field goal percentage (67% FG), and he’s averaging 16.2 points and 9 boards per night. Add in 1.8 blocks per game, 1.3 steals per game, and Nene is more than just a fantasy steal. He’s the best feel-good story in the NBA today.
How crazy is it that he isn’t even on the All-Star ballot?
Honorable Mention: Nate Robinson, Wilson Chandler, Gerald Green, Danny Granger, Mario Chalmers