Special edition: 10 that impress, and 10 that depress.
I figured that at roughly the 10 game marks through the season, I'd take a look at who has put up impressive, surprising, or greatly improved numbers, and who is going all John Salmons on their team and fan base. The following numbers do not include tonight's games. While this might qualify for small sample size, it also represents about 15-17% of the season. Will go with the impressing today, and the depressing tomorrow. So here are 10 that are doing themselves and their teams proud:
- LeBron James: Sorry, but right now he is playing like the best player on the planet, and it's not really close. James is averaging 29.7 ppg for the 8-2 Heat, with a 65% true shooting percentage on almost 19 shots a game - that's insane! His 8 rebounds a game leads small forwards and is good for 20th in the league overall. His 7.6 assists per game leads all small forwards and is good for 10th in the league overall. His 2 steals per game ties him for 1st at small forward with Danny Granger, and it is good for 4th overall in the league. Stupid good.
- Ryan Anderson: No homer. Anderson is averaging 18 ppg on 14 shots per game, including 40% from beyond the arc (better than three hits per game). Anderson is also grabbing a robust 7 boards per game.
- James Harden: 65.3% true shooting percentage, 17 ppg, 4 and a half boards, 3 and a half assists (against 1 and a half turnovers), and all of this off the bench for Oklahoma City. Bank.
- Greg Monroe: 14.8 (almost 61% TS) and 8.5 a game for the Pistons, and his 2.9 assists ties him for 1st in center assists.
- Kyle Lowry: The battery charge notwithstanding, Lowry has been great for Houston, notching 9.7 assists per game to go along with 14 ppg (58% TS), 6.9 rebounds (at 6 feet tall that leads all point guards), and 2 steals per game. You want an example of giving a young point guard a chance to learn the NBA game? I give you Kyle Lowry.
- Marcin Gortat: In less than 27 minutes a night, Gortat is posting 12.7 ppg (63% TS), 7.3 rpg, and 1.4 blocks per game.
- Spencer Hawes: Gotta give a brother his due. 62% true shooting, which is so much better than his career numbers that it is beyond ridiculous, better than 11 points and 9 boards per game, and almost 2 blocks per. He is also tied with Monroe for the center assist lead at 2.9 per game. All of this in about 28 minutes a night.
- DeMarcus Cousins: Fun Fact - There are currently 7 players in the league averaging a double double. Rajon Rondo is doing it with points and assists, and the rest are doing it with points and rebounds: Dwight Howard, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol, David Lee, and DeMarcus Cousins. Pretty good company, that. 14.9 and 10.1, and that was before tonight's massive effort. And 1.8 blocks per game is a very nice surprise.
- MarShon Brooks: Ricky Rubio might be getting all the pub, but right now the best rookie has been Brooks. The rookie out of Providence is averaging 14.4 ppg, adding a solid 4 boards a game from the shooting guard slot. Brooks is averaging about 25 minutes a night, a great return on investment from this #25 draft pick.
- Byron Mullens: At the beginning of the 2008 college basketball season, Mullens was seen by many as the #1 pro prospect. By the end of the season, he had fallen completely out of the lottery. In two years with Oklahoma City, Mullens played 26 games and averaged 1.5 and 1.3. Now with Charlotte, Mullens has become a catalyst off the bench, averaging 11 ppg and 4.7 rpg. Not huge numbers, but an exponential improvement that's hard to match.