There are a lot of extremely talented players in the NBA right now, but only a select few are exceeding their expectations. This isn’t to say these are the best players, but just some players who are playing better than a lot of people expected them to. We expect Giannis, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant to play at the highest level. Some of these guys we don’t, or haven’t yet, expected to be as good as they have been.
So who’s playing better than expected?
Before the season started, I thought the Chicago Bulls were going to be a middle-of-the-pack team who would have highlight plays in losses. I was wrong, I will admit that. Coming into the season, Demar Derozan was viewed as a washed up former all-star player whose game did not evolve to the three-point NBA we are in today.
At his peak in Toronto, Derozan was putting up 27/5/4 a night. That was back in 2016-17. During his time in San Antonio, he was averaging around 21/22 points per game, and a career high 7 assists per game. The numbers aren’t where Derozan is proving anything. He was, in a way, just forgotten about by NBA fans. He is averaging 26/5/4 this season. Essentially the same as he was putting up in Toronto when he was an all-star and made the all-NBA third team.
Derozan was seen as the second option going into this season with the Bulls. He and Zach Lavine have been a 1a and 1b, both averaging 26ppg each. Derozan has been balling out this season, exceeding many people’s expectations from before the season (including mine).
Tyler Herro came into the season saying he should be “in the same conversation as those guys, the young guys coming up in the league who can be All-Stars, Superstars one day — Luka, Trae Ja, you know, those guys, I feel like my name should be in that category too,” (NYPost). He was not taken seriously by many people.
Herro came into the season following a 15/5/4 season. He has jumped to 21ppg while staying just about the same with his rebound and assist numbers. His shooting numbers have improved this season, his field goal percentage has gone up from 44% to 45%, not a noticeable difference, but when you look at his shots attempted, it becomes far more impressive. He is taking five more shots a game, and his fg% has gone up. His three point percentage has gone from 36% to 39% while taking two more per game.
Herro took all the negativity from his comments prior to the season, and is proving a lot of people wrong. His goal is to eventually be an all-star caliber player in the NBA and at 21 years of age, his improvement this early keep that goal within reach.
Ja Morant has been leading the Memphis Grizzlies since his rookie year. He has been an instant star for the Grizz. His scoring has taken a big leap this season, going from 19 ppg last season, up to 26ppg this season. He is averaging 26/7/6 this season, just doing everything on the floor. He has upped his rebounding by two per game, and his assist numbers have stayed pretty consistent at 7 since his rookie year.
Morant has been taking five more shots this season than last, with that his field goal percentage has gone up to 50% from 45%. He is also taking 5 more shots a game, a great boost in efficiency for a young player. His three point shot has also improved this season, he is taking 5 threes a game and is hitting 38% of them. A good improvement for a guy who shot just 30% from beyond the arc.
The one thing Morant needs to work on is his ball security, he has averaged over 3 turnovers in each of his first three seasons. Morant has been expected to become a star in the NBA, but it happening this soon is great news for the Grizzlies and their fans.
The entire Charlotte Hornets team has been playing above expectations this season. They sit at 10-8, 6th in the Eastern Conference. Miles Bridges has been playing at an extremely high level so far this season. Last season, he was averaging 12/6/2; this year, he has jumped that up to 21/7/3.
A great improvement, averaging an extra 9 ppg from last season. Coming into the NBA, Bridges draft comparison was Jerome Kersey. Kersey never averaged 20 ppg. Bridges in his fourth season has already surpassed that.
Coming into the league Bridges was mainly viewed as an athlete, with role player/potential starter in his future. Bridges has changed that this year, he has shown that he has all star potential. His shooting percentages have gone down, but that comes with him taking 6 more shots a game, including 3 more three pointers.
Bridges and Lamelo Ball are starting to build a strong core in Charlotte for the future.
Tyrese Maxey has been exceeding his expectations following his rookie year. He has taken advantage of the absence of Ben Simmons. Maxey has started every game this season; he has increased his scoring by 10 points up to 18ppg.
Maxeys’ field goal percentage (52%) and three point percentage (42%) have gone up, even with a significant increase in attempts. Maxey is playing himself into being the 76er’s starting point guard of the future. Making it much easier following a Ben Simmons trade.
Maxey being thrown into the starting lineup has been extremely beneficial to his improvement.
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