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NBA’s early shining stars

By Eddie Alinea
Thu, 08 Nov 2018

The 2K19 NBA season might only be going into its first month, but we already have an idea about the trends taking place around the world’s biggest and most prestigious pro-basketball league.

The three-peat seeking Golden State Warriors remain the envy of the league, with Stephen Curry playing at an all-time great level. Over at the East, Kawhi Leonard has his Toronto Raptors as one of the top contenders in the conference.

There are some campaigners who have so far shown impressive performances and, naturally, bear watching in the race for the season MVP.

And Curry could very well be in the midst of the best individual season in NBA history. What he’s done thus far is just otherworldly. The three-time champ enters this week’s action leading the NBA in scoring at 32.5 points per game. He’s shooting 50-plus percent from both the field and three-point range.

Curry also boasts an absurd .682 effective field goal percentage and is on pace to nail 482 three-pointers. That would shatter his previous NBA record by 80. More to the point, he ranks No. 1 in the Association in efficiency, offensive win shares, offensive plus-minus and value over replacement. Yeah, this man is just ridiculous right now.

It’s almost like Leonard is still an MVP-caliber player after missing almost all of last season with the Spurs to injury. Not only has he helped Toronto to a 9-1 start to the season, but the team ranks in the top seven in both points scored and points allowed.

Statistically, Leonard is averaging what would be career highs in points (26.1) and rebounds (7.6). He’s also shooting 50 percent from the field and 45 percent from distance. If that wasn’t enough, Leonard ranks among the top-five small forwards in defensive rating.

Nikola Jokic, of the Denver Nuggets could a big man who actually average a triple-double. This 23-year-old prodigy is moving forward, because his all-around game has been taken to a whole new level. He’s averaging 18 points, 10 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game. Yes, the NBA boasts a center who ranks seventh among all players in assists.

Damian Lillard of the Portland Blazers has a ton of credit for its improvement on defense. In an NBA that has seen scoring take off this season, Portland ranks sixth in that category at under 107 points per game.

Lillard’’s bread and butter remains offense and shooting. That’s where He ranks second behind Curry in player efficiency and is tied with the two-time NBA MVP in offensive win shares. Lillard is averaging a cool 28.1 points per game.

Curry’s teammate Draymond is already flirting with averaging a triple-double, putting up 8.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 8.5 assists to go with two steals per game. He’s also shooting at a ridiculous 60 percent from two-point range through 10 games.

Defensively, Green ranks 11th in plus-minus and 12th in win shares. He’s been the glue to hold this whole thing together for a two-time defending champion Warriors team that’s 9-1 on the season and could be historically good when all is said and done.

Give a healthy Blake Griffin of the Detroit Pistons the keys to the kingdom, and watch him take off. While the All-Star couldn’t have been happy about exchanging the allure of Hollywood for Motor City halfway through last season, he’s now playing the best basketball of his career. Griffin enters this week’s action averaging 28.6 points, 10.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists. He’s also shooting at a ridiculous 46 percent clip from distance.

There’s little doubt in our mind that the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the clear front-runners for the NBA MVP Award through the first nine games of the season. He has Milwaukee at 8-1 on the season. The team ranks second in the Association in scoring and has allowed the fifth-fewest points.

Fresh off a solid run with the defending champion Warriors, JaValle McGee has taken his game to a new level with LeBron James in Los Angeles. It’s quite astonishing to see just how well this guy has played after being a laughingstock earlier in his career.

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