Now that we’re a few weeks into the 2016-17 NBA season, we’re beginning to accumulate enough data to begin to decipher a few things about players and teams around the league.
Is it a complete picture after every team has played about 10 games? No. But there is now a big enough window to try deciphering what can be monitored in order to know if some trends set thus far — both good and bad — will continue moving forward.
Here are a few of them:
DeMar DeRozan’s midrange shooting
The NBA’s leading scorer so far this season, averaging a robust 33.3 points per game, DeRozan looks to be the latest player to benefit from participating with Team USA. But the way DeRozan is doing it might indicate that number will start falling precipitously sometime soon.
Through Toronto’s first 11 games of the season, DeRozan is absolutely on fire from the midrange. As the NBA has evolved into a league focused on shooting at the rim or behind the three-point arc — the two most efficient places from which to shoot — DeRozan is a throwback to an earlier time. He shooting a ridiculous 79-for-146 (54.1 percent) from 10 feet out to the three-point line, far above the typical average for those shots, which is around 40 percent.
Given that DeRozan — one of the best midrange shooters in the league — shot 38.4 percent from the same range a year ago, staying well above 50 percent from the same range this year doesn’t seem sustainable.
Minnesota’s third quarter woes
If the Minnesota Timberwolves only played first, second and fourth quarters, they’d be one of the best teams in the NBA. In terms of raw plus-minus point totals, the Timberwolves have been the third best team in those combined three quarters, outscoring opponents by 109 points even before Thursday night’s destruction of the Philadelphia 76ers. Only the Atlanta Hawks (125) and Los Angeles Clippers (119) have been better.
But when those pesky third quarters are added in, the numbers look far different. Minnesota had been outscored by an insane 91 points in the third quarter through its first 10 games, which is a big reason why the Timberwolves have allowed several teams to come back from huge deficits early in the season to beat them.
With Tom Thibodeau as coach, the expectation is the young Wolves will improve as the season progresses. Getting his charges to be better right after halftime will be a good place to start.
James Harden’s dishing and swishing
While there has understandably been plenty of attention paid to Russell Westbrook’s nuclear start, his former teammate in Oklahoma City, James Harden, is having a similarly molten beginning to his year with the Houston Rockets.
Not only is Harden averaging over 28 points per game, but he’s leading the league with over 12 assists per game — something no NBA player has done since John Stockton in 1995. Harden looks to be in strong position to potentially become the second player since Tiny Archibald in 1973 to lead the league in both scoring and assists in the same season.
Harden appears to be the perfect fit for Mike D’Antoni’s offense we all expected he would be when D’Antoni got Houston head coaching job this summer — and it doesn’t feel like Harden will stop putting up absurd numbers anytime soon.
Stephen Curry’s three-point shooting
Before the season, there was plenty of talk about Curry potentially having to take a back seat to Kevin Durant — or to the tandem of Durant and Klay Thompson — in order to allow everyone to get enough touches.
Well, it didn’t take long for that theory to be proven wrong.
As usual, Curry is both firing up and making three-pointers at the kind of prodigious rate that only he is capable of. He has knocked down 51 threes through 11 games — putting him on pace to make 380 this year, just a shade lower than the record-setting 402 he made a year ago. Considering no one else in the league remains on pace to even make 250, it’s clear Curry’s place as the greatest shooter in the league — both now and of all-time — won’t be changing anytime soon.
Brook Lopez and Marc Gasol becoming gunners
Lopez and Gasol have long been known as effective shooters out to the three-point line offensively, but neither ever showed much of an interest in stretching their range beyond the arc.
Enter this season. With new coaches in Brooklyn (Kenny Atkinson) and Memphis (David Fizdale) the two all-star centers have apparently been given the green light to let it fly from deep, and the results have been obvious.
Gasol, who set the Internet alight with his glorious dance after hitting a game-winning three to beat the Clippers in Los Angeles on Wednesday, has already made 16 three-pointers this season after making 12 combined in the first eight seasons of his career. Lopez, on the other hand, has already made 16 from deep after making just three in his first eight seasons.
Even if both of them slow down somewhat as the season progresses, it’s seems clear they have each made shooting the three a permanent part of their offensive repertoires moving forward.