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News

Are These Guys For Real?

January 12, 2018

By Jeffrey Pulver - ATG Sports Writer

A couple of weeks into the NBA season a lot of players are greatly outperforming their expectations. This happens every year. Some of these players will be the real deal, and some will fizzle into mediocrity. We are here to tell you who is for real and who is taking us for a ride!

(Statistics accurate through 11/06/2017)

Kristaps Porzingis

What a start for KP! Across the board you see pretty comparable production to last year , until you see that he has increased his scoring by 12 points per game. So how did this happen? Two major departures from New York pretty much sum it up. The triangle offense followed Phil Jackson into retirement , and Carmelo Anthony was traded to the thunder in a deal that also included his 18.8 shots per game. Is it pretty much that simple . Porzingis has been given more freedom in this new offense and he is taking 7.3 more shots per game. These shots are coming closer to the rim at his sweet spot between 10 and 16 feet. KP has also learned to attack the basket with more aggressiveness, getting to the free throw line twice as much as last year. He is playing more minutes at power forward where hardly anyone can contest his high release. Will Porzingis go on to average 30 points all season? That seems like a stretch, but his game has taken a major step up , and he has moved into the class of elite big men in this league.

Season

PPG

RPG

APG

SPG

BPG

FG%

3 FG%

MPG

17-18

30.2

7.8

1.0

0.7

2.2

.500%

.357

33.4

16-17

18.1

7.2

1.5

0.4

2.0

.450

.357

32.8

Victor Oladipo

When Paul George was traded to the Thunder, the widespread view around the league was that it was one of the most lopsided deals in history. Now it’s fair to ask if the Pacers won the trade. Damontas Sabonis has been averaging about 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Oladipo has been putting on a shooting clinic. Here’s the deal, Oladipo was limited in Oklahoma because he was on the same floor as the scoring champion and his role was bound to increase this season because someone has to shoot on that bad Pacers team , right ? His scoring was likely to increase , but this level of production seems unsustainable. So far the Pacers have the 6th rated offense in the NBA and they boast a 5 - 5 record. This team does not have the talent to be a .500 team in the NBA, and their offensive numbers have been inflated by playing some poor teams such as the Nets, Kings, 76ers and Knicks. They have also caught Cleveland with numerous injured players and the Spurs while Kawhi Leonard is out of the lineup. When the offense slows down , it will be more difficult for Oladipo to get his shot off. He is also shooting career highs from 2 - point and 3 - point range. His three point percentage has increased every year, but right now he is on pace to be one of the best shooters in the league. Oladipo will continue to be good but I see him averaging about 18 or 19 points per game on a bad team, which is not the same as the all - star season he has put together so far.

Season

PPG

RPG

APG

SPG

BPG

FG%

3 FG%

MPG

17-18

23.8

4.3

3.8

1.5

0.7

0.480

0.446

32.5

16-17

15.9

4.3

2.6

1.2

0.3

0.442

0.361

33.2

Evan Fournier

It’s not a good sign that this is Fournier’s sixth season and many people reading this don’t know who he is. Fournier has been a fine player in his career but he hasn’t been a star like this for an entire season. Déjà vu, we have seen this before. Two years ago Fournier started the year just as well and fell off to be an average player. He averaged 19.4 points per game through 12 games , and averaged less than 15 points from there on . He also shot just 2/14 in his last game . H is shooting percentages are much higher than his career averages, and his role is likely to decrease slightly when Elfrid Payton comes back from injury. I am not buying into this hot streak .

Season

PPG

RPG

APG

SPG

BPG

FG%

3 FG%

MPG

17-18

20.3

4.7

3.5

1.2

0.2

0.507

0.474

33.8

16-17

17.2

3.1

3.5

1.0

0.1

0.439

0.356

32.9

 Kyle Kuzma

Where did this guy come from? Kuzma was the 27th pick in this year’s draft and he has forced his way into a huge roll on the Lakers. After averaging 16 points per game as a Junior at Utah, he was a stand out in the summer league averaging 19 points per game and getting the award for best performance in the summer league championship game . Then he led L.A. in scoring during the preseason with 17 points per game , and he has averaged over 15 points early in this regular season. Kuzma’s scoring instincts and shooting ability have surprised analysts across the league. He was not an outstanding shooter in college, but he shot 48% from 3 in the summer league and he has been very respectable from the perimeter at 33 % from three on four attempts per game. After an injury to Larry Nance Jr. last week, Kuzma jumped into the starting lineup and he has flashed strong rebounding ability , averaging 12.5 rebounds per game in his first 2 starts. The way he is playing, his role will only increase throughout the year. This guy is looking like the steal of the draft and the best Lakers rookie so far this year.

Season

PPG

RPG

APG

SPG

BPG

FG%

3 FG%

MPG

17-18

15.4

6.3

1.4

0.5

0.1

0.563

0.333

29.1

Aaron Gordon

Aaron Gordon got robbed at the 2016 Slam Dunk Contest , putting on one of the most jaw dropping athletic performances the league has ever seen. His all - around game , however , has never been as impressive as his dunking ability. Gordon seems to be breaking out this season , but will it last? First of all, it actually looks like he has improved his shot. That being said, it is pretty obvious that he cannot continue to make 56% of his three pointers. Gordon has never even shot 30% from the three point line. All he needs to do is become a legitimate threat from the outside, which will force players to close out harder and open up lanes to the rim where he has the ability to finish over anyone in the league. You can see Blake Griffin’s game opening up this year because of that same respectable three point shot. I believe Gordon can hit 33% percent from three, and I believe that he will post a career high in scoring, but his numbers won’t look this good at the end of the year. Gordon and Fournier will eventually come back to reality and the Magic will too. Even if this shooting does not continue, Gordon has the potential to be a very good starter in this league if he learns how to get to the spots on the floor where he can dominate . It is great to see Aaron Gordon playing well and I hope he continues to have a good, healthy year that he can build on.

Season

PPG

RPG

APG

SPG

BPG

FG %

3 FG%

MPG

17-18

19.1

8.9

2.3

1.0

0.9

.533

.559

31.1

16-17

12.7

5.1

1.9

0.8

0.5

.454

.288

28.7

 

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