The tip-off of the 2017/18 NBA season is just days away. Most of the rosters are set, and teams are playing preseason games all around the world. We have already seen some outstanding performances from the regular superstars, but is the showing by some formerly unknown and fringe players an indication that new stars are about to emerge in the league? Here are some outstanding names from the preseason games played so far.
Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans) Davis has played five seasons in the NBA, and in that time achieved All-Star status four times and has been on the All-NBA Team twice. Last season, Davis averaged 28.0 points and 11.8 rebounds per game on an average of 36.1 playing minutes per night. Davis has picked up where he left off: his 24.3 ppg average in the four games he has played so far is a league best; he is also averaging 10.7 rpg in just over 24.7 minutes per game.
Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers) Will Kuzma end the season proving to be the one that got away from Brooklyn? He was selected by the Nets with the 27th pick, and traded to the Lakers. In the Summer League, Kuzma averaged 21.9 ppg and 6.4 rpg in seven games, and his 30-point, 10-rebound performance in the Summer League championship game earned him MVP honors. Now, the rookie is averaging 19.5 ppg and 4.0 rpg from four pre-season games, all off the bench. All eyes are on Lonzo Ball, but Kuzma may be the joker in the Lakers pack.
Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers) Like Davis, Lillard has made two NBA All-Star appearances and been named on the All-NBA Team twice. Plus, he was named Rookie of the Year in 2013. He is averaging 20.8 ppg and 4.5 assists per game in the four preseason games Blazers have played so far. Looks like Dame is heading for another stellar season.
Hassan Whiteside (Miami Heat) Whiteside led the NBA in blocked shots in 2016, and he was named on the NBA All-Defensive Second Team the same year. Then, last season, he led the NBA in rebounds as he averaged 14.1 rpg over 77 games. The North Carolina native is back pounding the boards: his 11.5 rpg while playing only 21.5 minutes each night, is the most this preseason by all players who have played more than one game.
Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors) When ‘Chef’ Curry dropped 40 points in 31 minutes, including 6-of-9 3-pointers in the 142-110 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves in China on Sunday, it was a reminder of what he is capable of. The 2016 NBA scoring champion had totaled just 25 points, and tallied 4-of-13 from 3-point range in the previous two games. The Warriors lost both. The Warriors rocked in that third game; could it be it’s because the chef is cooking?
Marquese Chriss (Phoenix Suns) As the Suns sophomore forward, Chriss has set tongues wagging in the preseason. He is up with the best in the league with a 2.3 blocks-per-game pace that is difficult to keep up with. In his first preseason game, he swatted three balls in 15 minutes versus Portland. Against Utah, in the next game, he was on the floor for 25 minutes, and blocked four shots. Last season, he averaged 0.9 blocks per game. The most blocks he’s had in consecutive games was in the regular season, when he swatted 21 shots in eight games from March 3 through 17, 2017.
James Harden (Houston Rockets) The man in the midst of the controversial ‘leader-or-not’ storm, is the only player in the NBA preseason with a double-double in points and assists. He is averaging 20.3 ppg and 10.3 apg in 31.0 minutes in the three games the Rockets have played so far.
By Akinbode Oguntuyi
@booday10 on Twitter
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