As the NBA season reaches the mid-way point, fans of the great game find themselves evaluating more then ever. Who’s playing at an All-Star level, who’s been a disappointment. Which teams are contenders and who looks set to tank, so many different angles to focus on. Every season there are teams and players who surprise us. Whether it be a playoff team below .500 or a player carrying or being carried by a team. In part two we will be looking at the players who have surprised us the most.
Check out Part One here.
One of the more impressive backcourt players in the NBA last season, was Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas. Standing at just 5’9” doesn’t stop the crafty guard from Tacoma, Washington playing at the highest level. Averaging a superb 28.7 points per game, some have compared Thomas to NBA Hall of Fame guard Allen Iverson. This season, the Celtics have their eyes set on playoff basketball and Thomas looks set to lead them there.
Playing the best basketball of his career, Thomas is set to be named an Eastern Conference All-Star. Many expected Thomas to be valuable this season, but the undersized guard has practically carried his team so far. This off-season all the attention in Boston was aimed at Al Horford. The big money signing was supposed to complement Thomas and help Boston contend for a high playoff seed. However, Horford is yet to find his form and Thomas has been a revaluation. From unwanted guard to potential All-Star, Thomas has become the Celtics hero for now and the foreseeable future.
Still only 21, Nikola Jokic was touted for NBA success after playing in last summer’s Rio Olympics with Serbia. Jokic would begin the season by losing his starting job to fellow European big man Jusuf Nurkic and Kenneth Faried. Averaging just 23 minutes per game through November, Jokic’s future in Denver looked shaky, to say the least. However head coach Mike Malone would have change of heart.
From December on, Jokic would play more and become a permanent fixture in the Nuggets starting lineup. Jokic and the Nuggets would benefit from the extra playing time. The Serbian center would go from 8.3 points per game in November, to 24.9 points so far this month. Jokic would go from a second-round pick falling out of the rotation to relied upon rising star in Denver. With young talents such as Jokic and Jamal Murray, Denver has a solid foundation to build on going forward.
The steal of the 2016 NBA Draft so far has been second-round pick, Malcolm Brogdon. Entering as one of the oldest rookies, Brogdon spent four years at Virginia. Brogdon averaged 18.4 points in his final season in college but still fell to the 36th pick. Milwaukee, of course, won’t be complaining, as Brogdon has become a valuable player in Jason Kidd’s rotation.
The highlight of Brogdon’s rookie campaign so far has been an impressive triple-double performance against the Chicago Bulls. Now playing 25 minutes a game, Brogdon is playing consistently strong basketball. Giannis Antetokounmpo attracts a lot of attention, which is great for Brogdon. The rookie can continue to play, without the eyes of the media constantly staring at him. Expect Brogdon to continue to play above expectations, whilst remaining under the radar in Milwaukee.
One of free agency’s bigger contracts was handed out by the Memphis Grizzlies. Small forward Chandler Parsons signed a four-year, $94 million deal with the Grizzlies. Since signing the lucrative deal, Parsons has left not only fans in Memphis disappointed but himself also. Playing just 18 games so far this season, Parsons is yet to earn his money. Now 28, Parsons was expected to be a leading player as Memphis attempts to make the playoffs. This hasn’t been the case, as injuries and poor form have led to the five-year NBA veteran averaging just 6.3 points this season.
It’s difficult to say if Parsons will be able to prove his worth to Grizzlies fans, with the forward physically unable to play more than 20 minutes per game. Hopefully, Parsons can have an injury free spell with the Grizzlies, and return to the 15 and five player he was last season in Dallas.
Trust the process! This has been the message that has been reverberated in Philadelphia for the last few years. In 2014, the Sixers franchise made the bold decision to draft Kansas center Joel Embiid. A risky decision which at first failed to produce. Embiid wouldn’t play for two years. Injuries from college continued to hinder Embiid and the Sixers. When Embiid finally took to the court, fans realized the Cameroonian was worth the wait.
On a minutes restriction, Embiid began to impress when available. Averaging 19.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 30 games. With No.1 overall pick Ben Simmons out with a foot injury, Embiid has been relied upon to keep the Sixers relevant. Embiid and others would achieve such goal, as the team surpassed last season’s win total earlier this month. Just six games back, Embiid and the Sixers have begun to talk about the playoffs. After winning just 10 games last season, Philadelphia has improved dramatically. Embiid, of course, played a big part, with the big man’s impact evident in the Sixers wins and losses turnover. With nine double-doubles to his name already, Sixers fans have been demanding Embiid be taken off his minutes restriction.
This is unlikely. As has been proved in this article, Sacramento and Phoenix should have been patient. Jokic remained patient, just like Brogdon on draft night. Grizzlies fans have to be patient with the injury-riddled Parsons, but hey look at what happened in Philadelphia.