We’re only 8-10 games into the NBA season, but we’ve got some superstars off to blazing hot starts and some young players developing a whole lot sooner than we thought. Take a look at who’s been dominating so far this season, using a few categories to separate them:
James Harden — PG, Houston Rockets
30.0 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 13.0 APG, 31.2 PER
My preseason MVP pick has only made me more confident in my choice after seeing his performance through nine games. Harden is literally doing EVERYTHING for the Rockets — who’ve managed to begin the season 5-4 despite seven of their first nine games being on the road. The assist numbers are almost beyond belief, as Harden’s averaging 30 a game but still assisting on more points than he’s scoring (and has five games with 15+ dimes).
Russell Westbrook — PG, Oklahoma City Thunder
31.9 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 10.1 APG, 31.3 PER
We knew Russ would be a fantasy legend this season, but we didn’t know he’d be putting up these kind of numbers while carrying OKC to a 6-4 start. Who needs KD? Westbrook has upped his scoring by eight points with slightly less playing time. He’s ready to carry an even larger load than we expected, particularly when it comes to the win column.
Anthony Davis — PF, New Orleans Pelicans
31.3 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.9 SPG, 3.0 BPG, 31.4 PER
Davis opened the season with games of 50 and 45 points, and although we knew he couldn’t keep that pace, he’s still dropped 30+ five more times including each one of his last four games. He’s taken his scoring to the next level (by about seven PPG), but is still stuffing the stat sheet, as you see above. This is the Anthony Davis we’ve always imagined, now we just need him to stay healthy and find some help. This 1-9 roster isn’t cutting it.
I Didn’t Know They Were THIS Good
Kawhi Leonard — SF, San Antonio Spurs
25.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.6 APG, 29.2 PER
Kawhi’s still just 25-years old and entered this season as a future MVP on most people’s minds. That MVP award was thought to be earned on defensive ability along with offensive efficiency … but nothing too fancy. Yet in the early going, Leonard sits behind Isaiah Thomas in 11th in the league in scoring. He’s taken his scoring to another level without sacrificing a thing on defense. He’ll be in the MVP conversation for the next five years playing like this.
DeMar DeRozan — SG, Toronto Raptors
34.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 3.2 APG, 31.3 PER
DeRozan has always been a nice player, but did anyone ever see him as a potential league leader in scoring? I don’t think so. He’s nearly doubling his career scoring average this season, going from 18.3 PPG to 34.0. And it’s not like he’s new to the NBA — DeRozan was the ninth-overall pick back in 2009. I can’t help myself from expecting some regression here, but he’s clearly in line for a career season. DeRozan has had some monster scoring nights in tough matchups thus far, creating an even more impressive resume.
Harrison Barnes — SF, Dallas Mavericks
22.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 0.9 APG, 19.5 PER
After spending his career as the fourth-option (at best), Barnes is finally seeing what it’s like to have his own team. He’s leading the league in minutes at 38.1 per game and has a solid usage rate of 25. Some of his extra production can be attributed to Dirk missing time, but this is what we expected when Barnes made the move to Dallas — a much expanded role. Barnes’ hot start has much more to do with his opportunity than actual improvements to his game, but that doesn’t take away the numbers he’s putting up.
Avery Bradley — SG, Boston Celtics
18.4 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 3.9 APG, 18.0 PER
Bradley is averaging career-highs across the board. His scoring improvements have gotten a lot of hype (and well deserved), but his most impressive improvement has to be his rebounding. Bradley is leading the Celtics in rebounds as a 6’2” SG. He’s been Westbrook-esque on the boards for his size. The downside is that, unlike Leonard, Bradley hasn’t been able to keep up his effort on the defensive end, where he was first-team all NBA last season. That won’t hurt his DFS dominance, though, so I’ll keep firing him up in my lineups.
Ahead Of The Curve
Zach LaVine — SG, Minnesotta Timberwolves
19.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.5 APG, 18.4 PER
Wiggins, and specifically Towns, are two of the brightest young stars in the game and are playing that way. But just take a peek at LaVine’s numbers — he’s a major part of the Wolves’ young core. He’s shooting 46 percent from downtown, including a 7-for-9 performance two games ago, in which he dropped 37 on Orlando (his second 30+ point effort of the season). There’s a chance LaVine (and eventually Kris Dunn) give Minnesota the best core group in the league one day. But for now, LaVine is balling a lot better than anybody thought.
T.J. Warren — SF, Phoenix Suns
20.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.2 APG, 18.3 PER
After averaging 9.8 points over his first two seasons, Warren has finally gone back to his college ways. He’s averaging 20.0 points this season and playing nearly 16 more minutes per game this season. Warren is the best pure scorer in the NBA that nobody knows about, plain and simple. They’ll know soon enough.
Sean Kilpatrick — SG, Brooklyn Nets
15.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.7 APG, 15.9 PER
Kilpatrick has been forced into action for a really bad Nets team, but the results are the results. Kilpatrick can play. Given the talent they have there, Brooklyn could use a skilled scorer with good feel for the game at both guard positions for the rest of the season. I’d guess his hot start keeps him far more in the rotation this season than he was expected to be.
For questions or comments hit me up on Twitter @julianedlow.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is jedlow) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.