We are precisely around two months into the 2017-18 NBA season and this season has brought more surprises than a big jolly fat man could ever bring you. Whether it be a player having an unexpected comeback season to another player proving that they can be “the man” in a new city.
Many other awesome storylines are unraveling for fans to enjoy after what was arguably the greatest off-season in NBA history. In this article, we at Fadeaway are looking deeper at 5 NBA talents have beaten expectations and shut down critics. How do you shut up a hater? You hit the hardwood and ball up. Let your game fall where it may. These 5 players are have silenced their haters so far on this young NBA season.
5. Dwight Howard
The 32-year-old big man struggled last year with his hometown team, the Atlanta Hawks and had a very forgettable season. What was meant to be a happy trip home for Superman, turned into a mess real quickly? The way the Hawks were using Howard did not benefit him. A big man needs to get fed in the post. Howard averaged his fewest shot attempts during the 2016-17 season with Atlanta since his rookie season in Orlando. Howard only attempted 8.3 shots a game this past season.
Over the 2017 offseason, Howard was shipped to the Charlotte Hornets for Marco Belinelli, Miles Plumlee, and the 41st pick in the 2017 draft. Many people felt Dwight Howard was just trending water and that he would fade into obscurity. Well, it sucks to be wrong, and many of us owe D12 an apology. This happy go lucky big man has been reunited with Steven Clifford, who was an assistant coach for the Orlando Magic for 5 years of Howard’s tenure there (2007-12).
To make a long story shorter, Dwight Howard is averaging 16.4 ppg with the Hornets to go along 12.4 rpg on 55% shooting. Howard’s scoring average with the Hornets is his highest since the 2013-14 season when he was a member of the Houston Rockets. Howard’s rebounding average is good for 5th in the NBA. Howard is having a campaign of resurgence.
4. Kyrie Irving
The past offseason, in a blockbuster deal between the two top teams in the Eastern Conference, we saw Kyrie Irving be sent from Cleveland to Boston for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and the 2018 Brooklyn Pick. Many people cited Boston as the ultimate losers of this exchange, not many believed in Irving’s ability to step out LeBron’s shadow and be “the man”. Kyrie Irving was a viewed as a one-dimensional isolation scorer with flashy handles. Some critics argued that he was nothing before LeBron arrived and will be nothing without LeBron.
Let’s fast forward to the 2017-18 season opener where the Celtics met the Cavaliers in which the Celtics were battle tested despite losing one of their projected top players in Gordon Hayward. The Celtics would have to change their whole season game plan in an instant. Kyrie Irving was going to be depended on even more, but what people forget is this was not just any team that Kyrie was a part of. This was the Boston Celtics, a well-oiled machine coached by one of the best in Brad Stevens. The Celtics would lose their first two of that season, then respond by winning 16 straight. In what was deemed as a historical sequence of events.
Led by the brilliance of Kyrie Irving who currently sitting in the top 5 in the MVP race. Irving has become a better two way player under Brad Stevens something that was not able to happen for him in Cleveland. He is 12th in defensive win shares and 7th in the league in offensive win shares. By those two metrics, he is developing into a true two way player for the best team in the east.
3. D’Angelo Russell
Magic came to LA, there was room for Lonzo Ball, but none for a former 2nd overall pick in the 2015 draft, D’Angelo Russell. Many believed the Nets gained a surefire bust in D’Angelo Russell, after a legend in Magic Johnson dismissed him to build around Lonzo Ball instead. D’Angelo Russell played just 12 games before going down to a knee injury.
It is not season ending, the team is bringing him along slowly.
However, in those 12 outings, Russell gave us NBA viewers goosebumps with his serious offensive skill making the Brooklyn Nets a competitive force in what has a been a tougher east than previously forecast this year. In 12 outings, Russell averaged 20.9 ppg, 5.7 apg and 4.7 apg on 46% shooting.
Brooklyn fans got a taste of what their so-called promising star can do. It has been a great experiment for a team that is still reeling from the infamous Nets-Celtics trade in the 2013 offseason. Jahlil Okafor, you want to silence the haters?
2. Joel Embiid
Joel Embiid is playing and the Sixers are winning. The former 3rd overall pick in 2014 is averaging over 30 mpg nightly. Joel Embiid is proving to be one of best all-around big men in the game today. The center with an infectious personality and tweet ability has been a consistently available presence on both ends of the court this year.
The Sixers have went from Trust the Process to See the Progress. Embiid is averaging MVP caliber numbers in his second season. Embiid is averaging 23.7 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 3.4 apg and 1.9 bpg on 49% shooting.
Embiid is proving to be the real deal in Philadelphia, he has this old-school vibe with his trash talking and the amount of fun he has on the court. Comparable to my excitement on Christmas morning. Embiid keeps it real and whether you love or hate him. You can’t deny that’s he’s extremely entertaining to watch. Not a debate to be won or had simply.
1. LaMarcus Aldridge
LaMarcus Aldridge had been through the rigors with his game having to be altered to fit coach Popovich’s system. In doing that, LA’s performance declined and his effort seemed halfhearted.
It really showed last postseason, when Aldridge averaged a pedestrian 16.5 ppg and 7.4 rpg on 45% shooting and a paltry 14% from 3. Popovich takes full blame of Aldridge’s struggles last season, citing it was the way he being used. Popovich opened up to the media before the Spurs season opener:
“I did talk with him several times over the summer. He just didn’t feel comfortable — and it was 98.75% on me. But I tried to change him. I thought back to when Timmy came and people asked me ‘What are you gonna do with Tim Duncan?’ I said nothing. I’m just gonna watch him for 6 months and see what he does. He’s a pretty good player. LaMarcus, he got here on day one. I said OK you’re gonna do this; you’re gonna do this pump fake — I tried to change him. I tried to make him a different player. I think that really affected his ability to feel comfortable and confident on the court. And we took care of that, basically by me, letting him know that were gonna do it differently and that it was on me, and not on him.”
That statement says it all. Even, great coaches mess up with great players. Something had to give.
That’s exactly what would happen. This season, LA kept the Spurs afloat in a tough Western Conference. LA has been playing his best basketball since his Portland days. Aldridge is averaging 22.7 ppg and 8.3 rpg. When an All-Star caliber big man gets his comfort level back, the NBA should be prepped for an attack.
There are many players that jump out of nowhere every season and shock a consensus. They put the haters to rest because preconceived notions about certain players hold no weight anymore. Dwight Howard is balling again, Kyrie is locking down guys, D’Angelo Russell is finding his niche in this game, Joel Embiid is staying healthy, and LA is a star again. Have a blessed day!