Blogtable Archive

Blogtable: Biggest offensive surprise so far in 2017-18?

Each week, we ask our scribes to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.

From Staff

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Thinking only in terms of offense, what’s the biggest surprise of the season so far?

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David Aldridge: For me, it’s still Orlando, which has done a 180 from last year’s points-challenged squad (101.1 ppg, 24th in the league last season; 109.8 ppg, seventh in the league this season). Yes, the Magic added Jonathan Simmons, Marreese Speights and Shelvin Mack. And Simmons has given Orlando a lift off the bench (15 ppg). But none of those players were (and are) thought of as dynamic offensive talents. They don’t explain how Aaron Gordon has gone from shooting 28.8 percent on 3-pointers last season to 51.9 percent this season, or Nikola Vucevic going from 30.7 percent behind the arc last season to 40.3 percent this season. Give both the players and Orlando’s coaching and development staff credit for improving from within rather than throwing major free agent bucks at the problem.

Steve Aschburner: OK, free throws aren’t the most exciting plays — wait, they’re actually among the most boring. But that doesn’t mean Andre Drummond’s improvement from 38.1 percent in his first five NBA seasons to this season’s relative nose-bleed heights, 63.2 so far, isn’t notable. Working over the summer with trainer Idan Ravin, Drummond got in better shape overall, then tweaked things all the way down to his breathing at the line. His percentage got dinged by an 0-for-7 night against the Pacers last week, but the Pistons won that game. And a 66 percent improvement in any offensive category – from Drummond’s old rate to his current one – is remarkable, however boring.

Shaun Powell: Yes, he’s getting more shots with Carmelo Anthony out of town. But Kristaps Porzingis is has raised his scoring average by more than 10 points a game from 2016-17. That’s not a jump, that’s a triple-jump, and fairly rare in the NBA. The biggest reason is the quality of his shots, not just the quantity. He finally ditched the idea of being a stretch five — which is silly for someone with his 7-foot-3 height — and is finding comfort near the rim where he has mismatches, and at mid-range (he’s shooting 49.8 percent, up nearly eight percent from his rookie season). I love the idea of Kristaps using his height in the right way and being a threat everywhere on the floor, not just beyond the stripe

John Schuhmann: The Boston Celtics have struggled offensively at times, especially when they haven’t had both Kyrie Irving and Al Horford on the floor, but Jayson Tatum has been a rare rookie perimeter player who has scored efficiently. Through Tuesday, Tatum has a true shooting percentage of 63.4 percent, the 18th best mark among 150 players who have taken at least 100 shots from the field. The Celtics have put him in positions to succeed, with most of his offense coming against a defense in rotation, but no other rookie (and very few in recent memory) could take advantage of those situations as well as Tatum has. He has shot well off the catch (he ranks third in catch-and-shoot 3-point percentage among players with at least 25 attempts), he has a solid, one-dribble pull-up jumper, and he can get to the basket and to the line, ranking 20th in free throw rate (41 attempts per 100 shots from the field) among those same 150 players who have taken at least 100 shots. There’s no hesitation when he attacks close-outs. He reads the defense well and knows where he’s going with the ball.

Sekou Smith: Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t yet what anyone would call a polished offensive player, and yet he’s leading the league in scoring at 31.3 points per game. Consider me surprised. And not just that he’s done it, but at the way he’s doing it. He doesn’t thrive on a steady dose of 3-point attempts, like many other of the league’s top scorers. And he’s not a back-to-the-basket big man feeding off of a large amount of post up plays. Seeing him emerge as a 23-point scorer by the end of his fourth season was a natural progression that made plenty of sense. But to cross that 30-point plateau now, and to do it the way he has, certainly strikes as one of the more pleasant offensive surprises of this early season. If he finishes the season leading the league in scoring and anywhere in the neighborhood of 30 or more points per game, then “The Greek Freak” world takeover is upon us.

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