A do-it-all playmaker (Luka Doncic), a mid-range master (Devin Booker), an individual highlight factory (Ja Morant) and the best shooter of all time (Stephen Curry) claimed the All-NBA First and Second Team guard spots last season.
They look even (and significantly) better to start the 2022-23 campaign.
One week of regular season play has hinted that all four superstar guards might have raised their respective games another tier. At the end of Monday night’s action, they made up half of the top eight leading scorers in the league.
Here’s a quick look at how each of them has gotten a white-hot jump on the rest of the NBA:
Last season: 28.4 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 8.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 45.7 FG%, 35.3 3FG%, 74.4 FT%, 25.1 PER
This season: 33.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 8.0 APG, 1.5 SPG, 47.8 FG%, 31.5 3FG%, 94.4 FT%, 35.4 PER
The league is in trouble if Doncic is getting to the line even more and keeps hitting free throws at this dramatically improved clip.
The increase in attempts, at least, could hold up if his 39.2% usage rate holds up. That’s even higher than the previous two seasons, when he was already leading the league. With Jalen Brunson off to New York and Christian Wood’s scoring talent saved for a spark-plug bench role (for now), it’s the Doncic show in Dallas.
That was enough to topple Memphis by a whopping 41 points on Saturday.
Last season: 26.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, 46.6 FG%, 38.3 3FG%, 86.8 FT%, 21.3 PER
This season: 32.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 5.3 APG, 0.7 SPG, 53.1 FG%, 52.9 3FG%, 95.0 FT%, 25.6 PER
Like Doncic, Booker is getting to the line more — and has missed just one attempt out of 20 to start the season. This is significant, as Booker has made the majority of his meals from mid-range since Chris Paul arrived in the desert. Now, the three-time All-Star’s drives and free throw attempts are closer to his pre-Paul rate.
The 3-point shooting is the other early eyebrow-raiser. Booker’s reputation has often seemed better than his actual output from beyond the arc. Last season’s 38.3% mark tied his career best. His current torrid pace likely won’t last, but even exceeding 40% would make one of the league’s best scorers an even more unguardable assignment, as the Clippers discovered on Sunday.
Last season: 25.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.2 SPG, 43.7 FG%, 38.0 3FG%, 92.3 FT%, 21.4 PER
This season: 33.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 47.0 FG%, 44.4 3FG%, 100 FT%, 27.2 PER
The sneaky and frightening secret to Golden State’s 2022 title run? They didn’t even have the best version of Curry.
Vintage Steph might be back now. Through three games the four-time NBA champ is matching or exceeding some of his best, MVP-quality seasons in both efficiency and totality.
One area where he’s especially feasting: The left angle 3, where he’s taken over one quarter (27.3%) of his shot attempts compared to just 19.9% last season. Curry has made 10 of his 18 tries from that area so far this season.
Comfort level has to help. Last season not only served as a reunion of sorts with Klay Thompson, but also provided more on-court reps with newer Warriors Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole. As a result, Golden State is outscoring opponents by 18.7 points per 100 possessions with Curry on the floor, compared to 10.7 last season. Curry’s individual plus-minus (+16.0) is fifth-best in the league.
Sacramento saw the Curry effect firsthand on Sunday, when he dropped 33 points in just 31 minutes of action.
Last season: 27.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 6.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 49.3 FG%, 34.4 3FG%, 76.1 FT%
This season: 35.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 7.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 54.8 FG%, 60.0 3FG%, 86.0 FT%
Morant could already drive, pass and darn near fly. Through four games, it looks like he might be able to shoot it now, too.
The former No. 2 overall pick isn’t upping his efficiency by playing it safe, either. Morant has hit two thirds of his 3s at a healthy clip of five attempts per game — all above the break (none from the corners).
Morant’s willingness and ability to stretch the floor hasn’t taken away from his elite driving game. Heck, the guy has upped his free-throw rate by a whopping 3.5 attempts per game. Only Christian Wood has averaged more freebies per game than Morant so far this season.
It doesn’t hurt that Morant has dramatically improved his free-throw shooting, either. The 23-year-old made 10 of his 11 attempts in Memphis’ win over Brooklyn on Monday.