ROUNDTABLE: Who Deserves More Love?
Who deserves some more love this NBA season?
Our writers answer below!
Aaron Gordon has improved every facet of his game. Here’s a list of all the areas where his game has improved, via Basketball Reference:
-Points per game
-Blocks per game
-Steals per game
-Assists per game
-Total rebounds per game
-Free throw rate and percentage
-Field goal percentage from two and three
-Effective field goal percentage
As I argued on the NBA Outlet, he is a legitimate contender for most improved player when you take into account how his all-round game has taken a significant upturn. Yes, the Magic suck, but it’s through no fault of Gordon, who if he keeps up this form will earn himself a big payday following the conclusion of the season.
Jonathan Ebrahimi/ @awrashoo
I think due to his rough start to the season, Kyle Lowry has flown a little under the radar this year. It seems that coming into every NBA season, the Raptors disrespected by the mainstream media, with both ESPN and Sports Illustrated predicting that the Raptors would not finish in the top 4 of the lowly Eastern. Through 25 games the Raptors are once again one of the top teams in the NBA having the third highest net rating in the league behind the Warriors and Rockets.
Lowry’s strong play on both ends of the court is what keeps the Raptors playing at an elite level. Yes, DeMar DeRozan is the star of the show but Lowry is just as important to the success of this squad. So far this season, Lowry is giving the Raptors 17 PTS 7 REB and 7 AST while acting as the maestro behind the NBA’s fourth best offense.
Eric Bledsoe from the Milwaukee Bucks.
Remember that guy who the Phoenix Suns sent home and forced themselves to trade? Bledsoe has been an excellent fit so far in Milwaukee, giving Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and the Bucks another lethal scoring option. The Bucks and Bledsoe don’t get a lot of TV time due to a smaller market, but make no mistake. The guy can hoop and has been doing it most of his career. He’s a feisty point guard who can guard opposing guards in this league. His numbers of 18.0 PPG 4.0 RPG 4.2 APG isn’t going to warrant much attention, but it’s the 1.9 steals per game Bledsoe is averaging, good for fifth-best in the league. Bledsoe is capable of handling the ball and has averaged nearly five assists per game in his career. A point guard with the athleticism to create havoc on defense and the ability to drop 30 all in one game don’t come by often. After all, they don’t call him mini-LeBron for nothing.
The Bucks believe he’s another piece of the puzzle in which he can certainly take some pressure off of Antetokounmpo. They wanted to address some of the team’s needs - toughness, athleticism, speed and quickness were at the top of the list. Bledsoe fits that bill perfectly, as The Bucks is looking like a top-four team in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks are 11-4 since Bledsoe’s debut, and they are going to be a tough out in the playoffs.
Give me Clint Capela! Houston is on a roll, and James Harden is having one of the best offensive seasons ever. Chris Paul has fit into the machine almost seamlessly. However, one of the biggest reasons Houston is destroying everyone is Clint Capela. This guy is a legitimate candidate for the most improved player and should be a first-time all-star. He is sixth in the entire league in PER. Capela is also posting a ridiculous 67.9 true shooting percentage. He is the perfect roll partner for Harden and now Paul, with his great hands and ability to finish above the rim. That is why he is averaging 13.7 points, 11 rebounds, 1.8 blocks on 67% shooting. All career highs. He also has fixed his biggest flaws. His free throw shooting is now up to 60% after only being 46% for his career. Capela is even playmaking a little this season. His assist ratio is a career bet 9.4. He is no longer just a one trick pony. According to synergy sports, he has a ridiculous 68 percent score frequency as a roll man. That is insane and one of the best marks in the league. Houston and Harden are getting a lot of credit, but Capela needs more of the praise, he is dominating right now.
A player who has not received enough love for what he has done so far is J.J. Redick. Redick is averaging 17 points a game for a Philadelphia 76ers team that last year only won 28 games. This year through 27 games they are in the playoff hunt and have won 14 games. Redick is a big-time compliment to the post production that Joel Embiid has produced and when Ben Simmons is looking for a shooter Redick is always there. He is shooting 39 percent from the three-point line and shooting about 95 percent from the free throw line. Along with Robert Covington, Redick helps the Sixers have shooting that is able to break games open for them. Redick is behind Simmons and Embiid in scoring and he has been an X-factor this season for the Sixers. If the Sixers are the 5th seed or higher, the signing of Redick was probably the biggest of the offseason.
Damian Lillard isn't getting the praise he deserves thus far this season. In a stacked Western Conference, the 14-13 Portland Trail Blazers are the 6th seed. Jusuf Nurkic hasn't been playing at his best and we've only seen flashes of C.J. McCollum, so Portland is on the shoulders of Lillard. This season Lillard is averaging around 26 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds. More important is his performance as of late, even with the Trail Blazers 5 game losing streak. Even more impressive is his performance against the defending NBA champions. Against the Golden State Warriors Damian Lillard averages 39 points, 2 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals. Those are amazing numbers against a great all round team offensively and defensively. People don't seem to be noticing Damian Lillard.