You don’t exactly have to look hard to find a former Kentucky Wildcat making a strong impact in the early portion of the NBA season through almost 10 games.
Anthony Davis is now in Los Angeles with LeBron James and the Lakers and showing a much bigger audience that he’s truly one of the game’s best players, while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has flourished since departing Los Angeles in the blockbuster Paul George trade this past season.
Karl-Anthony Towns has been a one-man wrecking crew (physically and basketball-wise) to start the season in Minnesota, while Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns have been one of the league’s biggest surprises in the early going with five wins in their first seven games.
Even the youngest of the young Cats like PJ Washington (15.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG) and Tyler Herro (13.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG) have been true positives for their respective new teams so far. Herro’s fit right into the Miami Heat rotation, while Washington looks like a legitimate front-runner for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award through about the first eighth of the campaign.
The rather humorous part about these names is that I haven’t gotten to the likes of De’Aaron Fox, Bam Adebayo, Hamidou Diallo, the (somewhat) freshly-paid Jamal Murray, an improving Kevin Knox, Skal Labissiere, Julius Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein.
Here’s a look at the five best #BBNBA performers in the (very) early portion of the NBA season, starting with the most-talked about player since around last season’s trade deadline.
Anthony Davis is free from mediocrity and it shows
Only three players in the ESPN database have scored more fantasy basketball points so far this season than Anthony Davis: Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning NBA MVP; James Harden, a former league MVP and two-time runner-up, and Damian Lillard, one of the league’s deadliest sharpshooters and best floor generals.
So far this season for the 6-1 Lakers, Davis has averaged 26.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, 3.0 blocks, 2.7 assists and a steal per game alongside LeBron James.
Those numbers seem decent, but that’s just one blogger’s opinion.
The Lakers will be one of the league’s top teams all season long and Davis’ long journey towards become an NBA champion for the first time could come to an end, but the other team that occupies the Staples Center might have something to say about all that.
Karl-Anthony Towns has been playing like the league’s best center
Although stars like Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic and Andre Drummond are excellent and have excelled out of the gate this season, you could make a strong case that the best center in that group isn’t even listed.
Karl-Anthony Towns has looked the part and has played the part immaculately so far this season for the Timberwolves, averaging 26.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.8 blocks per contest, along with registering two 35+ points games already this season.
He’s not there yet, but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is on his way to the top of the NBA point guard rankings
If you asked me to make a list of my five favorite John Calipari players during his time in Lexington, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is on that list and I don’t even have to think twice about it. (In no order, it’s Davis, Wall, SGA, Washington and Fox, but moving on ...)
I was rather sad when I saw that SGA was the prized piece to the Paul George trade that the Clippers had to move to land George and pair him with Kawhi Leonard this past offseason because that Clippers team with those two and SGA would be absolutely lethal, especially on the defensive end.
Despite a move to a new city and a new team in Oklahoma City, SGA has balled out and has looked like the star the Thunder are hoping he would become.
In his first seven games, SGA has averaged 22.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists for the Thunder with a true shooting percentage of 57.8 percent.
He’s gonna be so good and he has been already this season.
PJ Washington > George Washington, the nation’s first president and the university too, I guess
To the surprise of nobody, former Duke forward Zion Williamson was virtually the unanimous choice to win the rookie of the year award this season, but after this seven-game for Washington, he’s already hurled his name into early contention.
Hell, in his first game, Washington drained seven (!) of his 11 (!!) 3-point attempts for a 27-point debut in a win over the Chicago Bulls. To put that into context, Washington shot just 21 3-pointers during his entire freshman season at Kentucky.
His game’s come such a long way in the last year-plus and if his trajectory stays how it’s been going, Washington’s going to be a star in the league.
Devin Booker’s got some help and the Suns look ... dangerous?
It’s no secret that Devin Booker has had the “he can drop 25 on your head in an instant” label on him since he came into the NBA, but the problem for many is that his elite-level scoring abilities aren’t enough to drag the Suns out of the cellar in the league.
The funny thing is, the Suns aren’t in the cellar and look like a team that could make some sort of a playoff push in the opening portion of the season under new coach Monty Williams.
Booker’s been ... well, he’s been Devin Booker, averaging 26.1 points and five assists per game for the Suns, including his first 40-point game of the season on Nov. 4.
Not many make scoring the basketball look as easy as Booker does and now that he’s got competent reinforcements so far in the young season, he and the Suns could be a team you may not want to play as much as teams used to before Williams arrived.