Six players off to a great start in 2010-2011, probably a bit better than most would expect from them. It is very early in the season, but it seems like these six guys are going to have the best seasons of their careers as of yet.
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
If only he had an outside shot… Westbrook has started the season in fantastic form, helping the Thunder (along with one Kevin Durant) to a 6-3 start. Westbrook is averaging 23.7 points and 7.8 assists per game with 2.2 steals per game as well with 5 double doubles coming in his first nine games. His stats will go down, for sure, but he’s showing a lot more confidence and consistency in his offensive game, including a much better shot selection, although he’s still shooting below 45%. If he continues like this, we might find a place for him in our top 5 point guards in the NBA list. He had a great opening night against Rose (28 points, 10 rebounds, six assists), pretty good against Deron (22 points) and a bit disappoiting against Rondo, who is the best defensively at point.
Paul Millsap, Utah Jazz
Millsap’s 2009-2010 numbers – 27.8 minutes per game, 11.6 points, 6.8 rebounds. Now that Boozer is gone, Milsap is a full time starter, playing 37 minutes a night, averaging 21.9 points and 9.3 rebounds, with one incredible 46 point night in that 116-114 win over the Miami Heat, in which Millsap hit three tre’s, making his career total five, in his fifth NBA season. The Lousiana Tech man isn’t consistent offensively, but has certainly surprised everyone with his offensive ability now that he’s given plenty of time on the court.
Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
We knew that Noah was a fantastic defender and one of the better rebounders in this league. Anyone with his work effort and hustle would be. But Noah, who averaged 10.7 points per game last season, is really starting to do damage with his scoring numbers, averaging 16.5 points per game in his first 8 games, including a career high 26 points against the Celtics. His rebounding numbers, along with his minutes, has gone up, to 13 per game, and it seems him and Kevin Love are going to give Dwight Howard quite a fight for the rebounding title this season.
Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies
Judging by the first 10 games, Rudy Gay is going to have an amazing year, with career highs in almost every category – 25.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.7 steals while shooting 51.5% from the field, over 40% from the three and 86.5% from the line. Will it last? His numbers should dip a bit, as they have in the Grizzlies’ two losses against the Mavs and Celtics, but Gay, after pondering going elsewhere during the summer, seems a bit more of a complete player and offensive weapon this season. Can he lead the Grizzlies into their first Sans-Gasol playoffs?
Luis Scola, Houston Rockets
It’s been a rough start for the Rockets this season, but things seemed to have picked up lately, especially with an always welcomed tour in the East against the Knicks and Pacers. Scola, unlike Houston, has been enjoying a tremendous start to this season, averaging 21.9 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. The Argentinian averaged 16.2 points a game last season but seems to be flourishing with Yao (whenever he does play) back on the team, getting less attention from guys in the paint.
Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers
Right now, Hibbert looks like a good bet for most improved player. It’s not just the improved numbers, coming with an increase in playing time (30 minutes a night compared to 25). He’s finally looking like a dominant center in some games, and just some big guy playing basketball. With 16.1 points and 9.7 rebounds per game so far, Hibbert looks to be on the right track in becoming one of the better Centers in this league.