Early Season Breakouts: Stop Sleeping on These Guys
As the NBA season is now in full swing, some players have really started off the season hot. Is it a sign for what's to come for these players or is this just a hot stretch? Only time will tell, but for now, these players have been fun to watch early on this year.
1: CHRISTIAN WOOD
Towards the second half of last season, Andre Drummond was traded from the Detroit Pistons to the Cleveland Cavaliers. This obviously created a tremendous void at the center position. Christian Wood wasn't playing a whole lot of minutes at that point but now was his time to step up into that role. He started 11 out of those last 13 games and showed that he belonged. In that time he put up a stat line of 22.8 PPG, 10 RPG, 2 APG, and 1BPG.
In the off-season, we went to free agency knowing his value. He knew he could be a consistent piece on a winning team and wanted to be paid as such. Detroit was interested in keeping Wood but only wanted to pay him $8 million dollars. In Detroit's mind, they saw the potential but didn't want to invest that much into him right away. Wood knew his time was now so he decided to go to the Houston Rockets. A winning team that saw his talent and willing to invest nearly $14 million dollars.
Wood took the opportunity and is dominating on both sides of the court for the Rockets squad so far this season. Through 5 games, Wood is giving the Rockets 23.6 PPG, 10 RBPG, 1.6 APG and is getting 2 Blocks per Game as well.
Is this the emergence of Christian Wood? I believe he has been given the opportunity to show what he's got, and if this keeps up, the Rockets will be SERIOUS TROUBLE for the NBA.
2: Julius Randle
The Knicks, the 4-3 Knicks, have made it on the list. There is no way a lot of people saw them doing this well to start the year so they must have a player who is just performing at a high level and Randle is that guy.
In my last article, I talked about how the Knicks were an up and coming team due to all of the young talent that they have. This young talent does a lot more than just produce for themselves, they give more opportunities for guys like Julius. What I mean by this is that now Julius doesn't have to be the Superman for the Knicks.
Last season, there was this feeling that Randle needed to do it all because nobody else can be counted on to do much. This gave Randle a role that isn't really comfortable for him and definitely doesn't fit his style of play. This year, the teams additions create more space for him and allow him to play his style of basketball. So far, he's playing way more free and his numbers reflect that.
A big testament to my point are the assist numbers. Throughout his career, Randle was not a big assist guy. He averaged a little over 2 a game. This year, Julius is pouring in 7 and a half assists. This is because he has teammates he can count on to make open shots and there will be open players because he is that guy drawing the defense towards him.
This is a player who is now comfortable in his new role so it is hard to see him falling too much from where he is at right now.
3: Jerami Grant
A career 9.3 PPG player becoming a number 1 option on a team? Now that is exactly what this article is all about!
Last season, Jerami was a very solid role player for the Nuggets behind Jokic and Jamal Murray. He shot well from the floor and gave them a very valuable 12 PPG off the bench. That Nuggets team went to the Western Conference Finals and before losing to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers. Everything was going pretty well for Jerami but he wanted more.
In the off-season, Jerami wanted a bigger role. The Nuggets were willing to give Jerami exactly that in the form of a starter but he still wasn't satisfied with it. He wanted to be that star guy. When is game is coming down the line, he wants the ball in his hands. Therefore, he went to Detroit to take that role.
A lot of backlash happened when Detroit made that signing but they had confidence in him. Jerami has been on fire this year with his him new role and is making some highlights on the way.
Along with the posters, Jerami is showing out with his production. He is up 23 points, 5 rebounds and 1.7 assists a game.
He is shooting a little worse, but when all the attention is on you, this is to be expected. He is playing very aggressive, getting to the free throw line more often, and proving all of the doubters wrong. It's fun to see the transition from last year's offense to this years. Detroit's offense was pretty slow last year. These young pieces are using their fresh legs this year and are running with a faster pace.
Could he fall off? Sure, but that could be true for any of the players I have mentioned so far. I like how Jerami's game fits into this offense; therefore, I think this kind of production should be expected for the rest of the season.
4: Collin Sexton
When you are doing things in Cavs' history that is being compared to LeBron James, I think you deserve a right to land on this list of players who have stepped it up to start the 2021 regular season.
It's not like he's just getting 20-21 points in these games either. Sexton is averaging 26 points a game. He has had some pop off performances with a season high of 32 against Detroit and pouring in 27 against the Hawks a couple of nights ago. People are starting to take notice as well:
Collin is playing with a confidence and it is spreading to his teammates as well. Darius Garland could easily be on this list as well as Collin's backcourt duo. "Sexland", as the duo is named, is giving Cleveland fans some hope for the future. They haven't done much since LeBron moved west but maybe now they are over the breakup and looking to come back.
These are just 4 players who really seem to have emerged to start this season. These guys all have potential to continue this level of play and to make differences in their respective franchises. Just like with all lists, I might have missed a couple of players. If you want to let me know who you think deserves to be on this list then reach out to me on Twitter @GabeZoda