From Isaiah Thomas catapulting into superstar status to Memphis beating Golden State twice, there have been a lot of surprises from the first half of the NBA season.
Here are my top five:
5. Is Jabari Parker Really This Good!?
Yes, Giannas Antetokounmpo has had a superstar worthy first half of the season, but lets not overlook how productive Jabari Parker has been.
Parker was never known a great shooter or a solid defender, that is until this season.
For his career, Parker is a 36 percent three point shooter. A big factor in that number is the clip he’s been hitting from beyond the arc this season, 40%. Parker has not only been a threat from deep, he is using his athletic build to get to the rim with ease at times. There’s definitely been improvement on this side of the ball.
The same can be said for his defense, which like his three point shot has improved. After struggling to find his place on this end of the floor in his first two seasons, Parker is now a more than capable defender which helps Milwaukee night after night.
If Parker keeps this up throughout the whole season, do not be surprised if you here Parkers name in the Most Improved conversation.
4. Otto Porter’s three point stroke
Otto Curry… I mean Otto Porter has been amazing from deep.
In his rookie season, Porter shot 19 percent from the three-point line. He was basically deemed a “self-check” guy from that range as opposing teams willingly left him open from deep. Much has changed since then, Porter is shooting a whooping 45 percent from distance this season. This month he had a game in which he knocked down 6-of-8 attempts from beyond the arc.
Talk about working in the offseason. Porter has not only been the unlikely sniper for Washington, but he has put himself second in all the NBA (yes even over players like the Splash Brothers and J.J Redick) in long distance shooting.
Take a bow Otto, you are living proof that practice does make perfect, or at least 45 percent.
3. Harrison Barnes can be a Number One Option after all
Dallas is not a good basketball team, but it is not the fault of Harrison Barnes.
Barnes has been everything Dallas needed him to be and more. From scoring to creating shots, Barnes has been a pleasant surprise to say the least.
Coming from the loaded Golden State Warriors, Barnes was never needed for his scoring, nor his shot creation (except for in last years finals *cough cough*). When you play alongside a two-time MVP, a man that can score 37 in a quarter and a swiss army knife, I think it’s safe to say you don’t need to do much to but be ready when your number is called.
Because of last years finals, where Barnes was pretty much a no show, many wondered if he could be the guy for a team. With a couple of 30+ point games under his belt this season, Barnes has answered all the critics and more .
2. Process Trusted
If you looked a Joel Embiid play, you would forget that he is only a rookie!
At 7’3, Embiid can not only score down low, but he is a solid three point shooter as well. His footwork is great and he plays the game like he has been in the league for years. Yes, his on ball defense can improve, but he is still a good help defender and better shot blocker. Philadelphia is not good as a team, but the energy that Embiid brings has become infectious to the rest of his teammates.
Last season, Philly only won 11 games. This season, they are already up to 15 and we still have another half to play. No they are not going to sneak into the playoffs or even sneak to 30 wins, but night after night Embiid continues to get better and that should scare the rest of the NBA.
Oh and don’t forget, Ben Simmons still has not played yet. Look out NBA!
1.James “Jason Kidd” Harden
Stop me if you heard this before, “James Harden is a great scorer.”
One thing that we are learning is that he just might be a better passer! Harden puts defenses in a very tough spot. As one of the top offensive threats in the NBA, he is going to be the number one focus for opposing defenses. The problem lies in his willingness and ability to make teammates better. Harden has crazy court vision, he’s able to maneuver himself into any spot on the floor which allows others to get open for high percentage shots.
When Mike D’Antoni named Harden to be the full-time point guard, many were skeptical as to how Harden was going to get his teammates involved instead of shooting 345 shots a game like last season. We learned however, is Harden is one of the best playmakers in the league. His defense has improved from last season as well. This year, opponents are scoring only 41 percent when Harden is guarding them (better than Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Paul George this season).
James Harden is second in the league to Russell Westbrook in triple doubles and has undoubtedly made himself a front runner for MVP this season. He has led the Rockets to the third best record in the Western Conference and spearheads the best three point shooting team in the association.
Lastly, Harden could become the second person to lead the league in both points and assist at seasons end. If you think I am over exaggerating, not even the great Steve Nash assisted at this rate.
It is refreshing to know that we still have a whole half of a season to watch. For the moment, these were the biggest surprises of the first half of the NBA.