10 NBA players off to a hot start

The NFL is the biggest and most-watched professional sports organization in North America each October and November. Nothing the NBA does will ever alter that reality. With that said, basketball diehards could legitimately claim the Association has been responsible for the better and more entertaining storylines between the two leagues since the start of the 2019-20 campaign. 

Stephen Curry is out indefinitely after suffering a broken hand in late October, and the Golden State Warriors plummeted to the basement of the Western Conference standings. LeBron James once again looks like the best overall player on the planet. The Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t a complete disaster as of mid-November. Seemingly everybody has a take on load management and what it means for the NBA now and in the future. 

Association experts, observers and fans promised the most open and competitive season of the decade, and the league didn’t disappoint as Halloween decorations made way for Christmas lights and holiday music. Granted, not every player off to a hot start this fall will be in meaningful basketball games come April. Some even may be moved before the trade deadline. But at least a few are early contenders for honors such as Most Improved Player and Most Valuable Player, and a certain 24-year-old may finally be in the infancy of a long-awaited breakout year. 

Who is off to a hot start so far this season?

Trae Young 

Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young tallying five steals during a Nov. 8 loss to the Sacramento Kings was an aberration. To put it nicely, the 21-year-old remains a liability on defense and often appears disinterested with that aspect of playing. Young also made history, per Hawks PR, by becoming the first player to ever notch at least 38 points, nine assists and seven boards across his team’s opening two regular-season contests. He drained 14-of-28 three-point attempts in four October games, and he’s shooting over 46 percent from the field. With John Collins suspended for 25 games, Young is tasked with carrying Atlanta’s offensive burden more than at any previous point of his 90-game career.

Kyrie Irving 

Nobody who has followed Kyrie Irving’s career was shocked by the report from ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan that claimed Irving lapsed “into a funk” and was responsible for an episode that left “everyone scratching their heads as to what precipitated it” during the Brooklyn Nets’ preseason trip to China. Irving likely will always be enigmatic off the court to those outside of his inner circle, but even his detractors located in Boston and Cleveland can’t ignore his scoring over the season’s first 10 games. Irving posted 29.7 PPG, roughly seven points better than his career average, over his first stretch of contests in Brooklyn colors. As Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News wrote, Irving set a franchise record by accumulating 222 points through Brooklyn’s first seven games. The one-time champion who grew up in New Jersey says he’s happy living and playing in the Big Apple. Time will tell. 

Gordon Hayward

Basketball, like life, is often unfair. For the first time since Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward suffered a gruesome and horrific leg injury minutes into the 2017-18 season debut, the 29-year-old showed glimpses he had located his previous All-Star form. Hayward averaged 18.9 PPG and career-bests in REB (7.1) and field-goal percentage (55.5) over eight appearances. On Nov. 5, Hayward torched the Cleveland Cavaliers for 39 points while going 17-of-20 from the field. He was back. Then he suffered a broken hand on Nov. 9. That latest setback will sideline him for at least six weeks, according to Jimmy Golen of the Associated Press. 

Tristan Thompson 

Tristan Thompson and the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t get the memo the team is tanking. Thompson finished Cleveland’s 10th game of the season third on the team in scoring, and he averaged career highs in PPG (16.5), REB (11.4) and BLK (1.4) over those outings. He’s even making threes for the first time in his pro career!
The 28-year-old is out of contract following the campaign, and the rebuilding Cavs have little reason to consider paying him beyond that deal. Thus, Thompson is auditioning for would-be contenders between now and Dec. 15 when offseason signees become trade-available.  
New Cleveland head coach John Beilein deserves praise for guiding a lackluster roster to a 4-6 start. The franchise nevertheless cannot exist in a state of denial. Thompson is currently worth more on the market than in the Cavs lineup. 

Thomas Bryant 

The Washington Wizards lost six of their first eight games en route to what is practically guaranteed to be a woeful season but center Thomas Bryant was one bright spot. The former Los Angeles Lakers castoff hit the 20-point mark in three of those eight outings, and he converted at least 60 percent of his attempts in three straight games from Nov. 4 through Nov. 8. Bryant began Nov. 13 averaging 2.3 BLK, 11.3 defensive rebounds and 14.8 total rebounds per 100 team possessions. If he can get back to his 33.3 percent three-point shooting from a season ago (he was at 26.1 percent after eight games), he can evolve into more than just a stat compiler for an awful team. 

Aron Baynes

During the 2019 FIFA World Cup , Boston Celtics salary cap casualty and Phoenix Suns center Aron Baynes shot 52.4 percent (11-21) from beyond the arc while averaging 11.4 PPG and 5.5 REB. The 32-year-old carried that form over to the start of the NBA season. In 10 games, nine starts, Baynes averaged career-highs in PPG (16.2), REB (5.8), AST (3.1), BLK (0.9), three-point percentage (50.0), field goal percentage (59.0) and MIN (24.3). Guard Devin Booker is making those around him better en route to taking a necessary career leap, but Baynes is playing well enough to potentially keep Deandre Ayton a spectator once the 21-year-old serves his 25-game ban. 

Andre Drummond 

Can the Detroit Pistons win with Andre Drummond? The same question many within the basketball community asked on Oct. 1 hovers over the club in the middle of November. The 26-year-old center is good for 20 points and 20 rebounds whenever the mood strikes him. As of Nov. 13, nobody had scored more two-point field goals (reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo had played in two fewer games heading into that evening), and Drummond led the Association in offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, total boards, and total rebound percentage.  As Michael Pina of SB Nation explained, however, Drummond’s inconsistent efforts and obvious offensive limitations coupled with the fact the Pistons don’t have enough horses to make anything resembling a deep postseason run raise concerns about Drummond’s future. He can either test free agency next summer or exercise a player option worth over $28.7 million for 2020-21. As cruel as it is to suggest, the Pistons may require a top-tier team to lose a starter at Drummond’s position to move the big man before the trade deadline. Both player and club could benefit from such a transaction. 

Andrew Wiggins

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins was a punchline for much of his side’s season opener vs. the Brooklyn Nets, even though he made a couple of clutch shots during the overtime period. Few are laughing at the 24-year-old after 10 games. Wiggins is averaging career marks in PPG (25.5), AST (3.3), BLK (1.1) and field goal percentage (47.3), and as Danny Cunningham of SKOR North wrote, he also has drastically improved his shot selection, and the six-year pro is attacking the rim unlike at previous times during his underwhelming “empty points” periods.  Can this version of Wiggins last through the harsh winter months? Will he put forth more than half-efforts on defense minus the occasional solid outing? If “yes” is the answer to both questions, Wiggins will contend for Most Improved Player honors. 

James Harden

Houston Rockets guard James Harden heard your offseason jokes about his inability and unwillingness to share the ball with Russell Westbrook. Per Justin Kubatko of Statmuse and Basketball-Reference, the one-time regular-season MVP is only the third player in league history to average at least 37 PPG through the opening 10 games of a campaign. (Harden was at 37.3 at the start of Nov. 13.) The 30-year-old also scored the most points across 10 contests (373) than any player since Rick Barry tallied 381 points in the fall of 1966. Most frightening for opposing defenses is that several signs point to Harden heating up rather than peaking ahead of Thanksgiving. He shot under 13 percent from three-point land in three of his first five games before returning to form from long distance over the subsequent four outings. From Nov. 4 through Nov. 11, Harden averaged 40.25 PPG in four games. 

LeBron James 

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James turns 35 years old in December, but one wouldn’t know that by watching him this fall. USA Today, Alex Kennedy of Hoops Hype, Nemanja Vukasinovic of Fadeaway World and Forbes’ Tommy Beer all mentioned James as an MVP candidate in early November, and the King averaged 24.0 PPG, 11.0 AST, 8.2 REB and 1.1 STL in his first 10 games. He shot 47.1 percent from the field over that period.  James isn’t a fan of load management. “If I’m hurt, I don’t play. If not, I’m playing,” he told ESPN earlier this month. Lakers coach Frank Vogel should approach the situation differently. Los Angeles is built to win a title next spring. Limiting James’ involvement in relatively meaningless games this winter is vital to achieving that goal. 

Last season, the Toronto Raptors featured Kawhi Leonard in 60 regular-season contests. Leonard entered the playoffs fresh, and he was the Association’s top two-way player throughout the postseason. The Lakers require James’ best beginning next April, not in January. 

https://www.yardbarker.com/nba/articles/10_nba_players_off_to_a_hot_start/s1_13132_30528971

By: Zac Wassink

Andrew Wiggins Signs Monster Extension

Official Release From NBA.com

The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced the team has signed forward Andrew Wiggins to a multi-year contract extension. Per team policy, terms of the contract agreement were not released.

Wiggins, 22, registered a career-high 23.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 37.2 minutes in 82 games last season, making a career-best 103 three-pointers on a career-high 35.6% shooting percentage from beyond the arc. Wiggins averaged 26.0 points over the final 30 games in 2016-17, including 28.3 ppg in eight April starts. The 6-8 forward registered five 40+ point games a season ago, including a career-best 47-point performance on November 13 vs. the Los Angeles Lakers.

“I’m pleased that we’ve reached an agreement with Andrew on a contract extension,” said Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor. “Andrew is one of the best young players in the NBA and he has the talent and work ethic to get even better and be a foundation for our franchise for many years.”

“I’m very excited to continue my career with the Timberwolves,” said Wiggins. “I love it here. The fans and organization have supported me from my first day here in Minnesota. I want to thank Glen Taylor, Tom Thibodeau, the entire coaching staff and my teammates for believing in me. We’ve had some good times over the last three seasons, but the best is yet to come. I look forward to doing right by them and bringing this team to the postseason.”

For his career, Wiggins has played in 245 of a possible 246 games, averaging 20.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 36.2 minutes per game. Only three players (LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony) scored more points before their 22nd birthday and Wiggins’ 4,995 career point total ranks sixth on the Wolves’ all-time scoring list. Wiggins won the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy as the NBA’s Rookie of the Year following the 2014-15 season in which he averaged 16.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists, becoming the first Wolves player to win Rookie of the Year honors.

“We’re very excited that Andrew has decided to commit his future to the Timberwolves,” said Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach Tom Thibodeau. “We feel strongly that he is just scratching the surface of the player he will become. Andrew is among the elite young talents in our league and the sky is the limit for him. We look forward to watching his development in the coming years.”

Wiggins was selected first overall in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers and traded to the Wolves on Aug. 23, 2014.

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T-Wolves Working On Wiggins Deal Which Could Reach $147Mil

Written by ESPN News Staff at ESPN.com

The Minnesota Timberwolves are keen to lock up guard Andrew Wiggins to ensure he is a cornerstone for their future.

Wiggins and the Timberwolves are engaged in contract negotiations on a five-year extension that would be worth nearly $148 million, according to Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau.

“We’re working on it right now,” Thibodeau said Wednesday during a news conference to introduce Jamal Crawford.

Under the collective bargaining agreement, NBA teams can have two players on designated rookie-scale extensions. Such deals must be agreed to by one day before the start of the season.

The extension would take effect in 2018-19 with a starting salary of $25.5 million that season. The sides could agree to terms where, if Wiggins made an all-NBA team or was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2017-18, that figure would jump to $30.6 million.

Wiggins set career highs in points (23.6 PPG) and assists (2.3 APG) last season. The 22-year-old has started all but one game for Minnesota over the past three seasons.

Last week, Thibodeau told ESPN that Wiggins’ goal for the 2017-18 season should be to become a “complete player” and said trade pickup Jimmy Butler could help with that development.

Beyond Wiggins’ long-term deal, the Timberwolves also want to sign two wing players and a backup point guard during the offseason to fill out the roster.

“There are a number of guys we’re talking to, and they’re waiting,” Thibodeau said. “So you’re trying to weigh all that out. It’ll be interesting to see everything unfolds.”

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