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An Updated Look at Some Notable Early-Season Stats

Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports

Just over three weeks ago, I took a look at some interesting early-season stats for varying players, and now the time has come to take another look at those guys to see how they’re doing.

James Harden

The Beard has somewhat bounced back, although his team hasn’t. Harden remains less effective than last year and is basically living off the free throw line, where he’s getting 9.9 of his 28.7 points a game. 15 games into the season, Harden is shooting less than 40 percent from the field and less than 30 percent from downtown, and he’s sporting an unspectacular, if not downright poor, eFG% of 46.1 percent over those games.

Much like his regressed scoring, Harden’s assist number has declined, while his turnovers have climbed. His seven dimes/four turnovers ratio last year has been replaced by 6.3/4.7 this season. There’s a 2000-2001 Jerry Stackhouse vibe to Harden this year, but with just 15 games to his belt so far, there’s time for a turnaround.

Nikola Mirotic

I’m fortunate to not know the sound of a human being hitting the sidewalk after a 150-foot drop, but I probably can’t say the same for Mirotic. After a terrific three-game start, Mirotic has averaged just 9.7 points on 31.9 percent from the floor and 27.1 percent from three over his past 10 games. He remains the starter in Fred Hoiberg’s lineup, but he’s been given just 23.9 minutes per game over those aforementioned 10 contests, which has allowed Hoiberg to bench him early in games if he doesn’t have his shot going and instead go to a rotation of Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, none of whom can hit the outside shot.

The Bulls are surprisingly second in the East despite Mirotic’s struggles, but for the Bulls to actually compete for the title in June, he has to regain his touch and efficiency, even if he has to come off the bench down the line.

Kobe Bryant

I’ll hand this over to Roland Lazenby, who sums up Kobe’s season, and legacy, perfectly:

Bryant is currently using 16.4 shots to score 15.2 points, including seven attempts from downtown with a hit accuracy of just 19.5 percent. Additionally, Bryant is posting a D-League caliber 10.2 PER with a TS% of just 41.5 percent.

So yeah, it’s still bad.

Stephen Curry

The kid didn’t stop. He’s trending nightly, and every single attempt of his are followed with the expectation of a splash. Sitting at a league-leading 32.1 points a night, Curry is draining 4.9 triples per game while also leading the league in free throw percentage (93.8 percent) and picking up 2.6 steals to balance things out. His 33.6 PER and TS% of 67.6 percent are also both league-leading.

It’s impossible to properly gauge how good Curry currently is, because he’s excelling at virtually everything. As of this moment he’s taken away “Best Player In The League” arguments from LeBron, Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant while setting himself up for a historic season. At this point, something has to go horribly wrong for Curry to not repeat as MVP, and the same applies for his Golden State Warriors and their championship aspirations.

Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and three-point shooting

Two of the league’s best big men have incorporated the three-point shot into their games over the summer, and so far Cousins seems to have the best hang of the new skill. Cousins knocks down 1.6 a night at over 38 percent, while Davis is progressing slower, but still effective, at 0.7 makes on 36.4 percent.

The shot – along with his increased free throw volume – has helped Cousins achieve the best efficiency number of his career (TS% of 56.4 percent), while Davis has generally struggled to repeat the success of last season. But both are on their ways to becoming all-around scorers who can score from all over the court, which gives them the perfect opportunity to fit into the new identity of the league.

Karl-Anthony Towns

While KAT hasn’t posted another 28/14 line since his game against Denver, the rookie has provided stability to the young Wolves. His 14.7 scoring rate is mostly a result of a two-game mini-slump in which he’s totaled 12 points, as he averaged 16 prior to that. Towns is also a terrific rebounder, an elite free throw shooter and a highly intelligent big man who understands how to impact a game, more so than just putting up numbers.

Kevin Durant & Russell Westbrook

The duo was affected by an early injury to Durant, who missed six games. Both are now fit for fight, and despite not combining for over 60 a night, it’s damn close. Durant, 28.2, and Westbrook, 28.1, is the league’s most fearsome scoring duo, and Westbrook in particular has stepped up as a playmaker, which was needed in prior years where his reputation was built as just a scorer. His 10.3 assists per game not only represents a career high, but represents a different outlook on the game. Westbrook is leading the league in AST%, has a PER of 33.3 and has toned down his shot volume.

For the time being, the Thunder have yet to yield the results one would think a team-oriented Westbrook could get, but with just 16 games to their season, there’s time for Oklahoma City to find its legs and improve chemistry. The timing is almost unfair given that Stephen Curry is dominating the league this year, which has forced Westbrook to take a backseat, because the 27-year old is closer to Curry than one might think, while admittedly still being separated by a fair margin as Curry has distanced himself from everybody.

What’s interesting here is how Oklahoma City can make use of this version of Westbrook in the playoffs. With a slowed-down game plus a more inclined-to-pass Westbrook running the team and Durant moving around off the ball, it’s tremendously difficult to cap this team’s potential.

David Lee

It’s gotten better for the 32-year old power forward from an efficiency standpoint, but he’s playing just 15.1 minutes a night for the Celtics, which was hardly what he was hoping for when he and Golden State agreed to make the trade. Lee’s days as a starter are probably over, but if he can bring the same PER of 15.1 and a TS% of 55.1 percent to a contender’s bench next season, which ironically was his role with the Warriors, he could possibly get back into the limelight.

The Brooklyn Nets

They’ve moved from from being the worst three-point shooting team in the league to the second-worst. That’s…Something. But no, they still struggle and haven’t gotten any of their picks back. This will be a long season in Brooklyn.

Kawhi Leonard

The skilled small forward has continued his offensive progression, averaging 21.8 points a night on a TS% of damn-near 60 percent and a PER of 25.6. Leonard is hitting almost 47 percent from downtown, adding eight rebounds and two steals per game, and is basically clawing his own way into the league’s top three conversation of small forwards.

With LaMarcus Aldridge getting off to a slow start, the Spurs have needed every ounce of Leonard’s scoring, and if this proves to be just a preview of what will come in his career, then good lord.

Montrezl Harrell

The rookie has cooled down, but still provides ridiculous energy when in the game. 11 of his 21 made field goals this year are dunks, and the average shot attempt distance is 4.2 feet.

With all the drama unfolding in Houston, Harrell could potentially see more court time if moves are made.

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