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#SmallSampleSizeAlert: A Look at Some Notable Early-Season NBA Stats

El Nuevo Herald/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

The phrase, and hashtag, #SmallSampleSizeAlert is routinely used for early-season analysis, strongly indicating the likelihood of anomalies and unsustainable play, be that good or bad. This is as true as it gets, but nevertheless tremendously fun regardless, as early-season stats are about as skewed, weird, fantastic and sad as humanly possible.


The Sad

James Harden is shooting 9.4 percent from downtown in the early going, which is horrific. But you’d think with a percentage like that, that his attempts have been dialed back a bit, right? Yeeeaah, no. Harden is attempting 10.7 of those bad boys a night, resulting in a 3-for-32 showing in Houston’s opening three-game struggle that has them losing, impressively, by an even 20 in each game. And people say they aren’t consistent.

The Encouraging

Bulls power forward Nikola Mirotic has started this year instead of Joakim Noah, and the 6’10 wildling has yet to register a game in which he’s made less than three three-pointers. His 13-for-28 start from behind the arc has increased his career percentage by over a percent already, and his 18.8 scoring line checks in with a TS% of 67.2 percent, which is completely unsustainable.

The Old Man River

Nobody puts Baby in the corner, even if Baby is now 37 and replaced by a young starlet who’ll invite a new era to Hollywood. No, this is Kobe Bryant, damn it, and those shots needs to be launched. It’s a matter of national security. Kobe’s taking 9.7 threes a night, hitting 20.7 percent and has exactly one more point (52) than he does attempts, which is of course not going to continue, as.. as.. Hmm, okay, it might actually continue. Bad example, let’s move on.


Oh yes, you know who I’m talking about. Last year’s MVP (this year’s MVP?) is currently sitting on a PER of 52.3, has 118 points in 99 minutes played, and has 17 threes to his name after three games. Oh, and Steph decided that scoring less than 40 is apparently an off-night as opened the season with a 40-point outing, had a 25-point off-night, and then resumed to normal production in nailing 28 in the third quarter of Golden State’s win over New Orleans on Saturday, a game in which he wrapped up 53 points. For the season, Mr. Curry is also over seven dimes, almost six boards and swiping over two steals per game with a turnover rate of just 6 percent, which is unheard of.

The “Could It Get Any Scarier?”

We knew about Anthony Davis developing a three-point shot. It got way too much coverage over a horrifically boring summer, so him coming out and going 4-for-9 from deep over the season’s first three games were somewhat expected. That however makes it no less impressive, and adding to that excitement is Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who drained four triples in the Kings’ opening game and is looking to expand his range as well. I don’t even dare think of the number of threes that’s going to be attempted in the All-Star Game.

The “Hey, You’re Not Supposed To Do That Yet!”

Someone please tell Karl-Anthony Towns he’s still just 19 and shouldn’t drop 28 and 14 on anybody until next year. It’s too soon!

The “Hey, You’re Not Supposed To Fall For That Now!”

Damn, KG. 40 is going to be rough. The future Hall Of Famer is averaging four points a night in 17.5 minutes. His role isn’t to score, granted, but given that he’s still bouncy and crazy, which he should always be, it’s slightly sad seeing him in a T-Wolves jersey and not bust out for 21/12/5 every night. Ah, memories.

The “There Are Literally Two Guys On The Same Team Averaging 30”

Russell Westbrook at 32 PPG and Kevin Durant at an even 30 have combined to score 50.5 percent of Oklahoma City’s points this season, including combining for 91 in the early game of the year:

The “Well, This Isn’t Exactly What We Pictured”

David Lee hasn’t had a good start to the season, averaging 5.3 points over 20 minutes minutes per game and shooting just 25 percent from the floor. Lee, 32, has made just five field goals in 60 minutes this season and has looked more so as a regressed version of himself from last year, instead of the rejuvenated version he was hoping to become in Boston. Thankfully, #SmallSampleSize.

The “Well, This Is Exactly What We Pictured”

Brooklyn is looking much like everyone expected them to look. Boring, bad, lacking in star power, as well as generally not being able to do a whole lot out there. Currently, they’re averaging just 88.7 points, hitting 21.1 percent from downtown (on just 12.7 attempts per game), and rank in the 20s in: free throw shooting, rebounding, assists and steals.

On the other end, it’s not looking a whole lot better, as the Nets allow 106 points a night, 43.8 percent from downtown (on 10.7 makes per game), while getting outrebounded by 5.7 and posting a defensive rating of 111.9.

Combined, the Nets rank 28th in offensive rating and 27th in defensive rating, which projects them to have a more-than-rough season, culminating in handing over their top pick to Boston because, well, they made one of the worst deals involving draft picks over the past 15 years. If you’re a Nets fan now, and plan to remain one for a while, I suggest a hiatus until 2019.

The Future

He’s an amazing rebounder, a sublime defender who earned the DPOY last season and a Finals MVP. Now Kawhi Leonard has begun taking over in the scoring department for the Spurs as well. Leonard is putting up 22.3 points a night in just 31.7 minutes per game, while maintaining his rebounding, defense and overall effectiveness.

With LaMarcus Aldridge still settling into San Antonio’s offense, the load now falls on Leonard, as was expected given that this is his fifth season, and he’s responded fantastically over the Spurs’ first three games.

The Second-Rounder Everyone Knew Would Be Good, And Now Is

Montrezl Harrell has been one of the bright spots in¬†Houston’s dreadful start to the season, as he’s been looking to shatter the backboard every time he gets near (and admittedly, a solid portion of his 10.7 scoring average has come off dunks). To his credit, Harrell is making those bunnies as he currently leads the league in FG% at 82.4 percent. He’s missed three shots all year, which seems to indicate he knows his role.

The Legendary


Rest In Peace, Flip.

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