It didn’t take long for the NBA’s best players to rise to the top. Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis are already leading the field.
Throughout the 2016-17 season, NBA Math will be providing you with weekly updates that showcase the Association’s premier talents. Play the best during the week in question (everything else, for these purposes, is wholly irrelevant), and you’ll end up slotted on one of the three All-TPA teams.
Of course, you’ll have to make the First or Second Team to receive the luxury of a featured blurb. We’re not here to coddle those on the Third Team, even if they still receive their due credit.
If you need a refresher on TPA, click here. Otherwise, proceed to the Week 1 standouts.
|All-TPA First Team, Oct. 25-30|
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
The dynamic point guard went nuts during the first week of the season, even recording back-to-back triple-doubles as he became the first man in NBA history to reach 100 points, 30 rebounds and 30 assists in the first three games of a season.
But don’t be fooled into thinking his league-leading TPA is solely a product of volume and raw box-score statistics.
Sure, turnovers have been an issue for Westbrook (4.7 per game). He’s still been rather efficient, shooting 45.3 percent from the field, 44.4 percent from downtown (on six attempts per contest) and 81.1 percent at the stripe (on a stunning 12.3 attempts per game). Better still, he’s played some of the best defense of his career, admittedly against a trio of lackluster opponents, to become a one-man wrecking crew.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Please don’t ask Damian Lillard to play defense.
He struggled to cover George Hill, Chris Paul and Emmanul Mudiay during the opening week of his campaign, leading to a minus-7.96 score in defensive points saved that beats out only 11 of the 368 players who logged a single minute through October 30.
But he made up for the negative impact with his impressive scoring ability, highlighted by this game-winning floater in overtime against the Denver Nuggets:
Lillard hasn’t just scored 35 points per game; he’s done so while dominating on the glass, keeping his teammates involved and shooting well enough that he’s on pace to join the 50/40/90 club (54.9/44.4/90.5).
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
Only Westbrook had a higher TPA score during opening week, but that might be because Kawhi Leonard was one of the few players to suit up four times in the season’s first six days. The well-rounded small forward helped lead his San Antonio Spurs to a 4-0 record, including a marquee thrashing of the Golden State Warriors to kick off the year.
Leonard can do everything. Seriously.
The two-time Defensive Player of the Year has continued to thrive while taking on tough assignments, and he’s become so good as a scorer that head coach Gregg Popovich is willing to eschew his traditional schemes and let Leonard play one-on-one in key spots. It’s worked, as the small forward is averaging 28.0 points and 4.3 assists while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Just imagine what might happen when he rediscovers his three-point stroke.
Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
The Dubs may not have lived up to the billing during opening week after getting blown out by the Spurs, pulling away late against the New Orleans Pelicans and struggling to finish off the Phoenix Suns. But it’s hard to blame the new arrival, since it was his three star teammates who struggled to look truly dominant:
- Kevin Durant: 23.98 TPA, No. 4 in NBA
- Draymond Green, 7.58 TPA, No. 43
- Stephen Curry, Minus-3.06 TPA, No. 270
- Klay Thompson, Minus-14.42 TPA, No. 358
Durant wasn’t a world-beater on defense, despite recording some timely blocks and plenty of possession-ending rebounds. But he thrived as a scorer while facing less defensive pressure than he did with the Thunder. It’s tough to complain about 31.3 points per game on 56.6 percent shooting.
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
Evidence, Part 1:
Evidence, Part 2:
We’re finally seeing what a motivated and healthy Anthony Davis can do.
He’s dominating on both ends of the floor and scoring in every way imaginable. Unfortunately, the Pelicans haven’t put much talent around him—the team’s No. 2 player by TPA is Tim Frazier (minus-0.42 and No. 173 in the NBA)—and are asking him to do way too much on a nightly basis, which has led to the 0-3 start.
|All-TPA Second Team, Oct. 25-30|
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons
The shooting guard hasn’t contributed much on offense, but he’s one of the main reasons the Detroit Pistons finished opening week with a top-five defensive rating. Not a single player has accumulated more defensive points saved than Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at the beginning of his contract year, and nbawowy.com shows the Pistons have allowed just 98.9 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor.
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
Remember when DeMar DeRozan wasn’t the most efficient scorer but posted gaudy totals because he shot so often? That doesn’t seem to be the case through two games in 2016-17, as the Toronto Raptors 2-guard averaged 36 points while shooting 52.7 percent from the field.
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
So much for coasting. LeBron James opened his season with a dominant triple-double against the New York Knicks, then came close to replicating that performance against both the Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic. His efforts led to three wins for the Cleveland Cavaliers and an efficient two-way start to the MVP hype during his age-32 campaign.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
A note to Jason Kidd: Never stop playing Giannis Antetokounmpo as a point forward. The increased ball-handling responsibilities haven’t prevented the Greek Freak from thriving on the point-preventing end, and they’ve helped him average an eye-popping 23.0 points, 9.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists through his first three outings.
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
It won’t matter that DeMarcus Cousins is struggling to play defense if he keeps knocking down triples and expanding his offensive acumen. During his first three outings in 2016-17, he’s taken 2.7 triples per game from downtown and connected at a 37.5-percent clip, highlighted by his 3-of-5 showing in a tight loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
|All-TPA Third Team, Oct. 25-30|
Adam Fromal is the founder of NBA Math. Follow him on Twitter @fromal09.