It’s barely been a week since the start of the 2015-16 NBA season and we’re already witnessing three individuals dominate like no other. Yes, these guys have only played four games and the NBA season is a long and rigorous one, but who’s to say that they won’t keep up this level of play? Russ, Steph and Blake are all really young (Russ & Steph are 27 and Blake is the baby at 26) but the flashes of extraordinary play seem to be extending into this year from last.
Many will argue that Russ has already achieved superstardom after a ridiculous season in 2014-15 where he dominated the Western Conference and almost took the Thunder to the playoffs by himself. It extends beyond that because the numbers aren’t what’s going to continue to hold Russ’ status as a superstar, the way he plays every game is. Pessimists would look at Westbrook’s number and say, “he scores but turns the ball over way too much and shoots a bad percentage.” This is a valid point, his reckless style does lead to a lot of turnovers and bad shots but his triple-double potential overshadows that. His ultra-athletic, slashing style energizes his teammates, the OKC fans and himself. That play style is reminiscent of LeBron when he was a few years younger, but there has never been a point guard that plays the same play style that Russ plays.
Steph Curry is another guy who has a play style that’s been seldom seen by NBA fans. It seems he came out of nowhere, evolving from an underdog with glass ankles and many doubters into a league MVP, league champion and possibly the best player in the NBA today. Fans thought he was great last year – because he was – but the start of this season has him exhibiting Wilt Chamberlain-esque dominance. He can shake anyone, make the most obscure passes, find his way into the paint and pull up from anywhere. Literally anywhere. His 148 points through four games are the most since Michael Jordan’s 152 in the 1991-92 season. The Warriors look unstoppable as a team, evidenced by a 50-point blowout of the Memphis Grizzlies in which Curry had only 30. Extended time spent playing at this level is going to make it very, very hard to bet against Curry as MVP and GSW as Finals favorites.
Anthony Davis isn’t dominating the West like many fans thought he would and the dominant big man right now is Blake Griffin, shockingly. I don’t want ‘shockingly’ to be interpreted as him not being a great player; I doubt many people thought he’d be at 30 PPG & 10 RPG with a vast offensive repertoire. Blake’s expanded his offensive game a lot and is no longer limited to layups and dunks as his only way of scoring, despite it being the most exciting. His mid-range jumpshot is what’s really helped him on offense, defenses must now guard against the pick-and-roll and the pick-and-pop. Outside of being the screener, Griffin’s worked on his jumpshot so much that he has both catch-and-shoot ability and the ability to shoot off the dribble. Between 10-16 feet he’s shooting 43% which is a career high and also has a career high in FG% when around the basket, converting at 68%.
Despite being four games in these athletes have given us a taste of what we can expect from them this upcoming season. I’d hate to make a pick for MVP this early but if Steph can continue to perform at a level that’s similar to what he’s at now, I’d have to go with him. With almost the whole season still being left, I expect LeBron James and Kevin Durant to be in MVP talks in the future. They weren’t included in this post because they’ve spoiled us with such a high level of play before; KD is averaging 29.5 PPG so far but has led the league in scoring four previous times.
*All stats via basketball-reference.com*
*Clips via GD’s Latest Highlights on YouTube*
Steph Curry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4sXdktFDEM
Blake Griffin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rS4ZoPTUME8
*Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images*