Mid-November is admittedly on the early side for NBA trendspotting. We’re still in the thawing process for the 82-game schedule when Thanksgiving is two weeks away.
You know us, though.
Sometimes we can’t help ourselves.
Sometimes we have a late-night convo with ESPN research ace Micah Adams and hear things that force us to detour from “the rules” and ask: Is this just another opening month aberration? Or are we seeing the start of something amazing?
As teams leaguewide start to reach the 10-game mark, five players awoke Friday averaging 30-plus points per game: Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan (34.1 PPG), Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook (31.1 PPG), New Orleans’ Anthony Davis (31.0 PPG), Houston’s James Harden (30.6 PPG) and Portland’s Damian Lillard (30.0 PPG).
What makes this so notable, if also premature, is the fact that Golden State’s Stephen Curry was the league’s only player in the 30 PPG Club at the 10-game stage last season.
In each of the previous two seasons, furthermore, no one was averaging in the 30s after 10 games.
I know, I know. This surely won’t last. It realistically can’t last.
But that’s not the point.
The fact is that we’ve never seen an NBA season start this way, so it’s a fun topic to highlight while we can.
Our man Adams checked with the Elias Sports Bureau and confirmed that this could be the first season in league annals in which we could see so many players scoring in the 30s this far into the schedule. There have only been four previous seasons, according to Elias, in which we’ve had as many as three players sporting averages in the 30s after 10 games.
1965-66: Philadelphia’s Wilt Chamberlain (31.6 PPG), Cincinnati’s Oscar Robertson (30.8) and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Jerry West (30.3 PPG)
1962-63: San Francisco’s Chamberlain (52.9 PPG), Chicago’s Walt Bellamy (34.0 PPG), Cincinnati’s Robertson (32.6 PPG) and the Lakers’ Elgin Baylor (30.8 PPG)
1961-62: Philadelphia’s Chamberlain (49.6 PPG), L.A.’s Baylor (34.4 PPG) and L.A.’s West (31.4 PPG)
1959-60: Philadelphia’s Chamberlain (37.1 PPG), Minneapolis’ Baylor (36.5 PPG) and Cincinnati’s Jack Twyman (35.9 PPG)
If it’s too soon in the calendar for you to play along with this kind of math, we get it. It’s a free country. But we couldn’t resist.
How many of these guys will still be scoring in the 30s when Thanksgiving does get here?
A fun question, at worst, to ask on this Friday.
One more for you pesky trendspotters ...
Curry has connected on 43 3-pointers in Golden State’s first nine games, just one shy of the 44 triples he hit through nine games last season.
Which puts Curry on pace for 401 3s ... after Warriors coach Steve Kerr and many others said Steph had no shot to come close to last season’s record-setting 402 now that he’s a merely a co-first option alongside Kevin Durant.
Keep an eye on Kings big man Willie Cauley-Stein. Word is Sacramento is open to moving the second-year big man, who wants more of a role than he has under new Kings coach Dave Joerger. ... Lance Stephenson was a “model citizen” in his time with the Pelicans, team sources say. As covered Monday when they waived the injured Stephenson to make room to sign Archie Goodwin, team officials didn’t want to release him but felt they had no alternative with only 11 healthy players and no clear path to a hardship waiver to add a 16th player because Jrue Holiday was out for personal reasons as opposed to an outright injury. ... It’s an open secret that Utah wants to sign new point guard George Hill to an extension that keeps him off the free-agent market this summer. Hill, for his part, recently made it clear to our own Tim MacMahon that he would be “very interested in that.” The reality, though, is that Hill, earning $8 million this season in the final year of his last contract with Indiana, is playing far too well to do an extension starting from that salary range, given all the spending money that will be sloshing around the NBA next summer. Yet as Hill also told MacMahon: “I’m not the type of guy that likes to move around and go from team to team. I really like it here.” The Jazz have to love the sound of that.
Sixteeen things you need to know about the NBA D-League as it opens its 16th season Friday night:
1. The league tips off with a record 22 teams, all of which are owned or operated by an NBA parent club.
2. This season’s three expansion teams are the Greensboro Swarm (Charlotte Hornets), Windy City Bulls (Chicago Bulls) and the Long Island Nets (Brooklyn Nets). Long Island will play its games at Barclays Center this season before moving to the Nassau Coliseum for 2017-18 and beyond.
3. Two franchises have relocated. The Bakersfield Jam are now the Northern Arizona Suns, owned by the Phoenix Suns. The Idaho Stampede have morphed into the Salt Lake City Stars, owned by the Utah Jazz.
4. An all-time high of 30 percent of the 449 players on NBA opening night rosters -- 135 of them -- had NBA D-League experience. As recently as the 2012-13 NBA season, there were only 84 players with D-League experience on opening night rosters.
5. Every NBA team has at least one D-League alumnus on its current roster. Boston, Detroit and Miami all began the season with eight former D-Leaguers; Toronto had seven.
6. Twenty NBA players have already been assigned to the D-League this season for development or injury rehab, including 2016 first-round picks Henry Ellenson (Detroit) and Dejounte Murray (San Antonio). Chicago’s R.J. Hunter is scheduled to debut Friday night in the Windy City Bulls’ first-ever game at Sears Centre against Long Island.
7. We’ve already seen two call-ups from the D-League to the NBA this season: Maine’s Ryan Kelly signed with the Atlanta Hawks and Long Island’s Yogi Ferrell joined the Brooklyn Nets. In each of the past five seasons, more than 30 D-Leaguers were called up to the NBA.
8. Some of the notable names on D-League rosters include NBA vets Shannon Brown (Grand Rapids Drive), Spencer Dinwiddie (Windy City), Cleanthony Early (Westchester Knicks), Manny Harris (Texas Legends), PJ Hairston (Rio Grande Valley), Xavier Henry (Oklahoma City Blue), Cartier Martin (Iowa Energy), Elijah Millsap (Northern Arizona) and Lamar Patterson (Reno Bighorns). Anthony Brown, selected No. 1 overall in the 2016 D-League draft after losing out to Metta World Peace and Thomas Robinson in the battle for the Lakers’ last roster spot, will play for the Erie BayHawks.
9. One small obstacle for D-Leaguers in terms of callups: All 450 roster spots in the NBA are currently taken. There are typically a few open this time of year, but every NBA team is currently carrying 15 players after the lone holdout -- Chicago -- signed Hunter after the Celtics waived him.
10. Seven D-League head coaches from last season were hired by NBA teams over the summer, including longtime Stein Line HQ fave Nick Van Exel (Texas to the Memphis Grizzlies), Otis Smith (Grand Rapids to the Detroit Pistons) and Pep Guardiola’s pal Jordi Fernandez (Canton Charge to the Denver Nuggets).
11. Thirteen D-League teams have new head coaches this season, including former NBA All-Star Jerry Stackhouse (Raptors 905) and fellow former NBA vets Coby Karl (Los Angeles D-Fenders) and Rex Walters (Grand Rapids).
12. The Hawks announced this week that they’ll own and operate the D-League’s 23rd franchise, starting with the 2019-20 season, in College Park, Georgia. The Orlando Magic and Milwaukee Bucks also have franchises of their own in the works as the NBA inches closer to its dream scenario: 30 D-League affiliates for the 30-team big league.
13. Among the prominent rule changes in the D-League this season is the “reset timeout” replacing the “advance rule” in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter or any overtime period. The reset timeout can be called during play from anywhere on the court and will allow teams to advance the ball and make substitutions but not huddle. The main difference is that, under the old advance rule, timeouts could be called only in the backcourt before the ball was put in play.
14. The D-League’s 24-second clock, in another experimental rule change, will reset to 14 seconds after an offensive rebound or when the offensive team otherwise becomes the first team to retain possession after the ball makes contact with the rim.
15. This season’s D-League Showcase, which brings the entire league together at one venue for a week’s worth of games to give maximum scouting exposure to every single D-League, will be in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga in January. (Which naturally thrills us as Toronto lovers.)
16. D-League compensation has changed since last season, but only slightly. There are only two contract classifications now; A players earn $26,000 (up from $25,500) and B players earn $19,000. Gone is the $13,000 C classification. Daily per diem, meanwhile, has been raised from $40 to $50, with D-Leaguers continuing to receive housing and medical care to offset the comparatively low wages in relation to what they could command in leagues abroad. The good news for D-Leaguers: Big changes are coming in the NBA’s new labor agreement, with salaries expected to jump to the $50,000-to-$75,000 range and the long-awaited advent of two-way contracts as seen in the NHL, which would enable NBA teams to maintain 18-man rosters instead of the current max of 15.
(A hat tip, as always, to peerless D-League maven Joanna Shapiro for her annual help with our season preview.)