We’ve reached the midway point of the NBA season, and it won’t be too long before we figure out the playoff picture. But before that, let’s take a look at some players who’ve played beyond many’s expectations.
5. Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans
The 2nd overall pick in the 2016 Draft is finally becoming the player he was drafted to be. He’s averaging career high numbers in points per game (24.9), rebounds per game (6.4), assists per game (4.2), 3PT percentage (40%), and free throw percentage (86.2%). In his previous three seasons, he never shot over 70% from the free throw line, so it’s great to see that he can knock them down more efficiently. Ingram is going to be well taken care of this offseason, as he’s averaging the most ppg by a player entering restricted free agency in the last 20 years.
4. Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
After Kyrie Irving left Boston this offseason to join Kevin Durant and sign with the Brooklyn Nets, one could assume the Celtics were Jason Tatum’s or Gordon Hayward’s team. Now it seems that Danny Ainge knew what he was doing giving Brown a 4 year/$115 million contract extension at the beginning of the season. Brown has always been a solid defender but now he’s coming into his own on the scoring side, averaging career highs in ppg (20.2), field goal percentage (49.5%), rpg (6.4), apg (2.2), and FT percentage (74.3%). Brown will definitely play a big part in Boston’s chances for a playoff run.
3. Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers
We knew the son of Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis was highly talented, but many may have not expected for him to dominate as the top big man in Indiana and become an All-Star this season. Domantas Sabonis is averaging a team high of 12.5 rpg (6th in the NBA), is 2nd on the team in ppg with 18.3, and passes the ball very well with 4.8 apg. He’s had four triple doubles this season, the most in a season by a Pacer since Lance Stephenson had five in the 2013-14 season.
2. Duncan Robinson, Miami Heat
He may not be a great defender, or one of the top scorers on the Heat, but Robinson has become one of the best 3PT shooters in the league. He only played in 15 games last season, averaging 3.3 ppg and shooting 28.6% from three in 10 of 35 attempts, but this season he has 12.6 ppg and is shooting 43.8% from three, the 6th best 3PT percentage in the NBA. In the month of January, he made 50 3PT attempts, 4th most in the NBA. Robinson will be relied upon heavily to knock down big shots in the playoffs.
1. Devonte’ Graham, Charlotte Hornets
With Kemba Walker signing with the Boston Celtics this offseason, Terry Rozier was expected to be the team’s best player or guard at least. Or maybe even former 11th overall pick Malik Monk would finally develop into the great player many thought he’d be. But Graham has arguably had the most surprising season out of all NBA players. The former Atlanta Hawks 2nd round pick is averaging 18.1 ppg and 7.8 apg, both are the most on the Hornets roster. He’s 4th in the NBA in 3PT FGs made (190), while his 7.8 apg ranks 7th. Graham is the 2nd player in Hornets’ history to be a former 2nd round pick and average over 18 ppg in a season, with Stephen Jackson being the only other player (averaged 21.1 ppg in the 2009-10 season).