One week into the season, things can be written off as being too early. Two weeks of success can be passed off as a fluke. But after three weeks into a typical NBA regular season, you can begin to consider them ‘surprises’, because some level of consistency after 10-15 games must be appreciated.
This is why the Double Clutch team got together to share their biggest surprise so far in the 2019-20 NBA season.
Pascal Siakam as an All-Star contender
Pascal Siakam’s meteoric rise was cemented as a cornerstone piece of the Toronto Raptors’ historic championship win in June.
Handed a four-year, $130 million contract extension in October, the NBA’s 2018-19 Most Improved Player has gone to another level this season. He was given the keys to the Raptors offense, and has jumped from averaging 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds last season to putting up MVP caliber numbers so far this term.
Recording 27.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, while shooting an efficient 49.7 percent from the field, his team sits second in the Eastern Conference with a 7-2 record.
Not even the most hardened of Raptors fans could have expected this level of production from Spicy P. The Cameroonian is leading one of the best teams in the East and simultaneously taking the step up to All-Star level.
Whether Siakam can keep this level up remains to be seen, but he is certainly must watch this season.
OKC are thundering on
Admittedly, the team isn’t exactly a lock to make the Western Conference Playoffs, but the Oklahoma City Thunder are giving a good account of themselves early in the season.
If you ignore the loss to the Washington Wizards, OKC have beaten the teams they are supposed to beat – the Orlando Magic, the Golden State Warriors, and the New Orleans Pelicans – and given good games to the teams in the hunt for a title. They only lost to the Houston Rockets by four points, the Utah Jazz managed a five-point victory, while the Portland Trail Blazers just sneaked by with a three-point margin. And most recently, the Milwaukee Bucks just pulled a victory over the line and beat the Thunder by two.
The lack of reliance on Chris Paul – who is fourth on the team in usage – is allowing the younger players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder to be among the main facilitators and scorers. The productivity of Danilo Gallinari is also proving positive as the team’s second leading scorer.
With a sub-.500 record, Oklahoma’s spot in the playoffs is far from secure, but if they can add a piece at the trade deadline – maybe a defensive wing who is doing nothing in Memphis? – that could help this young squad get some postseason experience before moving Paul on to a retirement team.
Aron Baynes is raising Phoenix from the ashes
Aron Baynes is shooting 50 percent from three. I repeat, the Aron Baynes is shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc.
The same Aron Baynes that averaged 5.6 points per game last year and is synonymous with being on the wrong end of countless posters.
The same Aron Baynes that shot 14 percent from three two seasons back – admittedly on less than one attempt per game, but it’s a fun comparison to his current 4.2 three-point attempts per game nonetheless.
Not only is he shooting the ball efficiently, Baynes is a focal point of the Suns offense that has led them to a surprisingly good start, sitting firmly in the playoff picture in the early season standings. In the first nine games, Baynes averaged 15.8 points, nearly triple what he manages last year with the Celtics.
Aside from his incredible (yet probably unsustainable) scoring output, Baynes will continue to be his blue-collar, hard screen-setting self wherever he’s playing, constantly making him valuable piece to any team.