Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Let’s go the other way: Which player has most wildly outpaced your preseason expectations of him?
David Aldridge: Cousin LaMarcus, of course! I knew he could score from the perimeter, but he’s become a terrific post-up player as well. And he’s miles better at the defensive end this year. Really improved his game and put that team on his back.
Steve Aschburner: I could say Grant Hill, based on my bad assumption that he invariably would tail off at age 38 – and certainly not become an All-Defensive Team candidate. I could say Amar’e Stoudemire, because I didn’t expect him to embrace the spotlight, pressure and leadership chores in New York so adeptly. But the only acceptable answer here is New Jersey’s Kris Humphries. In his seventh NBA season, at age 26, with his fourth team, Humphries has more than doubled his career scoring (4.7 ppg) and rebounding (3.5 rpg) numbers, up to 10.0 ppg and 10.3 rpg now. He has 28 double-doubles vs. a total of eight in his first six seasons. And in the grandest overachievement of all, he’s squiring around Kim Kardashian. Now that’s “wildly outpacing” expectations.
Fran Blinebury: After his first two seasons in the league, everybody figured that Kevin Love was going to be a solid player with a successful career. But I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t expecting him to take a Bob Beamon-like leap into the Moses Malone stratosphere with 53 consecutive double-doubles and to surpass Dwight Howard as the NBA’s top rebounder.
Scott Howard-Cooper: I don’t know about wildly outpacing expectations. But there was no way to imagine that Raymond Felton would become an All-Star candidate with the Knicks and then an important part of the package that went to Denver for Carmelo Anthony. While it’s difficult to extend the praise to a reduced role with the Nuggets, the New York days boosted Felton’s stock to where, if nothing else, Denver has a trade chip to turn into improvement at another position.
Shaun Powell: Given the crippling injuries that robbed the Blazers of two major players, Wesley Matthews, who came from Utah with a light resume, saved their season. When he signed for the big bucks last summer, half the league laughed and accused the Blazers of wildly overpaying. And now? Maybe they got him cheap. Honorable mention to Kevin Love, but I’d like to see him gobble double-doubles on a good team.
John Schuhmann: Having closely watched his first half season in New Jersey, after which the Nets were hoping he’d decline his player option, I agree wholeheartedly with Asch regarding Kris Humphries. He’s a completely transformed player who’s earned himself a big pay raise when he does hit free agency this summer. I also think that Chuck Hayes recording a triple-double is the definition of exceeding expectations. Finally, I’ll add Jodie Meeks to the list. This undersized two-guard was the 41st pick in 2009 and a minor piece of a minor trade a year ago, but Doug Collins has made him an integral component to the Sixers’ improvement.
Sekou Smith: The language is a bit more than I’m willing to use, if you’re in the league it’s pretty tough for anyone to “wildly outpace expectations.” I can’t say enough about the job LaMarcus Aldridge has done this season. He’s always been good. But I honestly didn‘t realize how much better he has gotten until the weeks leading up to and since the All-Star break (his snub this season goes down as one of the toughest to stomach in recent memory). When a guy averages 17.2 points and 7.4 rebounds for his career turns up with career numbers (21.9, 8.6, 2.1 assists and 1.2 blocks) in his fifth year in the league, it‘s bound to get your attention. And it‘s not the just the numbers, it‘s the circumstances (with all the other key members of the Trail Blazers that have either been out with injuries or remain out with injuries) under which Aldridge gas come into his own. I always viewed him as Brandon Roy‘s No. 2. Not anymore.