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.
Who is someone who has gone under the radar so far, someone playing better than anyone expected?
Steve Aschburner: I’m using this to plug Marc Gasol. Not that he’s been off the radar, exactly, but he has been playing at such a high level for the team with the NBA’s best record, in what is and always will be an overlooked market, that it’s important that he not be overlooked. How good has Gasol been, both in terms of getting his own and helping teammates get theirs? I’ve had at least three coaches and/or scouts suggest that he’s the early-season Most Valuable Player. And that Erik Spoelstra comparison, mentioning Gasol in the same breath as Arvydas Sabonis, is high praise indeed.
Fran Blinebury: While James Harden has gobbled up all the headlines and Jeremy Lin all the hype, Chandler Parsons, 38th pick in the 2011 draft, is averaging 15.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and shooting 42.9 percent on 3s to help put the high octane into the fastest-paced offense in the league that makes Houston relevant again.
Jeff Caplan: I’m going with a guy that is putting himself out there for Most Improved Player, and that’s Rockets big man Patrick Patterson. In his third season, the former Kentucky Wildcat is a full-time starter for the first time and is proving he is deserving of the promotion. Averaging 30.1 minutes a game, the 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward-center has nearly doubled his scoring from a year ago to 14.6 points a game and is shooting 51.1 percent, even showing he can knock down a 3 from time to time (12-for-32, 37.5 percent). He’s averaging 5.3 boards a game, up from 4.5 last season. On the second night of a back-to-back at Oklahoma City last week, he had 27 points and six rebounds. He’s scored at least 20 points in four of his last five games and has has shot at least 50 percent in nine of his last 10.
Scott Howard-Cooper: O.J. Mayo probably can’t be considered under the radar — well known since high school, lottery pick coming out of college, a subject of attention for not building a career in Memphis — but I don’t think anyone saw this start in Dallas coming. He went from being able to get only a two-year free-agent deal in the summer, the second as a player option, to the top 10 in scoring. It’s not just the absence of Dirk Nowitzki, either. Mayo is shooting pretty well and with range.
John Schuhmann: I don’t think he’s necessarily playing “better than anyone expected,” but Thaddeus Young has definitely gone under the radar so far. Jrue Holiday, thanks to big bumps in his scoring and assist numbers, seems to be getting most of the press for the surprisingly 10-8 Sixers, but Young has been the team’s best player once you consider both ends of the floor. His scoring is actually down on a per-minute basis, but he’s rebounding well despite being out-sized at the four every night, and he’s holding the Sixers together defensively. Bottom line: he’s a plus-76 for a team that’s been outscored by 31 points overall. The Sixers are much better both offensively and defensively when he’s on the floor.
Sekou Smith: Chandler Parsons is doing the impossible this season in Houston, trying to have a breakout year with Jeremy Lin and James Harden hogging up all of the spotlight. But Parsons is averaging 15.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists while shooting 41 percent from deep and doing all of this in the considerable shadow cast by two of the league’s most popular young stars. While Lin and Harden endure their share of ups and downs as faces of the franchise, Parsons has continued his role as one of the best bargains in basketball (he’s making a fraction of what those other two guys are and will in the very near future, but is second on the team in scoring and rebounding and third in assists).