VIDEO: Nuggets’ Harris as 2015-16 Most Improved Player?
By Will Laws, Special to NBA.com
Most NBA players – especially older veterans – are worn down by this time of the season. You don’t have to look any further than Golden State’s recent letdowns to realize that.
However, some players’ legs are still fresh enough to keep knocking down shots. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that all three of this week’s hottest shooters (brought to you by PointAfter’s interactive visualizations) are all under age 30.
Note: All weekly statistics cover games between April 1-7.
Guard: Gary Harris, Denver Nuggets
After a truly discouraging rookie year that saw Gary Harris shoot 30 percent from the floor (20 percent from deep), the 21-year-old has rebounded rather well while assuming a full-time starting role for Denver this season.
His 3-point percentage jumped more than 15 percent, the third-highest increase in the NBA this season. He’s shooting above league-average in six of PointAfter’s seven shooting zones, with the right corner being the lone exception.
Harris couldn’t lead the Nuggets to victory in either of their two contests this week, but he did average 18 points on 57 percent shooting (7-for-13 on 3s). It’s just as well – at this stage of the season, Harris’ development is more important to Denver than additions to the win column.
Wing: C.J. Miles, Indiana Pacers
After a brief slump put their postseason hopes in doubt, the Pacers ran off three wins in a row this week to cement their place in the top eight of the Eastern Conference. C.J. Miles was a surprisingly huge part of that streak, averaging 18.7 points in 21.7 minutes per game this week to give Indiana a shot in the arm on offense.
Miles wasn’t shy about slinging it from anywhere. He went 13-for-22 (59 percent) from downtown and shot 65 percent overall in the trio of victories, including a 6-for-8 performance from beyond the arc in Indiana’s 123-109 triumph over the LeBron-less Cavaliers.
There’s a decent chance Indiana will rematch Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs. Miles will have to continue playing out of his mind if the Pacers are to pull off a monumental upset.
Forward/Center: Enes Kanter, Oklahoma City Thunder
With the Thunder resting their stars on Wednesday against Portland, NBA fans got to see what OKC looks like when Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka aren’t involved. A whole lot of heavy lifting on offense fell on Enes Kanter’s shoulders, and he responded with aplomb.
Kanter notched a career-high in points (33) to go along with 20 rebounds against the Blazers, the first 30-20 game in Thunder history and just the fifth this season. Unsurprisingly, Kanter’s April averages after three games are looking pretty gaudy after he totaled 67 points on 69 percent shooting this week.
Oklahoma City obviously won’t have to rely on Kanter so much during the playoffs. Still, coach Billy Donovan must feel pretty good knowing he has a bona fide offensive force on the bench ready to take on more responsibility should something happen to one of OKC’s stars. It’s not as if that hasn’t happened before, after all.
This story was published by PointAfter, a partner of NBA.com.
Will Laws is a writer for PointAfter, a sports data aggregation and visualization website that’s part of the Graphiq network. Visit PointAfter to get all the information about NBA players, NBA historical teams and dozens of other topics.