We are pretty close to the official halfway point of the NBA season and a handful of players have caught my attention with their productive in the first three months or so. Every season, we have players step up to play bigger roles than they did in the previous one, and this year is so different.
Below I take a look at five players in particular who have done well with more playing time in the best league in the world.
Will Barton, Denver Nuggets (29.6 MPG, 15.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.5 APG, 38.6 3P%)
The Nuggets have once again struggled to win games, but Barton has done very well driving his stock up with the minutes he has been presented with. Even though Barton has started only one of 38 games this season, he ranks second on the Nuggets with close to 16 points a game and has been a main contributor on both sides of the ball. Look for the Nuggets to get some calls for the third year shooting guard from Memphis, although I would keep him around, unless it is an offer the Nuggets simply cannot refuse.
Ish Smith, Philadelphia 76ers (30.4 MPG, 16.2 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 7.8 APG, 80.8 FT%)
Smith made a real name for himself this season when both Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday missed games due to injury. Once both said players returned to the line-up, Ish became expendable and was traded to the horrific 76ers, where he has further blossomed and helped a very young Sixers team win a few games. If Smith can keep Okafor, Covington and Noel involved on the offensive end, he could prove to be a great signing for a team that needs veteran leadership. The numbers above are Ish’s since joining the 76ers on December 24th 2015.
T.J. Warren, Phoenix Suns (23.1 MPG, 11.3 PPG, 3.4 RPG 50.4 FG%)
The player I have been most impressed with this season has been T.J. Warren. His numbers will not blow you away, but he has been one of the better bench players in the entire NBA. Warren is not afraid to get the hoop on any given possession, which any NBA coach would love. Warren also seems to find himself in the right spot on the offensive end, with key rebounds down the stretch of close games; the kid just has a knack for the bucket. With his emergence as a solid three man, Warren could potentially make Markieff Morris expendable, as the disgruntled former Kansas player looks for a trade.
C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers (35.5 MPG, 20.9 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 4.4 APG, 39.8 3P%)
With the departures of both Matthews and Batum, more minutes were up for grabs and McCollum has done an excellent job of showing the Trail Blazers coaching staff what he is capable of when given a real opportunity. McCollum ranks second in PPG for the Blazers and first in three point percentage. Whoever thought this two point guard system of Lillard and McCollum would not work (me) was definitely wrong. The next step for the Blazers should be to surround McCollum and Lillard with a solid big man.
Allen Crabbe, Portland Trail Blazers (26.1 MPG, 11.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 37.1 3P%)
Crabbe is yet another player that has benefited from the departures of Matthews and Batum. Unlike McCollum, Crabbe has put up great numbers coming off the bench and gives the Blazers much needed scoring. Similar to McCollum, Crabbe can hit the three, which makes the opposition stretch out the defence. The Blazers currently have three or four shooting guards on their roster and if Crabbe continues to put up great numbers, do not be surprised if he is dealt by the trade deadline.
For this segment, I chose not to include rookies because there are no past NBA numbers to compare them to, but I could have had Kristaps Porzingis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Justise Winslow and a few others on my list.
Kent Bazemore, Atlanta Hawks
Bismack Biyombo, Toronto Raptors
Jae Crowder, Boston Celtics
Ogi is a graduate of Humber College’s Sport Management program. He is the founder of Blago Blogger Sports.