Five player surprises this NBA season
Many notable players changed teams this NBA off-season, with some (Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Jeremy Lin, Andre Iguodala, James Harden) making more headlines than others.
However, some of the less talked about players who moved during the summer have had significant impacts on their new teams. Here are five players who flew under the radar of the bigger names in the news, but their contributions have so far been outstanding:
Ronnie Brewer, New York Knicks
At the time of writing, the Knicks remain the only unbeaten team in the NBA. Signed for one year to a minimum-salary deal, journeyman guard Ronnie Brewer was only intended to function as a stopgap while Iman Shumpert recovers from knee surgery.
However, Brewer has been much more than that for the Knicks in the early going. He’s done a little of everything: he’s shooting 47.1 percent from the field and 53.8 percent on three-point range; he rebounds the ball extremely well for a guard, averaging seven boards per game; and he’s been stellar defensively as well, allowing just 94 points per 100 possessions.
O.J. Mayo, Dallas Mavericks
Mayo is something of an enigma. The third overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft, he struggled through his first four seasons in Memphis to find minutes and produce consistently. It’s been a different story in Dallas.
As a starter, he’s averaging 21.9 points per game while shooting with uncharacteristic efficiency. His scoring has been responsible in part for an impressive 4-3 start for the Mavericks, who are without Dirk Nowitzki.
Kevin Martin, Oklahoma City Thunder
When the Thunder traded James Harden to the Rockets shortly before the start of the season, Martin was seen as a mere throw-in to make the deal work financially. He’s always been known as a prolific scorer, but there was skepticism as to how he would respond to taking a backseat to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
As it turns out, Martin has been filling Harden’s sixth-man role about as well as anyone could have hoped. He isn’t the playmaker Harden is, but he’s shooting the lights out and averaging 17.1 points per game off the bench.
Omer Asik, Houston Rockets
The Rockets signed Turkish center Omer Asik to a three-year deal this summer, taking the gamble that the player who had been a defensive force backing up Joakim Noah in Chicago would be able to do the same in a starting role. So far the risk is paying off big.
As a defender, he’s allowing a mere 94 points per 100 possessions to his opponents, and he’s pulling down 12.8 rebounds per game. Although he’s primarily known as an impact player on defense, Asik’s offensive game has improved this season as well.
He has proven himself capable of setting effective screens for Houston’s high-octane Jeremy Lin/James Harden backcourt. With players like that handling the bulk of the scoring, Asik is a perfect fit anchoring the defense.
Carl Landry, Golden State Warriors
Despite dealing with injuries to Andrew Bogut and Brandon Rush, the Warriors have proven to be a surprisingly deep and cohesive team so far. With Bogut out, veteran power forward Carl Landry has capably picked up some of the frontcourt slack.
After bouncing around Houston, Sacramento and New Orleans for much of his career, he signed a one-year deal this summer with Golden State, and it appears he may have found a permanent home.
He’s provided a scoring and rebounding spark off the bench, averaging 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game for the Warriors.
Sean Highkin writes for several sites on the ESPN TrueHoop Network. A Portland native, he witnessed the beginning of the Patty Mills era firsthand. Follow him on Twitter at @shighkinNBA.
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