Everyone knows who the big time stars in the game are. Even the latest crop od young talent has impresed on an extreme level. Throughout this article, however, we will pay our due dilligence to the top 10 players that have noticeably improved on the court this NBA season. Let’s start out in Washington D.C.
10.) Kelly Oubre Jr., F/G. Washington Wizards
2017-18 stats: 46 games played. 27.3 mpg., 12.2 ppg., 4.9 rpg., 1.1 apg., 44.9% FG, 40.5% 3PTFG, 83.3% FT, 0.8 spg., 0.4 bpg., 1.2 topg
The wiry swingsman from Kansas hasn’t had the easiest transition to pro basketball in his first couple of season with the Wizards. Despite always being a good defensive player, he had never averaged more than 22 minutes a game and a lot of people, coaches especially, had no real idea of what his fit in the NBA would be.
In Year 3, however, Oubre looks like a completely different player. His on-ball defense, which has always been there has only gotten better, he’s averaging career highs across the board, and has developed a legitimate jump shot. The ball fake is a key move in his arsenal and now, due to his much improved accuracy from the perimeter, it actually works.
9.) Domatas Sabonis, F. Indiana Pacers
2017-18 stats: 44 games played. 25.2 mpg., 12.4 ppg., 8.5 rpg., 2.1 apg., 53.3% FG, 36.8% 3PTFG, 73.9% FT, 0.5 bpg., 0.4 spg., 2.0 topg
Arvydas’ kid was an absolute flop as a starter for the Oklahoma City Thunder after being the No. 11 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft out of Gonzaga. He shot under 40% from the floor, averaged only 5 points per contest, looked absolutely lost on the floor at times and was a liability on defense. Then as expected, the ‘bust’ labels started floating around.
However, after being included in the Paul George trade that rocked the NBA world, Year 2 has been very good to him. He worked diligently during the off season and has transformed into a reliable post up guy and has shown to be quite relentless on the glass. He’s improved in every major statisical category and is Indiana’s most important bench player.
8.) Jamal Murray, G. Denver Nuggets
2017-18 stats: 45 games played. 29.7 mpg., 15.8 ppg., 3.4 rpg., 2.6 apg., 44.2% FG, 36.2% 3PTFG, 92.1% FT, 0.9 spg., 0.3 bpg., 2.0 topg
The former Kentucky Wildcat was drafted by the Denver Nuggets No. 7 overall in last year’s draft and was thought to be one of the best scorers in the draft. However, he struggled mightily with consistency in his jump shot and despite playing all 82 games for the Nuggets last season, he scored 20 or more points only 8 times.
This year, a change of position and noticeable spikes in almost every major statistical category has been Murray’s saving grace, hence him coming out of the dark this year. He has improved his shooting, is one of the top 3 scorers on his team and once again, the Nuggets are in the thick of the playoff hunt midway through the season. Not to mention, he has already doubled his amount of games that he’s scored 20+ points. Things are definitely coming together for the sophomore guard.
7.) Jaylen Brown, G/F. Boston Celtics
2017-18 stats: 41 games played. 31.4 mpg., 14.2 ppg., 5.6 rpg., 1.4 apg., 46.3% FG, 38.3% 3PTFG, 56.4% FT, 1.1 spg., 0.4 bpg., 1.7 topg
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft by way of California was seen by many as a reach. An elite defender and above average scorer in his days as a Bear, he struggled heavily to find his offense in Year 1 and averaged a measily 6.6 points per outing.
Brown competed in the Summer League this off season as well as creating a basketball league of his own in Las Vegas to keep out of trouble. Brown went into the season as the Celtics starting shooting guard.
He started the season off red hot, averaging over 16 points and 6 rebounds a game over his 1st 20 starts. He has also improved his dribble penetration and has settled into a 3 point shot. Celtic fans are hoping that this is just the beginning.
6.) Brandon Ingram, F. Los Angeles Lakers
2017-18 stats: 41 games played. 34.0 mpg., 15.9 ppg., 5.3 rpg., 3.4 apg., 46.0% FG, 35.8% 3PTFG, 67.6% FT, 0.8 spg., 0.7 bpg, 2.6 topg
As a rookie, Brandon Ingram came in with lofty expectations after being selected No. 2 overall by the Los Angeles Lakers last year. In his first season, he became known for his elite defense. Yet his offense was spotty and came only in spurts, due to an inconsistent shot and being very hesitant. Despite playing all 82 games, he shot a lowly 40% from the floor and averaged only 9 points per contest.
This season, it looks like he has put everything together. He’s 2nd on the team in scoring behind rookie Kyle Kuzma and has worked on scoring with his back to the basket. He is not afraid to penetrate inside and finish and will pull the trigger if given enough space.
His confidence has skyrocketed as a sophomore and he is a marquee guy for the Lake Show going forward. Showtime is on it’s way back. Trust and believe.
5.) Clint Capela, C. Houston Rockets
2017-18 stats: 38 games played. 26.3 mpg., 14.4 ppg., 10.9 rpg., 1.2 apg., 66.9% FG, 61.5% FT, 1.8 bpg., 0.7 spg., 1.7 topg
The 6’10” Swiss hooper has steadily improved his game since becoming a starter for the Houston Rockets. But it’s not even just the offensive game for him that has improved.
He has turned himself into an undersized, yet menacing rim protector and is currently ranked in the top 10 in rejections and rebounds per game. It won’t be long before we start mentioning Clint Capela as one of the NBA’s most revered big men. More than likely, he already is.
4.) Kris Dunn, G. Chicago Bulls
2017-18 stats: 40 games played. 29.6 mpg., 13.7 ppg., 6.4 apg., 4.6 rpg., 43.3% FG, 32.4% 3PTFG, 70.3% FT, 2.1 spg., 0.5 bpg., 3.0 topg
The ultra quick and feisty 6’4″ combo guard from the University of Providence was a defensive maven with an offensive game to match. Selected No. 5 overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves last season, Dunn was left for dead and rarely cracked the rotation for Tom Thibodeau. He logged an unimpressive 17.4 minutes and barely 4 points per game, thus never settling into a role with the Wolves.
Fast forward to NBA draft night. The Wolves sent Zach Lavine, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2017 draft (Lauri Markkanen), and Dunn to the Bulls for embattled star Jimmy Butler.
In what has become an obvious rebuilding year for the Bulls, Kris Dunn has revived his career as the starter. His averages absolutely trump those of the 2016-17 season. He has helped stabilize the offense and his defense remains as stable as it always has been, ranking 3rd in the NBA in steals per game (2.1). It’s safe to say that the Bulls have found their point guard of the future.
3.) Aaron Gordon, F. Orlando Magic
2017-18 stats: 36 games played. 33.7 mpg., 18.6 ppg., 8.1 rpg., 2.1 apg., 45.5% FG, 35.8% 3PTFG, 74.0% FT, 0.9 spg., 0.7 bpg., 1.8 topg
The man who was notoriously robbed at the 2016 Slam Dunk Contest was viewed by many as nothing more than a great athlete with a spotty jump shit. The Orlando Magic took the bouncy, athletic forward from Arizona with the No. 4 pick in the 2014 NBA draft and slowly but surely showed progress.
This year, he is finally playing up to his draft pedigree. He currently leads the Magic in scoring, is their 2nd leading rebounder, and finally makes some of those 3 pointers he jacks up. He has 76 3 point field goals made this year, easily a career high.
He’s still an amazingly gifted leaper and a SportsCenter highlight waiting to happen. For Orlando Magic fans, however, it’s great that he’s finally showing the world what all the pre draft hype was about. Aaron Gordon is hear to stay, y’all.
2.) Lou Williams, G. Los Angeles Clippers
2017-18 stats: 43 games played. 31.9 mpg., 23.2 ppg., 5.0 apg., 2.6 rpg., 45.5% FG, 41.4% 3PTFG, 90.3% FT, 0.9 spg., 0.2 bpg., 2.9 topg
A wily, old NBA veteran out of South Gwinett High School in Snellville, Georgia, Sweet Lou has always been a source of instant offense in his 14 seasons in the NBA. He is a heavily revered 6th man option and has been a spark plug off the bench in every NBA city that he has been in. However, he has never been this sweet. In what has turned into a borderline All-Star caliber season, Lou Williams has averaged career highs across the board and appears to have found the fountain of youth.
His hallmark performance came against the Golden State Warriors. In a game where he started for the injured Milos Teodosic, he dropped 50 points in just under 35 minutes. Unbelievable. This kinda stuff is unheard of and Lou Williams is making it happen in his 14th season.
1.) Victor Oladipo, G. Indiana Pacers
2017-18 stats: 41 games played. 34.1 mpg., 24.3 ppg., 5.3 rpg., 4.0 apg., 48.3% FG, 40.2% 3PTFG, 79.2% FT, 1.9 spg., 0.9 bpg., 2.8 topg
ALL HAIL THE MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE 2017-18 SEASON! The former 2nd overall selection in the 2013 NBA draft by way of Indiana University, he was summed up as a solid two way player who had simply underachieved in his first 4 years as a pro. Another key part of the Paul George trade, Oladipo was widely overlooked and the Pacers were thought out to be left for dead.
Victor Oladipo has grabbed the NBA by the throat this season and has made everybody take notice. He has 6 30+ point games this season to his credit, including a 47-point breakout performance against the Denver Nuggets at home on December 10th where he proceeded to claim Indianapolis, Indiana as “my city”. It definitely was that night. He shot 15/28 from the floor, hit 6/12 3 point field goals, and hit 11 of his 13 attempts from the free throw line.
Oladipo has been a virtouso this season for the Indiana Pacers, who find themselves, to the surprise of just about everyone outside of the organization, in the playoff hunt. He’s posting career highs in points per game, field goal percentage, 3 point field goal percentage, rebounds, and is in the top 5 in the NBA in steals.
There is a case that should be made for Victor Oladipo’s bid to play in the All-Star game this year. His inspired play and all out career rejuvenation deserve recognition. Maybe adding a Most Improved Player award to the trophy case at the end of the season will help take off the edge. If this play continues, it most definitely will happen.
Worthy of a shout out
Taurean Prince, F. Atlanta Hawks
2017-18 stats: 44 games played. 31.1 mpg., 12.4 ppg., 5.4 rpg., 2.5 apg., 43.0% FG, 39.7% 3PTFG, 78.4 FT, 0.9 spg., 0.7 bpg., 2.2 topg
Justin Holiday, G. Chicago Bulls
2017-18 stats: 44 games played. 34.2 mpg., 13.7 ppg., 4.6 rpg., 2.3 apg., 38.2% FG, 38.3% 3PTFG, 83.3% FT, 1.1 spg., 0.6 bpg., 1.9 topg
Bobby Portis, F. Chicago Bulls
2017-18 stats: 36 games played. 20.5 mpg., 12.1 ppg., 6.0 rpg., 1.6 apg., 48.9% FG, 34.8% 3PTFG, 80.5% FT, 0.5 spg., 0.3 bpg., 3.0 topg