In years past, we’d have just finished up opening week in the NBA. Instead, we’re about ten games into the season and seeing the trends of the season begin. Teams are settling in, narratives are taking off, and there is no shortage of compelling performances.
Here, we’ll look the top players from each position throughout Week 3, and discuss what they accomplished over the last seven days to warrant the rank.
Point Guard – Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Lillard really took off in Week 3. He hit his stride as both a volume scorer and game-winning shooter, scoring at least 30 points in each of his four games, and hitting a dagger versus the Lakers at the last second to seal their first win of the week.
Despite going just 2-2 on the week, Lillard began to put the team on his back and, as a result, his teammates benefitted greatly from the return to form. Jusuf Nurkic, who has struggled all season, began to wake up from his summer slumber, as he put up 20 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 1.3 blocks per game in just 30 minutes a night. His play more resembled the player Portland acquired at the trade deadline last spring, and they are hoping he remains that way the remainder of the season. This was only possible with Lillard running and gunning like he’s used to.
Shooting Guard – Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Beal had an amazing week, despite the Wizards going 1-2 in their three games. Beal showed incredible shooting touch over all three encounters, but especially so in the final two contests, one which was without John Wall taking pressure off of him versus Toronto. Beal posted point totals of 38, 36, and 40 points, making 11 total 3-pointers.
Playing just 44 minutes combined in the two games prior, Beal played no less than 37 minutes this week. He’s taken an obvious step forward over the last two seasons, first and foremost staying healthy and on the floor. This has allowed him to develop a feel for the game he hasn’t had the chance to in years due to past injury concerns.
Look for Beal to stay hot as he grows familiar with Washington's core.
Small Forward – LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
It’s not an under-the-radar pick, and it might be overplayed at this point – of which I would agree. But everyone in the world has a friend talking about James for a reason – he’s playing at a level we haven’t seen since his Miami days and one that we definitely never expected at age 33.
James finished the week putting up 39 points, 7 rebounds, and 10 assists, adding 2 steals, 1.7 blocks and a generous 6 turnovers per game. The peak of his play came on Friday against the Wizards when he posted a season-high 57 points along with 11 rebounds and 7 assists. Aside from his inflated stats, James has been efficient shooting the ball, posting 64% from the field in his three games this week, pushing his season average to over 60%.
His teammates need to get on his level because we definitely don’t want to miss these performances in May.
Power Forward – Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks
The unicorn looked especially spectacular this week. And he looked even better when considering the Knicks went 3-1 over their four games. Timeout! The Knicks have a winning record? They do, and most of that is due to the transcendent play of the third-year Latvian.
In the three wins, Porzingis averaged 38 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 blocks per game, plus 2.3 3-pointers to boot. Scary stuff. He’s been the best player the Knicks have had in… 20 years? Patrick Ewing wasn’t the scorer Porzingis is, and Porzingis might be able to match his defensive production if not his defensive prowess.
Porzingis is the better player, meaning the Knicks need to answer every demand he has if they ever want to become relevant again.
Center – Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
It’s not a sexy pick, by any stretch. Has anyone actually looked at Drummond’s shooting splits this season? Rest assured, they are not 70% from the field, and 37% from the line. Quite the opposite in terms of free throw shooting, in fact. Drummond has somehow relearned how to shoot the ball and is shooting 75% from the line on the season. Take a moment to process that.
He finished last season at 38% from the line, his fourth sub-40% mark in five seasons, yet has sustained 75% over ten games this year. This number, and frankly the reason he’s included here, was bolstered by his 14-for-16 performance at the line versus the Bucks this past week.
Add his new-found free throw shooting ability to his already dominant post play, and his also-new-found ability to pass the ball out of the post – thus limiting his turnover numbers – and Drummond suddenly looks like a top 25 player in his sixth season.
Reiterating the magnitude of the changes he’s made to his game, Drummond is now a positive free throw shooter and a competent passer. We’re not trying to diminish the player he was, but this is quite a stunning development and one that was completely unexpected.
Who was your top player of Week 3? Comment below!