C.J McCollum: The population of four year college players in the NBA is shrinking. McCollum had the possibility of entering the NBA draft as a Junior, yet decided to stay at Lehigh, in order to receive his degree. Props to this guy.
McCollum is part of an emerging population of guards which includes Damian Lillard, Elfrid Payton, and Cameron Payne, who were selected high in the first round, but who are not from a power house basketball program. In fact, McCollum is currently one of only two players from the Patriot League playing in the NBA.
The only problem that C.J. faced in the NBA was minutes. Playing behind Damien Lillard and Wes Mathews, who logged serious amounts of time on the court, McCollum only averaged 15 minutes a game last year in the regular season. However, when given the opportunity to play, he shines. In last year’s playoffs, he averaged 17 points and is already getting off to a hot start in this year’s regular season, scoring 22 points in the first quarter of the Blazer’s season opener.
With the Blazers roster gutted, McCollum can now take over as a starter. I see him logging large amounts of minutes and being in the running for the Most Improved Player Award this year.
Khris Middleton: If you want to test any NBA fan to see whether or not they really know the game, ask them the simple question. Who is Khris Middleton? Seriously this guy has gone unnoticed for two seasons while putting up extremely efficient numbers.
He can best be described as an “advanced stat superstar.” Last year, he ranked 6th in Real Plus Minus, a stat that measures how well a team played when a particular player is on the court (more accurate than plus/minus). The only players in front of Khris in this category are Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry, LeBron James, and James Harden.
Last year, he also ranked 8th in Defensive Plus Minus, behind players like Tony Allen, Kawhi Leonard, and Draymond Green. On both sides of the ball Khris is in pretty good company.
The Bucks will be an interesting team to watch. Khris might not be as visually appealing to watch like Giannis Antetokunmpo (The Greek Freak), or Jabari Parker, but from a numbers standpoint, he has been a rock for this Milwaukee squad.
In my opinion, Khris has already emerged, but if he keeps up with the same level of production, I believe he should be talked about in the same conversation with versatile small forwards like Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, and Kawhi Leonard.
TJ Warren: TJ Warren is in position to emerge as a great player. While he is currently coming off the bench, the Suns are in need of a quality offensive player at the three spot. While P.J. Tucker has given the Suns maximum effort on the defensive end, he lacks certain offensive skills. Basketball is becoming more position-less, and the Suns could even try Tucker at the a stretch four spot considering that he has a Draymond Green-like physique. This being said, Warren could also play at the two spot coming off the bench due to his versatile game.
At NC State, Warren was a flat out scorer, putting up over 40 points in multiple appearances. In the ACC, Warren was exposed to powerhouse teams like Duke, North Carolina, and Syracuse, yet Warren excelled even with these tough conditions. He was named ACC Player of the Year and led his team to the NCAA Tournament.
Warren should now be seeing upwards of 20 minutes a game and may even take over the starting role from P.J. Tucker if the Suns are in need of scoring. He already scored 17 points in only 22 minuets against the Blazers. This is the type of production the Suns need from him. Look for Warren to make splash when it comes to flat out scoring and maybe even in the running for the Sixth Man of the Year Award.
By Ian Riaf