Towns, Okafor, Porzingis among NBA rookies shining early
Whether it was because of injury, a lack of talent around them or a lack of talent on their part, last year's rookie class in the NBA was one of the most forgettable in years.
It hasn't taken long for this year's crop of rookies to leave that class in the dust.
Karl-Anthony Towns has been a force on both ends for Minnesota. Jahlil Okafor is putting up monster offensive numbers in Philadelphia and Kristaps Porzingis has the Big Apple eating out of his hand.
Justise Winslow has been a defensive dynamo in Miami, Stanley Johnson looks like the perfect fit for Stan Van Gundy's system in Detroit and Emmanuel Mudiay may have earned the highest praise of them all when Jason Kidd predicted that the Denver Nuggets' point guard would have a better career than he did.
''I think this rookie class in general has shown skill level, but also poise beyond their years,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
It's a stark contrast to last year when Minnesota's Andrew Wiggins had no competition for the rookie of the year award. Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, Aaron Gordon, Julius Randle and Doug McDermott all struggled with injuries. Nik Stauskas and Noah Vonleh were both traded last summer one year after being top 10 picks.
Towns, the No. 1 overall pick, has led the way, putting up point, rebound and block totals this early in his career that haven't been seen since Shaquille O'Neal's first season with the Orlando Magic. He is averaging 15.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game.
''I think about the things I'm asking him to do against the people I'm asking him to do it against and I have to always remind myself that he's 19,'' Wolves interim coach Sam Mitchell said, ''that he should be a sophomore in college.''
THE WEEK AHEAD
-UNDEFEATED WARRIORS: The defending champs got a scare from lowly Brooklyn but remain perfect at 11-0. They host the Raptors on Tuesday, visit the rival Clippers on Thursday, host the Bulls on Friday and visit Denver on Sunday. A clean sweep would tie them for the best start in league history.
-WINLESS SIXERS: Philly is 0-10 and counting entering a four-game week. Dallas comes to town on Monday and the Pacers visit on Wednesday before a back-to-back at Charlotte and Miami on Friday and Saturday.
-LINSANITY RETURNS: Jeremy Lin is a backup in Charlotte these days, but an important one at that. He returns to New York on Tuesday, the birthplace of Linsanity.
-GAME OF THE WEEK: Al Horford and the Atlanta Hawks visit LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday in a matchup of two Eastern Conference heavyweights.
-RAPTORS HEAD WEST: Toronto has stumbled a little after a strong start, and started a West Coast trip with a loss in Sacramento on Sunday. They face the Warriors, Jazz, Clippers and Lakers this week.
STAT LINE OF THE WEEK: Wesley Matthews, Dallas: 9 for 13 FG, 3 for 4 3-pointers, 25 points in 32 minutes. Not exactly Steph Curry numbers (the MVP dropped 46 on the Timberwolves last week), but for a player coming off of the dreaded torn Achilles, it was a huge performance in a win over the Clippers. It was the first vintage Matthews performance we've seen since he joined the Mavericks.
(A previous version of this story has been corrected to show that a sweep would tie the Warriors for the best start to a season in league history, not just by the defending champions.)
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