The Upper Echelon

Published by Axel on 17th November - 02:02 (CET)
The 2016–17 NBA schedule is the first of it's kind to be created by a computer instead of human beings.
As expected the computers once again proved why the Skynet one day will be for real and created a schedule featuring a historic low number of "back-to-back" games.

As I write this we're currently up to 314 games this season. There's almost 2150 regular season games to go and we've already had the pleasure to witness some really incredible performances.

LeBron James started the season in a very LeBronesque fashion and posted a triple double with 19 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds against the Knicks on opening night. He became the first player to do so since Jason Kidd in 2006. More noteworthy he's also managed to pass Hakeem's 26,946 points for the 10th spot on the all-time NBA scoring list and is now the youngest player in history to get 27,000 points.

With 51 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists against the Suns, Russell Westbrook became the first player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975 to record a triple double with at least 50 points. It's the 3rd highest point tally ever in a triple-double.

After missing all his three point attempts against the Lakers, Steph Curry ended his streak of most consecutive games with a 3-point field goal made at 157 games. That's 30 games more than Kyle Korver's 127 at second place. He had somewhat of a comeback in the next game as he then set the record for most three-pointers made in a single game with 13 of them against the Pelicans.

James Harden has adapted to the role as point guard and is now the first player in NBA history to record at least 24 points and 12 assists in six consecutive games. With 41 points and 15 assists in a loss against the Cavs and 30 points and 15 assists in a win against the Knicks the very next night he also became the first player with at least 30 points and 15 assists in back-to-back games since Magic in 1986–87.

Anthony Davis is now the 4th player in NBA history to score 50 points or more on opening night as he scored 50 points against the Nuggets. Guess what though? The Pelicans still lost. Shocker... He followed that game up with 45 more points against the Warriors in his next game, becoming the first player since Michael Jordan in '86 - '87 to score at least 40 points in the first two games of the season.

Kevin Durant "only" had 18 points against the Nuggets the other day. With that he ended his streak of 72 consecutive games with at least 20 points. Enough to tie another one of Michael Jordan's ol' records.

Those guys above are the best of the best. The absolute elite. Among a few other players they're in what you would call the upper echelon of the NBA. Sure, there are a lot of really good players. Almost every team has one - almost every other year this would also be a great opportunity to bash the 76ers, but you've got Joel now - as there's 24 All-Stars every year. All of them are very good, but there's usually about 10 of them who separate themselves from the rest. Duncan, Garnett and Kobe were all part of that group in their primes. As they leave there are new players to take their place. There's a few players who seem to be on the verge of breaking into that group this very season.

Damian Lillard wasn't even selected as an All-Star in 2016. Even so he may already have proven that he belongs in this holy group of players. He's had some unbelievable performances to start the season and is currently averaging 29.8 points. Lillard seems to have improved even further and the Trail Blazers' back court duo Lillard-McCollum is currently outscoring the Warriors backcourt duo of Curry-Thompson with more than five points per game.

On November 4th, DeMar DeRozan scored 34 points in a win against the Miami Heat, becoming the first player since Michael Jordan in 1986 to score 30+ points in the first five games to start the season.
He's shooting 51% from the field and is currently leading the league with 33.2 points per game. I thought the top dog hierarchy in Toronto already had been established. Maybe I was wrong.

Karl-Anthony Towns. I think we all know it's just a matter of time. A freakishly athletic 7 footer with a three point shot. Only injuries can stop a guy like that. KAT is currently averaging 22.0 points, 2.8 assists, 8.8 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 1.2 blocks per game while shooting 48% from the field and 37% from three.
He's in his second NBA season and just turned 21, I fear for the future of all other teams.

Many of us might see the elite defense as Jimmy Butler's greatest ability. What I like the most about Butler is his ability to improve every single season. It's not much of a secret as he won the NBA Most Improved Player award in 2015. His whole story is incredible. A guy who was kicked out of his home and essentially homeless at age 13 is now steadily growing into one of the best players in the NBA. Butler averaged 2.7, 8.6 and 13.1 points per game during his first three seasons in the NBA. He's always been known as a very good defender, but his improvements on offense this season have had him carrying the Bulls in most games. He's currently averaging 24.5 points per game and now seems to have all what it takes to become one of those elite franchise players.

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