The NBA is full of surprises every year. It is never uncommon to see budding young stars take shape in the league, just as superstars such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant have done when they were younger. In today’s NBA, a few players have taken the league by storm and are putting up surprising stats and highlight plays. These same players have had brilliant performances that have ripped their opponents’ hearts out.
These select few players are assassins, and they have proved time and time again that they won’t be ignored. It’s time for a new generation to rise up, and these players certainly fit the mold. Here are five of the most surprising NBA Assassins of the 2017-2018 season.
5. Victor Oladipo
Who expected Oladipo to transform into a franchise centerpiece. No one did. Oladipo is averaging an insane 24.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 3.9 APG. He has transcended his game into an all-star level, exploding to the rim with reckless abandon and making 43% of his three point attempts. Oladipo is definitely starting something. He is giving the Indiana Pacers hope, while playing better and efficiently than Paul George ever did. He has definitely become one of the NBA’s top assassins, especially in crunch time.
Because of Oladipo, the Pacers are back in the Playoff picture and are currently fourth seed in the Eastern Conference with an 18-14 record. This is all thanks to Victor Oladipo who is scoring efficiently in the post and outside the arc. While everyone knew that Oladipo was a good player, no one knew what he was capable of being on his own. Because of Oladipo, the Pacers have avoided the rebuilding phase and have become one of the most interesting teams to watch. Don’t expect him to slow down just yet. It’s been 32 games and he is still balling the same.
4. Donovan Mitchell
Remember when Gordon Hayward left the Utah Jazz for the Boston Celtics? Everyone assumed that the Jazz’s playoff hopes and contention would be effectively over. Those doubts haven’t changed much, but Donovan Mitchell has become a key player that looks to blossom into a superstar further down the road. Drafted with the 13th pick of the 2017 NBA Draft, Mitchell is performing well on both sides of the floor, surprising everyone including the Utah Jazz.
Mitchell is currently averaging 17.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG, and 3.4 APG. These stats are incredible for a rookie, but they do not tell the whole story. Lately, Mitchell has been dominating NBA teams, scoring bunches of points even against championship contenders.
Mitchell excels using his quick speed and athleticism to dominate the paint. He is a great shooter and takes advantage of wide open shots off of set picks. Mitchell just may be the best NBA rookie from the 2017 class as of right now. He is producing on a desperate Utah Jazz team, and he seems to be fitting into the Jazz’s system pretty well. For a rookie, Mitchell has came up big in clutch time performances, which is why is is the NBA’s next assassin moving forward.
3. Lou Williams
No one can doubt Lou Williams’ skill. Williams has been putting up big numbers since he played for the Philadelphia 76ers. He is a prized veteran that simply knows how to score effectively in bunches. However, this season, Lou Williams is playing particularly incredible in the absence of Danilo Gallinari and Blake Griffin. Williams is currently averaging 19.8 PPG, shooting a career high 38% from deep. Lou Williams is becoming more consistent, scoring a nasty buzzer-beater against the Wizards.
Lou Williams may be a sixth man, but he is surely playing like a starter, keeping the Clippers in the Playoff race. Maybe this will be the year where Williams will explode. Let’s wait and see.
2. DeMar DeRozan
DeMar DeRozan is currently averaging 24.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, and 5.0 APG. This is amazing for a superstar, but why is DeRozan being given any credit? No one knows for sure, but the Raptors are third seed in the Eastern Conference. They look focused on both ends of the floor, and that’s all because of DeMar DeRozan. Granted, DeRozan is shooting 32% from deep, but he is only taking two attempts per game. On a brighter note, DeRozan constantly proves that he can score effectively without a three-point shot. Though, he shot terrific from long range against the 76ers, in which he made six threes and scored 45 points.
The performance shows that DeRozan is still improving and that if he gets the confidence to take more threes, he will make more. He is right now averaging 31.3 PPG in his last three games, and he is the engine of this Raptors team. DeRozan tears teams apart with his unstoppable midrange game. He is playing is most efficient season yet, and he still isn’t getting the recognition he deserves. It’s alright. Assassins have to hide in the shadows and surprise people every once in a while.
1. Kyle Kuzma
If we determined the position of Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball, you could accurately say that Kyle Kuzma looks like the real 2nd pick of the 2017 Draft. He is explosive. He is a great scorer. He is quick and athletic. Kyle Kuzma is the future of the Lakers, and if he keeps up the pace, he could turn into the star the Lakers have missed since Kobe Bryant retired. Kyle Kuzma is averaging 17.4 PPG with 6.6 RPG. He is a quality option, no matter who he is against. In his game against the Houston Rockets, Kyle Kuzma exploded. He scored 38 points on 12-17 shooting, and the Rockets had no answer for him.
Kuzma is an NBA assassin, but his background makes it all the more surprising. Kuzma was selected 27th in the 2017 NBA Draft and was considered to be a complementary piece to the real prize in Lonzo Ball, who was drafted 25 spots before him. Now, Kuzma is the Laker’s most exciting player, and he is even outplaying Lonzo Ball. When his game eventually develops and matures, Kuzma will become a cornerstone piece for the Los Angeles Lakers as they hope to get back into title contention.
In fact, all of these players have demonstrated an elite level of personal success that can take their team to the next level. Soon, their performances won’t be surprising, but if these players can keep it up, they will remain NBA assassins.