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A new season in the National Basketball Association has tipped off and thus another year of Hoosiers In The NBA has begun! Now entering it’s fourth year, I’ve gone from covering just Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller to now keeping tabs on eight former Hoosiers.
Every week I’ll go over the biggest stories regarding our roster of former IU players and have their season averages at the end of the article.
This week we have a lot to go over as the start of the season has been a very intriguing one for our former Hoosiers so let’s waste no more time and dive right in:
Things Clicking For Oladipo Back In Indiana
It took very little time for Victor Oladipo to feel at home back in the Hoosier state.
Oladipo is off to the best start of his career and it’s not even close. Here is a look at the first four games of each season by Oladipo:
2013: 13.8ppg, 43.8% FG, 30.0% 3FG
2014: 12.3ppg, 34.8% FG, 25.0% 3FG
2015: 15.8ppg, 35.3% FG, 25.9% 3FG
2016: 15.0ppg, 32.8% FG, 23.8% 3FG
2017: 23.8ppg, 47.1% FG, 38.1% 3FG
There are numerous reasons as for why this season has started off better than any of his prior seasons, from just being more accustomed to the NBA game to being the focal point of the offense and getting more touches.
Yet the thing that stands out most to me is that Oladipo is going to the basket more aggressively and drawing more fouls than he’s ever done before. He’s already averaging 6.8 free throw attempts per game, almost double his career average of 3.6 free throw attempts per game.
This has led to an improved shooting percentage, always a weakness for Oladipo, as defenses are starting to respect his ability to drive past them to the rim and are thus giving him a little more shooting space.
It would be important to note that three of these games have been without the Indiana Pacers other young star Myles Turner so it will be worth monitoring Oladipo’s numbers when Turner returns as we find out who the offense will run through when both are healthy.
Gordon Continues Scoring Pace From Last Season
Eric Gordon was rejuvenated last season, there’s no other way to put it.
After five injury-riddled season with the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans, Gordon played in 75 games (second most games he’s played in a season) during his first season with the Houston Rockets and became one of the NBA’s best sixth men and dangerous three-point shooters.
However the acquisition of Chris Paul likely meant that Gordon’s numbers would decline and we would start to see him more as a role player who would have the occasional throwback game instead of the second scoring option he was the year before.
Yet an unfortunate injury to Paul has Gordon not only back to being the secondary scorer again, but Gordon kicked it up a notch with three 20+ point games in his first four and, like Oladipo, a renewed interest in drawing fouls and going to the free throw line.
Gordon is averaging 7.8 free throw attempts through the season’s first four games, which contrasts greatly with Gordon’s last three seasons where he averaged under three attempts per game all three years.
This large amount of free throws will no doubt dwindle as the season goes along, but even half as many as he is averaging right now would mark a huge step forward for Gordon as he continues to transform his game in the second stage of his career.
Zeller Is The Back Up For Now
The offseason acquisition of Dwight Howard made Cody Zeller’s role on the Charlotte Hornets a bit of a mystery heading into the season.
After battling Al Jefferson for three years over the starting spot, Zeller finally won out and got his chance to be the starting big man last year and didn’t disappoint with career-best numbers in almost every stat category.
However he missed 20 games (tied for the most he has missed in a season) and the Hornets went a ghastly 3-17 in those games because of the lack of depth behind him at the position.
Enter Howard, who reunites with Head Coach Steve Clifford, one of his former coaches back in his Orlando Magic All-NBA years. Despite Zeller being the better player last year as well as six years younger, Howard has been awarded the starting spot mainly based on the fact that he’s a future Hall of Famer.
While this arrangement might work for now (Howard is averaging 12.7 points and 17.3 rebounds during the opening week while Zeller has only played in one of his team’s three games), history says Zeller will be the starter again by midseason. Although a bone bruise to start the season and two missed games may push that timetable back a bit.
Ferrell Is Still In The Starting Lineup
From a 10-day contract to a two-year contract and an All-Rookie 2nd team nod, Yogi Ferrell had quite the adventure during his first season in the NBA.
Looks like things will be just as crazy in year two. Ferrell, who was slotted to be the backup point guard, has started in all four of the Dallas Mavericks’ games so far this season and has been fairly impressive, especially from behind the arc where he’s shooting 52.6% from deep.
The reason Ferrell has been in the starting lineup is because of injuries.
The Mavericks used the ninth pick in the NBA draft on Dennis Smith Jr. who they have high hopes will be their franchise point guard. Unfortunately he has missed two of the Mavericks’ four games. In addition to Smith, Seth Curry has yet to play this season due to a leg injury.
Yet Ferrell has made the most of his playing time (34.5 minutes per game) and I still expect around 20 minutes a game when he eventually goes back to the bench, especially after the way he has performed this first week.
Anunoby Already Starts His Rookie Campaign
The fear of maybe missing his entire rookie season caused OG Anunoby to fall all the way to number 23 on draft night where the Toronto Raptors happily picked him.
Anunoby has repaid the Raptors’ faith in him as surprisingly he was able to participate right away in the first game of the season.
While he hasn’t done anything too special, it is fun to note that his first career points were a dunk over Quincy Pondexter and that he finished with nine points in his first NBA game.
OG Anunoby: Forward, Toronto Raptors:
5.3ppg, 2.3rpg, 1.7apg, 0.33spg, 0.00bpg, 0.0tpg, 2.7fpg, 42.9% FG, 28.6% 3FG, 100.0% FT, 15.7mpg (3 games)
Thomas Bryant: Center, Los Angeles Lakers:
Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell: Guard, Dallas Mavericks:
13.8ppg, 2.8rpg, 3.0apg, 1.00spg, 0.00bpg, 1.3tpg, 2.5fpg, 39.5% FG, 52.6% 3FG, 93.8% FT, 34.5mpg (4 games)
Eric Gordon: Guard, Houston Rockets:
23.5ppg, 2.5rpg, 3.3apg, 0.25spg, 0.50bpg, 2.0tpg, 2.5fpg, 41.4% FG, 25.0% 3FG, 83.9% FT, 30.5mpg (4 games)
Victor Oladipo: Guard, Indiana Pacers:
23.8ppg, 4.5rpg, 3.5apg, 2.50spg, 0.50bpg, 2.8tpg, 3.5fpg, 47.1% FG, 38.1% 3FG, 85.2% FT, 30.8mpg (4 games)
Noah Vonleh: Forward, Portland Trail Blazers:
Troy Williams: Forward, Houston Rockets:
2.0ppg, 1.0rpg, 0.0apg, 0.00spg, 0.00bpg, 0.0tpg, 1.0fpg, 25.0% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 0.0% FT, 4.0mpg (1 game)
Cody Zeller: Forward, Charlotte Hornets:
8.0ppg, 9.0rpg, 0.0apg, 0.00spg, 1.00bpg, 2.0tpg, 2.0fpg, 60.0% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 100.0% FT, 23.0mpg (1 game)