A couple weeks ago, I analyzed past NBA champions (since the 1999-2000 season) and how their best player performed that specific season. The data was very interesting - every champion, other than the odd Pistons year, had their best player post both at least a 12.0 nERD and a 22.0 PER. This gives us a floor in which we can gauge current players and how they're leading their team this year.
Here is the updated table of guys who are having a "championship caliber season", which has remained pretty steady recently as players and teams start to show their true colors.
Since last week, Tiago Splitter has come back to Earth with a current nERD of 8.7. Meanwhile, Pistons sophomore big man Andre Drummond has climbed the ranks and finally reached our criteria for a "championship caliber season." We'll discuss him below.
Players To Watch
AD (not to be confused with fellow sophomore superstar big man Anthony Davis) is averaging 13.5 ppg, 12.8 bpg, 1.3 bpg, 2.0 spg and shooting 64.6% from the field. In the past four games, including the most recent big victory over the defending champs, he's stepped it up to the tune of 19.5 ppg and 16.8 rbg. Holy moly.
Drummond is still working out the kinks of his game - his defense and, most notably, his awful FT% - but the dude just turned 20 years old. His play has given the Pistons a lot of options with potentially moving Greg Monroe for a desperately needed perimeter shooter. He is scary good already in his young career and continues to get better. I don't know if he'll stay at our 12 nERD and 22 PER criteria all year, but he'll be pretty darn close.
While Boogie Cousins doesn't boast an amazing nERD (2.5 so far), he does have the seventh best PER in the league at 25.4. He is averaging a double-double at 21.7 ppg and 10.1 rbg on the season, but as usual, his production is overshadowed by off-court immaturity problems and media perception. However, I think Boogie is one of the more underrated players in the league.
He is one of the most dominant post-up big men in the league right now, which are hard to find. He is currently eighth in points scored in the paint this season and can take over games when he wants to. His defense admittedly isn't great despite averaging 1.6 spg and 1.2 bpg, but he's shown glimpses of being a disruptive defender when he wants to be. That's his motto, the talent is all there. He can be as good as he wants to be.
In this column last week, I talked about the Trail Blazers backcourt, Wesley Matthews and Damian Lillard. The Blazers keep on winning, so this week our focus is on big man LaMarcus Aldridge. He has a current nERD of 6.5 - respectable - and even hits our PER requirement at 22.4.
Aldridge has benefited this year from having Robin Lopez alongside him in the front court. This has allowed him to be more comfortable in his stretch-four offensive game. Like Cousins, he has not been an amazing defender this year or at any time of his career, but he's made up for it by being incredibly efficient on the offensive end, posting a ridiculous 109.2 ORtg on the year. Rip City is really fun to watch and Aldridge's flexibility on the offensive end is a huge reason why the Blazers have gotten off to one of the best starts in franchise history.