Triple Threat Weekly: Most Surprising Individual Performers

Weekly NBA Content by Back of the Jersey

Now midway through the NBA season, Back of the Jersey’s Triple Threat Weekly features Jim Armstrong and Tyler Michels highlighting this season’s biggest breakthrough performers at the Center, Forward and Guard positions.

Centers

Candidates: Pau Gasol, Nikola Vucevic, Jonas Valanciunas, Tyson Chandler, and Andre Drummond
http://probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2015/01/12/draymond-green-throws-food-at-seahawks-fans-from-luxury-suite-video/

Image courtesy of NY Daily News

Jim

Pau Gasol: Pau became the first player 34 years of age or older to post at least 44 points and 15 rebounds in 30 years. He cleared both of these thresholds easily, tallying 46 points and 18 boards against the Bucks earlier this week. He is also averaging 19.0 PPG and 11.4 RPG, which would mark his highest PPG since the ’06-’07 season. Needless to say, Pau is rejuvenated to play on a contender for the first time since the ’10-’11 season.

Tyler

Pau Gasol: I also am taking Pau, and here’s why: I simply didn’t know he still had this caliber of play in him. Like you said, statistically, this is his best season in years, and he and Jimmy Butler have saved the day for the Bulls.  Rose has been in and out of the lineup, making it nearly impossible to evaluate Chicago as a team. Can Gasol be the missing piece for Chicago, and deliver in the playoffs? If so, one has to wonder if Cleveland, Atlanta, Toronto or Washington will be able to hang with the Bulls.

Forwards

Candidates: Tobias Harris, Derrick Favors, Draymond Green, and Shabazz Mohammad

Jim

Draymond Green: When Draymond Green is not pelting Seahawks fans with grapes, he has proved to be an invaluable contributor for the Golden State Warriors. He’s nearly doubled his PPG from last season (11.9 PPG vs. 6.2 PPG) and has increased his RPG by 68% from last season (8.4 RPG vs. 5.0 RPG). He’s a border-line double-double threat after being inserted into the starting lineup earlier this season. How happy is Golden State GM Bob Meyers that he did not pull the trigger on last summer’s trade for Kevin Love that likely would have included Klay Thompson and Draymond Green/Harrison Barnes?

Tyler

Shabazz Mohammad: Draymond Green has been terrific on a superior Golden State Warriors team, but no one has surprised me this year as much as Shabazz Mohammad. Although he was a top five pick in 2013 for Minnesota, I questioned whether he would ever be in the conversation of top NBA players. He’s headed there. Shabazz is averaging 13.7 PPG and 4.7 RPG. These are hardly groundbreaking stats until you consider he plays just 23 minutes per game. Mohammad is ultra efficient too; shooting 48% from the field and 41% from 3-point range. Give him another year or two, and he may lead the T’Wolves revival out west.

Guards

Candidates: Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker, Darren Collison, Evan Fournier, Gerald Green
http://probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2015/01/12/draymond-green-throws-food-at-seahawks-fans-from-luxury-suite-video/

Image courtesy of ESPN.com

Jim

Jimmy Butler: I told myself last month that I needed to see Jimmy Butler live more often. After watching him play three times this month, I can confirm that the guy has transformed himself into a fearsome two-way player. He’s increased his scoring output by nearly 8 PPG versus last season (20.9 PPG vs. 13.1 PPG), coupled with increases in Free Throw %, rebounds, assists, 3-point FG % and field goal %. Unlucky for Bulls fans that he turned down their 4-year, $40 million extension earlier this season because he is going to command a max deal this summer.

Tyler

Darren Collison: The Jimmy Butler selection is almost impossible to argue with. Butler has morphed into the ultimate defender first-scorer second that NBA GMs long for.

However, at the beginning of this season, I commented in our NBA preview that Collison would be a great replacement for the departing point guard Isaiah Thomas. Collison has come through on my prediction. The former UCLA standout has averaged career high’s in points (16.6), assists (6.0), rebounds (3.4) and steals (1.7). He’s missed a few games for Sacramento, or they may have a slightly better record, but I really like the trio of Collison-Gay-Cousins for the next few years. Collison continues to be one of the most underrated players in the league, and at just 27 years old, still has the potential to blossom into one of the game’s greats.

About Tyler Michels

Tyler is an NC State alum living in Raleigh, NC. Growing up in Northwest New Jersey, Tyler developed a love for New York sports teams, driving his desire to become a writer. In his free time, Tyler can probably be found on a golf course.

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