The Miami Heat started off the season playing as one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference. After the All-Star break, the Miami Heat absolutely caught fire and sustained one of the best records in the second half of the season. A big contributing reason to this team doing so well was the man in the middle, Hassan Whiteside. Unfortunately for the Miami Heat, their record from the first half was too bad to overcome. Whiteside finished the regular season with 17.0ppg, 14.1rpg, and 2.1bpg while shooting .557% from the field and .628% from the free throw line. His play contributed to +9.5 Win Shares (+4.2 Offensive Win Shares and +5.3 Defensive Win Shares) and -0.5 Box Plus/Minus (-2.0 Offensive Box Plus/Minus and +1.5 Defensive Box Plus/Minus) with a 22.68PER. The Box Plus/Minus is not spectacular by any means but the rest of the numbers aren’t to be scoffed at. With him continuing to be the focal point for the Miami Heat, his numbers will continue to be impressive this season.
Gordon Hayward is no longer sporting a Utah Jazz jersey this coming season so the Jazz officially belong to Rudy Gobert. Nicknamed “The Stifle Tower,” his defense is a force to be reckoned with as his name has been constantly brought up in the Defensive Player of the Year award considerations. Can he handle being more of a focal point on offense? That will remain to be seen but it is likely that his point per game numbers will increase as his defense continues to be one of the best in the league. In 81 games last season, Gobert averaged 14.0ppg, 12.8rpg, and 2.6bpg while shooting .661% from the field and .650% from the free throw line. His play translated to +14.3 Win Shares (+8.3 Offensive Win Shares and +6.0 Defensive Win Shares) which is the highest on the list and +5.8 Box Plus/Minus (+1.4 Offensive Box Plus and a +4.5 Defensive Win Shares), good enough for second on the list. The Jazz would of liked Gobert to step it up in the playoffs but his per game averages do not measure up to his regular season numbers. In 9 games, he averaged 11.6ppg, 9.9rpg, 1.3bpg, and 1.0spg while shooting .635% from the field and .480% from the free throw line. Until his offensive repertoire improves, Gobert will stay in the lower part of the top five.
Nikola Jokic will explode this season. His name began to garnish interest this past season and now the hype coming into the season is extremely high. In 73 games last season, Jokic averaged 16.7ppg, 9.8rpg, and 4.9apg while shooting .578% from the field, .324% from the three point line, and .825% from the free throw line. His play contributed to a 26.40PER (#1 on the list), +9.7 Win Shares (+7.7 Offensive Win Shares and +2.0 Defensive Win Shares), good enough for 3rd on the list, and +8.4 Box Plus/Minus (+6.2 Offensive Box Plus/Minus and +2.2 Defensive Box Plus/Minus). His advanced statistics are already solid numbers and look for his per game numbers to increase this coming season as he has had another off-season to develop. Being he is only 22 years old, development is coming. The addition of Paul Millsap over the season will only benefit Jokic this coming season. One thing is for certain, Jokic will be an even more well known name after this season passes (and a possible playoff series for the Nuggets).
Get excited Timberwolves fans. This team looks to be a great one on paper. Hopefully, they can provide what looks to be a great season filled with improvements. Towns should be the center of it all for this young Wolves squad. Towns averaged 25.1ppg, 12.3rpg, 2.7apg, and 1.3bpg while shooting .542% from the field, .367% from the three point line, and .832% from the free throw line. His play contributed to a 26.00PER, which was the second highest on the list, 12.7 Win Shares (+9.9 Offensive Win Shares and +2.8 Defensive Win Shares), good enough for 2nd on the list, and +4.9 Box Plus/Minus (+4.7 Offensive Box Plus/Minus and +0.2 Defensive Box Plus/Minus). At only 21 years old, Towns has not hit his ceiling yet which should scare the rest of the league. If Towns breaks out even more this coming season, he will solidify his position as one of the top centers in the league.
“The Twin Towers” of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins can cause fits for opposing defenses. Fortunately for the opposing defenses, the Pelicans are mostly thin beyond them. An off-season to actually gel for Cousins and Davis should only help the Pelicans immensely. Cousins played in 72 games last season, Cousins averaged 27.0ppg, 11.0rpg, 4.6apg, 1.4spg, and 1.3bpg while shooting .452% from the field, .361% from the three point line, and .772% from the free throw line for both the Pelicans and the Sacramento Kings last season. Cousins finished with a 25.84PER. His advanced statistics are going to be a little bit more different than the rest of the players on this list just because of the trade. In 55 games for the Kings, he contributed 6.0 Win Shares (+3.4 Offensive Win Shares and +2.6 Defensive Win Shares) and +7.1 Box Plus/Minus (+4.5 Offensive Box Plus/Minus and +2.8 Defensive Box Plus/Minus). In 17 games for the Pelicans, Cousins finished with +1.6 Win Shares (+0.5 Offensive Win Shares and +1.1 Defensive Win Shares) and +4.8 Box Plus/Minus (+2.0 Offensive Box Plus/Minus and +2.8 Defensive Box Plus/Minus). One thing for sure, Cousins will look to retain his position as the best center in the NBA as the new season begins.