WORTH THE WAIT: Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid all made strong cases to be the top pick of the 2014 NBA Draft. In the end, Wiggins got the nod and went on to capture Rookie of the Year honors with the Timberwolves. Parker, the second pick by Milwaukee, missed the bulk of his rookie season after tearing his ACL. Embiid, chosen third by Philadelphia, missed two full seasons with foot problems. But all three are finally playing in the NBA at the same time and validating their place at the top of the draft. Wiggins is averaging more than 25 points and leading the NBA in three-point accuracy. Parker is scoring 20 per game and, like Wiggins, diversifying his game. And Embiid has hit the ground running as a game-changing big man with an array of skills.
- TINY’S LEGACY: Nate “Tiny” Archibald’s name has popped up repeatedly early this season because James Harden and Russell Westbrook look poised to chase his record as the only player in NBA history to lead the league in scoring and assists in a single season. That singular accomplishment is only part of Archibald’s legacy. The Bronx, N.Y., native defied the odds by even reaching the NBA, and being a second-round pick didn’t augur future stardom. But Archibald used his speed, smarts and creativity to develop into an All-Star, NBA champion, Hall of Famer and Top 50 player. These days, Archibald is very active in the community mentoring youth and participating in NBA Cares events.
- PLAYING BIG: Size and versatility will forever move the NBA scouting needle. Look no further than Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. Size is not a prerequisite for success, however, especially in today’s game, which features a more wide-open and up-tempo style of play. Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, Atlanta’s Dennis Schröder, Memphis’ Mike Conley and the Clippers’ Chris Paul continue to prove that impact players still come in small packages. All five 6-1-and-under point guards are off to great starts. Thomas, Walker and Conley are putting up career numbers. Schröder has risen to the challenge of being a full-time starter. And Paul, in his 12th season, is showing no signs of slowing down. Also in the mix as 6-foot or 6-1 forces: Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, Phoenix’s Eric Bledsoe and Dallas’ J.J. Barea.
- CARRYING THE TORCH: For years, Kobe Bryant (along with Dwyane Wade) anchored the NBA’s shooting guard spot. With Kobe’s departure, a host of his former counterparts – many of whom consider him a big influence on their careers – are showing that the position is well stocked for the present and future. Houston’s James Harden (now running point) and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan are off to historic starts. Golden State’s Klay Thompson and Chicago’s Jimmy Butler are two-way stars. Portland’s CJ McCollum, Phoenix’s Devin Booker and Utah’s Rodney Hood are budding young players. Boston’s Avery Bradley keeps getting better. The depth and variety at shooting guard is impressive.
- GLUE GUY: One big reason for the Hawks’ outstanding start is the play of Thabo Sefolosha, who has overcome adversity and is playing some of the best basketball of his pioneering career. The NBA’s first player from Switzerland, the 31-year-old Sefolosha is scoring at the highest rate of his 11-year career and ranks among the league leaders in steals, field goal percentage and plus-minus. He is enjoying success off the court, too, as the fashion maven recently opened a men’s boutique in Atlanta.
- PERSEVERING PELICAN: The NBA’s assist leaderboard features the usual suspects such as James Harden, Chris Paul, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Draymond Green. Also on the list is Tim Frazier, the Pelicans’ third-year point guard, who excelled during Jrue Holiday’s absence. Frazier came in through the back door. First, he tore his Achilles at the start of his senior season at Penn State. After a solid redshirt senior campaign, he went undrafted in 2014 before earning NBA D-League Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in the same season. His big break came when he averaged 13.1 points and 7.5 assists in 16 games for New Orleans last season after signing in March. Even with Holiday’s return this week, Frazier has shown that he deserves to continue playing a big role for the Pelicans.
- SWEET PRINCE: The Clippers’ starting lineup features three stars (Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan) and one of the game’s great shooters (J.J. Redick). The fifth member of the unit, however, is also leaving his mark during the best start in team history. Luc Mbah a Moute has helped lead the NBA’s top defense while making unsung contributions on offense. Coach Doc Rivers recently called him the league’s best defender. Mbah a Moute has long been regarded as a terrific teammate and a mentor to young NBA players, including fellow Cameroon native Joel Embiid, who participated in one of Mbah a Moute’s hoops camps back home. Mbah a Moute, the prince in his Cameroonian village, was a camper at the inaugural Basketball without Borders Africa camp in 2003. He has been instrumental in growing the game in Africa.
- 22: Thunder @ Lakers, 10:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV: Solid test for a young Lakers team.
- 23: Timberwolves @ Pelicans, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN: Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Anthony Davis.
- 25: Warriors @ Lakers, 10:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV: Warriors look to avenge recent loss at Staples.