In the early going, we are seeing some familiar names at the top of the statistical leaderboards. Others are a surprise contender for some of the top statistical categories in the league. We have MVP contenders, All-Star potentials, and a few dark horses that have made their way to the top. Nonetheless, it has been an exciting start to the 2021-2022 season.
While these stats will fluctuate, it’s always fun to see who is at the top of the leaderboard in the early goings. Most teams have played over 10 games, which means that the season is just one-eighth of the way completed. Let’s take a look at who are the main offensive and defensive leaders, which includes points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, field-goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage, free-throw percentage, and turnovers.
Points - Kevin Durant 29.5 PPG
Durant has been flawless this year, which is why he is a prime contender to take home his first scoring title since 2014. Durant won the scoring title from 2010 to 2012, as well as his MVP season in 2014. It’s been almost eight years since Durant last won an MVP Award, but if he continues to play like this, we could see him land his second overall selection.
The Nets are already without Kyrie Irving, while James Harden has struggled out of the gate. If it wasn’t for Durant, the team would be in worse shape. However, Durant has been shooting lights out. In his most recent game, Durant took 12 shots and scored 30 points, while shooting over 90% from the field. He is the first Nets player in 40 years to shoot over 90% from the field with at least 30 points. On top of that, Durant is shooting 58% from the field, which means he has been deadly all over the place.
Honorable-Mention: Stephen Curry (27.6 PPG), Paul George 26.7
Rebounds - Rudy Gobert 15.9 RPG
Gobert is making a sound case for winning Defensive Player of the Year for the fourth time in his career. That would be some elite company if that happens, but for now, Gobert isn’t just blocking shots, but he is taking care of the class. Gobert is currently the leader in the league in total defensive rebounds.
Gobert is tied for fourth in offensive rebounds as well and trails Jonas Valanciunas by just five total. Gobert has recorded 20 rebounds at least twice this year and nearly missed three times by recording 19 rebounds in a game. The undeniable rock of the Jazz defense, Gobert is playing like one of the best centers in the league.
Honorable-Mention: Jonas Valanciunas (14.0 RPG), Nikola Jokic 13.6 (RPG)
Assists - Chris Paul 10.9 APG
Does a 36-year old ever slow down? Paul missed that memo as he is on pace to average double-digit assists for the first time since 2015-2016 when he was a member of the Clippers. Paul appears to be clicking with the Phoenix Suns team more than ever right now. Paul owns four games with at least 13 assists, which also included a season-high 18 assists against the Pelicans.
With Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, and Jae Crowder, Paul has some solid weapons on his team. After all, the Suns made the NBA Finals last year and brought back the entire core. Paul has led the league in assists four times in his career but hasn’t led the league in assists since 2014-2015. The last 36-year old to lead the league in assists per game was Steve Nash in 2010-2011.
Honorable-Mention: Trae Young (9.3 APG), Russell Westbrook (8.9 APG)
Steals - Alex Caruso 2.6 SPG
Seeing Alex Caruso at the top of the steals leaderboard was somewhat of a surprise. Caruso is in a bench role but has been used to close out games. Caruso has been a huge contributor to helping the Chicago Bulls redefine their defense as the team pushes for a playoff spot this season.
Caruso is likable energy, glue guy that has ignited the second unit. What stands out is how hard he hustles and that is translating to steals on the defensive end. The margin for the steals leader is close, so we will see if Caruso can hold onto this as the season progresses, but it’s still a nice underdog story.
Honorable-Mention: Paul George (2.5 SPG), Gary Trent Jr. (2.5 SPG)
Blocks - Myles Turner 3.2 BPG
Myles Turner is back to try and claim what he lost last year. Due to injuries, Turner played in just 47 games, but he averaged 3.4 blocks. This year, Turner is pushing the 3.0 blocks per game barrier in 11 games. Turner has led the league in blocks two times, so he is pushing for a title for the third time, including back-to-back.
The Pacers could see Turner on the move this year. He is a viable trade target and a contending team would love to have him as a rim protector. If he keeps this up, the Pacers could get a king’s ransom in return, which could include multiple first-round draft picks.
Honorable-Mention: Al Horford (2.4 BPG), Anthony Davis (2.3 BPG)
Field Goal % - Robert Williams 72.2 FG%
When the Celtics re-signed Williams, the town of Boston erupted into joy. Williams is an underrated player that has intangibles like a young Al Horford. Will Williams turns into a well-respected veteran and All-Star, that is up to debate, but he is playing well when given the chance to shoot the ball. Williams has shot over 70% from the field five times this year.
Keep in mind that Williams is shooting the ball 6.0 times per game, which is just short of Rudy Gobert’s 6.8. That means that Williams is getting opportunities and cashing in nearly three out of four times. Williams is not the same player as Nikola Jokic, nor Domantas Sabonis, who has to shoot nearly 15 times a game, but he is a key role player for the Celtics and does his job when given the chance.
Honorable-Mention: Rudy Gobert (72.0 FG%), Jarrett Allen (68.7 FG%)
3-Point % - Eric Gordon 51.3 3PT% (min. four 3PA)
Technically, Jonas Valanciunas is leading the league at 54.5% but is taking just 1.8 three-point attempts each night. Nemanja Bjelica is shooting 52.2% and is taking 2.1 attempts. If we divide the competition into players that take at least four three-pointers a night, Eric Gordon is the leader. Gordon has come a long way and is making a case for him to get out of Houston.
Gordon shot 32.9% from the three-point range last year. In addition, Gordon has shot over 40% from three-point range just once in his career and that was 2014-2015 with the Pelicans. You can make all the conspiracy theories you want, but Gordon is auditioning for a new job. At 4.3 three-point attempts per game, Gordon is proving that he can shoot from outside.
Honorable-Mention: Carmelo Anthony (50.0 3PT%), Seth Curry (48.3 3PT%)
Free Throw % - Bradley Beal 97.5 FT%
Beal might be taking just 4.0 attempts at the line per game, but he is converting at a high rate. As it stands, his 3.9 free throws made each game has helped him have the highest percentage in the league. We shouldn’t be surprised to see Beal have a top percentage in the league. We know he can find a way to get the ball into the hoop after he was the runner-up in the scoring race last season.
This year, Beal is averaging fewer points, but he has more of a supporting cast, which is why the Wizards are off to a fast start. As long as Beal can continually convert at a high rate, the Wizards will be able to win games late. This would also be a career-high for Beal, who has never shot over 90% at the charity stripe for a season.
Honorable-Mention: Spencer Dinwiddie (96.4 FT%), Jaren Jackson Jr. (96.2 FT%)
Turnovers - Russell Westbrook 5.3 TO
Fun fact about playmakers, they have the ball in their hands a lot. The curse is that they are subject to turning the ball over. Westbrook is known for turnovers because is such an explosive player that he will put his head down and run through a wall. When it comes to these stats, both Westbrook and James Harden have too much for basketball sometimes.
Westbrook has led the league in turnovers five times since 2008-2009. As for Harden, he has led the league in turnovers six times in that span. The only players that have led the league in turnovers since then are Steve Nash and John Wall. If you want something to happen, you have to trust your point guard. There is a lot of trust between athletes and coaches.
Honorable-Mention: James Harden (4.7 TO), Paul George (4.6 TO)