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Men's Basketball

Hoos Going Pro: Hunter Shines Defensively; Brogdon’s All-Star Chances

Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana Pacers

After a tumultuous offseason in Indiana, Malcolm Brogdon has come out firing to start the new NBA season. He’s averaging 23.4 points on a career-high 19 shot attempts per game as of October 29, five games into the new year.

Brogdon has also stepped up as a facilitator for the new-look Pacers, contributing to the team in different ways as their de facto leader. He’s averaging 7.0 assists per game, the second-highest mark of his six-year career, and 7.0 rebounds per game, which would be a career best. He’s also averaged nearly a full block per game — a tidbit that might just be early-season statistical noise, but his current rate would more than double his career best in that category.

The now-veteran combo guard’s role seems cemented on the Pacers as their lead scorer and facilitator. While he suffered a hamstring injury against the Toronto Raptors that will sideline him for at least one game, Brogdon should be back on the floor soon to continue his stellar start to the season.

 If the Pacers can right the ship after their 1-4 start (which isn’t as challenging as it might seem, since two of those losses came by a single point), Brogdon could definitely be in the mix for this year’s All-Star team. 

Available while supplies last.

De’Andre Hunter, Atlanta Hawks

In his first few games back from last season’s knee injury, the Hawks have been trying to work Hunter back into their crowded and talented forward rotation. While he struggled shooting the ball in his first few outings, Hunter has been rounding into form in the early going.

At least at the beginning of the year, it seems like Hunter’s most important role for the Hawks will be as a defensive stopper. He’s performed well in that role so far this season, locking up Luka Doncic in the team’s season opener against the Mavericks and coming up big with a clutch defensive stop to win their game against the Pelicans.

Hunter has been receiving some buzz for First Team All-Defense in the early going, as he’s looked like a lockdown defender against opposing wings thus far. As his offensive usage increases, Hunter seems poised for the breakout year many expected him to have last season before his knee injury.

Joe Harris, Brooklyn Nets

Joe Harris has started the season cold from the field as the Nets try to find their footing without Kyrie Irving. He’s shooting just 34.8% from beyond the arc so far (16-46) and just 33.8% overall from the floor.

However, it hasn’t been all negative for Harris. He reached a huge career milestone, passing Jason Kidd for the top spot on the Nets career leaderboard in three-pointers made.

Harris has now made 817 triples as a member of the Brooklyn Nets as a mainstay of the team’s roster, and he’s only in the second year of a four-year, $75 million deal. He’ll have plenty of time to build upon his record in the coming years as long as Kevin Durant & Co. continue to space the floor for him to see open three-point looks.

As to his early-season struggles, there’s probably no reason for concern. Harris’s reputation as a three-point sniper is so cemented that it’s hard to knock him for a few bad games. Remember, this is a guy who shot 47.5% on 6.4 attempts from three per game last season, tops in the NBA.

Trey Murphy III, New Orleans Pelicans

In summer league and preseason, Trey Murphy established that he’s going to be an elite three-point shooter in the NBA. He knocked down more threes than anyone not named Steph Curry or Joe Harris (hey, look who it is!) on a blistering 53.1% rate from beyond the arc.

The next step in his game is to add some playmaking ability and improve defensively. That’s what is keeping Trey out of the starting lineup at the moment — second-round pick Herb Jones has secured the starting spot ahead of Trey despite being practically a non-factor as a scorer.

“The scouting report is out,” Murphy said in a postgame interview earlier this season. “Everybody knows I can shoot the ball. I’m not getting a whole lot of clean looks anymore. I just have to find ways to get my shot off, and also use my gravity to get other people shots.”

One definite positive: the shooting has definitely translated. Murphy is shooting 41.7% from beyond the arc this season, despite defenses keying in on him as one of the only scorers in New Orleans’s second unit. His rookie season is certainly off to a promising start.

Ty Jerome, Oklahoma City Thunder

Ty Jerome has performed admirably thus far for a Oklahoma City Thunder team that’s clearly focused on development. His playing time has been sporadic, since the Thunder are more focused on developing their recent draft picks like Tre Mann and Theo Maledon at the point guard spot rather than putting the best possible lineups on the floor.

Jerome’s jump shot also hasn’t been falling thus far this season, as he’s shooting just 13% from three. However, in the other aspects of the game that Jerome’s Thunder teammates have praised — leadership, defensive communication, and playmaking — the former Hoo has impressed.

His highlight of the season thus far was Oklahoma City’s 26-point comeback victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. With the normal rotation guys floundering, head coach Mark Daigneault turned to Jerome for a spark off the bench, and Ty didn’t disappoint: the Thunder outscored the Lakers by 28 points in the 14 minutes Jerome spent on the floor.

Oh, and then after the game, he stayed late to get some shots up in the arena.

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