Blakely's top five NBA sophomores
5. Rodney Hood, Utah
Draft status: First round, 23rd overall
Projected by some draft experts to be a lottery pick, Hood was another cog in a Utah Jazz system filled with young, unproven talent. He showed promise this summer with Utah’s summer league team, and has carried that over into the games that count. Hood is one of the top scorers among second-year players with a 13.0 points per game average.
4. Clint Capela, Houston
Draft status: First round, 25th overall
The play of Capela has been one of the few positives for the Rockets in what has been an otherwise disappointing start to the season. The 6-foot-10 center is a live, active body around the rim who is giving Houston 7.6 points and 6.2 rebounds in just 17 minutes per game. In addition, he’s shooting 75 percent – yes, 75 percent – from the field while averaging more than four shot attempts per game.
3. Marcus Smart, Boston
Draft status: First round, 6th overall
A left big toe injury sidelined him for a couple games, which is about the only thing that has not worked out for Smart thus far this season. He has shown growth in terms of his scoring (11.3 per game), defense (2.0 steals per game) and most important, leadership on the floor. His play has been instrumental to the Celtics getting off to the best start under third-year coach Brad Stevens.
2. Doug McDermott, Chicago
Draft status: First round, 11th overall
One of the best shooters to come into the NBA in years, McDermott has found a new basketball life under rookie coach Fred Hoiberg. Every statistical category associated with McDermott is on the rise, including his 3-point shooting (56.8 percent). But the biggest gain for him has to be in confidence, something that you never felt was there under former Bulls coach (and Celtics assistant) Tom Thibodeau.
1. Dwight Powell, Dallas
Draft status: Second round, 45th overall
Boston didn’t want to include him in the trade of Rajon Rondo to Dallas last season, and we’re starting to see why. He’s averaging 10.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. In addition, the 6-11 forward/center can also defend which is evident by his 92.5 defensive rating which is tops among Dallas players who log 20 or more minutes played per game. It’s still early, but Powell is making his case to at least be in the conversation for the league’s Most Improved Player award.