POINTS AND DIMES: Only once has a player led the NBA in scoring and assists in the same season: Nate “Tiny” Archibald in 1972-73. It’s incredibly early, of course, but it’s realistic to think that former teammates James Harden of Houston and Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City could accomplish the feat. Both are known first as scorers, but Harden and Westbrook deserve credit for their continued improvement as playmakers. Harden has shifted to point guard for the Rockets as he looks to raise his assist average for the seventh straight season. Westbrook is a triple-double threat every time he takes the court.
AGAINST THE GRAIN: At a time when NBA teams are launching three-pointers at a record rate, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan is doing things his way. DeRozan opened the season with four 30-point games that included a total of one three-pointer. That’s in keeping with his career pattern, which is unusual for a two-guard. DeRozan has emerged as one of the game’s top scorers by attacking the rim relentlessly and thriving in the mid-range. The savvy DeRozan knows how to get to his spots and draw fouls. He’s also the face of the Raptors, who drafted him in 2009, re-signed him last summer and have seen him become an active presence in the community.
DENNIS DAZZLES: This is shaping up to be a breakout season for Atlanta’s Dennis Schröder. The first German guard to make a big impact in the NBA, the four-year veteran is starting for the first time in his career after the Hawks traded Jeff Teague. Schröder is a late bloomer who didn’t fully commit to basketball until he was 16, when his father died and he viewed the game as a way to provide for his family. (Skateboarding was his first love.) One of the NBA’s quickest players, Schröder has watched a lot of film on Tony Parker for pointers on how to use his speed and finish around the basket against bigger players.
WELCOME BACK: Sergio Rodriguez’s first NBA stint didn’t quite go as planned, with the 2006 first-round pick heading home to Spain after four seasons with the Trail Blazers, Kings and Knicks. Rodriguez spent the next six years honing his craft with Real Madrid and the Spanish National Team. He signed with the 76ers over the summer and is off to a solid start as an immediate starter and veteran presence for the NBA’s youngest team, averaging 12 points and nearly 8 assists. Given his age (30) and comfort level overseas, it’s unusual that Rodriguez decided to give the NBA another shot.
STUDENT OF THE GAME: Quin Snyder’s basketball résumé speaks for itself. He played at Duke before joining Coach K’s staff. He served as an assistant in the NBA and with CSKA Moscow (under current Spurs assistant Ettore Messina) and a head coach in college and the NBA D-League before becoming coach of the Jazz, a potential breakout team in 2016-17. Snyder has another version of his résumé, one that shows him graduating with degrees in philosophy and political science. He also earned a law degree and an MBA from Duke. With many career options, both after college and during a mid-2000s coaching break, Snyder kept picking hoops. It’s interesting to consider what lessons from academia shaped him and his coaching.
PASCAL’S PRINCIPLE: Pascal Siakam’s journey from Cameroon to a spot in Toronto’s starting lineup as a rookie has taken a few twists and turns. None bigger than the first turn, when at the behest of his family, which included three older brothers with NBA aspirations, he reluctantly agreed to give basketball a try. A positive experience at a Basketball without Borders Camp in South Africa in 2012 led to his relocating to the U.S. and becoming a standout at New Mexico State. After thriving at the NBA Combine, Siakam was selected by Toronto with the 27th pick in 2016, fulfilling the dream his late father had of having one of his sons reach the NBA. The forward, 22, has made an immediate impact with his energy and athleticism.
· Nov. 8: Pelicans @ Kings, 10:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV: Anthony Davis vs. DeMarcus Cousins
· Nov. 9: Nets @ Knicks, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: Jeremy Lin leads his new team into MSG.
· Nov. 10: Bulls @ Heat, 8 p.m. ET, TNT: Dwyane Wade returns to Miami for the first time.