A year ago, Stephen Curry comfortably led the NBA in scoring en route to his second consecutive MVP award, averaging 30.1 PPG for the Warriors. James Harden was the league’s second-best scorer, while Kevin Durant finished third, and DeMarcus Cousins came fourth
All four of those players are expected to be in the running for the NBA’s scoring title again in 2016/17, but there are reasons to believe their averages could drop off slightly. Curry and Durant are now playing together, sharing the scoring responsibilities for the Warriors rather than being relied upon as the clear-cut No. 1 option. Harden has had an increased role as a facilitator in the early going, though so far that hasn’t dampened his scoring numbers. And Cousins’ usage rate – while still very high – has been a little lower this year under new head coach Dave Joerger.
Harden currently ranks fourth in the NBA in points per game, ahead of both Durant (sixth) and Curry (eighth). This year’s new group of leaders so far? Anthony Davis (30.9 PPG), Russell Westbrook (31.1), and DeMar DeRozan (34.1), with Damian Lillard (30.0) rounding out the top five.
Although it’s still early, there’s plenty of reason to believe those newcomers to the top five could have staying power. Davis is the only dangerous scoring option in New Orleans, and his health is the only thing that could stop him from having a monster year. Westbrook was expected to go off in Durant’s absence, and he hasn’t disappointed so far. Westbrook’s usage rate easily leads the NBA, though DeRozan places second, and he has been remarkably efficient so far for a perimeter player who hardly ever shoots threes. Lillard comes in at sixth for usage rate, and an uptick in field goal percentage has resulted in his early spike in points per game — the point guard’s career-best FG% was just .434, but he’s up to .483 so far this season.
What do you think? Are the early returns on this season enough to convince you that one of the league’s new top scorers could still be on top at season’s end? Or do you expect a former MVP like Curry or Durant to eventually reclaim the lead?