"It's a small sample size, but..."
The hoops media, especially as it gradually accepts the analytics movement, has found its own version of a hedge when making an early-season take. It is similar to ending a strongly stated opinion with, "but I don't really know."
The phrase can be found all over Twitter and in articles—with everyone jostling to be the first to call to attention the previously unrecognized greatness of a player.
That said, three former UConn standouts have had intriguing early season starts. Without reading too much, or too little, into anything we've seen just three weeks into an 82-game season, a few former Huskies appear to be making leaps, or at least small jumps, in their play this year.
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons, C
The numbers are staggering: A double-double in all 11 games, 19 points and 19 boards per game.
Drummond has opened the season on a historic pace, knocking on the door of becoming the NBA's first 20 point, 20 rebound man since a fellow named Wilt Chamberlain did it in 1968-69. Drummond is setting career highs in minutes per game (37.4), usage rate (24.0), field goal attempts (15.1), free throws per game (7.4) and total rebound percentage (27.0). He already has three 20-20 games, including a 25-point and 29-rebound performance on Nov. 3 against the Pacers, turning in just the 22nd 29-rebound performance in NBA history.
Andre Drummond: 3rd game this season w/ at least 25 points & 15 rebounds. Rest of the NBA has 3 combined. pic.twitter.com/Hdays2ccPl— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 18, 2015
Drummond's epic start isn't unexpected with the departure of Greg Monroe. Pair that with Stan Van Gundy's four-out-one-in system that helped Dwight Howard so much in Orlando and it is easy to see that this isn't just the case of a hot start to a season.
Take: Drummond has been building towards these numbers since being drafted in 2012 and at only 22 years old there is certainly enough evidence to suggest Drummond is ascending to all-time levels.
Last 3 players with 3 20-20 games in first 6 games of season Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Andre Drummond (via @eliassports)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 9, 2015
Jeremy Lamb, Charlotte Hornets, F
Signing a 3-year, $21M extension in Charlotte to start the season certainly leads one to believe the Hornets were impressed with the limited action Lamb got in Oklahoma City, or maybe $7M a year will be the new norm for a guy who averages 7.4 points per game and shoots under 35 percent from three when the new TV deal hits.
For whatever reason, Lamb never really got a chance to prove himself with the Thunder and now as a regular rotation player in Charlotte he is finally showing what many UConn fans envisioned he'd become in the league back in 2012.
Lamb's 12.5 points per game, 4.5 rebounds, .618 effective field goal percentage, .375 3-point percentage and .547 field-goal percentage are all career highs. Playing 23.4 minutes per contest versus just 13.2 in his days with OKC, one might have expected Lamb's production to go up. Scoring in double figures in nine of 12 games this season, all off the bench, it is beginning to look more like Lamb has just been waiting for his shot.
Take: Despite Lamb's uptick this season, the jury remains out. Shooting just 3 of 16 from beyond the arc in his last four games has brought Lamb's numbers back down to earth a bit, so let's hold off on announcing his arrival as a steady NBA rotation player.
Shabazz Napier, Orlando Magic, G
UConn fans went gaga when they saw Napier's 22-point, three-assist performance in 30 minutes against the Lakers scroll across the bottom line on Nov. 11. Had 'Bazz finally arrived!?
Well the next three games served as a wet towel for Napier faithful as the reserve guard shot just 2-for-6 from the field in approximately 16 minutes per game. While Napier's overall numbers are down from his rookie season in Miami, his minutes have taken a dip from nearly 20 per game to just over 12. However, per 36 minutes Napier has improved his scoring, steals, field-goal percentage and three-point percentage while his usage rate has jumped from 15.5 percent to 20.7 percent.
Take: Bazz has a lot of shortcomings at the professional level (size, quickness) that could hold him back. Struggling to find minutes and playing for his second team in two years might be all you need know about where the former Husky's career is heading.
But who knows, it's just a small sample size after all.