To nobody’s disappointment, the 2016 to 2017 National Basketball Association season has gotten off to a fast-paced and exciting start, thanks to its players’ endless talent pool.

 As usual, players like Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry and Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook have dominated so far, but other players like Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan and Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard are surpassing every critic’s expectations. 

To start the list,  DeRozan, who has begun his eighth season on fire, is averaging more points than anyone in the league at an impressive 34.1 per game. This rate is almost twice the average of his entire career. DeRozan has spent his entire career as a Raptor, and he has always caught the attention of fans everywhere, but he has now transitioned from an all-star talent to superstar caliber leader. 

The Raptors have  been off to a successful start, as well, as they have won six of their first eight, barely losing two games by five points or less.

Like a superstar should, DeRozan has been playing tremendously in the fourth quarter as well, and he seems to be delivering most of his damage at the last moments of games. Should he keep up this level of play, he will be a large contender in the MVP discussion at the end of the season.

Embiid, on the other hand, in just his first year in the NBA, has made the Sixers beyond glad to have picked him up as the third pick in the draft just two full seasons ago. Unfortunately, Embiid was injured just weeks before being drafted by the Sixers in 2014. In his first season of play, the eager center has been one of the most challenging players to defend in the paint. 

He has averaged 18.8 points per game in just above 22 minutes played per game. He also snags 6.8 boards per game and swats away 2.3 blocked shots each night. While these may not seems like astounding figures, it is reassuring for Philadelphia fans to see a player who has so much raw potential. 

Howard, another star center, has had a wild ride of a career, starting his career off strong in Orlando, where he won a Defensive Player of the Year award. He was later traded to Houston, where he was equally lacking in performance. His heart didn’t seem to be in his performance as much it was in Orlando, and people questioned his potential to ever play with the same mindset again.

This past offseason, he was traded to Atlanta, where he replaced former starting center Al Horford, who now plays for the Boston Celtics. So far, Howard seems to be clicking on all cylinders, showing his old mindset when he steps onto the court. He averages a double-double, scoring 15.2 points and grabbing 12.4 rebounds per game. Howard is one of the most challenging players to match up against when he is on top of his game,  as he has the power on offense to score baskets over nearly all defenders. 

Howard also has the agility to defend practically any big man in the league, as well as successfully compete for most rebounds. Needless to say, Howard is definitely looking like he’s back.

There are others who are surpassing  expectations this season, but these three players are prime examples of the unexpected success of the NBA that makes each new season new and exciting time for basketball fans. Keep an eye out for these names as the season goes on, as they should help bring an exciting season of basketball to fans everywhere.

—Lev Brown