If you tried to list the most efficient scorers in the NBA, you'd probably start with the big names -- and you'd be absolutely right. Out of the top 15 players in points per possession with a reasonable sample size of 400 possessions, 10 of them were named All-Stars this season.
The other five, however, might come as a surprise. They're not exactly household names outside of their home markets, but each of them has put up a phenomenal season thus far worthy of recognition.
Here's a look at the five players who find themselves among the league's elite, with some insight on how they've gotten there.
*Data from Synergy Sports Technology, unless otherwise indicated, accurate as of Feb. 26
- Points per possession: 1.135
- NBA rank: 3rd
It probably shouldn't be a surprise that Collins is toward the top of the league in offensive efficiency since he was second in the entire NBA (min. 700 possessions) last season, but he's still not quite on par with the players surrounding him on the list in terms of name recognition. Collins has been a menace around the rim (80th percentile) and in transition (97th percentile) with his athleticism and finishing ability, and when you mix in his 39 percent 3-point shooting, you get one of the most efficient offensive players in the league.
Collins' shot profile has remained ideal, doing the majority of his damage near the basket and from 3-point range.
But this season Collins has showcased increased confidence in the midrange, taking slightly more attempts and improving significantly from 37.8 percent last season to 54.4 percent in 2020-21.
Obviously, you don't want Collins suddenly taking a bunch of mid-range jumpers, but we've seen big men like Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid prove that midrange proficiency can be a devastating antidote to defensive schemes. If he's going to get to the next level offensively, this could be an area to watch.
- Points per possession: 1.132
- NBA rank: 6th
Rozier made a leap in counting stats in his first season with the Hornets, averaging a career-high 18 points and 4.1 assists while making 2.7 3-pointers per game. This season's breakout, however, comes with the bonus of increased efficiency. He's up to 20.4 points and 3.4 3s per game, and he's bumped up to 49 percent from the field (compared to 42 last season) and 45 percent from deep (from 41 last season). Basically he's averaging two more points per game on essentially the same amount of shots, making him one of the most efficient offensive players in the NBA.
Rozier credits his work after the hiatus last March for his improvement this season. Remember, the Hornets were not invited to the bubble, so Rozier had about nine months off between NBA games.
"I put a lot of work in. Every summer I put a lot of work in, like a lot. And obviously this summer was longer than usual," Rozier said. " ... I put a lot of work in with my trainer, Anthony Wells, and other than that, man, when I'm up here [in Charlotte] I look at it like I'm just working out. My teammates and my coaches do a great job allowing me to be settled."
Considered a ball-dominant guard when he signed with Charlotte, Rozier proved last season to be an excellent 3-point shooter off the catch. He's gotten even better in that area this season, averaging 1.558 points per possession in catch-and-shoot situations, second only to Brooklyn Nets marksman Joe Harris for players with over 100 such possessions. Rozier has also been much more efficient with his runner, an important shot to have in his bag for when bigs drop in pick-and-roll or dribble hand-off situations.
Most fans and analysts were a bit taken aback when Rozier signed a three-year, $56.7 million contract with the Hornets before last season. If he keeps up this efficiency, that's going to look like an absolute steal.
- Points per possession: 1.12
- NBA rank: 10th
There's a reason you're hearing Barnes' name thrown around in trade rumors as the deadline nears and the Kings flounder. It seems like he's been around forever, but the veteran forward is still just 28 years old and is turning in one of the best seasons of his career. Barnes has become a very good 3-point shooter, and this year is no exception, which has partly led to his 1.12 points per possession this season, on par with players like Kevin Durant, Zach LaVine and Paul George (granted, on lower volume).
This season, however, Barnes has been much more aggressive getting to the basket. He's averaging over two more drives per game than he did last season, according to NBA.com, and has increased his efficiency at the rim from the 38th percentile last year to the 51st in 2020-21. He's shown great body control with Euro steps and hesitations around the basket, and he can finish with either hand. But he also uses his tremendous upper body strength to shed defenders with some good old-fashioned bully ball.
Barnes had already virtually eliminated mid-range jumpers from his arsenal, but this season he's taken that to the extreme, attempting just nine midrange shots in 28 games, according to NBA.com, with far fewer post-ups. Overall, it's led to an incredibly efficient offensive player who should have a good number of suitors if the Kings make him available.
- Points per possession: 1.119
- NBA rank: 11th
For some reason, Powell turns into a different player when he's in the starting lineup. Maybe it's a rhythm thing. Maybe it's a rotation thing. Even Powell likely doesn't know for sure, but the difference is glaring.
Even with his relative struggles off the bench, however, Powell has been one of the most efficient players in the league this season thanks to his 47-43-89 shooting splits. Much like Collins at the top of this list, Powell's efficiency shouldn't be much of a surprise given that he was 11th in the NBA last year with 1.122 points per possession (min. 700 possessions). This season he's once again 11th (min. 400 possessions) with a nearly identical mark of 1.119, even after a slow start.
Powell's real growth this season has come as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, where his scoring efficiency has jumped from 0.819 points per possession to 1.167, third in the league behind Nets All-Star James Harden and Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson for players with at least 50 such possessions. Powell uses his athleticism and strength to finish at the rim when he gets a lane, but he's also a dramatically improved pull-up 3-point shooter, going from 22 percent last season to 49 percent this season, which has served him well in pick-and-roll situations.
Powell has been one of the biggest reasons for the Raptors' recent surge after a brutal start to the season, and they'll need him to be just as effective if they're going to make a run in the playoffs.
- Points per possession: 1.107
- NBA rank: 15th
For whatever reason, Hardaway largely has a reputation as a heat-check bucket-getter who relies on volume to score his points. That couldn't be farther from the truth based on the numbers from the last two seasons. After finishing toward the top of the league in offensive efficiency last season, Hardaway is right up there once again, ahead of borderline All-Stars like DeMar DeRozan, Tobias Harris and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Hardaway actually hasn't been as good as a spot-up shooter this season, but his efficiency has remained high due to his ability to work off screens. Last season Hardaway averaged 0.839 points per possession off of screens, and this year that's up to 1.128. Rick Carlisle has been running some creative flares and staggered screens for Hardaway, who has never been shy about letting it fly if he gets an inch of space.
The 28-year-old Hardaway has been a good barometer for Mavericks success this season, averaging 19.7 points on 44 percent 3-point shooting in wins, and 14 points on 33 percent 3-point shooting in losses. With limited scoring options on the wing, Dallas is going to need THJ to keep up his impressive efficiency.