Randolph, Bynum among early surprise studs

Updated: November 9, 2006, 3:12 PM ET
By John Hollinger | ESPN Insider
It's the most ancient early-season conundrum -- when is a good start merely a hot streak, and when does it signify something more?

We're a week into the season and every team has a few games under its belt, so it's time to take a look at which players are vastly exceeding their expectations for this season. But that look has to be tempered by a bit of reality -- for most of these guys, we'd barely notice if they did the same thing during a five-game stretch in mid-January.

What we would notice, however, is if they kept it up for the entire season. And for at least some of these players, that's probably what's going to happen. I look at it this way -- yes, I could go back and find a five-game stretch when Zach Randolph has played this well. But if I took a random five-game stretch of Randolph's career, it's exceedingly unlikely that I'd find a stretch when he played so well.

On the other hand, turning this logic on its head yields a different approach. In a league with about 300 players seeing regular action, we'd expect several of them to play better than par in a five-game stretch just by random chance. So it's not unusual that a large number of players have stats at this point that are well above, or well below, the expectation.

What I'm doing today, then, is highlighting not only the players who are playing far better than expected but also those whose performance is important or telling for some particular reason.

Eleven players stand out in that respect, so let's take a look at them:

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