We're now officially a quarter of the way through the NBA's regular season, giving us ample statistics to scour through and spot some of the more interesting trends around the league.
The challenge each week is being able to overlook things such as hot shooting streaks or temporary slumps and narrowing the focus to long-term trends and changes to a given player's game.
Take, for example, Minnesota's Kevin Love.
Though he's off to quite a big shooting slump to start this season, he's played in only 11 games and his track record is long enough to suggest that it won't stay this way forever. We saw this last month with Milwaukee's Ersan Ilyasova, who has since turned things around and returned to form as a shooter. And we can expect Love and his 34.8 field goal percentage and 20.7 3-point percentage to do the same, at some point rising back toward his career averages of 45.1 and 35.8 percent.
On our hunt for more trends this week, we take a look at two All-Stars, a pair of young players early in their NBA careers and a big-name rookie out West.
Blake Griffin | PF | Los Angeles Clippers
Trend: cutting less, posting up more
With the benefit of Synergy Sports Technology, we're able to dig deeper into Griffin's offensive numbers over the course of his career to see how his game has evolved. The findings might surprise you. To sum it up best, Griffin's offense has slowly but consistently moved away from cuts to the basket and putbacks, which he did much more frequently earlier in his career, to post-ups and spot-up jumpers.
The good news for Clippers fans -- not so much from a highlight perspective but more in terms of efficiency -- is that the post-up has always been one of Griffin's greatest areas of strength. That seems to be something the team realizes, too, because it's made a point to get Griffin the ball down on the block more frequently every year he's been in the league.
According to Synergy, 29.4 percent of Griffin's offensive plays came via the post-up during his rookie season. That rose to 31.6 percent last season and it's up to 34.4 percent this season. What's better is that the more the team has fed Griffin the ball on the block, the better he's become down there. His 0.966 points per play in post-ups this season ranks 25th among all NBA players.
Carmelo Anthony | SF | New York Knicks
Trend: one of the league's top 3-point threats
Only once prior to this season had Anthony ever attempted more than 3.7 3-pointers per game or shot above 40 percent from 3-point range in a season; both came in his first season with the Knicks in 2010-11.
This season, though, the five-time All-Star is hoisting up 5.6 3-pointers a game and connecting an astonishing 45.5 percent of the time. That puts him No. 8 in the league in terms of percentage, and No. 5 among all players who've attempted at least 50 shots from behind the arc.
There was a time during Anthony's final two seasons in Denver when he struggled from distance, and the idea of an aggressive 6-foot-8, 230-pound forward like himself doing anything other than attacking the basket seemed borderline crazy. If these stats are any indication, those days appear to be over.
Harrison Barnes | SF | Golden State Warriors
Trend: posting up for offensive success
If tasked with guessing the most efficient part of Barnes' offensive game a month and a half into his rookie season, most NBA fans would probably say his perimeter jumper. After all, that was one of his strong suits in his two seasons at North Carolina, and it's where he shined throughout the preseason, when he connected on 12 of 25 shots from 3-point range.
So far in the regular season, though, it's actually been Barnes' post-up game that's far and away the most efficient part of his offensive repertoire.
Synergy indicates that while the UNC rookie has been just below league average in transition, in isolation and in spot-up situations so far this season, he's actually in the 95th percentile league-wide in terms of points per play (1.062) in the post. Synergy reveals that just under 13 percent of Barnes' shot attempts are coming via the post-up, a relatively small percentage given his rate of success, and it'll be interesting to see if the team goes to him more in those situations moving forward. Currently, the Warriors mostly use David Lee and Carl Landry in the post, keeping Barnes out on the wing as a guy who can stretch the floor with his shooting ability.
Brandon Knight | PG | Detroit Pistons
Trend: shooting like a shooting guard
Very quietly, Knight has scored 20 points or more in six of Detroit's nine games in December, including five of the past six. In fact, Knight's scoring is up from 12.8 points per game last season to 15 this season. The interesting part is that he's doing it while playing virtually the same amount of minutes (32.6 this season versus 32.3 in 2011-12) and attempting the same amount of shots (12 versus 11.7) as he did as a rookie.
How's he doing it? Marked improvement from 3-point range, even after shooting an impressive 38 percent from distance as a rookie. Entering Monday, the 6-foot-3 guard is connecting at a 44.7 percent clip, good for 10th in the league. Synergy reveals that Knight has also fared well on isolation plays, coming off screens and when receiving the pass via a handoff, but the spot-up remains his primary strength.
That gets us wondering whether Knight's future with the club might be better suited at the 2. Rodney Stuckey will be entering the final year of his deal next season, and when you consider that Detroit will likely draft somewhere in the upper half of the lottery in 2013 and might have the opportunity to take a dynamic point guard such as Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams, such a move could very well make sense for the future of the Pistons.
Ed Davis | PF | Toronto Raptors
Trend: finding his niche as a rebounder
Though not a big shot-blocker, the 23-year-old is starting to look like one of the game's best young rebounders. A closer look at the numbers reveals that Davis' rebound rate of 19.2 is 10th in the league, ahead of noted rebounders such as Kenneth Faried, Kris Humphries, Derrick Favors, Dwight Howard and Tyson Chandler. In addition, his 20.99 PER is No. 27 in the NBA after hovering around league average each of his first two seasons.
The question going forward becomes what the Raptors will do with Davis. ESPN's Tom Haberstroh proposed trading Davis since the Raptors already have Andrea Bargnani and Amir Johnson signed to big deals that extend two years beyond this season (Bargnani and Johnson are projected to be the team's two highest-paid players in 2013-14 and 2014-15). Davis' emergence this season is clearly one of the reasons why Bargnani's name continues to be brought up in trade rumors.
One other important part of this: If the Raptors are able to trade Bargnani and move forward with Davis -- he's signed through next season and can become a restricted free agent in 2014-15 if given a qualifying offer -- they will effectively shift from having one of the league's worst rebounding power forwards to one of the NBA's very best.
Joe Kaiser is a writer for ESPN Insider's Rumor Central, and also writes regularly for Insider on pro and college hoops. Follow him on Twitter @JoeKaiserSports.