Friday Night Lights are known to bring the best out of athletes. Big-time performances, breakout players, and competitive scores are all things that make Friday Night games the best. On a Friday full of high scoring finishes, franchise record-breaking feats, and careers highs, these games may have given us some of the best performances of the season far. From the Battle of the Ball Brothers to the offensive clinic put on by Bradley Beal and Caris LeVert in losing efforts, the individual performances highlighted some potential All-Star worthy players we all need to keep tabs on. The Utah Jazz and Toronto Raptors also SHOT THE LIGHTS OUT in big-time wins where they shot historically well from three. On a night full of great moments, it is hard to sum it all up in one place and really put it into perspective…Oh that is right, I did all that and more for you down below as we look at the NBA’s Friday Night Top Performers!
BIG BODY AND BIG BUCKETS! In a dog fight where the Detroit Pistons rallied from 23 points down to win in OT, Grant was a major factor all night. 31 and 10 are of course impressive but what should stand out the most is how he came up clutch in the closing seconds of regulation. With 9.6 seconds in the game, rather than settling for a tough jumper, Grant got the ball to Mason Plumlee for a dunk to notch things up at 93 all. INTANGIBLES! While we all were looking at Grant like he was crazy for passing on coming back to Denver, he instead has made us all look somewhat foolish as he has been balling out for a Detroit team that is definitely going to be a tough out all season long.
This is the Blake we all know and love. He may not be putting people in body bags and jumping over Kia’s, but he IS playing winning basketball. When Blake Griffin fights on the boards while occasionally showing off a little point forward action, he looks like one of the top power forwards in the game. I would not say that this was one of his best games, but as a guy who has spent a lot of time in and out of the lineup for this Pistons squad, this is definitely a good sign moving forward.
HEAT CHECK! Despite losing by 5 points, Booker played out of his mind and it seemed like anything he put up was going in. On a night when Chris Paul did not have the best night (14 points) and the young wings Miles Bridges and Cam Thomas only combined for 16 on the night, Booker was the driving force for Phoenix. Tough loss for a hot team, but Booker is still playing at an All-Star level and the West better keep a close eye on him.
DA all the way! In a game that Phoenix won the rebounding battle 49-46, Ayton’s effort on the boards along with Booker’s shooting is what really kept Phoenix in this game. Ayton is a guy who is going to grab double-digit boards practically all season. Less than 10 rebounds is an off day for him. Unfortunately, boards do not always equal baskets and that hurts when the game is so close.
The Kentucky Bros ball out on MSG. Smooth and Styling with a Slick handle is the perfect way to describe SGA’s game and that was on full display Friday night. A full display of his arsenal from anywhere on the court. Midrange got it. Three-pointers? HE DOES NOT MISS! Getting the team involved? Check Plus. Balled out on the big stage.
New York you guys have yourselves a hopper in Hamidou Diallo. As a NY kid, it’s not surprising that he wanted to put on for the city in a big win but talk about playing out of your mind. A 23-point double-double on 13 shots with eight free throw attempts! Definitely playing with tenacity and aggression with a splash of that New York flare.
This man Julius Randle is a problem right now. For a scrappy Knicks team that is showing up big time on both sides of the floor, Randle is the engine that makes them go. He is doing everything possible offensively while still holding his own on the defensive end. This loss snaps a three-game winning streak for New York, but I would be hard-pressed to blame Randle for any loss as of late. He has been playing out of his mind and might be a sleeper All-Star candidate in the Eastern Conference this season.
The development is there for the young third overall pick in his second year. He may have shot low percentages from the floor and from three but it’s the ATTEMPTS that show that he is taking significant strides. As Barrett continues to get his feet wet in the league and get more aggressive, he is going to be a force to be reckoned with because he has the tools to be an elite-level scorer in this league. All in due time, but definitely keep your eye on RJ as a guy in the running for Most Improved Player. The Knicks actually look really promising in the early goings of this young season.
What more can coach Scott Brooks and the Washington Wizards ask this man to do?? After dropping 60 the game prior, this man Bradley Beal followed that up with a 41-point performance, and the Wizards still lost by nine. Something is not adding up. I do not know if it is because Russ is in and out of the lineup or because Davis Bertans is not playing up to his contract so far, but Washington is in big trouble. You might be thinking that the Washington Football Team is going to have a tough time with Tom Brady and the Bucs this weekend in the NFL, but Wizards management will have much bigger problems if Bradley Beal continues to leave games disgruntled with the team’s play. The clock is ticking Washington.
After missing the opening weeks of the season, the second-year stud is back in action and slowly catching stride. Outside of watching Beal go one on five for most of the night, Hachimura was really the only other bright spot all night for Washington. No one is asking him to be an All-Star in his second season, but his development this year will be crucial in determining the future trajectory of this franchise. Glad to see you back in the thick of things Rui!
Momma there goes that man! Pressure makes diamonds and this man Tatum was cooking all night. I don’t know if he heard the rumbling from sports talking heads about Jaylen Brown being the best player for the Celtics, but if he did he sure responded well. Flamethrower level buckets on nearly 30 attempts in the ball game which screams of that “gimme the ball and watch me work” mentality. Jayson Tatum in his bag is easily one of the best players in the NBA and its performances like this remind of just how good he really is.
If this man is not an All-Star in the Eastern Conference this season then anybody voting needs to get their basketball cards revoked. Brown has been playing at such an elite level all season and he continues to show up big on both sides of the court. If Boston goes on to be a legit title contender in the coming seasons, I think it safe to say that Brown’s ascension as a player will play a critical part in that development. Show this man Jaylen Brown some love, please!
A healthy Gordon Hayward is one dangerous player, isn’t he? Although this night was of course centered around the hype of Lamelo vs Lonzo, Hayward made sure to put his imprint on the game as he led the Hornets in scoring in a big win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
In the Battle of the Ball Brothers Part 1, I think it’s safe to say that LaMelo won this round. In the head-to-head matchup against Lonzo, he outscored, outrebounded, and out assisted Lonzo on his way to a triple-double and the victory. LaMelo is definitely getting better by the dribble in terms of understanding the flow of the game. His shot selection and poor three-point shooting continue to be a tough-talking point, but I think it also reveals what kind of potential he has if he gets that under control.
A model of consistency. This is another guy similar to RJ Barrett who I think continues to get better and is starting to really make an argument for being voted as the Most Improved Player of the year. Even with all the young talent that the Hornets have, especially at the guard position, Bridges somehow has found a way to be a night in and night out 15-20 point per game scorer for this team. Did I mention that he is a walking highlight reel? Got to love this guy!
Just Zion doing what Zion does. Despite losing this game, Williamson continues to put up these 2K level statistics and he is doing while shooting little to no threes. As an efficient player who scores more so within the flow of the offense than he does when plays are drawn up for him, Williamson is a walking double-double and without the minute restriction, he has really embraced his time on the court. The Pelicans still have a way to go from truly becoming a dangerous playoff team in the West but it’s clear that this team goes as Zion goes.
Mr. Do It All for the New Orleans Pelicans. Whatever they need him to do, he does it and he does so at a high level on both sides of the floor. His ability to grow as a go-to player for this team down the stretch of games is going to be crucial in regard to elevating this team to the next level.
The best things come in threes, especially for JJ Redick. 17 points in 19 minutes off the bench. Four threes and he hit all three free throws. He clearly still has got it and it definitely looks like his ability to launch from beyond the arc is not fading one bit.
Certified G and a Bonafide Stud and you can’t teach that! In a huge win over Milwaukee, Mitchell continues to be the driving force of a Utah Jazz team that has the talent to be a real force in the Western Conference. The dude is an offensive juggernaut and just when you thought what we saw in the NBA Bubble was too much to fathom, so far this season, Mitchell has only continued to impress.
Nothing better than having a bench player that is so reliable that he ends up playing more minutes than any of your starters. Clarkson is going to be a huge cog in the Jazz system and will need to continue to be a big contributor for this team to get further along in the postseason than they did last season. On a night where he, Mitchell, and Bojan Bogdanovic all went for 20+ points, it just goes to show you that the Jazz at full strength has the potential to be one of the most potent offensive teams in the NBA.
Typical Giannis game. Hilarious to kind of just chuck it up to that, but we all should be used to Giannis putting up video game-like numbers in less than 35 minutes on the floor. He’s called the Greek Freak for a reason.
Hard to overcome the onslaught of the Jazz hitting a franchise-record 25 three-pointers, but the Bucks duo combining for 66 sure is a good step in the right direction. Middleton has probably heard the rumblings about not being a legitimate star next to Giannis. Although Milwaukee may not be off to the hot start they expected coming into this season, Middleton continues to perform at a high level and be the right guy of wingman next to Giannis, and honestly, that alone is good enough to make the Bucks a title contender this season.
No KD, No Kyrie, No Problem! Caris LeVert was a one-man-band as he single-handedly kept the Nets in this game and was the reason this game was even close. LeVert has shown flashes of this kind of offensive talent in years past and he is going to be asked to step up like this a lot this season with Durant and Irving both being likely to miss double-digit games this season. But if there were anybody I would trust to steer the ship while my superstars are out, Caris LeVert would definitely be at the top of my list of candidates for the job.
If there is one thing that Brooks does at a high level, it is putting the ball in the basket. With Morant out, this is Brooks’ time to shine and so far he has shown out as he slowly began to play more aggressively and truly take reign of this Memphis offense.
Brandon Clarke is the Grizzlies’ version of Draymond Green with crazy bounce. He rebounds, he plays hard on both sides of the floor, and his three-point shooting is slowly improving. When healthy, Clarke is going to be a fantasy point machine all season because he provides so much versatility on both sides of the floor for Memphis. Also, with Jaren Jackson Jr. out, opportunities for Clarke will continue to blossom as he gets more playing time at the four and even small-ball five which gives the Grizzlies a multitude of ways to maximize Clarke’s athleticism.
The ultimate model of consistency. Similar to Domantas Sabonis in Indiana, Vucevic continues to quietly average 20 and 10 while the world continues to overshadow them with fresh faces and known commodities. Losing by 42 to Houston is a rough way to go out for sure but Vucevic and the Magic still look like a promising young team that has gotten off to somewhat of a hot start this season despite not having Johnathan Isaac for the year.
The injury to Markelle Fultz may have been a big blow to the Magic in terms of winning games but it may have opened the doors for Cole Anthony to assert himself as a legit Rookie of the Year candidate. With more minutes on a promising Orlando team that is going to give him opportunities to lead the offense, Anthony may be in a perfect position now for his rookie year to take off.
ALL-STAR SEASON! You heard it here first: Christian Wood is the best true center in the Western Conference alongside Nikola Jokic. I’m picking Wood over Karl Anthony-Towns, Rudy Gobert, or anyone else you want to throw at me in the Western Conference at that position. Wood has been balling out so far this season and really is making a name for himself despite playing on a Rockets team that is still facing a lot of internal turmoil. Definitely a bright spot and has a great NBA story that most would consider being a real tearjerker.
Dimes! This was a “sit back and relax” kind of game where he just facilitated and let his teammates do all the heavy lifting. PJ Tucker and John Walk combined for 29 points and even Ben McLemore joined the parts with 15 points of his own. Definitely the definition of a team win and done so in blowout fashion which makes the victory just as sweet.
In a game where the Raptors made 20 three-pointers, VanVleet was the driving force in leading Toronto to set a franchise record for scoring with 144 points. The backcourt combination of he and Norman Powell alone went for 56 points on 19-of-30 shooting from the floor and 9-of-19 from beyond the arc. Despite being only their second win of the season, this kind of output might be just the thing that helps propel this team on the right track and string a winning streak together.
Siakam was definitely flirting with Ms. Triple-Dub. As a guy who is having a bit of a down year from last season, he is still quietly averaging nearly 20 points a game and a team/career-high 7.9 rebounds. This team has not really played up to their potential, but this is a team that is capable of getting on a run and waking the whole Eastern Conference up. Might be smart to hop on the Siakam bandwagon now before he truly starts to catch his stride and take off.
The diamond in the ruff that has the capability to do a little of everything for the Raptors. As seen in this game against the Kings, when Boucher is on, he arguably is one of Toronto’s most dangerous players despite not being viewed by most of the league as such. He can score, rebound at a high level and the three blocks show that he plays with a bit of a mean streak at that power forward position. This is a guy worth keeping an eye out on because although he is not very consistent when he goes off HE GOES OFF!
Despite all the noise surrounding Marvin Bagley III and his alleged trade request, Fox continues to block out the noise and assert himself as the best player for Sacramento. For a team with so many guys needing to develop Fox has shown the most promise and is displaying why he deserved that big five-year rookie scale extension. The combination of Fox, Buddy Hield, and rookie Tyrese Halliburton have shown signs of good things to come but they feel like a young team that is still trying to figure things out. Or maybe it’s the coach…but that’s a discussion for another day.
Mr. Efficient. In a really high scoring battle with Toronto, Barnes showed off every part of his offensive arsenal and did so as efficiently as you possibly can. Only missing two shots on the night, he along with Fox were the driving forces that kept this game close early but unfortunately the Raptors offense was just too much to handle.
PG13 has been in his bag so far this season and despite the loss, George continues to quiet the haters. Of course, we all know his performance in the playoffs will obviously define the success of his season but for what it’s worth if the season ended today George would easily be a top candidate for MVP.
The Masked Assassin is balling out. Had a bit of a slow start early in the game and ultimately that made it difficult to hold off the onslaught that was Stephen Curry. But nonetheless, Leonard did what he normally does. Unfortunately, his team just could not hang on in the end against a Warriors team that relies heavily on Curry to get things going.
If you need a big man for your fantasy team that gives you efficient scoring, five to seven rebounds a night, and the occasional three, then Ibaka is your guy. He’s not always going to score near 20 points a game, but he is a double-double waiting to happen and he typically does it at an efficient rate.
I might sound like a broken record here, but Curry is LITERALLY the only breathing pulse for Golden State right now. After erupting for a career-high 62 points earlier this week against Portland, Curry got his revenge against the Clippers. After being held to only 13 points in Wednesday’s game, he came out with a vengeance in a big comeback win over the Clippers, 115-105. Curry is cooking and he has been more than ready to serve a couple of big-time performances in the last couple of games.
This is the version of Zach Lavine that wins ball games. Despite missing the go-ahead shot on a fadeaway jumper in the closing seconds of regulation, this is still a game with positive takeaways regarding Lavine’s play. He was aggressive, he shot the ball well from three, and he is playing hard on the defensive end. Even in a loss, this was definitely a night Bulls fans should walk away from with their heads held high because Chicago’s young guys are slowly starting to put it all together.
Wendell Carter Jr.
Games like these shows are what give Bulls fans hope when it comes to believing in Carter Jr.’s potential. In a constant battle for playing time in a rotation that includes Lauri Markkanen, Daniel Gafford, and even Thaddeus Young to a lesser degree, it is games like this that make Carter Jr. stand above the rest. The potential as a future building block at center for the Bulls is through the roof and 23 points with seven rebounds is a great sign of things to come.
With the absence of AD and Marc Gasol continuing to struggle with foul trouble, Harrell was asked to step in a big way. Boy did he deliver. A gritty double-double on over 50% shooting from the floor in a close call win against a young Chicago Bulls team that had some pretty athletic forwards banging down low.
Last but not least, The King continues to flex his crown. In a game with no Anthony Davis and no Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, James stepped in and stepped up to the challenge. He may not have looked like Logo LeBron with how much he struggled from beyond the arc, but he finished with 28 points so that clearly did not matter. James and the Lakers are still working out the kinks as guys like Marc Gasol are struggling to be effective in his time on the court, but the Lakers are still atop the West alongside Phoenix and the Clippers so no need to hit the panic button yet. Year 18 and James continues to steer the ship with ease. He is a fringe MVP candidate this season and as the season continues this Lakers team looks like they are only going to get
You are a very good writer. I really enjoy your take and miraculously agree with you.
Very old-time Warrior fan here but did Lue’s sub patterns seem odd to you?
Which three would you prefer in a keeper league 9 cat:
Westbrook, OG Anunoby, Andre Drummond
Simmons, anunoby, Drummond
Jaylen brown, Gordon Hayward, markkanen
Which three would you prefer in a keeper league 9 cat:
Westbrook, OG Anunoby, Andre Drummond
Simmons, anunoby, Drummond
Jaylen brown, Gordon Hayward, markkanen
Jalons World – great write up.
Brandon clarke is a straight baller. Agree with you on his analysis. I can see him being a star in the league. Easily one of the best young prospects in the league right now.
Who would you drop for batum and whiteside? or should i hold.
10 team 9 cat
Fred Van Vleet
Karl Anthony towns