On a night riddled with postponed NBA games due to COVID-19 protocols and safety precautions, the avid basketball fan was probably a little underwhelmed. I mean no Bradley Beal going off for 40+ against the Pistons. No matchup between Stephen Curry and Devin Booker. Shoot, we could not even see Anthony Edwards show out against the Memphis Grizzlies. Nonetheless, the games we did get were nothing less than entertaining. There were a few blowouts but there were also plenty of nail biters to go around. But what made these games so great was the emergence of even more young talent across the NBA landscape. The New York Knicks with RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickly. Zach Lavine and Coby White over in Chicago. Even Shai Gilgeous-Alexander came out and had a career night. There is a saying that goes “Out with old and in with the new.” Well, I am here to say that there are a handful of “new” guys that are starting to make a name for themselves, and what better way to announce yourself to the league than great performance under the Friday night lights! Here are some of the top performers from yesterday’s games.
The Boston Celtics finally play their first game in a week after facing a short hiatus due to COVID-19 hits across the league. No Jayson Tatum due to quarantining, but Jaylen Brown was more than enough to help get Boston back on track. Showing off his aggressiveness as driver with seven free throws attempts and even 50% shooting from the floor. Brown had been a model of consistency for the Cs all season and with players like Semi Ojeleye contributing 18 points, Boston’s depth may benefit from the rest they got and the increased responsibility in Tatum’s absence.
Shooters are going to shoot. With no Kemba Walker and now no Jayson Tatum for the immediate future, guys like Pritchard have been asked to step up significantly on the offensive side of the ball. One could argue that Pritchard might be Boston’s best active point guard despite Jeff Teague contributing 17 points of his own in the win over Orlando. Pritchard so far this season is looking like a late first-round steal out of the 2020 NBA Draft and has supplied some significant/sufficient minutes for a Boston team that desperately needs their bench to step up if they want to stand any chance in the postseason.
Unfortunately for Gordon and the Magic, when you shoot 7-of-28 from three you are not going to be very competitive against most teams in the league. Especially not the Boston Celtics. But individually, he continues to show why he could be a 2nd or 3rd option on a championship team but not the leader. He gives you consistent points and tends to shoot relatively well from the floor but does not provide much more than a solid 30-35 minutes a game and a few highlight plays to get you excited.
Vucevic remains one of the most underrated centers in the NBA to me. He did not have the best shooting night from beyond the arc, but as usual, you can count on him to show out in every statistical category. Definitely not Orlando’s night shooting wise and the Celtics capitalized accordingly.
I am telling you guys right now, remember the name Julius Randle. I cannot rave about this guy enough. He is literally doing a little of everything for this young, feisty Knicks team and is at the forefront of a culture shift in New York. Efficient from the floor. Can step away from the basket a little. Facilitates and rebounds at an above-average level. Randle is playing his way into being the next former Los Angeles Lakers to win Most Improved Player following Brandon Ingram who won it last season.
Personally, this was my pre-season pick for Most Improved Player which goes to show you just how far the Knicks have come from last season. Barrett has stepped up in a big way from his rookie season and has quietly been 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds this season. Coach Thibodeau has put the ball more in Barrett’s hands and allowed him to grow as a decision-maker with the basketball which has definitely been paying dividends. Tough loss for the Knicks but teams should be careful messing with New York because this team is going to be a tough out all season long.
With Obi Toppin missing most of the early portion of the season, Quickly has quickly (see what I did there) emerged as the Knicks most reliable and productive rookie so far this season. When you watch him play he essentially looks like the kind of player that will do whatever you need him to do. If you need him to go score, he can give you 15-20 points a night. If you need him to facilitate, he will chip in four to five assists. If you need him to play defense, he will rack deflections and play hard on that side of the ball. He may not be a player we consider to be a legit contender in the Rookie of the Year race, but he is a rookie that people should definitely keep on their radar.
Now if you have read any of the past Friday recaps, you already know what I’m going to say next. BUCKETS AND BOARDS! This is the definition of a buckets and boards game as Drummond had double-digit defensive rebounds (16) and nearly reached double-digit offensive rebounds (7). The Cleveland Cavaliers may have 5 centers on the roster after the acquisition of Jarrett Allen from the Brooklyn Nets, but it’s clear that Drummond is still the best one they’ve got. Big win by the Cavs and they are another team similar to the Knicks that are going to be really competitive in the Eastern Conference this season.
No Collin Sexton. No Darius Garland. No point guards available in this game for the Cavs. So, what do they go on to do? Oh, just turn Cedi Osman into the primary ball handler and let him cook. And cook he did. Osman was getting practically everything he wanted offensively and without their young backcourt, Cleveland was able to hang onto the dub in a narrow victory over New York. Osman steps up big as all five starters played 40+ minutes and came up big.
The league has finally shed light on Luke Doncic’s fatal flaw offensively. Everyone knows him for his masterful decision making, entertaining ball handling, and trick shot ability. But his glaring flaw may be one that could be fatal in regard to the Dallas Mavericks’ championship aspiration. Doncic is a horrific three-point shooter. 27.3% shooting this season and 31.8% shooting from beyond the arc overall so far in his short career. Doncic may be averaging near a triple-double but his ability to shoot the three is going to be crucial if Dallas wants to get past the first round of the playoffs this season.
Tim Hardaway Jr
This is who Tim Hardaway Jr. is honestly. A high-volume shooter that gives you 15-20 points on a nightly basis with not much of anything else. Hardaway is a reliable scorer for the Mavericks, but Dallas desperately needs him or Josh Richardson to step up as a legit ball-handler next to Luka Doncic.
The second game back from injury and Porzingis is slowly starting to get his court legs back. A double-double with two blocks is honestly a realistic average for a 7-foot Unicorn like him and will probably be necessary if Dallas wants to be considered as a legit contender in the Western Conference. 2-of-7 from three is concerning but 19 shot attempts is a good sign showing that he looking to be aggressive as the second-half Dallas’ young star duo.
The points are not surprising. The rebounds hardly shock me. Even the three-point shooting is about what you can expect on a night-to-night basis from Giannis Antetokounmpo. But what really stands out is his free throw shooting. 1-of-10 from the line is not just a bad shooting night, that is a sign of having some free throw demons. As an aggressive slasher and driver, you can expect Antetokounmpo to have a high volume of free throw attempts, but he is shooting 61.8% from the charity strike which means he is not capitalizing and creating a lot of missed opportunities. In a game decided by three points, the Bucks are lucky that those missed free throws did not cost them the game. Antetokounmpo has a lot of developing to do as an offensive player, but he might want to show more concern about his free throws rather than trying to be a better three-point shooter.
The perfect Robin as usual despite a rough shooting night from the floor. Hit timely baskets and played the role of lead facilitator next to Jrue Holiday and Pat Connaughton who chipped in five assists apiece. Big 112-109 win over the Mavericks and their star duo.
Yet another missed game-winner in the closing seconds of a ball game. Nonetheless, Zach Lavine has been averaging about 35 points a game the last week and continued the streak in this game. As a guy who is third in the NBA in scoring (27.7 PPG) Lavine is a guy who should definitely be in the discussion for an All-Star spot coming out of the East. Similar to Bradley Beal in Washington, unfortunately, Lavine may fall victim to his lack of a winning situation, but anyone with two eyes can see that he and Beal have been clear cut All Stars this season while being absolutely exciting to watch in the process.
Another guy out of the NBA Class of 2019 draft having a sneaky good sophomore season. Averaging 17.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 6.3 assists (16th in the league), White has been a huge bright spot for a young Bulls team that is clearly still developing. With guys like White, RJ Barrett, Deandre Hunter, and Cam Reddish all taking significant strides in year two, the 2019 class will be making a lot of noise in the Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the Year award race.
Back from injury and looking good. Markkanen showed really good signs on both ends of the floor and it seemed as though the frontcourt was rolling just as much as the backcourt. Rookie Patrick Williams, Wendell Carter Jr., and Markkanen combined for 46 points and 24 rebounds on 16-of-30 shooting from the floor. If Chicago’s frontcourt can be this formidable on a consistent basis, the Bulls will be a scary team at the bottom of the East that could rise quickly.
Smooth Operator. 33 points make a career-high for Gilgeous-Alexander and in a two-point victory, every bucket counted. OKC management said in the offseason that they are giving the keys to Shai and he is riding off with them like a Ferrari. It is more than obvious the Thunder are not going to be the surprise playoff team they were last season, but you could make the case that Gilgeous-Alexander has been a surprising fringe All-Star this season. Milestone game for the ascending young guard and definitely gets the game ball for this one.
COOKIES! This man Lu Dort was looking like Swiper the Fox all night as he went on to give the Thunder the full package offensively. Dort is another one of those building block pieces for OKC alongside Shai that is going to make the Thunder a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.
Honestly, Reddish was the only player really keeping Atlanta in this game. The Hawks went 5-of-28 from three and Reddish hit four of them. Just let that sink in. Trae Young did play, but he only scored a measly four points on 1-of-11 shooting. Reddish continues to show improvement in year two, but this Hawks team seems to still have a long way to go if before they can be considered real contenders in the Eastern Conference.
This is the Clint Capela that the Hawks traded for. A double-double guy with crazy efficient shooting splits, not much of a three-point shooter, and plays well in the pick and roll. It felt like at one point all of Trae Young’s 11 assists were all to Capela. Capela is definitely your typical rim running center, but the three-headed monsters of him, Deandre Hunter, and John Collins (combined for 43 points on the night) make a scary frontcourt that could do damage on the regular.
This man hit more threes by himself than the entire Atlanta Hawks team. That alone should tell you how this game went. Mitchell continues to show why he is considered to be a top-shooting guard in the league. It’s performances like these that help make the Utah Jazz look like a real contender in the West. Mitchell has all the tools and continues to lead this team in a big way.
If you need a go-to Buckets and Boards guy, Gobert is your weapon of choice. He gets all his points around the basket. He is an excellent defensive rebounder, and he prides himself on the defensive end. Which basically means you can pencil him in for a double-double with a block or more a game. Gobert continues to show why he is hands down the best defensive Center in the NBA.
The man got all 27 of his points in the first three quarters of the game. By the start of the fourth quarter, it was all smooth sailing for the Clippers. Leonard was on from tip-off and it paid dividends as they waxed Sacramento 138-100.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined for 53 points on 18-of-29 shooting from the floor. That is the kind of duo performance that LA needs from these two if they look to redeem themselves from last season. Also, it should be pointed out that they did this without Lou Williams who was out with a hip injury. Meaning with Williams, this team offensively is capable of being a real juggernaut. But it was just the Kings so we should be careful how much we hype up this win.
Someone better pick up the phone, this man Marvin Bagley III is slowly raising his trade value. Despite all the noise off the court, Bagley has quietly strung together a good handful of games and is making himself look like a valuable asset on the trade market.
Not a whole lot to praise for anyone on the losing end of a 38-point blowout but Holmes and Bagley in the frontcourt at least showed out in their own way. Sacramento has an interesting roster with some legit talent, but it seems like they just can’t seem to bring it all together. I enjoy watching Holmes play as a high energy guy that gives the Kings a little bit of an edge.
Nearly another triple-double for the reigning NBA Finals MVP in year 18. Just seems like when the lights are brightest, James rises to the occasion. Nothing better than a Friday Night win. Perfect from the free-throw line is a good look for James who is currently hovering around 73% from the line this season.
You’re trying to tell me that this man was not the Defensive Player of the Year last season?? Three steals and three blocks against his former team to go along with a solid performance offensively. Davis may not have been the most efficient on offense, but he sure did make up for it by being so active on the defensive end.
Typical Zion Williamson game. Similar to Giannis, you almost kind of expect a star line like this from Zion. Rough 95-112 loss for the Pelicans but they are still slowly ascending as one of the West’s most promising young teams.
Bucket Getter Brandon. If there is one thing he knows how to do, it is getting his points. Ingram is still developing as an offensive player, but he also is growing into his own as the primary scoring option for New Orleans. Ingram’s ability to become a closer for this team will be crucial if the Pelicans ever want to become a playoff-caliber team in the West.
Thank you for the post! How would you rank brook lopez, ibaka, cousins, and deandre jordan now?
Awesome recap JW!
A guy in my league is looking to move trae due to his recent play. It’s a 10 man 9 cat head to head keeper league.
I have: James, Davis, jaylen brown, lillard, Lonzo ball, wall, hayward, bridges, Aldridge, Boucher, Horford, and Seth Curry.
What would be a good offer?