การแข่งขัน: รอบที่ 121 - 152 อันดับที่ 152

After getting compared to the woeful 2000 and 2013 NBA Draft Classes leading up to draft night, the 2020 Draft Class has actually been one of the better classes in recent memory. There are a handful of players with All-Star potential, and maybe even All-NBA potential. There are also a number of solid rotation players that were selected at various points in the first and second rounds. Through a quarter of the season, here are the 15 rookies who have caught my eye.

Note: There are two more rookies who have a ton of potential that do not appear on this list due to injury (Obi Toppin) and lack of playing time (Devin Vassell). I expect both to be impact players once they get enough serious run on the court.

 

© Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

If you haven’t had an opportunity to check out Tyrese Haliburton, watch this highlight tape . You’ll notice a couple of interesting things about Haliburton’s game. First, he has a funky, almost juvenile push shot – but it goes in… very often (50-47-82 shooting splits). Another thing you’ll notice, there are no mid-range shots. Haliburton is an advanced analytics darling and has a shot chart that resembles James Harden (if Harden only averaged 8.5 field goal attempts per game). In fact, he’s only taken 11 shots this season that weren’t three-pointers or inside the paint. Lastly, you should take note of his pose and feel for the game – he has a point guard’s vision but has no problem playing off the ball. Even if his numbers stay near where they currently are – 11.4 PPG, 4.9 APG, 3.0 RPG – he is and projects to continue to be one of the best three players in this draft, if not the best.

 

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How can you not love watching LaMelo Ball? Every time he touches the ball, there’s the potential for a highlight-reel play. He’s so tall for a point guard, and plays fast, but not in a hurry (some coach speak for you), and he’s certainly not afraid to throw a behind-the-back pass in traffic or slick, no-look crosscourt pass. His three-point shot has so much arc you think it might hit the ceiling and his layup package is so smooth. He’s averaging 11.4 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 6.0 APG with 40-33-70 shooting splits, so he’s not the most efficient player right now, but he’s definitely ahead of where most people projected him to be at this point in his career. If he develops at the trajectory he’s currently on, this kid will absolutely be an All-Star and possibly even an All-NBA player in the future. 

 

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I mean, need I say more? Look at where James Wiseman is catching that lob…off a flat-footed jump, no less!!  Wiseman has elite athleticism for a seven-footer. He’s still extremely raw – remember he basically went straight from high school to the NBA because he only played in three games at Memphis – but the Warriors have to be thrilled with his potential. Through 16 games, Wiseman is averaging 11.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG, and 1.4 BPG this season. If he develops quickly alongside Steph Curry and Draymond Green this year, he could be ready to be a legitimate contributor on a contender next season when Klay Thompson returns. 

 

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Every draft, there are a handful of players – typically sophomores, juniors, or seniors – whose draft stock is way too low considering their abilities and physical profile. As I outlined in my final mock draft, Immanuel Quickley had the pedigree, efficiency, and body to be an impact player in the NBA: As a sophomore was SEC Player of the Year, shot 42.8 percent from three, and had a gangly 6-foot-10 wingspan that would be able to help him play bigger than his 6-foot-3 height on both ends of the court. I had him pegged at no. 29, which was earlier than most mock drafts, but he ended up going no. 25 and has played like he should have gone in the top-five in retrospect. Quickley has been a stud thus far for the surprisingly competent Knicks, averaging 11.6 PPG and 2.5 APG while shooting 37.9 percent from three. He’s flashed more pick and roll abilities than he did at Kentucky and already possesses one of the best floaters in the NBA. When the season ends, expect Quickley to be a First-Team All-Rookie performer. 

 

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Seemingly every draft, there’s a high-risk, high-reward prospect that soars up the board in the final days leading up to draft night. Some years that prospect ends up being a stud like Jaylen Brown; other years it ends up being a bust like Mario Hezonja. Patrick Williams was that prospect for the 2020 NBA Draft, and, thus far, he looks to be much more Jaylen Brown than Mario Hezonja. While he’s still very raw, Williams clearly has the size and athleticism to be a two-way impact player and is competent enough to play 25.4 MPG right now without standing out like a sore thumb – which is no easy task when you consider that about nine of the NBA’s best 15 players are forwards. Williams will almost certainly be a solid NBA player, but we’ll have a better idea of just how high his ceiling is in the next two years. 

 

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Anthony Edwards, Minnesota T’Wolves

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Anthony Edwards, the 2020 NBA Draft’s no. 1 overall pick, has been a mixed bag this season. On one hand, he has been very inefficient, averaging 13.1 PPG on 36-31-83 shooting splits and averaging more turnovers (1.9) than assists (1.7) per game. He’s a bit of a chucker on offense and has the tendency to lean back too far on his jump shot, leading to inconsistent results. He’s also on an absolute train wreck of a franchise in Minnesota. On the other hand, he clearly has a ton of potential as seen by this recent game against the Warriors where he flashed the ability to be a three-level, go-to scorer from the guard position. Oh, and he also might be the most athletic guard in the NBA as seen by this tomahawk slam. In conclusion, it’s too early to tell whether Edwards will be a stud or a bust, but it’s safe to conclude that he’ll be spectacular one way or the other. 

 

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It’s highly unusual to see a rookie on a contending team be the focal point of the team’s offense for a stretch of games, but because of Covid-related absences in early-January, we got to see what Tyrese Maxey could with an increased usage rate. The results were very promising: During a six-game stretch in which he played 30.4 MPG, Maxey went out and averaged 18.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG, and 3.5 APG, including a 39-point, seven-rebound, six-assist game against the Nuggets. While he has since been relegated back to his “spark off the bench” role, Maxey is clearly an NBA player and has the potential to be an impact player for Philly in the years to come.

 

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Boston fans have to be absolutely elated by the play of Payton Pritchard thus far. Through 14 games, he’s averaging a modest 7.7 PPG, 2.6 APG, and 2.4 RPG, but he’s been extremely efficient (49-43-90 shooting splits) and weathered the storm admirably as the team’s third guard while Kemba Walker was out for the first month of the season. Pritchard is injured right now, but he should return in two weeks and the Celtics will need him to once again play big minutes as Marcus Smart just suffered a pretty serious-looking calf injury. Pritchard doesn’t have the All-Star ceiling that these players above him possess, but he has a very high floor and projects to be one of the league’s top backup point guards for years to come. If he could be Boston’s version of Monte Morris, then he’ll end up being one of the steals of the 2020 NBA Draft.

 

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Xavier Tillman has quietly been an impressive role player for the surprisingly good Grizzlies this season. Forced into early playing time due to Jaren Jackson Jr.’s injury, Tillman has averaged 8.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG, and has shot 53.8 percent from the field. His game is reminiscent of Montrezl Harrell in that he has a great floater in the lane and already has the wherewithal to be an effective roll-man in pick-and-rolls. He’s also a hustler and comes up with a number of loose balls and deflections. Some of these perpetually terrible NBA franchises should be closely monitoring the Grizzlies to see how they’re not only finding hidden gems in the draft but quickly developing those gems into legitimate role players.  

 

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Speaking of hidden gems that the Grizzlies continue to uncover in the draft, Desmond Bane, a 6-foot-5 wing out of TCU, looks to be a perfect three-and-D role player for Memphis moving forward. Through 14 games, he’s averaging 9.1 PPG and shooting a league-best 52.0 percent from three-point land. He also has a plus-5.8 points per 100 possessions on/off point differential, which is something you don’t always see from rookies. Despite being the last pick of the first round, Bane has already established that he’s an NBA player and projects to be a starter-level rotation player for the majority of his career. 

 

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Jae’Sean Tate is a pretty unique rookie – he’s a 6-foot-4, 230-pound, 25-year-old bulldozer of a forward who went undrafted out of Ohio State and played in the NBL Australian league in 2019-20 before signing with the Rockets. If you followed his career at OSU at all, you’d be downright shocked that he’s not only in the NBA but often starting and playing over 25 MPG in the NBA this season. In college, Tate could handle the ball like a guard, but couldn’t shoot worth a lick (career 27.7 percent three-point shooter), so he just tried to bully-ball his way into the paint every time he had the ball. Since then, he’s developed into a good wing defender, become at least serviceable beyond the arc (33.3 percent from three), and appears destined to stick in the league. He even had the tenacity to get chippy with James Harden during the Rockets’ training camp when Harden was acting like a juvenile. That right there tells me Tate is here to stay.

 

© Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Isaac Okoro was my best bet to win Rookie of the Year when the season began. Unfortunately, he missed some time with an injury and also simply won’t put up impressive enough offensive statistics to take home the award. That being said, Okoro is still going to be a good wing in the NBA. He’s comfortable finishing around the basket in crowds with either hand, he’s strong and athletic enough to defend small forwards, and he’s tenacious. That combination from a player his age doesn’t often fail. Once Okoro improves his outside shooting, he could be a problem in this league. 

 

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Speaking of tenacity, Precious Achiuwa is the personification of tenacious. He may be listed as a rookie, but Achiuwa looks like a grown man standing at 6-foot-8 and weighing in at a muscular 225 pounds. In about 16 MPG, Achiuwa is averaging 7.5 PPG and 4.8 RPG while shooting an impressive 64 percent from the field. He also has an above-average Player Efficiency Rating (17.5) and appears to be an ideal #HeatCulture big man who will, alongside Bam Adebayo, scare the living hell out of opponents around the basket for years to come. 

 

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At the beginning of the season, Cole Anthony was supposed to be a spark-plug off the bench for the Magic. Unfortunately, starter Markelle Fultz tore his ACL and forced Anthony into action as the team’s primary ball-handler a little sooner than the team was hoping. Like most young point guards, Anthony has been up-and-down during his rookie season. He’s average decent numbers, 10.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, and 3.6 APG, but shooting an ugly 35.5 percent from the field and 31.9 percent from three. Despite this inefficient shooting, Anthony has still had a couple of great moments as a rookie, including a recent 21-point game in a win against fellow rookie point guard, LaMelo Ball, and, of course, this incredible walk-off three-pointer against the T’Wolves.

 

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The Foreign Kids on the OKC Thunder

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Two rookies have caught my eye on the OKC Thunder this season: one for the right reasons and one for the wrong reasons. Theo Maledon looks like he could be one of the steals of the draft (picked no. 34) as seen by this recent 24-point explosion against the Nets . In addition to being able to shoot the ball from deep (37.7 percent from three), Maledon is already able to make cross-court passes with either hand off the dribble – a skill typically reserved for the game’s elite playmakers. Expect Maledon to be a stud for the Thunder in the years to come. On the other end of the spectrum is the 7-foot, 190-pound Aleksej Pokusevski. Pokusevski, who had “Dragan Bender” written all over him before the draft, is having a spectacularly awful season shooting the basketball as he’s hitting only 24.7 percent from the field and 18.5 percent from three. Most amazingly (and concerning if you’re the Thunder), however, is the fact that Pokusevski has not attempted a single free throw in 276 minutes thus far. That’s right, zero free throws!! I’d expect him to be out of the league at the end of his rookie deal.

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การแข่งขัน: รอบที่ 121 - 152 อันดับที่ 152


นักแสดง Warriors Klay Thompson จะไม่กลับมาที่ศาลสักระยะหนึ่ง แต่เขาได้รับโอกาสในการออกอากาศในช่วงที่ Golden State ชนะ Detroit Pistons ในวันเสาร์ ในระหว่างการออกอากาศ NBC Sports Bay Area ธ อมป์สันพูดถึงกระบวนการฟื้นตัวของเขาเป็นครั้งแรกนับตั้งแต่ต้องทนทุกข์ทรมานกับการฉีกขาดของ Achilles ในช่วงสิ้นสุดฤดูกาลระหว่างการออกกำลังกายในเดือนพฤศจิกายน แข้งวัย 30 ปียอมรับว่า “ฆ่า” เขาเพื่อพลาดฤดูกาลอื่น อย่างไรก็ตามเขากล่าวว่าการทำกายภาพบำบัดของเขาดำเนินไปอย่างช้าๆ แต่โดยดีตามที่ Nick Friedell จาก ESPN กล่าวว่า“ ฉันมีชีวิตที่ดีการได้กลับมาอยู่ในอาคารที่ฉันรอคอยที่จะเล่นอย่างใจจดใจจ่อในบางครั้งก็เบื่อนิดหน่อย Stuff ทำงานช้ากับการพยายามให้ Achilles ของฉันรักษาและไปยังด่านต่อไปซึ่งเป็นงานที่คล่องตัว แต่ฉันรู้สึกดีฉันมีความสุขที่ได้อยู่กับเพื่อนร่วมทีมเห็นได้ชัดว่า “น่าเสียดายที่ฉันไม่ได้เล่น มันฆ่าฉันทุกวัน แต่ฉันวางแผนที่จะเล่นเป็นเวลานานและฉันไม่ต้องการให้มีอุบัติเหตุเกิดขึ้นในสถานบำบัดนี้ “ธ อมป์สันพลาดทั้งฤดูกาล 2019-20 หลังจากที่ฉีก ACL ของเขาในเกมที่ 6 ของ NBA 2019 รอบชิงชนะเลิศกับโตรอนโตแร็พเตอร์เมื่อทอมป์สันถูกกีดกันและสตีเฟนเคอรี่ก็ถูกตัดมือขาด Warriors จบด้วยสถิติที่เลวร้ายที่สุดของการประชุมเวสเทิร์นเมื่อฤดูกาลที่แล้วที่ 15-50 ยังไม่ชัดเจนว่าทอมป์สันจะเป็นผู้เล่นแบบไหนเมื่อเขากลับมาที่ คอร์ทอย่างไรก็ตามด้วยวัยเพียง 30 ปีชาวลอสแองเจลิสมีบาสเก็ตบอลเหลืออยู่มากมายใน 8 ฤดูกาลกับโกลเด้นสเตท ธ อมป์สันทำได้เฉลี่ย 19.5 คะแนน 3.5 รีบาวน์และ 2.3 แอสซิสต์ต่อเกมขณะที่ยิง 45.9% จากสนามและ 41.9 % จากระดับลึกเขาได้รับการคัดเลือก All-Star ในแต่ละฤดูกาลห้าฤดูกาลที่ผ่านมาและมีบทบาทสำคัญในการช่วยให้ Warriors คว้าแชมป์ NBA สามรายการในปี 2015, 2017 และ 2018

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In a 72-game NBA season, when does a trend become a reality? 18 games? 27 games? 36 games? With teams at the quarter season mark, many of the early season anomalies (e.g., the Hawks having the best offense in the league) have regressed to the mean. However, a handful of the surprising trends that every new season brings about have a chance to become a reality and help tell the story of the 2020-21 NBA season should they continue much longer. Here are 15 early-season trends to keep an eye on for the rest of the season:

 

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Achilles injuries might be the new Tommy John surgery

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Until recently, an Achilles injury was considered to be a career-ending or at least a career-shortening injury. However, with the way the likes of Kevin Durant, Mike Conley, John Wall, and others have looked this season, we may need to recalibrate expectations for players who suffer this cruel injury moving forward. Durant literally looks exactly the same as he looked before he was injured in the 2019 NBA Playoffs. Now, with KD, we’re talking about one of the greatest players in NBA history, arguably the greatest scorer, so there’s a chance that he’s a statistical anomaly because of his generational athleticism and skill set. But then you look at guys like Mike Conley (two seasons removed from an Achilles procedure) and John Wall, and they both look pretty similar athletically to the versions of the players we saw pre-injury. Could this mean that Achilles surgery and rehabilitation technology and procedures are improving? Hopefully. We still need some more data points to say it with much certainty, but things are certainly looking better and better for Klay Thompson every day!!

 

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Home court advantage is gone

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One of the interesting trends this season has been the lack of home-court advantage. At this time, only 12 of the 30 teams are above .500 at home. Compare that with 18 teams last season. And 23 teams in 2018-19. What gives? Clearly, the lack of fans is allowing some of the visiting teams to jump out to early leads and maintain or extend them in a way that perhaps wouldn’t be as easy to do if there were 20,000 fans cheering on the home team. There’s also no “Miami Flu” or “LA Flu” (aka where visiting players go out all night in an awesome city and then play hungover the following day) this season with the pandemic restrictions. Finally, the NBA as a league is attempting and making more three-pointers than any year in league history, and the league-wide effective field goal percentage is also as high as it’s ever been – this has led to some wild variance from game to game as well as some historic blowouts early in the season. It will be interesting to see if the trend of diminishing home court advantage continues once fans or back in the arena due to this emphasis on shooting.

 

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Can this incinerating three-point shooting continue?

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Last season, the Jazz shot the highest percentage as a team from three-point land (38 percent). This season, seven teams – Clippers, Jazz, Lakers, Bucks, Nets, Wizards, and Bulls – are all shooting at least that well. The Clippers lead the way with an absurd 42.3 percent accuracy from downtown. Think about that for a second – the Clippers are making almost one out of every two three-pointers. If the season were to end today, they would finish second to the 1996-97 Charlotte Hornets (42.8 percent) as the most effective three-point shooting team of all time. It’s even all the more impressive because the Clippers (35.6 attempts per game) are attempting more than double the number of threes per game than the Hornets did (16.9). 

 

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So every player is just going to score 20 PPG now?

© David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Right now, there are 37 players in the NBA averaging over 20 PPG. 37!! That’s more than one per team! In fact, the only two teams in the league that doesn’t have at least one player averaging 20 PPG or more are the Raptors and Heat, the latter of which have eight players averaging double-figures. Offensive players are so gifted, and the rules are so skewed in favor of offensive players right now that nearly every player on the court, at all times, can give you 20-plus points on any given night. Players who can’t shoot and/or score at an above-average clip are becoming completely obsolete – even players with excellent playmaking skills and feel for the game like Lonzo Ball are struggling to fit into today’s game. Will the game of basketball continues to accelerate in this direction, or is there a market correction on the horizon? 

 

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The wacky playoff picture in the Western Conference

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Before the season, everyone predicted that the Western Conference playoffs would be a gauntlet, and the 2020-21 season is shaping up to give us just that come playoff time. In fact, if the playoffs were to begin today, the Play-In Tournament in the Western Conference would be so lit as it would feature the Suns, Spurs, Warriors, and Mavericks fighting for the seven and eight seeds. That would be thrilling, but it would also kind of suck if the regular playoffs didn’t include three of the game’s most recognizable superstars: Chris Paul, Steph Curry, and Luka Doncic. I’m sure the LA teams (currently nos. 1 and 2 in the conference) would be livid if their “reward” for finishing at the top of the conference was having to play the Suns, Warriors, or Mavericks in the first round. However, looking at the standings, only the Grizzlies (currently the sixth-seed) are outperforming their expectations, so buckle up people – we’re in for a wild ride out West!!

 

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And the Eastern Conference playoff picture is even more bizarre

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Let’s play another game of “If the Season Ended Today…” If the season ended today, the defending Eastern Conference Champions, the Miami Heat (6-9), wouldn’t even be in the Play-In Tournament. Ditto for the 2019 NBA Champions, the Toronto/Tampa Bay Raptors (7-9). Continuing down this crazy road, the team with arguably the three best offensive players in the game, the Brooklyn Nets (10-8), would be the five-seed, and the Cleveland Cavaliers (8-8) would be the six-seed. Finally, the New York Freakin’ Knicks (8-10) would be the eight-seed. Talk about chaos…

 

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We know that Bradley Beal is a certified superstar – but is he really this  great of a scorer? He’s putting up James Harden-esque numbers right now (34.5 PPG). If he truly is, then the trade package he’s going to fetch when he inevitably requests a trade? Through 11 games this season, Beal has been phenomenal, averaging 5.5 RPG and 4.9 APG to go along with the scoring. He’s also been extremely efficient despite the high volume, posting 49-37-87 shooting splits. His improved playmaking ability makes him even more valuable for any contender as he can seamlessly switch from two-guard to being the primary ball-handler. If he’s dealt, it could swing the title race. 

 

© Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve run out of adjectives to describe the Paul George and the Clippers’ collapse in the Orlando Bubble. However, I must give credit where credit is due: Paul George has been an absolute baller this season. Through 16 games, he’s putting up an MVP stat line, averaging 23.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, and 5.4 APG along with insanely hot shooting efficiency (50-48-91 shooting splits). He and Kawhi Leonard have the Clippers (13-4) right there with the Lakers as the best team in the league at the quarter season mark. While I’m not ready to give PG13 his flowers until he proves he can replicate this dominance when it counts in the playoffs, he’s been one of the most impressive players in the league thus far this season. If he keeps this up, he’s going to swing the very negative “Way-off P” narrative that NBA Twitter and Damian Lillard popularized this past summer. 

 

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Even the most staunch Russell Westbrook defenders – however many are left – must admit that the former MVP looks pretty bad this season for the Wizards. Although he’s still averaging his customary triple-double type of stat line (18.0 PPG., 10.6 APG, and 9.5 RPG), he’s shooting the ball horrendously (37-31-64 shooting splits), turning it over like crazy (5.1 per game), and has reverted back to shooting far too many three-pointers (4.5 attempts per game). Perhaps the most concerning part of his performance so far this season is the fact that he’s not attacking the basket-like we’re accustomed to seeing him do – he’s shooting a career-low 4.9 free throws per game. Westbrook supporters are holding out hope that once he gets healthy, he’ll get back to being the attacking menace he’s been his whole career. However, if Westbrook doesn’t get healthy soon, you have to start wondering whether he’ll ever be healthy for a full season again.

 

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Is Zach LaVine a superstar hiding in plain sight?

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He’s definitely a star, that’s for sure. Even though the Bulls have sucked for his entire tenure, at a certain point, you have to give a guy credit when he passes certain statistical thresholds – like averaging almost 30 PPG. Zach LaVine is an elite scorer. He’s like a more bouncy, less refined version of Bradley Beal and he’s averaging 26.8 PPG, 5.4 APG and 5.2 RPG with 50-38-87 shooting splits. He’s still a sieve on defense, but he’s proven himself to be an elite, and efficient bucket-getter. While there aren’t a ton of teams that have the assets to swing a deal for Beal, there are certainly a few contenders and up-and-coming teams that could make a spicy offer for LaVine. Could a team like Denver or Philly or Miami get LaVine on the cheap while the rest of the contenders are busy jostling for Beal or eyeing up role players at the trade deadline? 

 

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Will we see this Lakers team separate itself from the rest of the league?

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After the shortest offseason in NBA history, some analysts predicted that the Lakers would ease into the 2020-21 season, start a little slow, and then ramp things up towards the end of the season before the playoffs. They were partially right – the Lakers have been on cruise control for much of the season, often coasting through games early and then flipping that switch that LeBron James’ Cavs teams were notorious for, locking down on defense (no. 1 rated defense in the NBA) and pulling out victories. They’re currently tied for the best record in the league (13-4), but you get the sense that they have another gear, especially on offense (no. 7 rated offense in the NBA). If everything starts clicking for this team, they could rip off one of those 2013-Miami Heat or 2015-16- Golden State Warriors runs where they win double-digit games in a row or win something like 23 of 25 games over a two-month stretch. Will we see that level of dominance from them? Or will they be content jogging to the playoffs and finishing around the same record as the likes of the Clippers, Bucks, and other contenders?

 

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Wait a minute….are the Cavs actually competent?

© Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

One of the more pleasant surprises of this season has been seeing the funky Cavs, with all of their centers and forwards, emerge as one of the league’s premier defensive teams. They currently have the seventh-best defensive rating in the league thanks to the likes of Andre Drummond (leading the league in rebounds, and near the top in defensive rating and defensive win shares)and Larry Nance Jr. (leading the league in steals with 2.2 per game and in the top-10 defensive win shares). And they just added Jarrett Allen, a shot-blocking menace with young legs from the Nets. If Collin Sexton continues his ascent on offense (averaging 25.5 PPG), this Cleveland team could be right in the thick of things come playoff time.

 

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The perfect fit of the Pacers

© Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

If the Pacers didn’t have bad injury luck, they’d have no luck at all. They lost an All-NBA version of Victor Oladipo in the 2019-20 season. Then, after they traded Oladipo for a potential All-Star caliber player, Caris LeVert, a test revealed that LeVert had a mass on his kidney (he’s out indefinitely). They also lost TJ Warren earlier this season to a foot injury (he’s probably out for most of the season). It doesn’t matter though. The Pacers, behind Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, and Myles Turner, are still winning games (tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference) and having career years: Sabonis is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, and assists per game; Brogdon is averaging career highs in points and assists, and Turner is leading the league in blocks per game as well. 

 

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Is Christian Wood really an All-Star in the Western Conference?

© Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Yes. For all the “casuals” out there, get to know who Christian Wood is because he’s going to be named All-Stars this season. Wood is one of the best reclamation projects in a long time in the NBA. The spark notes version would show him crying at his draft party after going undrafted, getting cut by multiple NBA teams, getting cut from his team in the Chinese Basketball Association, grinding to get another shot in the NBA, putting up big numbers late last season, signing a big contract this offseason and playing like an All-Star this season (23.5 PPG, 10.8 RPG and 1.8 BPG). He’s suddenly the Rockets’ best player and franchise centerpiece and should be a front-runner for the Most Improved Player award as well. 

 

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Covid-19 having a major impact on the league

© Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The most unfortunate trend this season has been the impact Covid-19 is having on the league and its teams. Yes, the NBA expected there to be numerous positive tests throughout the year. And yes, in most cases, players have either been unaffected by the virus or at least have been able to return to their previous form after a couple of weeks. At the same time, the NBA has to be concerned about how the virus is causing certain teams to have to play with skeleton rosters or have games postponed, and they have to be worried about how certain players have contracted the virus for a second time. There’s hope on the horizon with the rollout of vaccines, but there’s also a concern that the league may have to resort to pausing the season and/or resorting back to another bubble environment for the postseason again – a scenario that the league, teams, coaches, and players would all love to avoid. 

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