In what was a rather quick yet content packed week, the league was as busy as ever!

Relative to the coronavirus updates, the league has seen great returns in containing and staying discpline with the league-mandated protocols.

According to The Athletics Shams Charania, the number of positive tests have been going down over the past month.

As the numbers show, teams and players have bought into the system and have done their due diligence in staying disciplined with their individual efforts.

After we saw a compilation of games postponed due to close contacts, this is the best of all possible news.

Having addressed the most recent news with the virus, let’s dive into the five things that caught my attention throughout the league this week.

1.) Fred VanVleet drops 54 🤯

The fifth year guard, undrafted from Wichita State put up 54 points on 23 shots including 11-14 from 3.

Mr. Bet on Yourself filled it up Tuesday night in 37 minutes of play. A career 39% 3-point shooter, FVV is the perfect 3 and D mold for a guard.

He’s never had a season where he wasn’t a positive on the defensive end in +/-. He’s also seen an increase in scoring, assists, rebounds, and steals in every season thus far, on par to do so yet again.

VanVleet is a walking brand of hard work. He’s undersized for an NBA guard at 6’1. Not relatively athletic or fast, he’s thrived off of high IQ play, strong fundamentals, trust instilled through being a hustle player, and trust in his own process.

He also has a confidence in his aura that can be seen even from a distance. How he speaks about the game and himself, you can tell that he’s garnered that feel through nothing less than countless hours honing in his craft.

Again, coming from a mid-major college in Wichita State, he’s had plenty odds stacked against him adverse to his aspirations.

And still, here he is. Thriving! Garnering league-wide attention, having played a KEY role in bringing the Raptors their first Larry O’Brien trophy, and having just gotten paid in the off-season with Toronto signing him for 4 years/$85,000,000 💰.

It’s hard not to cheer for a guy like this, he deserves every penny of it. He’s a winner. Keep going Fred!

2.) To panic or not for the Mavericks 😳

After becoming one of the shining new comers in the NBA last season, pairing two of the best foreign born talents in the league, the Mavericks quite simply have disappointed.

Deemed as one of the best second-tier teams in the NBA, with the MVP favorite coming into the season, it was expected for the Mavericks to ascend.

To be frank, they’ve fallen off a cliff.

What was the best offense in terms of rating in NBA history last season (116.7), they have struggled to see that same success this season.

They’re currently 9-14 in 14th in the West (25th in the league). Some of their problem areas offensively are:

  • 3-point shooting – Last season, they were above league average from deep. This season, one of the league leaders in attempts, they’re 29th there. Specifically, they’re 27th both from the corners (34.3%), and above the break (34.1%)
  • The ball is sticking in Luka Doncic’s hand. He has a league-high usage rate (40.7%) which is sky-high… but I’d also directly on par with what his usage rate was last season. It’s not by choice that the ball sticks with him, it’s out of necessity. Aside from Jalen Brunson, they don’t necessarily have another viable creater or initiator of offense.
  • Past numbers, they have an overall lack of energy and creativity. Body language has also been bad.
  • The absence of Paul Silas has likely played a role in the drop off in offense, but a lot of their issues can be mitigated by better shot selection and an added ball handler.

Defensively, they have zero rim protection. At the basket, teams are shooting 67.2% which is 28th in the league. That number is significantly down from where they were last season in protection, which was 11th where teams converted at 63.0%.

On that end, it’s more so effort than anything that’s hurting them. Direct line drives to the basket, lack of communication, and lack of true ability on that end are hurting them.

Richardson hasn’t been seeing the successes he hoped for, Kleber has been in and out of the line up as well as Porzingis, and they just haven’t been able to establish any synergy on that end.

As a team, per quarter, they see a drop off in points as the game progresses. From 32.4, 31.9, 31.5, then just 29.2 in the fourth. Their overall execution in fourth quarters leaves more to be desired, and it’s microcosm of there overall issues offensively. Not having that dynamic of another reliable playmaker, then being so predictable all work against them heavily.

Do I think it’s time to panic yet? No but in about two weeks if we haven’t seen much of a change, it might very well be time to press the panic button in Dallas.

3.) So there will be an All-Star game? 👀

As penned by ESPN’s Woj, the NBA and NBAPA are extremely close to finalizing exactly how they would go about structuring an All-Star weekend of sorts.

It would be relocated from Indianapolis to Atlanta, and take place on March 7th which is the Sunday that a pre-planned league-wide hiatus would take place.

Take some time to check this post out from Woj. After reading, how do you feel about an All-Star weekend being held given how tough it’s been to navigate through this pandemic?

The overall feel from the players in response to this news is not one of satisfaction. Players like LeBron James and De’Aaron Fox have been the most recent guys to be vocal about their disagreements with having one this season.

As it stands there are a few more steps to be taken before it becomes official, but it seems as if the NBA is leaning towards making this event happen.

4.) Is LeBron better than ever before? 👑

Via ESPN’s The Jump

This stat comparison between LeBrons last MVP season and now says a lot!

My pick for MVP as of Monday was Nikola Jokic, however as with all award races, the MVP is a very fluid. Maybe the most fluid of them all.

In season 18, LeBron really looks as good as ever before.

Showing no signs of slowing down, even after only 71 days between his last game of the 2019-2020 NBA Finals to the first day of training camp, he’s currently averaging 25.1 PPG, 7.7 APG, 7.2 RPG. What’s most impressive is that he’s shooting a career-high 40.9% from deep, including a career-high 6.7 attempts.

To be this productive in a career-low (33.5) of minutes is commendable to say the least. He’s also spending more time at guard than he did at any other point in his career.

To see him reinvent himself and also adjust to the style of play that the league is taking on serves as yet another reminder why he’s so great.

Players like him and Chris Paul who are enjoying the level of individual success at their ages as elder-statesmen in the league, aging like fine wine, is truly a treasure. Please do not take them for granted.

5.) Bradley Beal is… 🔥

League leader in scoring at 34.8 PPG

This just in, Bradley Beal is GREAT at scoring. Matter of fact, he’s downright prolific!

No this is not news that Beal is good at scoring. For those that watch the games and keep an eye on the league (including the lowlight Wizards of the last few seasons), it is not a secret that Beal is a GREAT scorer.

It is really not even a surprise that he is leading the league in scoring at the moment. The Wizards play with a pace that emphasizes volume of possessions over a 48 minute stretch, so opportunities are plentiful for Beal to get his.

Point being, he is a BUCKET! He has the complete package as a three-level scorer. He can operate with the ball in his hand in isolation or in pick and roll. He also thrives off the ball in catch and shoot scenarios with range, as well as being able to come off of staggereds and pindowns not unlike a JJ Redick.

Though he and the Wizards have endured potentially the most thorough Covid-stricken season of anyone in the league, he has certainly trived independent of all else.

Shoutout Bradley Beal one time!

Miscellaneous Occurrences

  • Courtside Karen 😂 – The exchange between LeBron and the random fan(s) sitting courtside in Atlanta Monday did nothing but remind us exactly why we all long for the dynamic of having a packed arena of fans. Though this instance was rather dramatic and drawn out, it most certainly was reminiscent of what we would see on any given night under normal circumstances. Of note, this is the second week in a row that a heckler has found a way to involve them self with LeBron, even in a nearly empty stadium. Here’s to hoping we can have more fans in the stands by the seasons end 🤞🏾.
  • Nets games are a spectacle 🔥 – Regardless of opponent. Maybe the game of the season so far was Tuesday in their 124-120 win over the Clippers had a playoff atmosphere. For the Nets specifically, they seem to bring the absolute best out of every team they’re playing. This is something you typically see from the defending champs as everyone aims to beat them with every waning opportunity, but teams realize the juggernaut that’s been assembled in Brooklyn.
  • Charlotte is a very fun team to watch❗️- They have a rookie of the year candidate in LaMelo Ball, an above the rim highflying act in Miles Bridges (together they call themselves “Air BnB”), as well as fun guards like Terry Rozier and Devonte Graham who can detonate at any given moment. They also have Gordon Hayward who has been enjoying a career-high 22.9 PPG. They have been quietly more fun than the team I deemed to be the most fun new coming team to watch this season, in Atlanta.

Recommended Watch

ESPNs Rachel Nichols sat down with the heart and soul of the Golden State Warriors, Draymond Green, and had a great discussion crossing multiple topics. It’s been eye-opening to see his growth as a player and leader, stemming from his days at the Breslin Center under the coaching of Tom Izzo.

Another great interview conducted, Rachel got Draymond to open up and speak on some of the things that have become most important to him in his evolved role with the Golden State Warriors.

That’s a wrap for this week’s Friday Fives. Thanks for the read as always and enjoy your weekend. I’ll be back next week with plenty more to talk about! Til then ✌🏾🏀

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