Yet another information packed week has gone by with organizations making statements on available-made players, all-star starters, and festivity addressings for the celebrated weekend. Here’s what all caught my attention throughout the week.
1.) Trade Market Warms Up 👀
Monday, it was reported by ESPNs Adrian Wojnarowski that Blake Griffin would be held out from game activity as the Pistons will gauge the market for him in hopes of a trade, with a buyout in the conversation should a trade not surface
Also on Monday, it was reported that the Cleveland Cavaliers will be refrain from playing playing 2-time all star Andre Drummond as they plan to make a trade involving him and his expiring 28.7M contract.
Evident by this barrage of information released Monday, the trade market is heating up.
Of note, the trade deadline for this season is March 25th. That date is a month from this upcoming Thursday.
Teams having the play-in tournament to bank on as an opportunity to vie for a playoff appearance may stagnate the market for teams lingering in range of that scenario, so keep this in mind as you all fire up the trade machines.
I’m interested in not only who puts a bid in for Drummond and his expiring deal, but also who will be intrigued by the services of six-time all-star Blake Griffin.
I’ll be driving into trade talk and entities to keep in mind regarding that in the coming week! Stay tuned 👀.
2.) HBCU Inclusion with All-Star Weekend and the NBA ✊🏾🌟
Dating as far back as the 2011 NBA Lockout, where he donated $25,000 to Winston Salem State University and was able to bring an open run consisting of numerous NBA talents scrimmaging against each other to the University, future hall of famer Chris Paul has long been an advocate for not only promoting and supporting, but representing, and integrating Historically Black College and Universities (HBCU) into the NBA.
The ever-clever and always thinking Chris Paul has come up with yet another insightful and timely idea, with the idea of inclusion spotlighting the black communities of the nation.
Though many disagree with the idea of a game itself being held this weekend, no one would contest the meaning of the benefits doing so has from this angle.
3.) Zion 💪🏾
A long-lasting thought of mine was confirmed through the words of ESPNs Brian Windhorst this week, as he stated that Zion Williamson is “Shaq-like with the ball in the paint.”
For context, check out these accomplishments further supporting my thought.
On the season, Zions averaging 25 PPG, 6.8 RPG, and 3.1 AST a night.
In his last nine games, he’s averaging 28.1 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and 4.7 AST with the force and feel that screams Shaq vibes, in an evolved version.
There’s a term in football that receivers use for indicating when they’re open that goes, “if we’re even, we’re leaving” indicating that a player is open whenever his shoulders come even with a defenders.
That exact phrase ties in for Zion, as whenever his shoulder comes even with any defender, the slightest bit of contact initiation means that he has won that matchup. He’s far too strong, and explosive for anyone that matches up with him, and whenever it’s an opposing big, he wins with the factors of speed and quickness.
He’s a matchup nightmare, and ESPNs Kevin Arnovitz penned a great article in detailing just how treacherous of a task it is in guard Zion (as well as Luka Doncic and Trae Young).
It does not help that the Pelicans have began to deploy “Point Zion,” where he, inclined to his skillset as a creator, can viably initiate offense.
His dynamic continues to grow.
Most matchups for Zion will lean towards having more girth and being strength-inclined, so to offset that the Pelicans are allowing Zion to go 1-4 isolation at times, initiate pick and roll play where guards screen for him (which force bigment to do somethin they’re not used to in fighting over screens to negate a much smaller guard switching onto Williamson), and Zions capable of passing out of pick and roll play, for secondary scoring opportunities or even for him to reset and station himself in the post.
Point Zion has opened up their offense amidst this nine game streak of elite play he’s enjoyed. The Pelicans as a team are averaging 123.4 PPG, +8.8 PPG from their season average of 114.6 which is 8th in the league.
Zion, on the season, is shooting 61.8% from the field. He’s the first player in NBA history to average 23+ PPG on 60% or better from the field through the first 50 games of his career.
Of course, 83% of his shots are coming at the cup (within 4 feet of rim). However, said shots are almost never wide open attempts, especially for a big that’s only 6’6. He shoots 65% at the rim which is only in the 40% percentile of the league in conversion rate from that distance, but his volume of shots in that range is why his effectiveness is profound.
His style of play is one of the heart-charging variety, and that motor, inturn, leaves his opposition susceptible to many fouls over the course of 48 minutes.
Zion is in the 95th percentile of players who draw shooting fouls, and is also in the 68th percentile for converted And 1’s, making good on 30% of those scenarios. He converts his freethrows at 71.8%, +8% from his last seasons mark. He is also in the 56th percentile for fouls drawn on the floor. He’s a handful to gameplan for, and even more of one to try and guard out on the floor (individually or collectively).
Zion is a cheatcode. For a player to be his size and weight, while being so quick laterally, agile, and explosive, to have a handle and passing ability as well, is downright unbelievable.
As he continues to come into his own and piece together ways to win, the Pelicans will have to start considering who their long-term mainstays will be, versus who they need to cut bait with.
4.) Minnesota’s Dilemma
On Tuesday, ESPNs Bobby Marks posted a tweet that was rather telling and caused a lot of thought.
Even more, Towns, Russell, and 2020 1st round pick Anthony Edwards have shared the floor for 21 total minutes.
This news comes in light of the T’Wolves announcing D’Angelo Russell will miss 4-to-6 weeks for arthroscopic knee surgery. This being a left leg pain that’s lingered for some time now, which explains why his level of production has fallen off.
The Wolves made the trade for Russell wit the idea of pairing their franchise player in Towns with his best friend, making for a potentially elite pairing to carry their franchise into the future. Their excitement was hardly containable.
They’ve enjoyed some successes.
But those have been very small in sample size.
With the likes of first round pick Anthony Edwards as well as Malik Beasley, who is second on the team in scoring (20.9 PPG on 45.5/39.8/84.3 shooting) add to the promise that not only their star pairing has, but the potential the team and franchise so desperately long for.
Here’s to hoping they can enjoy a sustained and consistent volume of play as a whole once Russell comes back.
5.) Milwaukee Bucks Skid
The Bucks are now amidst a five-game losing streak and really struggling.
In said stretch, they’re allowing 120.4 PPG, which would make for the worst defense in the league. A team with the reigning defensive player of the year, and few other plus defenders, is downright struggling collectively to stop teams from scoring.
On the season, they’re averaging 119.6 PPG good for second in the league. In this stretch, they’re averaging 111.4 PPG. That mark would be good for 19th on the season.
All of this could very well just be a rough patch as Mike Budenholzer implements some new changes into his system, with Giannis setting more screens offensively is, on top of integrating new bodies into the fold.
However, for a team with such a spotlight on them this does not look good. It’s still relatively early (though we can only claim this for a few more weeks), and the Bucks have been without key acquisition Jrue Holiday in this stretch.
Nonetheless, they’ve been usurped by the Nets in the Eastern Conference ranks, with the Pacers at their heels.
Old issues of Bud struggling to adjust at times, as well as the Bucks as a collective struggling to close games are resurfacing.
Giannis bet on the Bucks being his best chance at a ring, and they responded by adding talents he nearly hand-picked. The onus lies directly on his shoulders to get them over the hump and into the Finals, which he’d want no other way.
Let’s see if they can right the ship in the coming days.
- All-Star Reserves will be announced Tuesday night on TNT. Tune in!
- Draymond RIPS NBA for the long-lasting imbalance of power that exists between franchises and players, which has many wondering if/when/how the NBA will respond.
- Knicks C Mitchell Robinson fractured his right hand on Friday and has already had surgery. He’s ruled out indefinitely and will be evaluated sometime after the All-Star break (March 6th and 7th).
- Jimmy Butler made Heat history last night, becoming the first player to string together three consecutive triple-doubles, and second to compile four in one seaaon.
- Both Butler and Adebayo garnered triple-doubles on vs the Kings Thursday night, the second time ever in Heat history, and their second time doing so in tandem.
- The Pacers are QUIETLY in 4th place, my sleeper pick of the Eastern Conference.
Recommended Read and Viewing of the Week
The ESPN and The Undefeateds Clinton Yates penned a great article speaking on John Wall’s exit from D.C, allowing Wall to open up about the situation. Very descriptive and in detail, it’s a great viewing and read. Check it out!
Game(s) of the Weekend
I actually have three I’m looking forward to. The Clippers play host to both the Jazz (tonight at 9pm CST on ESPN) and the Nets Sunday night (7pm CST on ESPN) in two games that will test them, while Paul Georges status has been upgraded to questionable ahead of tonight’s game. Let’s hope they’ll be fully healthy. Durant is without a timetable still regarding a return from his hamstring injury.
Lastly, I also look forward to the finals rematch Saturday night at 7:30 CST between the Heat and Lakers on ABC.
That’s it for this week’s Friday Five’s, appreciate the read and feel free to continue conversation with me wherever you view the post from.