Peace and blessings in abundance to you!
After an EVENTFUL week of news, and plenty topics to provoke thoughts, let’s take a lap around the league and dive into what all has caught my attention.
5.) Life without Jamal Murray 😢
In the final minute of a 116-107 loss to the Warriors on Monday, the Nuggets star point guard suffered a torn ACL in his left knee. He’s of my favorite players in the league, and even past that, prayers up for the young stud in hopes that he has both a speedy and full recovery 🙏🏾.
As ill-timed as they come, it’s presumed Murray will miss not only the rest of this season. It’s more than likely he’ll miss, at the very least, half to 3/4’s of next season as well, as the recovery window is typically eight months to a full calendar year. It varies from athlete to athlete. However, after the recover, he’ll then have to go through the riggers of the reintroduction to NBA play. So we may not see the Murray we’ve grown accustomed til after next season.
While no upside exists in this situation sans Murray for the 4th place Nuggets, they do still have playoff seeding to tend to as well as aspirations to salvage playoff success amidst this new challenge.
The Nuggets have a few offenses they’ve customarily deployed under Mike Malone. They have their motion offense where the ball hops around the court featuring numerous screens and cuts off the ball, and they have a Jokic-centric offense from the top of the key/pinch-post/low post.
Then, of course, they have the heavily relied upon Murray-Jokic tandem play that has no script, and is the dynamic that makes this team who they are. The synergy established between these two has done all the heavy lifting for this franchise the past four seasons.
Now without that dynamic in the fold, here’s the five things the Nuggets will turn to moving forward:
- Jokic fully embracing his role in both facilitating and scoring.
- Michael Porter Jr. ascension to number two scoring option
- Expedited integration of Aaron Gordon
- Continued efficient play from Monte Morris, only in a starting role now
- More minutes for Facundo Campazzo to captain their bench lineups and continue developing his chemistry with Jokic
The former two of those five entites are the two that will be relied upon most heavily, as it will be impossible for either of their remaining guards or Aaron Gordon to replicate any of what Murray possesses.
Even more, the team will now rely more upon the system. They won’t have that synergy to go to when the going gets rough and games slow down especially come playoffs. It will be more Jokic plamaking for them, as well as him hunting for his shot in tandem with MPJ tapping into much more into his scoring bag.
Speaking of Porter Jr., I wrote about him in my previous Friday Five’s. I mentioned his ascension as a scorer and player within the Nuggets offense, as well as his potential.
He’ll be relied upon to, at the very least, continue this level of play. Only on even more consistency though. Remember, there was a stretch in last seasons bubble where Murray was out. Though Porter Jr. and Jokic, as well as Porter Jr and coach Malone had their bouts and budded heads, they were able to keep the team afloat in that stretch. MPJ is a lot better now than he was then, I expect him to be up for the challenge.
Of those final three entities, Aaron Gordon will now be in a role similar to his role around Vucevic and Fournier in Orlando. Featuring a do-it-all bigman and an athletic scoring wing, only in an upgraded fashion, Gordons addition should still reap benefits for Denver. The Nuggets may now needed to slightly shape-shift their offensive philosophy to cater to Gordons strengths (and weaknesses) with the ball. Though he can’t iniate pick and roll on a consistent level, there’s a dynamic to tap into there between him and Jokic.
According to www.tankathon.com, the Nuggets have the 15th toughest schedule remaining.
4.) The Doncic Misunderstanding
Over the last few weeks, amidst play from the Mavericks that is continuously underwhelming, fans have now begun to talk down on the talent that is Luka Doncic.
This is a big mistake for a few different reasons.
First, he’s nearly mirroring his statistical feats of last season, on much more efficient shooting numbers (eFG% of 55.7) while doing even more heavy lifting.
Second, he was wrongfully dubbed the favorite to win MVP this season, as not many took into account that the Mavericks would need to be solid as a team for him to even have a punchers chance at stake in the award, to which his teammates have let him down.
Third, having already compiled four seasons of play under his belt professionally overseas, his “prime” ccould very well already have started considering his total experience. To expect for him to go up from 28-8-9 is absurd. It’s even more damning to expect him to replicate said output, yet he’s doing so in a more mature manner.
Point being, let’s not fall into the trap of coinciding the Mavericks underwhelming overall performance with Luka leaving anything to be desired. He’s doing everything humanly possible to carry his team to the playoffs for a second season in a row, while doing no complaining.
He’s a hooper.
3.) Clippers Dominating
The Clippers are 39-14 on the season. However, they’re 15-4 since the all-star break and are currently amidst a current league best 7-game win-streak.
Notice their ranks over the last 15 games in the “Quadrant of Wow” 👀
They have strung together very impressive play, even amidst a few injuries to their main rotation pieces, as well as the integration of Rondo, who came in as they traded Lou Williams at the deadline.
As a team, they’re hitting on all the areas you’d hope for your team to down the home stretch.
In 19 games since the break, they are averaging 115.4 PPG while only allowing 105.7.
They’re out-rebounding their opponents and forcing turnovers with consistency. of late.
Amidst this aforementioned streak of success since the break, he’s averaging 22.6 PPG. Even more, he’s shooting 42% from 3 on 6.7 attempts.
On the season, he’s in the 81st percentile shooting from above the break (40%), and in the 98th percentile from the corners (60%) 🔥.
Leonard is averaging 24.6 PPG since the break with a shooting slash of 52.5/41.2/89.0. On the season, Kawhi’s finishing at the basket in the 94th percentile at 75%, while he’s shooting 48% from midrange and 40% overall from 3.
We all know the true test for them will come in the postseason. Last seasons season-long escapade regarding their pursuit of the Lakers, then fizzling out in the fashion that they did with the red carpet rolled out for the to have their chance, is still very fresh in the memory of NBA fans.
There’s essentially nothing they could do this regular season to erase that from our memories. Are they ready to make atonement this post season?
The addition of Rondo has been an extreme plus, as their win-streak coincides with his first activity. They’re averaging 119 PPG with him in the fold and their offense has a better flow to it, which comes as no surprise.
Solid play from the likes of Marcus Morris (49% from 3, 99th percentile on 220 attempts), Nic Batum (42% from 3), and timely play from Kennard and Mann have allowed them to operate at this elite frequency.
Lastly, Reggie Jackson is playing at a level that has surprised many. Amidst the win-streak he’s posting 15.7 PPG on 50/50/88 with 3.6 RPG and is playing solid defense to match.
Can this play translate to the playoffs though?
2.) WNBA Draft
One of the highlights of the year so far has been the excitement that came from the NCAA Tournament from the women’s side. Stemming from that, there’s been an energy that’s reverberated over to the draft as star players from a handful of the marquee teams made their transition to the pro’s, watching their dreams come true.
I’m excited to see what comes of the WNBAs 25th season, the longest running women’s professional league in the world.
1.) Health Concerns Validated?
Wednesday, ESPN’s Baxter Holmes released a story detailing the voiced concerns of several GMs.
I personally feel there’s certainly correlation between the injury frequency and the scheduling, as the human body can only take so much punishment without completely withering in some capacity. It’s something I was worried about, especially with the shortened off season and no “normal” break in sight.
It’s also why, though I dislike players sitting while healthy, a season such as this one certainly justifies such precaution.
There’s only so much the players and franchises have in their investments, so the innovations in building in rest via less practices and scheduled rest days in place of games was an inevitable entitiy to develop.
Shouts out Steph for his 9-straight 30 point games, prayers up for James Wiseman with his meniscus tear, Dwyane Wade for his stake in Utah’s ownership, and LaMarcus Aldridge for bossing up about his life and making a decision for his family in mind.
That’s a wrap for this week’s Friday Five’s. Stay tuned as there will be plenty to speak on down the homestretch of the season.
Enjoy the great games slated for the weekend.
*All stats and information used come directly from basketball-reference or cleaningtheglass unless stated otherwise and are accurate entering play on 4.16*