We’re rapidly approaching the All-Star break in what, thus far, has been a really odd season. Soem groups are beginning to discover their rhythm whereas others are struggling. As for particular person gamers, we’re seeing guys put up monster numbers on an virtually nightly foundation.
There’s a whole lot of basketball being performed, so right here’s what we discovered within the Western Convention this week.
Zion Williamson Unlocked
The Pelicans have began giving Zion Williamson much more duty when it comes to initiating the offense and, in flip, Williamson has change into probably the most unstoppable forces in your complete NBA. He has relentlessly attacked the basket along with his athleticism and insane contact across the rim. His effectivity is thru the roof and his play is deserving of an All-Star spot.
In his final 5 video games, Williamson is averaging 30.four factors and four.2 assists whereas capturing an unbelievable 71.three p.c from the sector. Most of his work is coming proper on the basket and there doesn’t appear to be a protection that may cease him from getting there. It’s an actual glimpse of what Williamson might appear like at his finest and it’s one thing that ought to terrify opposing groups.
Williamson’s play apart, the Pelicans nonetheless battle to win on a constant foundation. Their protection has been terrible all season lengthy, routinely giving up over 120 factors per sport. If they will work out their defensive points and string some wins collectively, New Orleans might pose a critical menace within the season’s second half.
Path Blazers Successful Regardless of Accidents
The Portland Path Blazers, for what looks like your complete season, have handled accidents to key guys like Jusuf Nurkic, CJ McCollum and Zach Collins. Nonetheless, one way or the other, they’re the most well liked group within the NBA, with the longest present win streak at six straight video games. As guys have stepped up, the group has thrived.
Gary Trent Jr. has scored effectively whereas offering nice protection. Enes Kanter has been a double-double machine as a starter. Anfernee Simons has began to seek out his sport, scoring in double digits in 11 of his final 14 video games off the bench. Camelo Anthony has crammed his function as a scorer of the bench relatively properly.
Whereas these guys have stepped up, nobody has achieved extra for the group than Damian Lillard.
It’s onerous to state simply how nice Lillard has been this season. He’s carried this group to the fourth seed amidst all of the accidents, planting himself firmly within the MVP dialog. A big cause for the group’s success is how they’ve carried out in shut video games; Lillard, particularly, has hit big pictures within the clutch on a number of events. In the meantime, his 43-point, 16-assist efficiency in opposition to the Pelicans this week was one the perfect video games by anybody on the season.
Jokic Conserving Nuggets Afloat
Nikola Jokic has been arguably the perfect participant in basketball thus far. It’s a marvel that he’s in a position to play the way in which he does at his measurement. His season averages of 27 factors, 11.2 rebounds and eight.6 assists are reflective of his exceptional model of play. Jokic has a number of 40-plus level performances as nicely and a 50-point sport in a loss to the Kings a couple of weeks again.
Regardless of his play, the Nuggets have struggled this season and the group’s success is the one actual destructive in his MVP case. In Mason Plumlee and Jerami Grant, they misplaced two key gamers to Detroit. They’ve additionally bought inconsistent play from Jamal Murray, who had a 50-point outburst in opposition to the Cavaliers this week however has been up and down in any other case. Michael Porter Jr. missed vital time because of the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols.
The Nuggets have managed a 16-14 report, adequate for seventh within the Western Convention. After final yr’s playoffs, there have been excessive hopes for this group. Jokic has largely saved them afloat. There’s nonetheless loads of time left for the Nuggets to seek out that stage they had been eventually season, however it’s regarding they haven’t regarded like the identical caliber of group.
Finest in The West?
As of proper now, there are three groups which might be clearly in a tier above everybody else: the Utah Jazz, Los Angles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers. All three groups have fairly good instances for being the highest group, however all three equally share some issues as nicely.
The Jazz have the perfect report of any group within the NBA, whereas they’ve additionally managed the perfect internet score at 9.zero. Nevertheless, the query with the Jazz is that if they’ve sufficient top-end expertise to compete come the postseason. It’s a good query, however we now have seen Donovan Mitchell increase his sport to that stage earlier than — the Jazz will want him to take action once more in the event that they need to win a title.
The defending champion Lakers are second within the West. Nonetheless, regardless of their nice report, they haven’t performed to that very same stage this season. Additionally they now have harm issues with Anthony Davis now sidelined with a calf pressure. Merely put, the Lakers want a totally wholesome Davis to win a championship this season. They nonetheless have LeBron James which can at all times give them a shot, however for the time being there appear to be extra questions than solutions.
The Clippers, regardless of their expertise, have change into a kind of underdog when it comes to title groups. Third within the West and third in internet score. They’ve been an ideal offensive group and their depth has been an asset. Additionally they appear to have a lot better on-court chemistry this yr. The priority with them is said to their efficiency in final yr’s playoffs and whether or not they can put that previously or not.
The NBA is an ever-changing beast that may look totally different even on a week-to-week foundation. Be sure you examine again for our subsequent installment of What We Realized.