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NBA Dawgs: End of Regular Season

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How did Husky alums Isaiah Thomas, Justin Holiday, Dejounte Murray, and more fare this season?

And just like that, not only is college basketball season over but so is the NBA regular season. Some Husky alums had breakout seasons while others saw their stock drop substantially. For those of you who missed it, here’s a summary of the season for every Dawg in the Association.

Isaiah Thomas- Los Angeles Lakers (traded from Cleveland Cavaliers)

26.9 mpg, 15.2 ppg, 4.8 apg, 2.1 rpg, 37.3% FG, 29.3% 3pt, 89.3% FT

Isaiah Thomas was one of the biggest stories in the NBA for most of the year as he attempted to co-exist with LeBron after being traded following off-season hip surgery by the Boston Celtics. Thomas made his season debut on January 2nd and it was evident that he wasn’t 100% and could’ve used more recovery time. Unfortunately, Isaiah’s struggles were both on and off the court as he was extremely vocal about how different the locker rooms were between Cleveland and Boston. Between a sub-40% FG%, a 7-8 record since he came back, and his constant criticisms to the media the Cavs front office decided IT was expendable and shipped him off with Channing Frye and a 1st round pick to the Lakers for Larry Nance and Jordan Clarkson.

IT was better in Los Angeles and had a few vintage moments but still largely struggled. However, it was clear he still wasn’t healthy and so Thomas opted at the end of March to undergo a minimally invasive hip surgery to clean up the inflammatory debris present from his previous hip surgery last summer. He’s hoping that he’ll be fully healthy at some point over the summer to go through a proper off-season of workouts and be fully in shape for next season.

Thomas is a free agent and the timing couldn’t be worse. He famously said the Celtics would have to back up the Brink’s truck to re-sign him and now his best case scenario is likely a 1 year prove it type deal. The track record of aging small players reliant on quickness coming off of severe injuries isn’t good. He’ll have to hope the Lakers can’t sign LeBron and give him something like a 1 year $15 million deal to play for the team he rooted for growing up.

Justin Holiday- Chicago Bulls

31.6 mpg, 12.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.1 apg, 37.1% FG, 35.9% 3pt, 82.3% FT

Holiday has taken advantage of playing for a team that isn’t trying to win and become one of the few veterans on the Bulls. He led the team in minutes played this season while starting in every game. The undrafted free agent took a while to get his chance but he’s established himself as at worst a useful role player. His overall field goal percentage is very bad and he’s much better suited in a “3 and D” situation where he can hit wide open 3-pointers while locking down a wing on the other end which is gradually what he’s become. Chicago has been anything but good but they were the favorites to be the worst team in the league entering the season and Holiday has helped them rise to the 8th worst record. He’s under contract with the Bulls for one more season at $4.5 million.

Quincy Pondexter- Chicago Bulls

8.5 mpg, 2.0 ppg, 0.8 rpg, 0.4 apg, 28.6% FG, 13.6% 3pt, 82.4% FT

Quincy finally made it back onto the court after several injuries including an infection that almost killed him. But he has yet to look like his old self. The shooting numbers were atrocious and he wasn’t a regular part of the rotation for Chicago. The Bulls ultimately waived Q-Pon on February 1st after they acquired several players via trade and had to make more room. He is now a free agent but didn’t get picked up by anyone. It looks very possible that he might have played his last NBA game. It seems certain that’s he going to end up in coaching whether that’s next year or in the future.

Terrence Ross- Orlando Magic

25 mpg, 8.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.6 apg, 39.8% FG, 32.3% 3pt, 75.0% FT

Unfortunately, Ross suffered a significant leg injury on November 30th and missed almost the rest of the season. He returned to the court last week and came off the bench in 2 of Orlando’s last 3 games. It’s unfortunate that he didn’t get the chance to play more but the fact that he was able to return if only for a week suggests that the injury won’t be a long-term issue. Terrence’s 3pt shooting numbers have now dipped 3 years in a row and it appears there’s a chance he may have peaked as a 4th option as a starter or a bench wing on a good team. He still has one more year left on his contract at $10.5 million and should get back to being a starter for what should still be a very bad Magic team next year.

Dejounte Murray- San Antonio Spurs

21.5 mpg, 8.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.9 apg, 44.3% FG, 26.5% 3pt, 70.9% FT

Murray saw his role increase exponentially in year 2 after he was thrust into the lineup during the playoffs last season only after Tony Parker got hurt. Dejounte started the first 13 games this season while Parker recovered and then was sent to the bench for a few months before Pop decided to reinsert him as the starter. He’s been a key component to help the Spurs make the playoffs despite playing almost the entire season without all-NBA 1st teamer Kawhi Leonard.

It’s been a season of highs and lows for Murray. Husky alum Kevin Pelton at ESPN chose Murray as his 1st team All-NBA defensive point guard which may be a shock for anyone who remembers his gamble happy defense at Washington. But he’s been much more consistent and used his long arms to finish 5th in the league in steal percentage. He had perhaps his best game of the season 2 weeks ago when he absolutely shut down the reigning league MVP in Russell Westbrook. He also had a great game albeit in a loss last week at the Lakers with a season high 23 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists.

It was evident from his time as a Husky that Murray was a tremendous rebounder from the point guard spot and that has stayed true in the NBA. Dejounte’s rebound percentage of 14.3% is 2nd among NBA guards only trailing the aforementioned Westbrook. That number is ahead of players such as LeBron James and Ben Simmons.

There are still a number of areas where Murray needs to improve substantially. His poor shooting hasn’t gotten better to this point despite working with the best shooting coach in the world. He shot 28.8% from beyond the arc at Washington and that number has slightly fallen in the NBA. His free throw shooting has only barely improved. If he’s able to get those figures up to 35% and 80% respectively then he has the capability to be an all-star when combined with his defense. It would also be nice to see him become a better passer as his assist percentage is just 95th among qualified players which isn’t good enough for a point guard.

Nonetheless, it’s evident that Murray seems well positioned to take over for Isaiah Thomas as the face of Husky basketball in the NBA over the next few seasons. The Spurs lost their season finale which would’ve moved them up to the #4 seed and instead have a tough road as the #7 seed playing Golden State in the first round. But Murray will have a chance to assert himself playing the Warriors minus Stephen Curry.

Marquese Chriss- Phoenix Suns

21.2 mpg, 7.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.2 apg, 42.3% FG, 29.5% 3pt, 60.8% FT

There were hopes that a young player such as Chriss would take a big step forward in Year 2 but he regressed in many ways. The Suns provided some consequences for his actions as Chriss only started 48 games which was down from 75 in his rookie season. His shooting percentages were worse at every level of the court although he did see a slight uptick in blocks and assists. Chriss also saw his fouls go down which was a big reason of why he couldn’t stay on the court both at Washington and in Phoenix.

The Suns still have fellow big man Dragan Bender who is just as young and has struggled just as much. They also have the NBA’s worst record which means they’re the favorites to get the #1 pick and add a center in DeAndre Ayton to compete for playing time down low as well. Next year is likely a make or break season for Chriss in Phoenix and if he doesn’t show some major improvements in his fundamentals then he could fall into obscurity quickly.

Markelle Fultz- Philadelphia 76ers

17.4 mpg, 7.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.8 apg, 40.5% FG, 47.6% FT

The Markelle Fultz saga narrowly was edged out by Kawhi Leonard’s refusal to play basketball as the weirdest subplot to the 2018 NBA season. An injury to Fultz’s shoulder and a change in his shooting mechanics resulted in a chicken and egg scenario with the team and Fultz’s camp taking different sides to the argument. Markelle has finally rediscovered his shooting motion to the point that he’s comfortable playing as he returned to the lineup on March 26th after missing 68 games.

Fultz returned to duty in game 5 of the 76ers’ 16 game winning streak to end the season without star Joel Embiid. He’s coming off the bench and while his jump shot looks better, Fultz has still only attempted one 3-pointer since his return (a miss). He’ll need to get back to being a plus shooter to restore his value as a guy worth the #1 overall pick. However, a better than 3/1 A/TO ratio since his return is pretty darn good so he’s been able to positively contribute despite not being a scoring threat. Philadelphia will enter the playoffs as the #3 seed and will be incredibly dangerous if Embiid comes back healthy and soon from an orbital bone fracture. Oh yeah, and there’s the fact that last night he became the youngest player in NBA history to have a triple double and did so coming off the bench in just 25 minutes.

C.J Wilcox

Wilcox underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in October and did not play in a game this season. He released a letter shortly before Christmas thanking the Trail Blazers organization for helping him discover what was wrong with his knee and admitting that he came close to retiring from basketball. Wilcox was reassigned to the G League to play for Santa Cruz and made his debut for them in the middle of February. He averaged 9.5 points per game there on 38.1% shooting from deep and we’ll see whether he gets another shot at making an NBA roster next year.

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