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NBA Dawgs: First Impressions

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How have your favorite Huskies fared through the NBA’s 1st week?

Phoenix Suns v Orlando Magic Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Without an NBA team in Seattle the start of the season often can catch folks off guard. Even more so this year with only a 2 month offseason because of the wild bubble playoffs. If you didn’t watch any basketball over the holiday weekend then here’s a quick look at what your favorite former Huskies did and where they all ended up.

SG Terrence Ross, Orlando Magic

2020-21 Stats: 3 games, 23.3 pts, 2.0 rbs, 0.7 ast, 51.2% FG, 52.6% 3pt, 100.0% FT

Now in his 9th season in the NBA, Ross has found his role and is fully comfortable with it. He’s the spark off the bench that can provide scoring punch for a second unit while also occasionally closing out games. The Magic are off to a surprising 3-0 start and Ross’ scoring has been a big part of that success.

His 51/53/100 shooting splits aren’t sustainable and eventually Ross will cool off and have a few duds. And because of his role on the team if he misses his first 6 shots then he won’t be playing in crunch time and may only see 15-20 minutes. But when he’s on, boy howdy is he on. The Human Torch indeed.

Plus Ross has put together one of the most meme-able moments of the early NBA season.

PG Markelle Fultz, Orlando Magic

2020-21 Stats: 3 games, 20.7 pts, 3.7 rbs, 4.3 ast, 49.0% FG, 25.0% 3pt, 92.3% FT

After Fultz had his disastrous start in Philadelphia there were a lot of people throwing around the word bust. However, his start this season has that looking less and less likely even if he never becomes an all-star. Fultz has been much more assertive early taking about 40% more shots than he did last year while shooting a little better from the field and nearly doubling his free throw rate. And once at the line it looks like he’s at least regained his shooting ability on free throws even if he still is a poor 3-pt shooter (still relating to his NBA shooting, not his college shooting).

The Magic gave Fultz a 3-year, $50 million contract extension before the season and he’s living up to that trust. The free throw percentage probably goes down over a full season but the rest of it seems sustainable if he keeps up the same approach/mindset. Until he gets back to being at least an average 3-pt shooter he’ll probably keep a ceiling of the 12-18th best point guard in the NBA but it’s very clear that he’ll have a long career in the league at this point which is a huge step up from where he was 2 years ago.

PF Marquese Chriss, Golden State Warriors

Chriss put up 13 points, 13 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 27 minutes in Golden State’s first 2 games and it seemed like he would be able to build on last season which was his career best. Unfortunately, Chriss broke his right fibula and will miss the rest of the 2020-21 season. It’s a big blow for his comeback after coming close to bouncing out of the league following his 3rd season. He entered the NBA so young and so raw that it isn’t surprising it took him a while to figure things out. Here’s to hoping he’s able to rehab well and be back better than ever next season.

PG Dejounte Murray, San Antonio Spurs

2020-21 Stats: 3 games, 15.0 pts, 7.7 rbs, 7.3 ast, 51.3% FG, 22.2% 3pt, 100.0% FT

Murray has seen a big boost in his assists this season from 5.8 per 36 minutes to 8.6 but has seen a subsequent rise in his turnovers from 2.7 to 4.3. We’ll see if Popovich will view that as a net positive but it could be he’s asked to tone down the risky passes. He’s been much better finishing at the rim so far through 3 games as well which has balanced out the poor outside shooting. Murray’s only taken 3 free throw attempts in those 3 games as well so if he wants to take his game to the next level he has to find ways to get to the line.

Still, Murray looks to be recovered from his ACL injury of a few years ago and is part of San Antonio’s long-term outlook. The Spurs have 7 players getting between 24-34 minutes per game so far and Murray 3rd in minutes in that group even though 5 of them are considered either point guards or shooting guards. With his defensive ability if Murray can 35%+ from 3-pt range like he did last year and cut down on the turnovers a little bit then he has the potential to be one of the best 2-way guards in the league.

SG Justin Holiday, Indiana Pacers

2020-21 Stats: 3 games, 8.0 pts, 3.3 rbs, 1.0 ast, 50.0% FG, 11.1% 3pt, 71.4% FT

It was one of the cooler parts of last NBA season that Justin got to play with his brother Aaron for the Pacers. It would’ve been amazing if New Orleans had traded the 3rd Holiday brother Jrue to Indiana instead of Milwaukee but at least they’re all in the same division now. Justin made some attempts to become a scorer when in bottom feeding Chicago but he’s settled in as the 3 and D first guy off the bench role now for a really good Indiana team.

The 11% 3pt mark will get better with a bigger sample size. He has shot 36% for his career after hitting a career best 40.5% last season so it’s just a poor start. But Justin is still willing to guard the other team’s best perimeter scorer and play within the flow of the offense on the other end. Because of that he can expect to see a long career as long as neither skill drops too precipitously.

SF Matisse Thybulle, Philadelphia 76ers

It has been a bit of a rough start to the season for Thybulle after a solid rookie campaign. The 76ers made a coaching switch in the offseason and it appears that Thybulle hasn’t impressed new head man Doc Rivers enough to make it into the rotation. Matisse has played just 15 minutes across Philly’s first 3 games and taken just 1 shot (a miss), 1 rebound, 1 steal, and 2 fouls to show for it. He’s 12th on the team in minutes played and will likely need someone above him in the rotation to struggle or get hurt in order to see consistent playing time. For a fan favorite in Philadelphia it’s a disappointing outcome.

Jaylen Nowell, Minnesota Timberwolves

It appeared that Nowell might have parlayed a big preseason into a larger role but a poorly timed injury has derailed that possibility. In Minnesota’s first preseason game he came off the bench to score 22 points in 13 minutes and almost bring them back from a huge 4th quarter deficit. With both Ricky Rubio and D’Angelo Russell as ball handlers on the roster the best chance for Nowell to secure playing time is to beat out ex-USC Trojan Jordan McLaughlin for the 3rd PG spot but we’ll see how long his calf injury keeps him out. But so far Jaylen has been exceptional when he’s been out on the court in the G-league or the preseason so he should eventually get his shot whether or not it’s with Minnesota.

Jaden McDaniels, Minnesota Timberwolves

Speaking of players not in Minnesota’s rotation... Jaden finally got to make his NBA debut on Sunday night and made a pair of 3-pointers and had a pair of steals in 8 minutes during garbage time of a blowout loss to the Lakers. This is a team loaded with wings so Jaden’s best chance at playing time is if it comes at power forward but I don’t think that’s viable on defense until he gets a few years in the NBA and puts on 20+ pounds of muscle. I’d be surprised to see him get consistent playing time this year with the glut of wings ahead of him but we’ll see.

Isaiah Stewart, Detroit Pistons

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a team kneecap a 1st round draft pick as quickly as the Pistons did with Stewart. They picked him 16th overall and then the next week had what was widely panned as the worst free agency period this offseason and acquired Mason Plumlee and Jahlil Okafor at baffling prices. Those 2 have gotten all of the minutes at center so far this season as Stewart has yet to make his NBA debut. The team is 0-2so far and expected to be outside of a playoff spot in the Eastern conference. At some point you’d hope they give an opportunity to the young guy they drafted highly but that organization is a dumpster fire so I’m not as sure that they will as I might with more competent franchises.