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NBA Dawgs Update: Rookies Emerging

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Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels have both seen their playing time increase

Philadelphia 76ers v Detroit Pistons Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

We’ve reached the quarter-way mark of the NBA season so it’s time for an update on how all of your favorite former Huskies are faring. Just like in college basketball there have been some major COVID-19 hiccups that have caused major differences in games played. Some teams have played as many as 19 games while others have played as few as 14. Here are how all the Pro Dawgs are doing in order of minutes played this season.

SG Justin Holiday, Indiana Pacers

2020-21 Stats: 18 games, 11.2 pts, 4.1 rbs, 1.2 ast, 49.7% FG, 41.3% 3pt, 76.9% FT

The Pacers have gotten out to a strong start as the current #3 seed in the East and Holiday has been a major part of that. The trade of Victor Oladipo has opened up room in the starting lineup and Holiday has stepped up his game as his current 41.3% 3-pt percentage would be a career high. He has been the perfect 3 and D glue guy that the Pacers need in order to continue to play winning basketball and keeps making the fact he went undrafted look ridiculous.

PG Dejounte Murray, San Antonio Spurs

2020-21 Stats: 3 games, 14.4 pts, 7.3 rbs, 5.3 ast, 44.8% FG, 29.3% 3pt, 78.8% FT

Dejounte continues to be a 3-point shot away from being one of the best guards in the NBA. His rebounding numbers from the point guard spot continue to be phenomenal and he’s picked up his assists per minute by about 10% while cutting down his turnovers by about 15%. That has really helped Murray’s efficiency and is one of the key reasons why the Spurs would be the 5th seed in the West if the playoffs started today after being left out by most preseason projections. His steals are down a bit this year but when the game is on the line he’s still a terrific on-ball defender as evidenced recently by this play which secured an upset win over Boston in the closing seconds.

SG Terrence Ross, Orlando Magic

2020-21 Stats: 18 games, 14.7 pts, 2.8 rbs, 1.9 ast, 41.3% FG, 35.4% 3pt, 88.0% FT

Ross has cooled off a little after a red hot start to settle in as almost the exact same player he was last year. The points per game is identical and all of his shooting percentages are within 3% of last year’s marks. At this point in his career (year 9 already!) Ross kind of is who he is. An elite bench scorer who you can feel totally comfortable having in the game in the closing minutes. Some nights he’ll play 15 minutes and score 5 points but if he gets hot he’s fully capable of putting up 30+.

Isaiah Stewart, Detroit Pistons

2020-21 Stats: 17 games, 4.6 pts, 5.5 rbs, 0.8 ast, 43.8% FG, 78.9% FT

The first few games of the year Stewart wasn’t even in the rotation as the Pistons played veteran Jahlil Okafor as the backup center over him. A minor injury knocked Okafor out for a few games and Stewart hasn’t looked back taking his minutes. Already Stewart has picked up a reputation as a feisty bulldog who isn’t going to back down against anyone going for a rebound. He and 2-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo got into it earlier in the season. Stewart is exactly the type of gritty physical presence that the Pistons used to be known for and he’s already an early fan favorite.

SF Matisse Thybulle, Philadelphia 76ers

2020-21 Stats: 16 games, 2.9 pts, 1.3 rbs, 1.3 stl, 32.7% FG, 23.5% 3pt, 57.1% FT

Things looked bleak at the beginning of the year when it appeared Thybulle might be completely out of the rotation with new coach Doc Rivers at the helm. He’s still not getting a lot of minutes but he’s one of 8 players on the team to have appeared in at least 15 of the team’s 19 games so at least he’s getting into games on a regular basis. With Matisse’s defensive prowess it was always the case that he just needed to be an average offensive player. Unfortunately so far this year he has been well below average and will need to pick things up if he wants to continue to play regularly for the current #1 seed in the East. Thybulle went through occasional shooting slumps at Washington but he can’t afford a prolonged one in the NBA after he was rumored to be a piece in the 76ers potential pursuit of James Harden via trade. Matisse is 1/12 from 3-pt range over his past 5 games but at least he has 9 steals over that time.

PG Markelle Fultz, Orlando Magic

2020-21 Stats: 8 games, 12.9 pts, 3.1 rbs, 5.4 ast, 39.4% FG, 25.0% 3pt, 89.5% FT

It was brutal when Fultz tore his ACL a few weeks ago after having a very solid start to the season for Orlando. He only played 8 minutes in that game before the injury which throw off the per game averages displayed above a bit. On a per 36 minute basis he was on pace for 17 points and 7 assists. If there’s any good news it’s that Fultz signed a contract extension before the season started so he will continue to be well-compensated. But this looked like the year he was finally returning to form after a chaotic first few seasons in the league and it’s a shame it was cut short and he’s back to doing rehab. Good luck in your recovery Markelle!

SF Jaden McDaniels, Minnesota Timberwolves

2020-21 Stats: 11 games, 4.6 pts, 2.9 rbs, 0.8 ast, 35.2% FG, 37.0% 3pt, 33.3% FT

Jaden had by far his best game as pro recently with 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks against Orlando. His shooting has translated nicely to the pros so far as he’s hitting 37% on his 3-pt attempts. Unfortunately the rest of his scoring splits have been disastrous. The free throw shooting is only on 9 attempts so hopefully that will rebound with a greater sample size.

After playing only about 3 minutes per game factoring in a number of DNPs suddenly McDaniels has found himself in the rotation averaging 20 minutes per game over the last 6 contests. He committed at least 4 fouls in more than half of those so that’s still going to put a ceiling on his playing time but he’s at least shown off the raw talent that landed him in the 1st round in the first place.

Fortunately we happen to have a lifelong Timberwolves fan (what a bad beat) on staff in Andrew Berg so here are his opinions on Jaden:

“McDaniels has been a pleasant surprise for the Wolves. Both he and Anthony Edwards looked like major projects going into the season, but Edwards was considered the safer bet due to his other-worldly athleticism (and his draft position reflected that). McDaniels has probably been the more impressive player so far, albeit in much less playing time. Jaden has done so many of the smart little things UW fans didn’t get to see last year- good floor spacing with improved outside shooting, good rebounding positioning to make up for his slender frame, and impressive defensive effort. My hopes for Jaden coming into the season were low because I saw him as someone who needed a ton of development and the team has a very poor coach who I don’t trust to develop players. He has played more like a top-10 pick than a late-20s pick, which has been a rare bright spot.”

Jaylen Nowell, Minnesota Timberwolves

2020-21 Stats: 3 games, 7.7 pts, 1.7 rbs, 1.3 ast, 57.1% FG, 37.5% 3pt, 83.3% FT

Nowell suffered an untimely injury after a standout preseason which left him as an afterthought in the Wolves’ rotation. Fortunately for him and Jaden above, Minnesota has been one of the worst teams in the league which has made them more willing to mix things up. Nowell got to play extended minutes in Minnesota’s last game and tied a career high with 12 points in just 16 minutes. At least one person is clamoring for him to play more. Here’s to hoping that Nowell gets a fair chance to outperform the poo-poo platter that Minnesota is currently running out there.

And Andrew’s thoughts on Nowell:

“Nowell continues to struggle for opportunities. He flashed an outstanding three-point shot in the G-League last year, but the additions of Russell and Rubio made the PG position crowded. I hope to see Nowell play more than just garbage minutes eventually because I think his shot and handle are enough to keep him in the league for several years.”

PF Marquese Chriss, Golden State Warriors

This happened before my last update but Chriss broke his fibula in the second game of the year and is out for the season. We’re wishing him a swift recovery!

PG Isaiah Thomas, Free Agent

Thomas is still trying to find his way back into the NBA and should next month have an opportunity on a bigger stage to showcase his abilities. Let’s hope he’s able to show that he’s fully healthy and a team is willing to bring him in before the playoffs start.