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NBA Dawgs: Christmas Day Update

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An update on how your favorite NBA Dawgs are faring this year

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NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Lakers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Christmas day is one of the biggest on the calendar for the NBA so it seems a fitting time to give an NBA Dawgs update. A Merry Christmas to those of you who observe.

For those of you who don’t follow the NBA very closely (and that is the intended audience for this piece) it’s an interesting time. COVID outbreaks over the past several weeks have ravaged almost every team in the league and almost all of them are missing several starters. Games are being postponed or happening but with players picked up off the street. This has affected multiple Huskies on each end as a pair of former Dawgs are in protocols and unable to play at the moment while 2 others got chances because of others’ absences.

Dejounte Murray- San Antonio Spurs

Per Game Averages: 17.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 43.8% FG, 34.1% 3pt, 69.6% FT

It has been a breakout season for Murray as he both has seen his role expand as well as looks back to the athleticism he had before his ACL tear a few years ago. Patty Mills and Demar Derozan both left San Antonio in the offseason and Murray is now the guy for the Spurs and he has lived up to the billing. Triple doubles aren’t the be all end all for team success as Russell Westbrook has shown but Murray is close to averaging one on the season. He’s one of the best rebounding guards in the league and also is one of the best on the defensive end averaging 2 steals per game.

San Antonio had one of the least talented rosters in the league to outside observers coming into the season but Murray has them just 2 games outside of the 8th spot in the playoff race and a positive point differential. There’s a chance that the lack of primetime games will take their toll on his recognition but Murray should absolutely make the All-Star team this year and looks like he can be one of the 3 best players on a title team.

Matisse Thybulle- Philadelphia 76ers

Per Game Averages: 5.6 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 47.2% FG, 28.6% 3pt, 87.5% FT

It has been no surprise to anyone that watched Matisse at Washington but he already has the reputation as one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. He’s still prone to the occasional gamble where he doesn’t get there and gives up a layup. But he’s 3rd in the NBA in steals per 36 minutes and 30th in blocks per 36 minutes. Thybulle blanketed Steph Curry a few weeks ago and also is able to guard 6’8 forwards like Jayson Tatum. He’s the kind of versatile wing every NBA team wants in the playoffs.

The offense is still very much a work in progress. Thybulle’s free throw shooting has greatly improved but he hasn’t shown the ability to hit wide open 3-pointers with regularity. Given his defensive worth he’ll continue to see minutes despite the long range shooting difficulties but if he could hit 36%+ of his 3-pt attempts over an entire season it probably would be worth an extra $5-8 million per year on his next contract.

Isaiah Stewart- Detroit Pistons

Per Game Averages: 7.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 56.1% FG, 15.4% 3pt, 68.1% FT

Unfortunately, Stewart’s claim to fame so far in his NBA career was the incident where he repeatedly chased down LeBron James with a bloody face while breaking several tackle attempts in the meantime. “Beef Stew” has definitely developed into a very solid physical energy big man who is going to force opposing bigs to work hard on every possession. He’s 27th in the league in rebounds per 36 minutes and likely top-5 in opponents muttering under their breath “crap, he’s sprinting again. Why won’t this guy just take a play off?” The Pistons suck and Stewart’s jump shot hasn’t developed to make him a credible pick and pop threat. But he very clearly will have a long NBA career even if he doesn’t develop further. Right now Stewart is in COVID protocols so hopefully he’s okay.

Justin Holiday- Indiana Pacers

Per Game Averages: 9.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 38.4% FG, 34.1% 3pt, 82.4% FT

The Pacers are facing a potential rebuild but that isn’t Justin Holiday’s fault. His 3-pt percentage is down from his career rate but otherwise he’s having about the same season he normally does. Holiday is a prototypical 3 and D guy who can guard opposing wings and do enough on the offensive end to provide value as a 4th or 5th option. It’s year 9 in the NBA for Holiday after going undrafted out of Washington and he has been a valuable role player wherever he has played. At age 32 though it wouldn’t be surprising if Holiday is starting to swing towards the back end of his career although he should have a few more years left as a productive player.

Terrence Ross- Orlando Magic

Per Game Averages: 11.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 39.4% FG, 29.0% 3pt, 85.3% FT

Ross keeps on chugging along as the scorer off the bench for a moribund Orlando franchise. If it doesn’t rebound over the course of the year then this will be the 4th consecutive season that Ross’ 3-pt percentage has decreased. That’s not a good sign for a shooting guard who is in his 10th year in the league. Except for the field goal percentages his overall per game stats are almost exactly in line with his career averages but that’s because Orlando is letting him take plenty of shots. Ross is currently in COVID protocols and hopefully is doing okay.

Jaden McDaniels- Minnesota Timberwolves

Per Game Averages: 7.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 39.8% FG, 26.9% 3pt, 75.0% FT

Last year McDaniels definitely exceeded expectations as a rookie working his way into the starting lineup for Minnesota. He has remained a starter for them this year in part because he’s willing to not hunt for his own shot playing along ball dominant guys such as D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, and Karl Anthony-Towns. It’s probably safe to say that McDaniels is in a bit of a sophomore slump. His 3-pt percentage is down 10% from last year which puts him from “very respectable for a 6’9 player” to “you shouldn’t be shooting jump shots” territory. His block numbers are down while his steal numbers are up so it’s tough to say how his defense has changed. If he can get back to shooting 35%+ from 3-pt range then he’s going to be a valuable piece long-term.

Jaylen Nowell- Minnesota Timberwolves

Per Game Averages: 5.0 points, 1.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 43.0% FG, 38.5% 3pt, 66.7% FT

There still hasn’t been a lot of consistent playing time for Nowell but he has made the most of his opportunities when he has gotten them. After inconsistent shooting in his first few years he’s up to almost 40% from 3-point range which is going to be a necessity for him if he hopes to become a primary combo guard option off the bench. He’s an 18 points per 36 minutes scorer but Minnesota has a ton of guys looking for their own shots so he will have to develop as a distributor as well to take the next step on that roster. The Athletic recently profiled Nowell in a great piece you should check out.

Marquese Chriss- Dallas Mavericks

Per Game Averages: 9.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 0.5 blocks, 56.3% FG, 0.0% 3pt, 50.0% FT

Chriss has only played 2 games so far as he was picked up by Dallas in the last week to fill in while they have team-wide COVID issues. The former Husky one-and-done had a good year for Golden State in 2019-20 that saw him keep his career afloat. Unfortunately last year he broke his leg in the team’s 2nd game and missed the rest of the year. Until Dallas called he hadn’t been able to get back in with an NBA franchise. Chriss is still somehow only 24 years old and if he can show teams he’s fully recovered in his stint with Dallas then he should be able to get back in a bench role with a team full-time.

Isaiah Thomas- Los Angeles Lakers

Per Game Averages: 9.3 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 30.8% FG, 22.7% 3pt, 72.7% FT

Thomas signed a 10-day contract with the Lakers as they deal with COVID absences after dominating in a G-League showcase game the day before. He has played in 4 games so far and after a pretty good opener with 19 points, he has struggled since then. The Lakers are incredibly dysfunctional at the moment but it just doesn’t look like Thomas quite has enough left in the tank to succeed in the NBA. His season-by-season PER since he was an MVP candidate with Boston (and had his hip injury) is depressing: 26.5 then 12.6, 7.0, 11.6, 2.4, and 3.5. I would love nothing more than for a healthy Thomas to turn back the clock and get back into a regular rotation but this might be the last shot IT gets in the association.