HEADED TO THE PLAYOFFS
Matisse Thybulle- SG/SF Philadelphia 76ers
Per Game Averages: 5.7 pts, 2.3 reb, 1.7 stl, 50.0% FG, 31.3% 3pt, 79.1% FT
Until the last week things seemed to be going pretty well for Matisse. Since the 76ers traded for James Harden he has been a mainstay in the starting lineup. Whether it was random variation or the spacing that playing with Harden allows, Matisse caught fire in March and shot 45.8% from the 3-point line and 88.9% from the free throw line. He’s likely going to be a 2nd team all-defense selection and minutes played is the main thing keeping him from appearing on more 1st team ballots.
Unfortunately the minutes played will be an issue for him in the playoffs. The #4 seed 76ers are playing the #5 seed Raptors which means games in Toronto are subject to Canadian COVID policies. And it turns out that Matisse never received a 2nd dose of the vaccine. He gave his attempts at a rationalization after it became a serious issue for Philly who now will be without Matisse in games 3 and 4 as well as game 6 if it gets that far. It’s not crazy to think that deciding not to get a 2nd dose after already getting a 1st is what ultimately causes in his prime Joel Embiid to not make the 2nd round of the playoffs. I did not see that one coming.
Marquese Chriss- PF Dallas Mavericks
Per Game Averages: 4.5 pts, 3.0 reb, 0.4 blk, 46.3% FG, 32.0% 3pt, 66.7% FT
There was a point where it was fair to questions whether Chriss was going to get another shot at the league after rehabbing from a broken leg which ruined a successful career rehabilitation tour in Golden State. In late December though the Mavericks picked Chriss up and he very quickly proved to be a capable rotation piece. Dallas has since surged to the #4 seed in the West and with Luka Doncic at the controls it’s not crazy to think a run to the NBA Finals could be in the cards for them...except Doncic got hurt in the season finale on Sunday. Dallas says he’ll be ready by later in the week but if not then this team is going nowhere.
Chriss is only playing about 3 to 10 minutes per game over the last month since he came back from an injury which knocked him out for a few weeks but it’s good to see him play meaningful basketball.
HEADED TO THE PLAY-IN TOURNAMENT
Dejounte Murray- PG San Antonio Spurs
Per Game Averages: 21.2 pts, 8.4 reb, 9.3 ast, 46.3% FG, 33.0% 3pt, 78.8% FT
This ended up being the breakout season that nearly everyone thought would eventually come for Murray. When he was drafted by the Spurs it seemed like a no-brainer that it was the perfect spot for a relatively raw player with his natural tools to develop. Gregg Popovich finally turned the keys over to Murray and he responded with an All-Star season.
The Spurs roster is fairly talent-depleted but Murray managed to spur the Spurs on to a spot in the play-in game on Tuesday against the New Orleans Pelicans as a #10 seed. They’ll have to win consecutive road games at New Orleans and then either at the Clippers or Minnesota to make the playoffs and play the Suns in the first round. This for a team whose 2nd and 3rd leading scorers are Keldon Johnson and Jakob Poetl. Since the all-star break Murray averaged almost a 25 point triple double plus 2 steals per game and is one of the brightest young stars in the game and a fixture on any all-underrated team list.
Spurs guard Dejounte Murray this year became the FIRST PLAYER IN NBA HISTORY to average 20+ points, 8+ rebounds, 9+ assists and 2+ steals in a season. Ever.— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) April 11, 2022
Jaden McDaniels- SF/PF Minnesota Timberwolves
Per Game Averages: 9.3 pts, 4.2 reb, 0.8 blk, 46.1% FG, 31.9% 3pt, 80.0% FT
It was a mixed bag of a sophomore season for McDaniels as he missed some time towards the end of the year but still ended up starting about 40% of their games again and only played an extra 2 minutes per game. The big difference was that the team actually won this year and secured the #7 seed in the play-in tournament for the Western conference (they play the Clippers tonight at 6:30p). McDaniels’ 2-pt and FT shooting went up while his percentages from behind the arc dipped from 36% to 32%. The exchange allowed his overall points per game to go up 2.5 and he also increased his rebounds by 0.5 per game.
Minnesota looks to be a team on the rise with the young duo of Karl Anthony-Towns and Anthony Edwards and McDaniels seems to feature into those plans. He’s not blocked positionally by either of their stars so there’s a good chance for McDaniels to continue to grow as a part of that core long-term.
Jaylen Nowell- PG/SG Minnesota Timberwolves
Per Game Averages: 8.4 pts, 2.0 reb, 2.1 ast, 47.4% FG, 38.7% 3pt, 78.3% FT
Unfortunately those same opportunities aren’t quite there for Nowell. Jaylen has almost an identical PER to both D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards. He has put up efficient bench scoring whenever he has gotten the chance. But those chances have been few and far between and so Nowell continues to look like someone that could be a starter on another team but that shot may not come with Minnesota.
Player A per 36 minutes: 19.3 points, 4.8 ast, 4.6 reb, 58.0% true shooting
Player B per 36 minutes: 22.4 points, 4.0 ast, 5.0 reb, 56.1% true shooting
Player A is Nowell and Player B is budding superstar Anthony Edwards. Obviously it’s harder to do it more minutes but I’m sure there will be a smart team out there looking to trade for Nowell on the cheap as he has one more year on his contract at just under $2 million.
NBA League-Leaders in Efficiency as a Pick-and-Roll Ball-Handler (Points Per Possession, min. 100 PnRs)— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) April 8, 2022
1. Kevin Durant - 1.08 PPP
2. Jaylen Nowell - 1.07 PPP
Jaylen has earned a larger role next season, either in Minnesota or with another organization.pic.twitter.com/1wFv0y6SRl
Isaiah Thomas- PG Charlotte Hornets
Per Game Averages: 8.4 pts, 1.3 reb, 1.5 ast, 40.1% FG, 33.7% 3pt, 84.6% FT
It was definitely a rough season for Thomas as he tried to prove to teams that he deserved another shot in the NBA. After a 4-game stint with the Lakers and 1 game with Dallas he finally caught on with Charlotte and has rewarded them for their due diligence. I listed Nowell’s per 36 numbers above and Thomas is doing his job as a microwave scorer off the bench putting up 22+ points per 36 on 54% true shooting. That has helped Charlotte make the play-in tournament in the East but it’s a tough road ahead. The Hornets will first have to play last year’s playoff darling the Atlanta Hawks and then also beat the loser of Brooklyn and Cleveland (likely Cleveland). Unfortunately as Thomas knows all too well every game he plays might be his last so I’ll be rooting for the Hornets to make the playoffs in the tournament.
The Hornets are 12-6 since signing Isaiah Thomas. pic.twitter.com/WT9bf6xk0n— StatMuse (@statmuse) April 9, 2022
MISSED THE PLAYOFFS, SEASON TOTALLY OVER
Markelle Fultz- PG Orlando Magic
Per Game Averages: 10.9 pts, 2.8 reb, 4.9 ast, 47.9% FG, 28.6% 3pt, 80.6% FT
It was an incredibly rough happenstance when Markelle Fultz tore his ACL very early into the start of last season. The injury caused him to miss not just the vast majority of last year but also the majority of this year. Fultz finally came back and made his return on February, 28th and has mostly looked like himself. His per game totals are almost identical to his career averages but that’s also on fewer minutes coming off the bench. On a per 36 basis Fultz is averaging career bests of 20 points and 9 assists with almost passable but no longer completely dreadful 29% 3-pt shooting. The Magic drafted Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs the past 2 years so Fultz may not be in their long-term plans but he has shown that he can at least continue to be a backup point guard option for most teams in the league.
Terrence Ross- SG Orlando Magic
Per Game Averages: 10.0 pts, 2.2 reb, 1.8 ast, 39.7% FG, 29.2% 3pt, 86.2% FT
The Magic have cast off almost every veteran player on their squad over the past several years but they never were able/willing to trade Ross. For most of his career he has been reliable as a flamethrower off the bench who can swing games when he’s on and sits a little more when he’s off. This year there were fewer and fewer games where he was on. Ross’ 3-point percentage dipped for the 3rd consecutive year from 38.3% to 35.1% to 33.7% and finally a career low 29.2% this year. There’s still one more season on Ross’ contract for $11.5 million but if Ross doesn’t manage to pick up his play next year he will have a tough time finding a roster spot after that.
Isaiah Stewart- C Detroit Pistons
Per Game Averages: 8.3 pts, 8.7 reb, 1.1 blk, 50.6% FG, 29.5% 3pt, 71.8% FT
The Pistons have been one of the worst teams in the NBA this year but that’s in part because they went all-in with their youth movement which includes Stewart. “Beef Stew” has started very game he’s played at center and while he still isn’t a featured weapon on offense he gives the team some much needed grit and energy while serving as a ferocious rebounder. Detroit is likely to end up with a top pick in the draft this year and could add Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren or Auburn’s Jabari Smith. Neither has a lot of muscle mass and both are floor stretchers who wouldn’t fight Stewart for post touches and also would like to have him bear the burden of guarding opposing centers. On a playoff team I’m not sure if Stewart would start but he’ll have a long career as at worst the backup center on a good team.
Isaiah Stewart tonight:— Mob (@MobHoops) April 7, 2022
46.2% fg (6/13)
100% 3p (3/3)
100% ft (4/4)
Having a jumper elevates his game so much pic.twitter.com/zF1UXtySuN
Justin Holiday- SG/SF Sacramento Kings
Per Game Averages: 10.0 pts, 2.6 reb, 0.8 stl, 39.0% FG, 36.1% 3pt, 80.6% FT
It hasn’t been an easy season for Holiday as he was the only former Husky to get traded at the deadline this year going from Indiana to bottom dweller Sacramento. His numbers are down just slightly across the board from last year to this one which hints that he’s getting closer to the end of his NBA career. He’s still a capable 3 and D player though and has one more year left on his contract at a little over $6 million. The Kings have gone all-in on building around DeAaron Fox, Damontas Sabonis and whoever they select with what’s expected to be the #7 overall pick this season so we’ll see whether Holiday fits in to their plans for next year. And in fairness to Matisse Thybulle I should also point out that Holiday refused to get vaccinated this season as well and missed games because of it. What a way to begin and end this article.