5 observations on 5 different NBA teams.
1. Knicks’ transition from Elfrid Payton & Reggie Bullock to Kemba Walker & Evan Fournier hasn’t resulted in winning
Elfrid Payton & Reggie Bullock were key starters in the New York Knicks’ 4th place Eastern Conference finish last season, as they both took efficient shots on offense and made a difference on defense. The two players are now on new teams (Payton-Phoenix Suns, Bullock- Dallas Mavericks) and the Knicks have brought in Kemba Walker & Evan Fournier, which has resulted in a 12-13 record. Walker is currently out of the rotation and Fournier is only averaging 12.8 PPG, proving just how much defense and team basketball matters when you’re trying to win without a superstar.
2. Timberwolves have a nice big 3 in Towns-Edwards-Russell, but other guys not getting it done
Karl Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell are three extremely skilled players who can win games for the Timberwolves just based on their play alone. However, with respect to Minnesota’s roster, the team as a whole just isn’t very good. Patrick Beverley & Josh Okogie bring great defense with little offense, Malik Beasley & Taurean Prince are shooting the ball poorly, and Jaden McDaniels, Jarred Vanderbilt, & Naz Reid are young players still learning the NBA game.
3. Nick Nurse isn’t giving Malachi Flynn a chance to develop the right way
Back in 2020, the Toronto Raptors selected point guard Malachi Flynn with the 29th pick in the first round, as many thought he would be the team’s backup PG for the future. Fast forward to December 10th, 2021, and Flynn is only averaging 8.2 MPG after playing just 19.7 MPG with plenty of DNP’s last year. Head coach Nick Nurse has yet to use a backup point guard since Fred VanVleet’s successful run during their 2019 title, which I wonder why because Malachi has similar skills to Fred. Flynn has shown nice flashes during the 2020 & 2021 preseasons, 2020-21 regular season, and 2021 summer league. Hopefully he can eventually find a good situation with Toronto or on a different team.
4. Pelicans aren’t seeing improvement from young players besides Ingram & Zion
The New Orleans Pelicans had two members of their club become All-Stars during the last two seasons in Brandon Ingram (2020) & Zion Williamson (2021), but other young Pelicans like Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Jaxson Hayes, and Kira Lewis Jr. are far from that. Alexander-Walker is shooting an inefficient 36.9% from the field and 30.7% from three point range, Hayes gets 12.2 MPG and has spent time in the G League, and Lewis just tore his ACL after having a rough start from deep (22.4% 3-PT). I wouldn’t put the lack of progression all on these guys though, New Orleans let go of Alvin Gentry in 2020, which followed with only one season of Stan Van Gundy, and a rookie head coach this season in Willie Green.
5. Watching Rudy Gay & Hassan Whiteside play productive basketball for Jazz makes you wonder how much of a difference they can make in the playoffs
Adding Rudy Gay & Hassan Whiteside has brought even more depth to the Utah Jazz’s deep bench. Put those two new Jazz players together with Jordan Clarkson & Joe Ingles, and you arguably have one of the best bench units in the NBA. The club now has more scoring and rim protection off the bench than last season, two areas they were lacking at times during the playoffs when Clarkson wasn’t hitting shots/Derrick Favors was their backup center. Gay & Whiteside can bring that extra needed depth, as the two veterans hope to give the Jazz a legit shot at finally making it past the second round.