September 6, 2019, 2:40 am
This has been undoubtedly the Pelicans’ busiest offseason.. ever. Mind you, New Orleans has won the lottery sweepstakes before, and I was there for the lottery party that the team threw. It was lit. But since the Pelicans won the lottery in the same offseason that they traded Anthony Davis, the fact that the Pelicans landed Zion Williamson through sheer luck is talked about less than it would be otherwise. Shoot, I’ve spent almost the entire offseason talking about Jrue Holiday. And that’s why I want to write about Zion now.
It’d be hard to write that Zion is undoubtedly the best New Orleans pick ever. I wouldn’t believe it. Anthony Davis was insanely good in his freshman UK season and Chris Paul was one of the best rookies in the modern era. But what I can say is that Zion is in that company, and there’s nothing more important to the offseason than that.
Yes, the Pelicans basically got the Lakers’ entire foreseeable draft future, and yes, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram could pan out to be great players, but all of this pales in comparison to what Zion appears to be: a foundational talent that could shift the NBA landscape.
The first time I saw Zion was in clips of him dunking all over the place in high school. I didn’t understand how someone that big could be that explosive. The only comparison I could think of was young Shaq, who broke the max vertical reach record while standing 7’1″ or 7’2″, weighing nearly 300 pounds, with a huge wingspan and crazy fluidity. But Zion wasn’t seven feet tall, so I didn’t know if he’d be the next big thing or just some guy who can dunk well and not do a lot else.
What’s crazy about Zion isn’t the jaw-dropping athleticism. It’s that his statistics are just as crazy as his athleticism. To be clear, there are players who can post great stats and may be underwhelming in their actual on-court impact. But to post THESE kind of stats is beyond reason.
On a per-75 possession basis, Zion scored roughly 31 points per game and generated 12 rebounds, around three steals, around three assists, and 2.5 blocks — and he did it on a 68 percent shooting from the field (70% TS). He’s got world-class leaping ability in a 270-280 pound frame, excellent agility, very good ball-handling, a high IQ and a motor more befitting of a role player, in addition to what appears to be top-shelf character. At his athletic peak, he’ll probably be able to switch and defend at least positions 1-4 and quite possibly positions 1-5. David Griffin described him as Draymond Green with “rockets in his ass.”
The bottom line is that all of the other stuff that happened this offseason mattered. The Pelicans appear to be in good hands with Gayle Benson and David Griffin’s new staff, and the Pelicans are loaded with young talent, future picks, and flexibility. But all of that stuff matters a lot less than what happens with Zion.
If he is who I think he is, he could quite possibly be one of the NBA’s top five players in less than five years, with the potential to one day be the best. And with a front office that has ownership’s investment, that means that there are exciting times ahead.
January 18, 2020, 11:30 pmMarcus MorrisPF, New York Knicks
Marcus Morris scored 20 points in Saturday's home loss against the Sixers, chipping in six rebounds and two assists.
Morris continues to grind away and score in New York's crowded frontcourt. With this game, he is scoring almost 25 points per game in the month of January. He can chip in a few rebounds and steals but is main contribution is his steady points and 3-pointers.
January 18, 2020, 11:23 pmDe'Aaron FoxPG, Sacramento Kings
De'Aaron Fox scored 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting with eight assists and four rebounds before fouling out in 31 minutes on Saturday.
Fox fouled out late in the game and was the lone bright spot for the Kings in a 123-101 blowout loss. Fox has hit his stride in January with averages of 24.1 points, 5.6 boards, 8.4 assists and 2.0 steals. He's showing that he's capable of returning value on his early-round ADP late in the season.
January 18, 2020, 11:22 pmMike ConleyPG, Utah Jazz
Mike Conley (left hamstring strain) returned to action for the Jazz on Saturday, seeing 15 minutes of action and producing three points on 1-of-3 shooting (all from deep) with one rebound, three assists and two steals.
It's a good first baby step back for Conley, who will clearly be eased in by the Jazz. He should, in time, eventually make his way back into the starting lineup, which should push Joe Ingles (two points, nine rebounds, 12 assists, 31 minutes) back to a reserve role.
January 18, 2020, 11:18 pmReggie BullockSG-SF, New York Knicks
Reggie Bullock 14 points in Saturday's loss to the Sixers, finishing with three rebounds, two assists, three steals and one 3-pointer.
With teammate RJ Barrett out this one, Bullock got the start and ended up playing 35 minutes in a tightly contested game. Bullock provides short-term value in Barrett's absence as he can provide decent steals and a few 3-pointers.
January 18, 2020, 11:17 pmJames HardenPG, Houston Rockets
James Harden put up 34 points (8-of-20 FGs, 16-of-18 FTs) with six rebounds, seven assists, two 3-pointers, one block and six turnovers in Saturday's loss to the Lakers.
Harden put up a solid performance, but it's scary to think that the Lakers held off the Rockets without Anthony Davis. Still, the Rockets are in the thick of the playoff race and expect Harden and his top fantasy value to be a big part of it.
January 18, 2020, 11:13 pmPJ TuckerSF, Houston Rockets
P.J. Tucker hurt his shoulder and took a trip to the locker room on Saturday but finished the game with six points on 2-of-8 shooting with eight rebounds, two 3s and one assist.
Tucker has not been doing enough lately and has fallen out of the top-250 in 9-cat over the past two weeks. He's a drop candidate right now and can be picked up once his game is back in flow.
January 18, 2020, 11:13 pmCollin SextonPG, Cleveland Cavaliers
Collin Sexton shot 10-of-17 from the field and 4-of-6 from deep on his way to scoring 26 points with seven rebounds and two assists in a 118-116 loss to the Bulls on Saturday.
Sexton has been on a hot streak the past two weeks, shooting .474 from the field and scoring 23.1 points per game. He doesn't add much outside of points and threes and will be capped at late-round value until that changes.
January 18, 2020, 11:12 pmDevin BookerSG, Phoenix Suns
Devin Booker was fabulous in this one, finishing just one assist shy of a triple-double in Saturday's 123-119 win over the Celtics, chipping in 39 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists, two steals and finishing 14-of-15 from the charity stripe.
Booker ruined the Celtics' Marcus Smarts' career-night, dropping 39 points on the road and finishing just shy of a triple-double. Everyone knows that Booker can score but the ball handling has steadily improved and he is averaging over six assists a game. He continues to be a top-30 fantasy option and games like these may push him into top-20 consideration.
January 18, 2020, 11:10 pmRussell WestbrookPG, Houston Rockets
Russell Westbrook nearly notched a triple-double in Saturday's loss to the Lakers, tallying 35 points on 15-of-23 field goals with nine rebounds, seven assists and three steals.
Westbrook's night wasn't all balloons and roses. In fact, he committed five turnovers and was awful from the free-throw line, making just 5-of-8 shots from there. As good as the counting stats are, Russ does have his stat-set issues as well as his rest days in B2Bs.
January 18, 2020, 11:05 pmDeandre AytonC, Phoenix Suns
Deandre Ayton double-doubled with 26 points and 15 rebounds in Saturday's win over the Celtics, finishing with two assists and two blocks.
Ayton was good in this one and ended up doing a lot of his damage from the charity stripe, finishing 10-of-11. His 15 boards and two blocks erased a slightly inefficient shooting night as he went 8-of-22.