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NBA Update: Hoosiers balling out across league

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While the Hoosiers might not have much in terms of quantity in the NBA, the few players they do have are shining bright this year.

Houston Rockets v Detroit Pistons Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

When we previewed the Hoosiers in the NBA at the start of the season, the general consensus was that the majority of those in the NBA were in good positions.

Fast forward nearly two months into the season and the case remains the same.

Despite only having six player in the league, most of them have impressed in their time this season, including huge years from Victor Oladipo, Eric Gordon and Cody Zeller.

Let’s break down each one of their seasons at nearly the quarter-mark of the year.

Yogi Ferrell, Brooklyn Nets

In untimely fashion, Ferrell was waived today as I write this piece, but that doesn’t change how impressive he’s been with the Nets this season.

In limited action, Ferrell has proven his worth in the league, averaging 5.4 points and 1.7 assists in 15.1 minutes per game across 10 games. Ironically, it’s his shooting that is still letting him down, a carry-over from his time in the Summer League and during the preseason as he’s shooting just 29.1% from the three-point line.

Still, Ferrell took advantage of the opportunity afforded to him due to injuries, scoring in double figures three times in an 11-day stretch in late November. However, a pair of DNPs and being listed an inactive in a four-game stretch spelled the temporary end for Ferrell.

It’s likely Ferrell returns to the D-League where he’ll likely tear it up after gaining a month’s worth of NBA experience. At worst, he’ll stick around there until mid-January when 10-day contracts can be handed out and his return to the league is far more likely.

Troy Williams, Memphis Grizzlies

The most surprising season of any of the Hoosiers must go to Williams, who has not only made an NBA roster, but is seeing consistent minutes in the rotation night-in and night-out. Even as one of Williams’ staunchest defenders while at Indiana, this comes as a surprise.

Injuries have played a massive role in Williams seeing the floor (who knew signing Chandler Parsons, a man with chronic knee issues that scared off two past employers, would end badly for Memphis). However, he’s also taken advantage of those minutes, especially in recent weeks.

Over the last eight games, Williams has not only played every night, but has started in seven of them, played 29.5 minutes per game and is averaging 9.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.9 steals despite shooting a Troy-like 29.5 percent from the three-point line.

Despite his struggles shooting, Williams’ play-making and athleticism have both been welcome sights for a Grizzlies team that has been ravaged by injuries. Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen and Vince Carter have both missed time alongside Parson, opening up all sorts of playing time for the likes of Williams, Andrew Harrison, Troy Daniels, JaMychal Green and Jarrell Martin.

As you might have guessed based on that last sentence, the Grizzlies are not good, sporting an 11-12 record.

Regardless, even at full strength, Williams has notched a spot in the rotation as a solid defender and athletic player on the wing and should still see time even as players return for the Griz.

Noah Vonleh, Portland Trailblazers

The challenges for Vonleh were laid out in front of him entering the season as he was fourth on the depth chart for big men at best.

The situation has not gotten any better with Vonleh’s poor play this season, despite playing in 17 games and starting in one.

In his 17 games, 11 have ended with him scoring two points or fewer, including each of the last seven appearances. Mix in five DNPs and a whole lot of lackluster performance and the future is very grim for Vonleh.

He has shown flashes at times, scoring nine points in a blowout loss to Houston and grabbing 11 points in an even bigger blowout loss to the Clippers, but the chances are few and the production is minimal right now.

After averaging 12.7 minutes per game over his first seven appearances with two DNPs, Vonleh is down to 9.3 minutes per game in his last 10 appearances with three DNPs including two in the last four games.

The best thing Vonleh can hope for at this point is to join a team that is both bad and can afford to let him go through growing pains. Neither of those are the case in Portland, so the foreseeable future is not bright for Vonleh.

Cody Zeller, Charlotte Hornets

To the casual NBA fan, few players have been more surprising this year than Zeller, who is seeing consistent minutes as a starter and making a huge impact on the game.

Zeller is averaging a career-high 10.5 points with 5.8 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and shooting 58.1 percent from the field. More so, his impact is even bigger than his personal production.

The Hornets are surprising many people with a 13-9 record despite losing a handful of big pieces from last season’s playoff team, but with Kemba Walker playing out of his mind and Zeller giving the Hornets a ton of production down low, this team seems to be for real.

Zeller has started each of the last 17 games after coming off the bench in the first two and is performing well. He had a 23-point outburst in a win over Atlanta in mid-November and had his first double-double of the season in a loss in Madison Square Garden.

Zeller only seems to be getting better with each game he plays in the league and there’s lots of reason for optimism as he moves forward.

Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets

I had a whole lot of optimism about Gordon heading into the season assuming he stayed healthy and he’s proved me right. Gordon has stayed healthy and is lighting up teams this year in one of the most absurd offenses in the league.

First, let’s explain the Houston Rockets. Coached by Mike D’Antoni, the Rockets take everything about modern basketball and go a step further.

You want threes? The Rockets shoot league-high 37 per game, nearly three more than the next-closest team. 37.3 percent of the Rockets’ points come from the three-point line, tied for tops in the league with the Cavs.

You want scoring? The Rockets are second in the league in points behind the juggernaut Warriors.

You want efficiency? The Rockets have an effective field goal percentage of 55 percent, second again to only the Warriors.

Against Sacramento earlier this year, the Rockets attempted an NBA record 50 three-pointers. They’ve had seven total games with at least 40 three-pointers attempted.

Their lowest amount of threes attempted in a game, 29, is still well above league average.

Gordon has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of this offense as he’s second on the team in points with 17.0 per game while hitting 41.7 percent of his three-pointers, the second-best clip of his career. His 8.2 threes attempted per game is nearly two more per game better than his previous high.

And on Wednesday night, Gordon set a career high with eight three points and 26 points in 24 minutes.

So long as Gordon stays healthy, he’s going to play a very important role on a team that is not only making the playoffs, but positioning itself as one of the best teams in the league.

Victor Oladipo, Oklahoma City Thunder

For as great a season as Gordon is having, no Hoosier alum is having a better year than Oladipo. When he’s not posterizing premier shot blockers, he’s doing just about everything else as he’s settled in alongside Russell Westbrook as one of the must-watch teams this season.

After a slow start in a new offense next to a ball-dominating point guard, Oladipo has hit his stride. Over his last 11 games, Oladipo is averaging 18.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game while shooting 39.4 percent from three.

The last part is what is going to determine a lot of Oladipo’s success moving forward. Westbrook’s absolutely incomprehensible season (31.0 points, 10.9 rebounds, 11.3 assists) is drawing all the focus of the defense and it’s not a surprise that the better Oladipo shoots from beyond the arc, the better he plays.

Oladipo and Westbrook are only getting better together, and the two are locked into contracts for multiple years to come, which should mean a lot more highlights and a whole lot more fun as they develop more and more chemistry.