This weekend’s All-Star game festivities mark the unofficial midway point of the season in the NBA, and Hoosiers all around the league are grabbing attention.
At this point, we’ve likely all heard and read about Yogi Ferrell’s meteoric rise, going from 10-day contract to 2-year deal in about a week.
However, he’s not the only one who is getting recognition around the league. Let’s take a stop at each franchise to see how the six Hoosiers in the league are doing.
Troy Williams, Memphis Grizzlies - What started as a solid season in the NBA has slowly devolved into an extended D-League stint.
Williams saw a lot of time on an NBA court to start the year, mostly out of necessity due to injuries. In spurts, he looked good, but those spurts came fewer with gaps of Bad Troy for longer stretches.
The result is that Williams hasn’t been in an NBA game since December 21. Not entirely unexpected coming into this year, but a bit disappointing given his hot start.
The good news of the situation is that he’s seeing success in the D-League, where he’s had an extended stay since late December.
Overall, he’s averaging 14.1 points and 3.8 rebounds and shooting 32.9 percent from three. A week ago, he put up a sizzling 32 points on 12-of-15 shooting and 5-of-7 shooting from three.
It’ll be interesting to see Williams’ fate moving forward. He’s certainly still a project that has shown signs of progress. However, the Grizzlies are entrenched in a playoff race where they’re one game out of home court advantage in round one. Williams is the type of low-risk, high-reward piece that could be a nice throw-in in a trade that lands the Grizzlies a piece than can contribute now.
Also of note is that Williams will be in the D-League Dunk Contest. The preliminary round will be streamed on Facebook before the finals, which take place during halftime of the D-League All-Star game.
I’d also recommend checking out D-League games and the Iowa Energy (the Grizzlies’ affiliate) when you can. The games are streamed for free on the NBA D-League Facebook page and feature tons of scoring, gimmicky offenses and often next-to-no defense featuring former NCAA stars.
Noah Vonleh, Portland Trailblazers - What an up-and-down season it’s been for Vonleh.
On one hand, the forward is finally getting an extended, consistent run on an NBA team. Vonleh entered the starting lineup alongside Evan Turner for the Blazers on Jan. 20 in an attempt by head coach Terry Stotts to energize his bench lineup with Al-Farouq Aminu and Moe Harkless. The initial result was four wins in their first six games as a starting unit.
On the other hand, Vonleh has still been bad and the Blazers’ hot streak is over as they’ve lost four of five. Vonleh is averaging 4.1 points and 6.1 rebounds in 17.3 minutes per game since joining the starting lineup, all figures that are somehow vast improvements on his season and career averages.
The Blazers did make a big front-court transaction in trading away Mason Plumlee (who was due to get a huge payday in the off-season) for Jusuf Nurkic, a sometimes problematic big man. Nurkic doesn’t impose any direct threat to Vonleh, or at least none worse than his current play has done.
The potentially good news for Vonleh is that the Blazers are about to enter salary cap hell. With $129 million guaranteed in contracts next season, the Blazers aren’t going to be making too many moves, if any, in the off-seasons to come, even with the cap spike, meaning Vonleh’s current spot should be locked in for the future.
Yogi Ferrell, Dallas Mavericks - What a crazy, wild ride February has been for Yogi Ferrell.
Our last NBA update came out the same day that Ferrell was cut from the Nets (BrookLOLyn) and I wrote this then about his potential time in the D-League:
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.
Well, Yogi was signed nearly immediately after 10-day contracts were allowed and we know how it went from there.
Ferrell lit the league on fire. Only twice has he failed to score at least 10 points, and both games he had nine points and at least five assists. In his nine total games in Dallas, he’s averaging 15.2 points, 4.9 assists, 1.6 steals and hitting 46.7 (!!!!) percent of his threes.
Since joining the Mavericks, Ferrell has an offensive rating of 110.7, fourth-best on the Mavs in that time (excluding the two games Deron Williams played).
The Mavericks moved Ferrell to the bench to start the corpse of Williams and the latter has had seven and two points in those games. It appears to be a role change only as Ferrell has still played 30 minutes in both games.
The hilarious small-ball lineup of Ferrell-Seth Curry-Wes Matthews-Harrison Barnes-Dirk Nowitzki lineup has a Net Rating of 3.1 since Ferrell’s signing and having been really good down the stretch.
Maybe most insane is that the Mavericks are 6-3 since signing Ferrell and are back in playoff contention, mainly because the 8-seed in the Western Conference is a dumpster fire.
Eyeing the future, I’d be surprised if Williams was on the team moving forward. Williams has been mentioned as a potential buy-out candidate and could play a role on a playoff team as a back-up off the bench (hello, Cleveland?).
Ferrell has established his role on the team regardless of Williams’ future. He and Curry, unexpectedly, look like a great backcourt together and with Rick Carlisle at the helm, the sky seems to be the limit.
Cody Zeller, Charlotte Hornets - It’s not been a great couple months since our last update for Cody Zeller.
Injuries have sidelined the big man for much of the last two months. First, he took an elbow to the head and entered the NBA concussion protocol, forcing him out for three games.
He returned to play seven of eight games, an “illness” keeping him out of one of those games. However, another injury sidelined him even longer, this one a quadriceps contusion.
The injury forced him to the sideline for seven games before returning on February 9, but again left the game in the fourth after having soreness in his quad.
Overall, Zeller has played just eight of the last 15 games for the Hornets. It’s the longest stretch of injuries he’s faced in his career.
However, the All-Star break might be a blessing for Zeller. The Hornets played Wednesday night and won’t play again until next Thursday, a much-needed eight-day break for Zeller.
Zeller hasn’t really struggled in his limited time on the court. In those eight games, he’s averaging 11.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and shooting 55.7 percent from the field. He had two double-doubles in the span.
As a team, though, the Hornets have plummeted recently. Charlotte has just four wins in their last 19 games, and three of those were with Zeller in the lineup. Fortunately, they had built some cushion prior to their nosedive and are only 1.5 games out of the playoffs.
I’d expect the Hornets to be buyers at the trade deadline and, with a healthy Zeller, will likely be a playoff team.
Victor Oladipo, Oklahoma City Thunder - The Oklahoma City Thunder have been all over the headlines thank to the absurd play of Russell Westbrook. However, after bouncing back from an injury, Victor Oladipo has been playing really great basketball himself.
Oladipo took a nasty fall against Boston that kept him out for nine games. He returned and hasn’t missed a beat since, averaging 16.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and hitting 31.7 percent from three since coming back.
Playing with Westbrook is no easy task, especially as his backcourt mate. While Oladipo’s usage rate has only marginally dropped, he’s seen a bigger drop in his assist percentage and his free throw rate has cratered.
Instead, Oladipo has already attempted 254 threes, nearly a career high figure. He’s on pace for nearly 500 three-pointers as he’s had to adopt an entirely new playing style next to Westbrook.
Catch-and-shoot jumpers accounted for only 21.4 percent of Oladipo’s points last season. This season, it’s up to 31.7 percent.
The transition has been a difficult and new one, but it appears Oladipo is starting to fit in next to Russ.
The Thunder are locked into a playoff spot barring an injury to Russ, meaning Oladipo is going to get his first taste of playoff basketball. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see Vic in a playoff atmosphere.
Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets - Lots of Hoosiers are having lots of really good seasons, but no one is having a better season than Eric Gordon.
Gordon has embraced his role next to James Harden this season. He’s hitting 38.7 percent of his threes and has already surpassed his career-high in three-pointers made in just 51 games.
His 17.3 points per game are the most he’s averaged since 2010-11 when he was in Los Angeles. He’s hitting 38.7 percent from three on 9.2 attempts per game. His 468 threes attempted is behind only Harden and Steph Curry in the league and his 181 made trail only the same two players.
And he’s done all this coming off the bench.
He’s likely the front-runner for the Sixth Man of the Year award and it may be his title to lose at this point. Only a handful of guys could stop Gordon at this point with Zach Randolph and Lou Williams his biggest competitors.
The latter will likely be traded by the Lakers which casts some doubt over his roll going forward and the former doesn’t have the gaudy stats to compete with Gordon.
At this point, it seems the only guy who can slow down Gordon is Gordon himself. Injuries have kept him from out of a handful of games during the season, but nothing more than a soreness or a small injury.
Assuming full health, it’s hard to imagine someone else taking home the award this season, which is great for a guy who has battled so many setbacks to get to where he is today.
And even more than that, the Rockets not only are going to make the playoffs, but they’re going to be one of the top teams in the Western Conference this season. As it stands, there’s even a halfway decent chance of a OKC-Houston first-round match-up, pitting two backcourts with Hoosiers against one another in what would be an amazing match-up.