If this was a mixtape I'd title it Sorry 4 The Wait 3. That said, this will involve somewhat less wordplay and hopefully far fewer crass references than Weezy's tape of the same name that I'm sure will eventually surface. It has been nearly a month's worth of games since the last update (after losing All-Star Weekend's contests) and we've also passed the trade deadline. We'll depart slightly from the normal format of these posts to address those deadline day moves and changes in station for a few players before looking at their performances in the typical manner.
Thomas Robinson- A trade to the Nuggets and then an attempted buyout with an arranged contract in Brooklyn followed by a waiver swoop by the 76ers means that T-Rob now plays in the City of Brotherly Love (meaning that I am now looking into tickets for all remaining Sixers games this year). It may not have been his preferred destination, and it may have even been simply a money-saving move by the Sixers, who have surpassed the league-minimum spend on paper but not in cash, but this may be a great situation for Thomas... He's now on a team with tons of minutes to distribute and without any pressures to win games, just to see what they have in their young roster and develop those players. He has had time in each of the games since his acquisition, and shown great effort and some gaudy per-36s to match. He'll be an Unrestricted Free Agent after this season, so he'll have the opportunity to choose his fate for once, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if he made himself some money in these next months.
Mario Chalmers- Mario didn't move, but his primary PG competition (Norris Cole) was moved for a Star-caliber player in Goran Dragic, meaning Mario will likely split his time a bit more between SG while Goran is on the floor and backup PG. I don't think this is a bad change at all for Rio, as he has always been able to play more efficiently when he has been able to key off of another ball-handler and defense-magnet, and Dwyane Wade's availability has been a bit shaky.
Nick Collison- The Thunder finally (FINALLY) traded Kendrick Perkins off. I feel like that's almost saying enough in-itself, but I'll write a bit more on the subject... Nick and Enes Kanter and Mitch McGary look like they'll be the most generic-looking-white-dude-frontcourt OF ALL TIME. We'll see how the minutes split ends up looking, but I see good things in OKC's future.
Andrew Wiggins- Wiggy didn't move, but he did see Thad Young moved for Kevin Garnett. Early returns have been promising as Garnett has appeared involved and invested in the squad and has been seen mentoring Wiggins on the sidelines in-game. Wiggins has never played with a transcendent talent like Garnett before, and I hope that he can impart some of his wisdom in regards to becoming and maintaining NBA superstardom without any of his nearly-psychotic tendencies.
Ben McLemore- Ben also was stationary on deadline day, however I figured I'd address the George Karl hiring and what it seems to have done for McLemore. The biggest trend since the hiring has been an increase in Ben's aggressiveness, it looks to me like Karl has been telling him that he needs to get shots up and take-on defenders, and that approach has manifested itself in two more shots per game, and twice the FTs per game since the hiring (Caution: small sample size).
Andrew Wiggins (Wolves)- Wiggins just picked up his fourth straight Western Conference Rookie of the Month award, and I wouldn't be surprised if he went on and swept the remainder of the season... As of last week he had more 30 point games than the rest of the 2014 rookie class combined, and, even more incredibly, more 20 point games than that same group (and that's before adding 20 and 25 point outings these past few days...). In the past 15 games Wiggins has shot 46% from the field while buying 5.4 FTA per game on his way to 18 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, a steal and a block per game. The three-point shot hasn't really been there, but he has shied away from it a bit (1.3 attempts per game) while maintaining his aggressiveness in looking for his shot. Also he does super fun things all the time... You should be watching the T-Wolves whenever Ricky Rubio and Wiggins share the floor.
Markieff Morris (Suns)/Marcus Morris (Suns)- TWIN REPORT- They really shouldn't be stuck together like this, but I'm going to do it anyway... The Suns, and the Morrii, have been mercurial of late. Since trading Goran Dragic at the deadline Markieff has shouldered even more of a burden to score. He has stepped up his game in response at times (31 and 29 point games) and exploded in a less-productive way in others, as his near-league-leading technical foul count shows. Marcus' best game of this stretch was against Utah last month where he went 11-17 for 34 points with 12 rebounds, not too shabby, eh? He has also improved his consistency in averaging 11.5 points and 5 rebounds in about 24 minutes per game, but his tech situation is as bad as his brother's. You may also have heard about Markieff's criticism of the fan support for the Suns, which has angered some fans and motivated others while making Keef a bit of a lightning rod for criticism... As far as that goes, I think there's little for him to fear, as noted by the great Suns beat writer Paul Coro: On the idea that Phoenix traded its best player (Dragic), McDonough (the Suns' GM) said, "Eric Bledsoe and Markieff Morris are still in Phoenix Suns Uniform s". Indeed.
Paul Pierce (Wizards)- (I am literally transposing everything from last edition here, because it's eerily similar only changed are the triple slash... to 46%/40%/80%) 45%/40%/78% on FGs/3s/FTs while adding 12 points to the Wizards attack is not shabby at all. If you watch the Wizards enough you might even see a vintage Truth dagger in the late game. The veteran has seen his minutes decrease a bit, but in close games the Wiz seem to go ahead and ditch their artificial limits and PP will see minute totals into the mid-30s and still bring it. It'll be interesting to see how the minutes-management over the course of the season will pay off (or not) during the postseason.
Ben McLemore (Kings)- Ben has struggled a bit inside the arc, but is hitting nearly 38% from outside on 5.5 attempts per game for this time period. Since the All-Star break and the appointment of George Karl he has averaged 13.5 ppg and been a more frequent visitor to the charity stripe with 2.6 attempts there per game, which is significant considering half of his shots are coming from deep. Ben just needs to bottle up his game against the Spurs last week wherein he went for 21 on just 8 attempts while also reaching the line 12 times.
Thomas Robinson (Sixers)- Since coming to Philly, Thomas has averaged 8 points and nearly 8 rebounds (3 offensive) in 18 minutes per game, reinforcing the idea that if you give him time, he'll give you stats... I selfishly hope that Hinkie decides to keep him around for a while after this audition, because having Joel and Thomas on the same team means I will be at the Wells Fargo Center constantly in 2015-16.
Technically It's Still Flying:
Nick Collison (Thunder)- Nick has seen his role increase slightly over the past month as he's more than doubled his attempts per game since the last installment while also seeing an increased minutes load since the trade deadline. With those increased shots he has struggled a bit to maintain the otherworldly efficiency he had while taking just 2 shots per game, but the uptick has coincided with the Thunder winning 11 of 15 and a string of Russell Westbrook form that has been stunning, so it might be that his offensive efficiency is less valuable than his defensive rotations and screening contributions for the team overall.
Darrell Arthur (Nuggets)- The counting stats are alright with Shady contributing 7 points per game, but seeing as it's on 40% shooting, improvement is warranted. To be fair to Darrell, the entire Nuggets squad has been sleepwalking since the beginning of February (3-11 in this timeframe), so it's not as if he's been the root of the problems in Denver.
Mario Chalmers (Heat)- 30 mpg for Rio here, and a slightly warmer hand from outside... 31% as compared to about 20% in our last edition. That's not optimal. 10 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds, and 2 steals isn't bad though as far as the counting stats go.
Tarik Black (Lakers)- Tarik had a bit of a rough stretch as he was shooting around 40% from the field in the games leading up to the All Star break, and after failing to impress in the first two games after the break he has found himself plastered to the bench. I may have missed some sort of injury, but in my searching for another reason for the benching I can't find anything. It may be a bit of a blessing in disguise though, because now we can avert our eyes from the steaming pile of feces that is the 2014-15 edition of the Los Angeles Lakers...
I'd Rather Walk:
Cole Aldrich (Knicks)- The 12-win Knicks are leading the tanking train, but that hasn't exactly meant plentiful minutes for Cole. He has shot 45% from the field in this installment, contributing 4 points and 3+ rebounds in his 11 mpg. I don't know whether the continued paucity of minutes for him is because the organization doesn't understand the value of playing developing players and unknown quantities like the 76ers have been, or whether it's because they know that Aldrich would hurt their tanking effort. I'm going to live in a dreamworld and assume it's the latter.
Drew Gooden (Wizards)- Drew has actually had some time in-game, playing in 8 of the Wizards' last 10 and averaging about 16 minutes in those contests with a near 50/50 split between going for 10 points in 20-something minutes and being ice cold and getting low-teens minutes, which seems about right. Gooden made valuable contributions in the playoffs last year and it looks like the Wiz are working on getting him back up to speed as the experience-intensive portion of the year approaches.
Kirk Hinrich (Bulls)- Not the best month, 28.6% from the field and less than 12% from three is not going to earn you any play... Of course, Kirk being Kirk he's still being given nearly 20 minutes per game.
Haven't Left the Nest:
Jeff Withey (Pelicans)- Jeff had 18 whole minutes on the floor against the Pacers and went 5-7 from the field for 11 points with 4 rebounds before getting less than two minutes in the next game... Story of the season and story of his career so far.
Brandon Rush (Warriors)- Minuscule and meaningless minutes for Brandon, though maybe that's just what he and his legs need...
Joel Embiid (Sixers)- miss you :'(
That's it! As always, post any questions/comments/suggestions in the comments and I'll see what I can do to answer them or address them in future editions.