The NBA trade deadline came and went with a flurry of trades. Rondo to the Clippers. Victor Oladipo to the Miami Heat. Atlanta Hawks gets Lou Williams back. He’s excited to be back in Magic City.
The Orlando Magic, however, was the busiest team, basically cleaning house. On Thursday, Orlando sent several veteran players packing, including All-Star Nikola Vucevic.
The Magic also sent Al-Farouq Aminu to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr. and two first-round picks. Then, the Magic sent veteran Evan Fournier to the Boston Celtics for two second-round picks.
To complete the activity, Orlando traded Aaron Gordon and Gary Clark to the Denver Nuggets for Gary Harris, R.J. Hampton and a first-round pick. The Magic are in rebuild mode at 15-29, the fourth-worst mark in the NBA.
After the dust settled, the consensus on NBA Twitter was that Cole Anthony (11 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.8 apg) is in position to be the man. Anthony’s had a typical up and down rookie season but has also exhibited flashes of a clutch player and capable offense orchestrator.
Dang gone miss da guys🥺
— Cole Anthony (@The_ColeAnthony) March 25, 2021
The NBA Rookie Of The Year race took a turn as presumptive favorite LaMelo Ball, fractured his wrist. He had surgery and is likely out for the season.
Melo Ball (Charlotte Hornets)
The crazy thing is I believe he’s already done enough to win the award. No rookie has meant more to his team’s success this season.
February was Ball’s breakout month, but based on his numbers he posted in the seven games in March (19.3 points, 5.9 assists, 5.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals) while also shooting 50% from three, that trend was likely to continue. His shooting was the biggest question mark coming in and thus far he’s exceeded expectations in that area of his game. We just have to wait until 2022 to see him work wonders with the pill again.
Anthony Edwards (Minnesota T-Wolves)
The Timberwolves rookie had a slow start to the season, but he’s finally exhibiting the elite athleticism that “WOWED” everyone during his one-year at Georgia.
Lately, Edwards has been rolling, including his big 42-point outburst in a win at Phoenix. With new coach Chris Finch taking over in-season, Edwards has seen his shot attempts increase to 21.4 per game. In other words, he has that green light.
Over his last six games (at the time this was written) he’s averaging 27.3 points on 45.0 % shooting and 39% from three. He’s put on some real shooting displays to go with his nightly mix of power and explosion. Consistency is key for the Uber athletic specimen, and that seems to be trending upward under Finch.
Tyrese Haliburton (Sac-Town Kings)
Kings cerebral and efficient rookie Tyrese Haliburton continues to impress in many different areas on the floor. Smart decision-making and accurate shooting continues to fuel Haliburton’s effectiveness.
On a team where DeAaaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley Jr. are the focal points on offense, Haliburton’s scoring production has fluctuated. But his efficiency has always been there.
He’s shotting 41.8 % from three, 43 % on pull-ups and (43.4 % off the catch. He also has 181 assists to just 54 turnovers. For a guy not known as an athletic specimen, while being 6’7, he’s converting 66.7 % of his attempts at the rim. He doesn’t blow by you or wow you with his handle, but he just knows how to pick his spots to attack, while not forcing the issue and showing touch in the paint. Finally, Sacramento has a ball-screen weapon and floor spacer from the wings and corners.
Immanuel Quickley (New York Knicks)
As I’ve stated for weeks, the Knicks couldn’t have expected Immanuel Quickley to play as well as he has for them this season. Quickley has been solid to very good at times this year for the “Knickerbockers,” displaying a lethal floater that all guards should aspire to have in their arsenal.
He leads all rookies in scoring averaging (23.2) points per 36 minutes, and he’s still third in scoring behind only Ball and Edwards n– despite ranking No. 18 in minutes per game!
He possesses extreme confidence and has a bit of the green-light from Tom Thibodeau. The former Kentucky Wildcat is hitting 2.2 pull-ups per game and also hitting 45.3 percent of his catch-and-shoot attempts. He’s got to get better on shot selection inside the arc when he’s not shooting the floater, and he’s still working to find a balance between shot-hunting and playmaking. He’s played a huge role in the Knicks being in playoff contention.
James Wiseman (Golden State Warriors)
The Warriors have a dilemma. Do they just tank the rest of the season and allow James Wiseman to develop much faster, or are they in win-now mode?
This indecisiveness on the part of coach Steve Kerr has stunted the growth of the very talented big man by way of Memphis. Add in some injuries and some immaturity on Wiseman’s part and he hasn’t progressed as we all would have liked.
The way he’s optimized his physical tools on offense shows you he has the “IT” factor, but his defense and defensive awareness is downright atrocious right now and that can be attributed to only playing three games in college. He has an array of offensive moves from hooks, runners, and jumpers, but he needs the Warriors to find that happy medium that’ll allow him to develop and while they’re still being competitive.
Patrick Williams – (Bulls) Despite inconsistent scoring outputs, he seems to give the Bulls something different every game. A true “3&D” guy for years to come.
Saddiq Bey – (Pistons) The young flamethrower in the “Motor City,” has been a real find. He’s scored in double figures in 15 of his last 17 games, while making 2.2 threes per game since his insertion in the starting lineup. Had scoring games of 20 and 28 last week against the Raptors and Rockets. Possesses defensive versatility and effort on that end of the floor as well. Bey is mature beyond his years.
Isaac Okoro – (Cavaliers) Not known as a scorer, Okoro was drafted for his athleticism and ability to defend wings. He’s physical on that end and that’s been a huge reason for the uptick in playing time. But over the last 11 games his shooting (45.0%) has picked up and his three-point shooting is right around (37.0%) in that timeframe.
Jae’Sean Tate – (Rockets) Tate has been a feel-good story in a tumultuous season down in “HTown,” under first-year head coach Stephen Silas.
From COVID-19, to trades (most notably losing James Harden), to injuries the Rockets endured a 20-game losing streak the eighth longest in NBA history.
But Tate has played well, even if he is a tweener without a position in this age of position-less basketball. He’s played power forward, small forward, shooting guard and anywhere else Silas puts him. He does a little bit of everything, but his calling card is on the defensive end. He was undrafted and has turned himself into a solid role player in this league.