The NBA’s Best Role Players
Boston Celtics F Marcus Morris
F.O.E. Morris is a guy who fits seamlessly in any era and is arguably my favorite player in the NBA. He’s Philly tough, leads by example, hits timely shots and does the little things that every squad needs. It gets better. The Celtics don’t have to load him up with designed touches for production because the forward inherently produces throughout the natural flow of an outing. How many guys can you say that about? Recently, Marcus stopped getting the same ink as brother, Markieff and has since found himself in a more favorable position -- he’s playing on a winning team that’s dysfunctional in the Celtics, but nowhere near the mess of the Wizards and becoming arguably the team’s most valuable player. Through the first 43 games of the 2018-19 season, the forward’s teetering the rare 50/40/90 line, a feat typically regarded for Hall of Fame players like Steve Nash, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, and averaging career highs in points (14.8) and rebounds (6.0).Though Boston’s been up-and-down all year, the big-bearded brute remained consistent and will be key to their quest to bring the Larry O’Brien back to Clam Chowda Town.
Brooklyn Nets G/F Joe Harris
Brooklyn’s hotter than hell with Draya Michelle frying bacon in it, boasting a 17-5 record over the last six weeks. The fan base can thank player development God Kenny Atkinson for that, as he’s turned a ragtag group of young castoffs and draft picks into a scary squad who’s currently creeping its way into the Eastern Conference playoffs. The emergence of Harris paired with the Notorious B.I.G. tribute jerseys are also key ingredients to the Nets’ winning equation. Discarded by both Cleveland and Orlando, the shooting guard found a home in Brooklyn, where he’s averaged 13.5 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and a scorching 47.5 percent from 3 -- second in the NBA behind “Best Curry” aka Seth -- through his first 44 games of 2018-19. His ability to spot-up shoot and attack whenever teams blitz him off the 3-point line is at an elite level, and he’s also a puppet master out of the pick-and-roll, making Brooklyn’s offense much more potent when he’s able to use screens to manufacture space or create open shots for teammates. “In the modern NBA,” said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, “he personifies what you’re looking for in a wing.” If I’m a Nets fan, I’m hoping he’s around in the next 2-3 years, when Brooklyn is going to be a conference powerhouse. Book that, it’s bound to happen.
PS: It’s hilarious as hell, but he’s the face of “Gentrified” Brooklyn. Definitely the dude you see in the coffee shop located across the street from the projects.
Minnesota Timberwolves F Robert Covington
I’m not finna go all Rowdy Rebel “Computers” on you nor am I going to load you up with info from the spreadsheet. I will, however, say this: Covington’s brand of basketball is an analytics guys dream and also made him arguably the most Thibs guy former Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau’s ever got the opportunity sweat next to. I mean the forward is literally the epitome of 2K’s Hardened, Enforcer, Deep-Range Deadeye and Defensive Anchor badges.Though Thibodeau’s gone, there’s plenty of reason to suggest Minnesota interim head coach Ryan Saunders (R.I.P. to his pops, the great, Flip) will quickly fall in love with “RoCo.” He currently ranks fourth in the league in deflections (3.6), shoots a scorching 37.2 percent from deep while averaging a career-high 14.5 points (22 games with Minnesota), can guard multiple position and has been the catalyst behind Karl Anthony-Towns’ growth on the defensive end. Do-it-all players like Covington are invaluable. Free Rowdy Rebel and the 9!!!
PS: If you look up 3-and-D player in the Hoops dictionary, Covington’s smiling ass will be looking right back at you.
L.A. Clippers F/C Montrezl Harrell
While staring at the TV in awe as Harrell routinely imposed his will against a number of communications majors (no shade, I was one too) at Louisville, I swore I was watching the reincarnation of Antonio McDyess. Dude dunked everything, possessed endless energy and was so bouncy it seemed like the rim needed to be adjusted to 12-feet or else he’d break it. Now, I wondered how the skill set of an “undersized” big man -- 6-foot-8 -- with no perimeter game would translate to the now positionless NBA, but after a few obscure seasons in Houston, the Sneaker Prince has found his footing in Los Angeles. Stephen A. Smith’s called him “the closest thing to Dennis Rodman in today’s NBA.” Clippers coach Doc Rivers thinks he’s fit enough to play “58 minutes” a game. And he’s made life a living hell for opposing big men on the floor, out-hustling opposing centers when running the 5 in small-ball lineups and feasting on mouses whenever they’re in the house. According to NBA.com, the forward currently leads the Clippers in effective field goal percentage (62.0) and (63.8). He’s also averaging career highs in points (15.6) and rebounds (6.9) while playing only 25.7 minutes off the bench. Not only is Harrell in the running for both Most Improved Player and Sixth Man, he’s been the engine behind a Clippers team that’s performed more like an Audi i than the PT Cruiser it resembles on paper.
Toronto Raptor PG Fred VanVleet
4MPHyAli needs to quit his day job and become a full-time scout. On my mama n ‘nem, he was the only person who thought VanVleet had a chance at making it in the league besides VanVleet himself. I don’t know if it was the double crossovers VanVleezy hit boys with during his Wichita Stated days or if my guy just has a thing for hoopers with no definition but fit all the stereotypes reserved for caucasian players -- dude was a fan of Khalid El-Amin, Scottie Reynolds and LeVance Fields. Either way, HyAli was up to something. Since landing in Toronto, we’ve learned VanVleet is more than a collegiate overachiever who resembles Winnie the Pooh.. Let’s keep it a buck, “Freddy Baaaaaaaaaaby” is actually the most valuable backup floor general in basketball. He thrived during Kyle Lowry’s absence early in 2018-19, posting a plus-14.3 plus-minus in his first 16 games as the Raptors’ starter. He’s a cool customer who isn’t afraid to take clutch shots in key moments. And the floor general can spot-up off ball, play lead guard and defend multiple positions due to a sturdy build (6-foot,195 pounds) that resembles a power running back. Guys like VanVleet get run in a variety of rotations. Obviously, Toronto’s scouting department missed the potential over production memo. Kudos to them.