NBA Hype Alert: Whose Got The Post All-Star Break Glow?
If your girl is just now returning from All-Star weekend in Charlotte, I can promise you that she is no longer yours, my boy. Her new and improved version of herself likely stems from fringe interactions with mid-grade celebrities, offset by casual advances from ball-players of some sort. She’s putting her plan into motion: accruing Instagram and Twitter followers to gain exposure and springboard herself the hell away from you and your non-All-Star tendencies. As fate would have it, the NBA’s top hoopers are in the similar process of springboarding themselves into next gear before the playoffs. Before “your” girl has a chance to deliver her coup de grace, check out our list of players who are going to lay waste to opposition for the rest of the season
Chicago Bulls F Lauri Markkanen
I can’t say Markkanen’s name without quoting Detroit emcee Sada Baby, who once rapped, “Big ass shotgun look like Lauri Markkanen.” I mean dawg, Markkanen is a big ass shooter whose accuracy from distance would make even the best Call of Duty players blush. The forward entered February with guns blazing, averaging 12.5 rebounds, 25.3 points and shooting 49.0 percent from the field and 36.6 percent from distance through the first six games prior to the All-Star break. After missing the first two months of the season due to injury, “The Finisher” has finally found his groove. His play has cemented him as the unquestioned centerpiece on a Bulls franchise who’s two years away from being two years away. Look out.
Phoenix Suns F Kelly Oubre Jr.
The final part of the season is usually a time when coaches are told to unleash fringe NBAers and impending free agents, and an all-out war for career stability and upgrades in salary ensues. Oubre, whose contract is up this offseason, fits in the latter segment and will have a wealth of opportunities to secure a Brinks truck visit from Phoenix or one of the league’s other teams not named Washington. In his first 28 games with the Suns, “Wave Papi’s” made a case for the type of money that would make Rod Tidwell proud, averaging a career-high 15.4 points on 44.3 percent shooting and adding toughness to a young squad that lacks resolve. He’s also been a serial body catcher who’s made the paint a dangerous place for rim protectors. First you get the Converse deal, then you get the power, and now you buss the big lick.
Los Angeles Clippers C Ivica Zubac
Here’s some insight into how great Zubac wants to be: According to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar himself, the 21-year-old is the only player who’s ever approached him about wanting to learn the sky hook. That’s insane given how many great Lakers big men had Jabbar at their disposal. I mean, dude primarily used a single shot to accrue the most points in NBA history (38,387). Wouldn’t this be a question upon the first encounter? Nonetheless, Zubac is the only one who inquired, and his inquisitiveness is akin to the growth in his game. We all saw when he single-handedly crushed the Warriors frontline on Christmas, tallying 18 points, 11 rebounds, and two blocks. And he had more nights like Christmas during his third season with the Lake Show, posting four double-doubles in 33 games. With nobody to steal minutes in Clipperland, the other LA is going to unleash Super Saiyan Zubac. If you know like we know, then dawg, you know.
Cleveland Cavaliers PG Collin Sexton
Remember at the beginning of the year when The Athletic released the article in which several unnamed Cavs sources took shots at Sexton, even going as far to say, “he didn’t know how to play”? That seems like an eternity ago, as Sexton has become the best basketball player on a team full of lackluster hoopers in their own right. During the pre-draft process, one of the knocks on the “Young Bull” was his lack of a consistent long-range shot. He quickly addressed that, nailing 39.2 percent of his treys, including 42.4 percent of them in the final six games before the All-Star break --- averaging 21.2 points over this span. Though he’s still more of a score-first, downhill point guard, the rookie has taken strides in the pace department, showing more patience in how he attacks the rim. Listen, the Cavs aren’t trying to win games. Most of the guys on that team won’t be here come 2019-20. There’s absolutely no risk in continuing to let Sexton operate the ship.
New York Knicks PG Dennis Smith Jr.
Personally don’t think Rick Carlisle ever liked Smith. That’s nothing against neither Smith nor Carlisle. He’s just not a Carlisle guard, and the handcuffs were too tight for that relationship to truly blossom. Combine that with the fact Smith doesn’t fit the profile of Mark Cuban’s typical man crush (he’s an AAU baby who may or may not have a mixtape coming soon) and the selection of Euro Larry Legend, Luka Doncic, and the writing was on the wall for “Da Smith Way.” Either learn how to play off ball or get shipped to Moron Mountain -- New York. Luckily for Smith, he got a first-class flight to Moron Mountain, where he’s getting the chance to audition for a coach who adores him: Player Development God David Fizdale. Smith Jr. finally has the freedom to be the Dennis Smith Jr. we knew from HoopsMixtape. He’s the ultimate Point God, and the bright lights of Madison Square Garden are the perfect place to showcase such.