Lonzo Ball returns to form amid trade rumors

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Sandeep Chandok
·8 min read
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The future of the NBA is in good hands for two reasons. One, because of the abundance of talent in the league and two, because Robinhood can’t block it from trading.

Nikola Jokic dropped 35 points, 10 boards and five dimes in a 119-109 loss to the Spurs, continuing to build upon his case for MVP. One of the guys also vying for the coveted award, Joel Embiid, put another stamp on his position with 37 points, 11 rebounds and three assists. Embiid’s performance also proved to be historic, per Elias Sports, as he became the third player in franchise history to log five straight games with at least 35 points and 10 boards, joining Charles Barkley and Will Chamberlain on that list.

As for the reigning two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, he tallied 38/11/5/2/2 as the Bucks comeback effort was too little, too late vs the Pelicans.

And what if I told you that Trae Young scored 41 points but only needed five 3-pointers to do so? He shot 10-of-18 from the field but made a killing at the line, hitting 16-of-17 free throws, leading the Hawks to a 116-100 win over the Wizards who continue to lose games.

Here’s some of the best and the worst from the association on Jan. 29.

The good

Theo Maledon - Arguably the best story from the league on Friday night was Theo Maledon. In just his third start of the season, the 19-year-old rookie out of France scored a career-high 24 points on 8-of-9 including 6-of-6 from distance which tied an NBA rookie record. He also added three rebounds, three assists and a steal in the game, but it’s the hot perimeter shooting that really caught people’s attention. Now, I’m not saying run to the waivers and grab him because it’s not that serious, yet. He’s been starting when George Hill has been sidelined, which was the case vs the Nets. But keep an eye on him as a streaming option if Hill misses games.

Lonzo Ball - All it took for Lonzo to start hooping was some trade speculation surrounding his name. Not the most ideal situation, but the Pelicans must be happy about it. Ball had what was by far his best game of the year on Friday vs the Bucks, notching a season-high 27 points and eight assists in New Orleans’ 131-126 win. He made seven 3-pointers which tied a career-best mark for him, and attempted 20 shots in the game, also a season-high. This is the Lonzo Ball that we all expect to see on a day-to-day basis, one that’s aggressive on offense and never hesitant to pull the trigger when he has an open look. We know he’s an unselfish player with tremendous playmaking abilities and also a good defender. Is he going to score 25-plus every night? No. He doesn’t need to. But he has to be a threat and that all stems from his confidence. If he can use this game as a kick-starter for the rest of the season, there’s no way the Pelicans will trade him because he impacts winning in multiple ways. Fantasy managers should hang onto him tightly, this could be the turning point for Lonzo moving forward.

Darius Garland - Best known for being one half of ‘Sexland,’ the Cavs guard had his best game since returning from a shoulder injury on Friday night vs the Knicks. He recorded a season-high 24 points, three rebounds and two steals on 9-of-17 shooting with four 3-pointers in 29 minutes. The one assist was a season-low, but let’s focus on the positives. Garland is coming along nicely in his sophomore campaign, averaging 14.3 points. 5.5 assists, 2.6 rebounds and a steal each game. He can run point and play the off guard role which is perfect alongside Collin Sexton, the other half of ‘Sexland,’ because he similar. Neither player is a true point guard or true shooting guard, but it works out for the Cavs because it gives them two dynamic guards who can score and create for others. Garland is still available in 29% of Yahoo leagues.

Immanuel Quickley - I’m going to keep writing about Quickley until he’s a full-time starter and no one can stop me. We’ll call it “writing it into existence.” The University of Kentucky product bounced back from a six-point, 1-of-11 performance on Tuesday with 25 points, five rebounds and three assists on Friday in a win over the Cavs. He scored 14 points in the final frame and shot 9-of-17 overall with five 3-pointers in 25 minutes. Yeah, he scored a point per minute. Minus Tuesday’s game, the rookie has 56 points, eight boards, seven dimes and 10 triples in the Knicks’ other two contests this week. Yes, I understand he’s been a bit up-and-down this season, but the best way for him to learn and improve is to play. And he really doesn’t have much competition as Elfrid Payton has been average and Austin Rivers is the team’s sixth-man. So, at this point, Tom Thibodeau is the only person holding Quickley back, but he can’t do it for much longer. I’d grab him off waivers before someone else does.

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The bad

Richaun Holmes - The Kings center had one of his worst games of the year vs the Raptors on Friday night. He scored just five points with five boards and committed four turnovers before fouling out in 26 minutes. He tacked on two assists, two blocks and a steal, but it was the fifth time this season he fell short of double-digit scoring, and he’s picking up 4.2 fouls per game which is the most in the NBA, per Team Rankings. That ultimately gives guys like Marvin Bagley III and Hassan Whiteside (16 points, nine rebounds) a chance to thrive. He has to learn how to play defense without fouling because the best ability is availability, and when he’s available, Holmes is posting a nightly 13.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks, good for 31st in 9-cat. Someone tell him to move his feet, stay down on fakes and stop reaching.

Michael Porter Jr. - Coming into Friday night, MPJ had totaled 47 points, 13 rebounds, six steals and nine 3-pointers in 53 minutes over two games. Against the Spurs, he played just 19 minutes and finished with nine points, four rebounds and two blocks. The Nuggets won the first two games and lost the third vs San Antonio, for the record, and it’s not his fault he had a quiet outing vs San Antonio. The question we’re all wondering is, why did Porter Jr. barely play? The answer is Michael Malone. I know MPJ is a pretty bad defender, but he’s Denver’s third-best player and the second most consistent one behind Nikola Jokic, so there’s no reason he shouldn’t be playing around 30 minutes per contest. The former Mizzou Tiger is averaging 18.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 28 minutes through nine games. He’s also shooting lights out in all aspects including 56% on field goals, 47% from deep and 86% from the line. Those numbers put him inside the top-20 in 9-cat leagues, imagine what he could do with more action. Is it time to start saying free Michael Porter Jr.?

D’Angelo Russell - D-Lo returned to the court after missing three contests with a bruised right quad but he struggled, scoring just 14 points on 3-of-11 shooting and 1-of-7 from beyond the arc. The injury might’ve been bothering him a bit, though he wasn’t doing too hot before the injury either. Over his last three games, Russell has failed to reach 20 points, is a combined 12-of-37 from the floor and is only connecting on 32% of his threes. I know Karl-Anthony Towns has been out, which puts more pressure on the D-Lo to carry the load. But when you get paid the big bucks as he does, and your ADP in Yahoo leagues was 43, we’re going to need a bit more consistency from you, my man. A 91 ranking in 9-cat leagues through 18 games is underwhelming.