Bench Dribble Podcast: Ja Morant has Rookie of the Year tied up already
Ja Morant has locked up the ROY race before Zion Williamson has even debuted. There's that and more in our NBA weekly wrap.
NBA veterans pay attention, the young kids are coming. That's probably been the biggest lesson learned in this year's NBA season so far, that there's no shortage of young talent. Giannis Antetokounmpo is just 25 and looks like he'll win back-to-back MVP awards.
Luka Dončić is in just his second season and could be second in the MVP race, depending who you ask. Dončić is also just 20 years old and leading the NBA in triple-doubles.
There's Australia's own Ben Simmons, who despite constant criticism, is a genuine superstar and sneaky Defensive Player of the Year candidate. That's just a few of the names that will be multiple time All-Stars over this decade.
Then we have the likes of Nikola Jokić and Donovan Mitchell who are leading their teams to the top of the standings in the Western Conference.
We haven't even mentioned yet this year's rookie class headline by Ja Morant or the forthcoming debut of Zion Williamson. The future of the NBA couldn't be in a better place.
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Ja Morant is your rookie of the year
While this year's rookie class has been fairly solid, Ja Morant has taken it upon himself to show who the best newbie has been. Morant and the Grizzlies are on a tear right now. The Grizzlies are winners of seven straight and it has been spearheaded by the freakish Morant.
Even though he's a point guard, which is typically the smallest player on the floor, Morant plays like he's the biggest. The athleticism of Morant is ridiculous and if you've watched him play before, you'll have likely seen him bounce straight back up after a mid-air collision.
Leading all rookies with averages of 17.9 points and 7.0 assists per game, his highlight plays and guiding Memphis towards a play-off spot are sure to lock up the Rookie of the Year award.
Zion Williamson set to debut
For a while it had looked like Zion was set to be a scratch for this year. Then fairly miraculously out of nowhere, Pelicans GM David Griffin announced Zion will debut against the San Antonio Spurs on 23 January exclusively on ESPN and NBA League Pass.
While we're stoked to see Williamson on the court, New Orleans have robbed fans. Two days before this game the Pelicans are in town against the Grizzlies on Martin Luther King Day. We could've had Zion vs Morant on ESPN. Instead we'll have to wait.
Marcus Smart is fake tough
During last week's nationally televised blockbuster Boston Celtics vs Milwaukee Bucks clash there was an unsportsmanlike moment you probably missed. Marcus Smart fell or some feel flopped when he was trying to stop Giannis Antetokounmpo from getting to the rim.
Sounds fairly innocuous right? Well it's what Smart did on the floor that caught our attention. Smart grabbed hold of Antetokounmpo's leg as he landed and then looked to roll his body weight over Giannis' ankle.
And grabbed his ankle. I despise his game so much. pic.twitter.com/dmIQsYqGnH
— Tony Clements (@TonyClementsTC) January 17, 2020
That's a bush league move. While there's no doubting Smart is an elite defender, he continuously tries to claim how tough he is. The problem is his words and actions don't meet up.
Smart has a history of flopping so badly that there are compilation videos. He also often tries to get into it with other players, while utilising the classic hold me back. If he wants his reputation to be tough then he needs to do it by playing hard and without flailing at non-existent contact.
Most importantly don't try and intentionally injure an opposing player cause he's kicking your team's backsides.
This has led to us putting together our All-NBA fake tough team. Spoiler alert Smart has earned a starting position. You can hear the rest of the squad on Monday's podcast.
NBA trade season is in full swing
Go to your Twitter notifications and turn on alerts for Woj and Shams. We're rocketing towards the NBA trade deadline and deals have already started happening. Woj and Shams are the two biggest news breakers in the association and if your alerts aren't on you may find your team has shipped out talent days after.
It begun with Aussie Dante Exum shipped to the Cavaliers for Jordan Clarkson. Now we've seen the Hawks, Timberwolves, Kings and Trail Blazers all make deals. Though neither of these have made total sense.
First it was Atlanta and Minnesota shaking hands. Jeff Teague is going full circle after being sent packing from the T-Wolves back to Atlanta where he'll likely back up Trae Young. The deal is bizarre as it feels like Minnesota are giving up on the season, by accepting the injured Allen Crabbe in return.
Atlanta has traded guard Allen Crabbe to Minnesota for PG Jeff Teague and Treveon Graham, league sources tell ESPN. Hawks get a backup for Trae Young.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 16, 2020
Then on Sunday morning news came through that Portland and Sacramento were retooling their rosters. Out the door from Portland goes Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver and some second-round picks. In comes proven swingman Trevor Ariza and unproven bigs Wenyen Gabriel and Caleb Swanigan.
Blazers save $12.3M on the deal, cuts luxury tax bill in half. https://t.co/R4lAgLbQ9R
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 18, 2020
Both of these deals seem like Portland and Minnesota specifically are looking to just cut costs. We'll analyse these trades completely on the next podcast.
Also read: SBS NBA January schedule.
NBA All-Star voting
The NBA All-Star game is in Chicago on 17 February. Voting for this year's All-Star game is in its final week. To vote you simply have to search NBA All-Star voting and then vote through Google.
When we were last given a peek at results LeBron James led the way in the west and Giannis Antetokounmpo led the east. This would mean that going off of the fan vote we'd end up with same two team captains as last year. Though Dončić is hot on LeBron's heels.
Alas fan voting is just 50% of the vote and there's good reason for that. Over the years some fun but not so elite players have been targeted by fans trying to get them into the All-Star game.
That forced the NBA to change the system. Now in addition to the fan vote, 25% stems from a player vote and 25% by selected media. So basketball purists need not worry that Lakers cult hero Alex Caruso and Celtics giant rookie Tacko Fall won't occupy an All-Star roster spot.
The third returns from #VoteNBAAllStar 2020!
— NBA (@NBA) January 16, 2020
Image source: Kayo Sports website
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