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Spartans in the NBA - November-December

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NBA: Miami Heat at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

What is this thing?

Hey gang, here is a quick update on some Spartans in the NBA after November and the first few weeks of December.

Zach Randolph (Sacramento Kings)

Z-Bo, the 18-year vet, still has not yet played for the Kings this season, but I am hopeful that he can get a buy-out or included in a trade so that he can have a shot to get on the court.

Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors)

After his much publicized spat with Kevin Durant (Durant yelled at Green for trying to make a basketball play, Green escalated the yelling quickly to Durant’s lack of commitment to the team, Green was suspended for a game) and a lingering toe sprain (which kept him out for a few weeks), Draymond has returned to the court and is playing his game beautifully (minus his shooting which has been poor this year from 3). He is only averaging 6 points per game, but is humming along at 8 rebs, 7 assists, and nearly 3 combined steals and blocks per game. I expect his scoring to tick back up as the season goes, but more than anything Green seems to be moving well after his injury. His passing is outstanding, his defense on the ball and as a help-defender is still superb (and getting back to his all-defense level), and his insistence on pushing the pace is really helping the Warriors offense (which had stagnated in a serious way without him, even after Curry got back from his injury). Draymond will not be an All-Star this year, and likely won’t win DPOY, but I expect him to be dynamite to close the season and to work his way onto an All-Defense team.

Gary Harris (Denver Nuggets)

Gary Harris is injured right now, unfortunately, with a bum hip (although he is probably a week or so away from getting back on the court). He hasn’t had a great shooting start to the year, but his defense and finishing of plays and possessions on both ends has been outstanding. The Nuggets have vaulted into the upper echelon of the western conference thanks to the awesome play of Harris, Murray, Jokic, and their outstanding bench. When they get Millsap, Barton, and Harris back from their respective injuries this team will be a real force, and likely will finish in the top 4 in the west. Gary has been great, and when he starts hitting from range his numbers will jump up even more.

Denzel Valentine (Chicago Bulls)

Unfortunately, for both Denzel and the Bulls, Valentine has been put onto the IR for the season after having ankle surgery. It will be an interesting off-season for Valentine (and the entire Bulls organization, which just fired their coach and has some tantalizing talent in spite of having one of the worst front-offices in the league), who will likely enter next season on the fringe of the rotation, but should be able to carve out a role for himself in the final year of his rookie deal (the Bulls picked up his 4th year option in October).

Bryn Forbes (San Antonio Spurs)

Bryn Forbes’ success story just keeps rolling on. While Spurs are fighting for the 8th spot in the western conference Bryn is doing his part in all aspects of the game. Needless to say it is awesome to see Bryn thriving for the Spurs. Bryn is still starting, despite Derrick White’s return from injury, and he is having a heck of a season. Averaging 11 pts, 2 rebs, 2 assists, and shooting 45% overall, 40% from 3, and 84% from the line, Bryn is doing exactly what the Spurs need - competing on defense, executing on offense, and taking to his role with passion and desire. Oh, and he got a sweet double-double a bit ago (the first in his NBA career after not having got one in college or HS according to the man himself).

Miles Bridges (Charlotte Hornets)

Miles Bridges’ solid rookie season continues for the Hornets. He is averaging 8 pts, 4 rebs, 1 assist, and a combined 1.5 steals and blocks per game on 48% shooting overall, 36% from 3, and 75% from the line. Miles is about a year away from taking over the starting role from Nic Batum (he really probably should be starting now, but Batum provides some experience and a bit more vet savy), and is just very solid as a rookie. He is doing everything one would expect on offense - hitting open shots, dunking around the rim, driving when given the opportunity, making passes, and being in the right spots - and doing well defensively (Borrego, the coach of the Hornets, often puts Bridges on the opponent’s best player when Bridges is in the game, and he looks like he will become a serious defensive stopper in the years to come). I can’t wait to see what happens with this team as they are in the fight for a playoff spot (currently 7th) and based on talent should make the playoffs. If Kemba Walker stays in Charlotte this off-season then Miles will be able to continue to grow with a playoff team, and if not, then he may be thrust into a higher-usage role as of next season. Either way, this kid from Flint has the NBA world at his feet.

Jaren Jackson jr (Memphis Grizzlies)

It’s happening already. JJJ is already starting to adjust to the NBA game and is getting better and better before our eyes. He is in the ideal spot with Gasol and Conley and the other awesome vets on the excellent, yet limited, Grizzlies team and, unlike Deyonta Davis before him, is really taking to his role and to the NBA game with aplomb. Jackson is still starting, and is slowly but surely stringing together longer stretches of foul-free awesome basketball. He is averaging 12 pts, 4.5 rebs, 1 assist, and nearly 3 combined blocks and steals per game. He is shooting 50% overall, up to 33% from 3 (after his early cold shooting from 3), and 76% from the line. Needless to say he is looking better and better. Bickerstaff jr is a great coach for him, and the Grizzlies are an awesome team for him. Memphis is in a good position to make the playoffs so we should get a chance to see JJJ plenty in the postseason (unless he does things that cause Bickerstaff jr to sit him for long stretches after JJJ makes a few bad mistakes, which he does, in a manner erily reminiscent of another coach JJJ used to work with).

That’s all for now, I will try to do another one of these closer to the All-Star break!

Go Green!!!