Welcome back to Best of the Spurs week! We’re really getting into the stretch run now, so there are endless amounts of storylines around the league.
Let’s dive right in.
Ja Morant just had the dunk of the year— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) March 1, 2022
Oh my pic.twitter.com/mzgJVlcOKR
Ja Morant followed up his poster dunk with this crazy buzzer beater! pic.twitter.com/ywFnNwkc5A— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) March 1, 2022
I’m sorry for triggering the PTSD that Spurs fans already have from this game, but Ja Morant deserves his due.
Seriously, is there a more fun player to watch in the league right now? He really looks like the second coming of Derrick Rose, and we should all hope that his career won’t be derailed by injuries in the way that D-Rose’s was.
Although I don’t think the Grizzlies are in the upper echelon of contenders this year, they’re definitely banging on that door. And with them also being the youngest team in the league, would it shock anyone if Morant leads Memphis to a championship within the coming years?
Of course, we’ve seen lots of recent young teams harbour those same expectations but fall short, like the 2018 Celtics and 2021 Hawks, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Grizzlies build upon their success next year.
Most absurd game
What a game! Dejounte Murray drops a 31pt triple-double on a double OT win against the Wizards pic.twitter.com/ItPg12lnw1— Spurs Nation (@SpursNationCP) February 26, 2022
Jakob Poeltl today:— 2️⃣↔️ #JabariSZN (@Twowayh00ps) February 26, 2022
Elite defense pic.twitter.com/h8ro28cTIh
Most Spurs have been busy proclaiming Dejounte as one of the most underrated players in the league, but I actually think that Poeltl has a much stronger case for that title.
Yes, his defensive numbers are down from last year, but I think that’s more a product of the team’s struggles rather than any decline in his own play. Poeltl’s still one of the most impactful defensive players in the league and an elite rim protector while quietly developing into a much better offensive player too.
Ben Taylor of Thinking Basketball recently named Poeltl to his “sub All-Stars” team, and while I wouldn’t go that far, there’s no doubt that the big man has turned into an above-average starter and one of the better centres in the league.
He’s also on one of the best contracts in the league, so I don’t blame the Spurs for not trading him at the deadline.
Steven Adams lit up when I asked him about Jakob Poeltl having a career season.— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) February 28, 2022
"Awesome. I have always loved that dude. Just because he’s like, not old school, but he just knows how to play the game and how to make his teammates better."
Most random story
Try POELTL— Gabe (@gabedanon) February 25, 2022
(It's like Wordle but with NBA players)https://t.co/lLt4HUtHam
I think I’m the only person who hasn’t played WORDLE yet... and now there’s a POELTL???
Boy, I feel so behind...
Most accurate statement
Jakob Poeltl is averaging career-highs in legit every stat and yet he'll be known to the masses for being a word game and getting dunked on by Ja Morant pic.twitter.com/5U14SHjbxf— Dylan Hunter Carter (@DylanHCarter) March 1, 2022
Best contract news
REPORT: Nikola Jokic is expected to sign a 5-year, $241M supermax extension this off-season, via @sidelinesources.— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) March 3, 2022
Joel Embiid is probably the favourite to win the MVP right now, and he’s a very deserving candidate, but Jokic should win it in my mind. The man is currently averaging 25.4 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 7.9 assists while sporting a true shooting percentage that’s about 9% higher than the league average.
That’s absolutely insane volume and efficiency for a guy whose best trait is playmaking instead of scoring.
At this point, I have no problem proclaiming Jokic as one of the ten greatest offensive players of all time. Not just among centres, but everyone who’s ever graced the hardware.
Still not convinced? Consider this: the Nuggets are +9.5 points per 100 possessions with Jokic on the floor and -11.0 without him. And although advanced stats are often noisy, Jokic having a RAPTOR of 16.6 that is almost double the second-place player (Steph with 9.8) must mean something, right?
Ok, I’ve geeked about Jokic long enough. Let’s move on.
Worst contract news
Bradley Beal will be eligible to sign a 5-year, $246M deal with Washington, if he declines his player option on 2022-2023. https://t.co/W9VidgGA5y— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 3, 2022
Giving Bradley “not Nikola Jokic” Beal a supermax will be... something. It basically traps the Wizards in a state of mediocrity for the next half-decade without an easy path to contention or bottoming out.
The good news is that Tommy Sheppard has basically become a master of trading away bad contracts. All he needs is a younger version of Westbrook to swap for Beal, before sending that player to the Lakers while fleecing them in the process.
Career threes as a Sixer:— StatMuse (@statmuse) February 26, 2022
5 — James Harden in 1 game
5 — Ben Simmons pic.twitter.com/yBPWQAzkV8
Best visual representation
The free throw line after Embiid and Harden first game together pic.twitter.com/VtWhk6eX73— StatMuse (@statmuse) February 25, 2022
I’m not sure how others feel about this, but I was absolutely DELIGHTED when 1) the Harden-Simmons deal happened, and 2) seeing the chemistry and success that Harden and Embiid have enjoyed thus far.
Why? Well, I was rooting for Harden to get traded to Philly last year since I’ve always wanted to see how a partnership between an elite guard and dominant big would play out. This deal also makes the East that much more entertaining since there are more teams with legitimate championship aspirations now.
Will the free throws get annoying? Maybe, but that’s a small price to pay. In fact, I’ll probably get a kick out of seeing all the appalling reactions from rival fans.
Yep, I was definitely popular at school.
Best “duh” moment
REPORT: Russell Westbrook and the Lakers have interest in finding a new home for the point guard this summer, via B/R. pic.twitter.com/njt7Ym6Qdk— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) March 2, 2022
Best summary of the Lakers
Full disclosure: I picked the Lakers to make the finals this year. No, I won’t make any excuses and I’m holding myself accountable for it.
Everyone knew that Westbrook wasn’t going to be a good fit, but did anyone expect him to be this bad? I always assumed that he could carry a lot of the regular season load and let LeBron and AD take some time off, but it’s instead been LeBron who’s needed to revert back to the old Cleveland days and put the entire team on his shoulders for the entire year.
Even though AD has been injured for large stretches of the season, it’s still insane to see a team with him and LeBron barely scrape into the play-in tournament. There’s definitely going to be some fireworks happening in LA this summer.
Best Pop appreciation
At 73, Gregg Popovich is still evolving.— The Athletic NBA (@TheAthleticNBA) March 3, 2022
And he’s as demanding as ever.
“Pop don’t play that. It’s not BS. It’s all stuff that makes sense.”
As the @spurs coach closes in on the NBA’s win summit, @davidaldridgedc reflects on a legendary career.https://t.co/hm1gd7mAQc pic.twitter.com/fIQiWZxor0
By the time you’re reading this, Pop might have already tied the all-time wins record. Hopefully we’ll be talking about him being #1 this time next week and cementing his place as the GOAT.