UConn in the NBA post-break update


Portland Trail Blazers guard Shabazz Napier, left, shoots over Phoenix Suns guard Troy Daniels during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

Welcome back to the frozen tundra that is spring semester in Storrs. While we were off enjoying our month of snow bombs and cocktails on vacation trips to Aruba, the NBA season kept on cruising. A month away from the never-ending NBA action means there’s a lot to catch up on. Players’ and teams’ seasons have taken turns, All-Star Weekend is right around the corner and the playoffs loom large over the league’s middle class. Let’s see how this past month has treated our Husky alumni and identify if we’ll be seeing them in the All-Star game, and whether or not their team looks like they’ll be in the playoffs.

Andre Drummond:

Drummond didn’t start the season at the top of this list; that spot belonged to Kemba Walker. But once Drummond overtook his spot, there was no looking back for the big man. Unsurprisingly, Drummond leads the league in rebounds this year. What is surprising is that his adequacy at the free throw line and stellar passing haven’t been flukes. He is shooting a career-high 63 percent at the free throw line while making three free throws a game for the first time in his career. His 3.8 assists per game are more than triple his next-highest season average. This is also the first time in his career that he’s had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. Drummond is having his best season ever and will be rewarded for it by playing in the All-Star Game Feb. 18. Unfortunately for his team, though, their playoff chances have begun to look worse by the day. With starting point guard Reggie Jackson out for at least a couple more weeks, the team has a weak grip on the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.

Kemba Walker:

Sorry, Kemba. There’s really not much else you can say to a guy whose team started the year as a playoff hopeful and now sits five games back of a berth halfway through. And sorry again, Kemba, because we may have expected too much after your breakout year one season ago. Walker certainly isn’t having a bad season (21.7 points, 5.8 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 2.1 turnovers per game on 42.5 percent shooting from the field and 34.5 percent from three) but all of his stats besides assists are down from a season ago. This was supposed to be the primetime year where he built on last season’s performance and came back even better. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, and Walker’s performance may not even be enough to get him into the All-Star Game. As for the rest of his team’s performance, it looks like that won’t be enough to get him into the playoffs either. One last time, sorry Kemba.

Jeremy Lamb:

Lamb’s play to start the season was stellar. While Nicolas Batum was out, Lamb was scoring in the high teens per game with dazzling shooting percentages and averaging career-highs in nearly every stat. Since Batum’s return, Lamb’s numbers have fallen off, but not by too much, as he is still averaging career-highs in nearly every stat. Lamb is averaging 14 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game on 44.7 percent shooting from the field and 34.8 percent from three. The numbers don’t jump out at you, but Lamb is still having a solid season worth some recognition. He won’t get it in the All-Star Game though, and as for the playoffs, you can refer to the Kemba paragraph to see how the Hornets are doing.

Rudy Gay:

Gay’s season has not changed much, if at all since the last ranking of these players. He has been steady as a member of the San Antonio Spurs’ bench force, and has made solid contributions in his career-low 22.7 minutes per game. What’s interesting though is a quick look at Gay’s per-36 minute numbers, which are right around his career averages for nearly every stat. It’s not as if Gay’s play has reduced by a staggering amount, he’s just playing less, which allows him to be just as useful in small doses. Gay has no chance of making the All-Star Game. But as for his San Antonio Spurs making the playoffs, he’s the only guy on this list that will definitely be playing in April.

Shabazz Napier:

A poor start to the season made it seem as if Napier’s NBA career could soon be out the window. However, his recent performances make him look like a useful backup behind one of the game’s premier point guards, Damian Lillard. His play when Lillard sat out due to injury for five games made him look like a reliable starting point guard. All in all, Shabazz is having a fine season, averaging a career-high 10 points per game while shooting 48.2 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from three. But those games without Lillard were exceptional. In those five games, Napier averaged 18 points, five assists and 4.6 rebounds per game. It’s a small sample size, but maybe Napier is capable of more than what he’s showing as a backup in Portland. We won’t see it in the All-Star Game, and maybe not in the playoffs either, but perhaps Napier will shine one day in the future.

Zac Lane is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at zac.lane@uconn.edu.

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