I’ll eventually come up with some cheesy name for this but the plan is to do a weekly column of what I’ve seen from the week and my main takeaways. This week includes stats & thoughts from games against the Chicago Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Los Angeles Lakers. Let’s dive in.
PJ Washington, ROY?
PJ is averaging 15 points and seven rebounds a game on over 63% TS. Those scoring numbers have been boosted by an incredible first game performance in which he scored 27 points and hit 7(!!!) three pointers. That’s not the PJ we should expect to see but man it was fun. I expect him to settle in at around 10-12 points a game and around 6-7 rebounds a game and that makes it fair to wonder if he’ll get any ROY love with Zion out. I ultimately think not but I believe he’ll be on the most impactful rookies this year.
We’ve already seen the shooting and it’s amazing to see that he’ll get it up with volume too. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles close outs and I’m pretty bullish on his ability there from what we’ve seen in college and the preseason. He hasn’t shot great at the rim (2/7 on layups/hook shots per basketball reference) but I expect that to improve because of his strength level and shooting touch. I’d love to see some more post touches from PJ as I think he’s capable to punish smaller defenders and this’ll make him really dynamic on the offensive.
On defense, he’s been as good as advertised. He’s a terrific help defender and can clean up mistakes made by others. He’s not the best in space but holds up well enough in a pinch. The most impressive part of his game has been his post defense for me. I wasn’t sure what to think about him guarding bigger players.
I don’t think he’d be good against, say a guy like Joel Embiid, but I loved what I saw from him against Anthony Davis. AD dominated but not against PJ. From my eye, PJ held up against AD well in the post leveraging his strength. Most of AD’s points came from scoring on switches and on Marvin. NBA matchup data isn’t the best but according to it, AD didn’t score on PJ at all. I’m not trying to say PJ is a stopper but he can definitely hold up which makes me optimistic about his use at the 5. Ultimately, PJ looks good and I’m excited to see him flourish.
Devonté Graham hot streak
Have to mention DG here. As our backup PG, he’s averaging around 19 points and six assists a game with over a 65% TS. His shooting has come some back to earth as he went 1/13 against the Lakers but he’s been good. For him to be the player that I think we all want him to be, he needs to shoot and boy is he:
Té isn’t the next coming of Steph Curry but I’m confident that he shoots around 38-40% from 3. That plus his passing makes him a legitimate positive on offense. He may be better than Terry Rozier and I’m sure that’ll be an interesting debate throughout the year. Nevertheless, I’m here for confident Devonté.
Cody Zeller hoopin’
Had to show some appreciation for my guy Cody. I prematurely crowned PJ as our best player when it’s definitely Cody. After missing the T’Wolves game, Zeller came to LA and showed out. He won’t get 19 and 14 every night but Cody is just super impactful. He does all of the little things and while he’s not going to block a million shots or score 20 a night, he’s super valuable on both ends of the floor. In a game where the Hornets lost by 19, the only Hornets player with a positive +\- was Cody. Zeller is great and we have to put some respect on his name.
Okay so the numbers with Monk aren’t great. I’m going to spare you all from looking at them here. I would not recommend looking at them at all to be honest. I truly don’t think he’s been as bad as it says though. He’s never going to be a difference maker, but he’s made decent rotations. He’s showcased some passing ability that I wish we would tap into more. I can’t ignore the numbers though. He’s just shooting horribly right now.
I stated at the beginning of the season that I’m still on the bandwagon and I’m not going to let these three games deter me. Graham’s shooting is going to come back to earth and after that, we’re going to need some creation on the offensive end. Monk is a prime candidate for that so I hope we see the ball in his hands more. For him to have value, it’s going to be from the offensive end. I’d love to see him let loose some more because less than two threes a game just isn’t going to cut it. He needs to be more involved.
What to do with Miles Bridges?
Miles had a terrific offensive game against the Lakers:
Hit above the break 3s, attacked close outs, and was dangerous in transition. This is the route to Miles being a good player. I think I’ve lost hope in him ever being an all-star. He doesn’t make good enough decisions and his handle isn’t tight enough. But if he’s used as more of a play-finisher on the offensive end, I think he’ll be fine. On defense, he showed some good on-ball ability (Bron wasn’t trying much but still) and I think he’ll always be better in that regard vs guarding off-ball.
Miles is taking about 4 threes a game and hitting them at just under 42%. 42% seems high but if he can shoot around 37-38%, it’ll enable him to use that high level athleticism and make special plays. I’m not sure about Miles on defense but he’s strong and athletic and that’ll help him be not terrible. The main thing I’m focused on with Miles this year is the shooting and he’s off to a good start.
Lastly, I just want to say that the lineup of Graham-Dwayne Bacon-Bridges-Washington-Zeller has a net rating of 65.2 in 25 minutes played so far this season.
A million heart eye emojis to that.