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3 POINT SHOT: ZION-A-PALOOZA, ALL-STAR STARTERS AND SIXTH MAN MIKE C

@Baldwin31

Hey rookie, welcome to the NBA

For three quarters, Zion Williamson’s debut was anything but noteworthy. He looked slow, out of shape and frankly, not ready to be on the court.

It’s crazy because even though it was his debut, the reality of it being disappointing remained. He hadn’t played competitive basketball since September and yet people on twitter were already tossing the B word (bust) around heading into the fourth.

No one has received hype like this since LeBron James and with it being the social media era, it’s arguable the pressure on the 19-year-old kid from Spartanburg South Carolina is unlike anything we’ve ever seen in North American sports.

As the Raptors played the Seventy-Sixers in game one of the ESPN double-header, it felt like ESPN spent more time talking about Williamson’s debut than what just happened on the floor in Toronto.

His debut felt like a bigger day than MLK day for ESPN, the saviour of the ratings had finally returned to the spotlight. Last year he did the seemingly impossible and caused people to cheer for Duke, now he’s supposed to save Adam Silver’s ratings crisis.

No pressure kid.

That’s why, entering the fourth with just five points, the necks of ESPN and NBA executive’s shirts had to feel a little tighter than usual. I mean this is the saviour of the ratings and all he’s given us is five points and a couple rebounds?

But then something happened and that something is why Williamson captivated audiences at Duke last season.

Not often do we get to watch something or rather someone we’ve never seen before but when Zion walks between the lines it’s guaranteed.

Williamson weighs 280 pounds (at least that’s what he’s listed at) and looks more like an NFL number one pick at defensive tackle than an NBA number one pick at power forward. Yet with Zion, there’s just something about him.

He has a presence unlike anything we have seen in years in basketball, so it was only fitting what happened happened.

Zion put up SEVENTEEN points in a row and reminded the world why the hype exists. We’ve never seen this before and I for one am excited to see what comes next for the NBA’s ratings saviour.

Reacting to the All-Star Starters

Western Conference

This has to of been the easiest conference to vote for in years. Luka and Harden are transcendent offensive players who each night are carrying their teams to wins. LeBron is well, LeBron and Anthony Davis is pretty much as advertised. The only starter you could maybe question is Kawhi and that’s just strictly due to games missed except there’s one issue with that argument: he’s a unanimous top three player in the world playing like it.  No matter how you look at it, the five best players from the western conference will be starting in this game and when that’s the result, it’s hard to complain.

Eastern Conference

Unlike the West, the East actually had some question marks. For starters (pun intended), the fact Jimmy Butler was listed as a forward makes no sense. I don’t care what the position trackers say, when you watch them play, it is fundamentally inaccurate to act like the guy who brings up the ball half the time isn’t a guard, especially when the guy he starts with is literally taller than him. Regardless, Jimmy got screwed because if he was a guard, he starts in this game because that’s where the mess was. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and Pascal Siakam have been the three best players in the conference so far. I know Siakam missed some games but sorry Heat Nation, you’re just exposing yourself for not watching the Raptors.

Guard though is where it gets fun. Trae Young has been unbelievable on offence this year, so unbelievable in fact that he damn near won the whole fan vote due to the fact he’s become one of the most exciting players in the league. The problem is two-fold though, one he’s arguably the worst starting defender in the NBA and two his team is fighting with the Warriors for last place in the league. I think Young deserves to be an all-star but to me, the starters should be the five best players in the conference so far and I just don’t think he has been that.

Finally, congratulations to Kemba on a much-deserved placement as an all-star starter. I for one as a fan of Kemba since college am thankful mainstream fans are finally getting to see him play on a nightly basis.

My Team

West:

G- Luka Doncic

G- James Harden

F- LeBron James

F- Anthony Davis

F- Kawhi Leonard

East:

G- Kemba Walker

G- Jimmy Butler (Kyle Lowry)

F- Pascal Siakam

F- Giannis Antetokounmpo

F- Joel Embiid

Sixth Man Mike Conley

Photo Courtesy: David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

When the Utah Jazz traded for Mike Conley this summer, I was ecstatic. Conley gave them the extra ball-handler and scoring punch that had cost them when it mattered most in three straight post seasons.

Further than that, it gave one of the truly great people in the NBA another chance at winning a title.

What’s crazy though, is Conley’s injury that held him out for over a month is what is going to allow them to contend for a title this season.

With him going down, it allowed the Jazz to stumble onto a virtually unstoppable five-man unit that has carried the Jazz to an 18-2 record in their last 20 games. The lineup is as follows:

The stats with this lineup are borderline historic as in five-man lineups, they lead the NBA in: net rating, offensive rating, effective field goal percentage, true shooting percentage and are second in player impact estimate and fourth in defensive rating. All stats are with lineups that have played a minimum of 150 minutes together, of which there is 32.

Simply put, the Utah Jazz are elite when Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanović, Royce O’Neale and Rudy Gobert are on the floor together.

(Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanović, Royce O’Neale and Rudy Gobert ratings on the floor together this season)

Here is where Mike Conley comes in and takes this team to another level further. With Conley off the bench and available to play crunch time minutes, he can employ a role the team has never had. Think of the advantage the Clippers get when Lou Williams plays bench guys. Part of it is Williams and part of it, is that bench guys aren’t as good as starters so if someone of the caliber of a Conley or Williams accept the role, they can dominate.

The problem with this though is generally ego and that’s where the Jazz are truly lucky.

Not only is Conley one of the great people in the league, he also is in desperate search of a title and if Quinn Snyder can sell to Conley the role of sixth man like Steve Kerr did to a certain major offseason acquisition who won a finals MVP, maybe just maybe the Utah Jazz have what it takes to get over the hump in 2020.

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