What’s popping on Air-Ball:
- NBA ROOKIE REPORT: HALIBURTON, WILLIAMS AND TATE ARE MAKING ME A FAN OUT OF ME
- WHY JOEL EMBIID AND THE SIXERS MAY BE CLOSER TO COMPLETING THE PROCESS THAN WE ALL THOUGHT
- BUY OR SELL: RAPTORS AND NUGGETS COMING AROUND, MAVERICKS AND CAVS DARK TIMES AHEAD
- BAM ADEBAYO CONTINUES TO DEFY THE ODDS ON A PATH TO NBA SUPERSTARDOM
- THE LEAP OF JAYLEN BROWN
Last week we did the East so it only makes sense to talk about the three guys in the West I want to see have their first All-Star team selections.
Quietly of late, the Sacramento Kings have been playing great basketball and it starts with their soon to be All-Star point guard. On the season, Fox is averaging an impressive 23.4 points and 6.7 assists per game. However, since the Kings resurgence, he’s taken his game to another level. After the team lost four straight last month and appeared well on their way to the worst defence in league history, they had a couple games postponed from COVID in other teams and got a chance to practice. Since then, they’ve been a different team and Fox is the biggest reason why. In the last nine games, seven of which are Kings wins, Fox is averaging almost 28 a night to go with eight assists. He’s taken his game to another level, helping push the Kings back into the playoff discussion. As good as guys like Devin Booker and Donovan Mitchell are, they carry far less of a burden to the King’s Fox. Booker for example has Chris Paul while Mitchell has Conley. Fox on the other hand has a rookie in Tyrese Haliburton. Simply, what he does is more impactful to his team’s results just because of how much less they have around him. So although Booker, Mitchell and a couple other guys on the cutline have similar numbers, what Fox is required to do on a nightly basis for his team to win is just more. If the Kings keep this up it’ll be because of Fox and due of this, Swipa needs to be heading to the All-Star game.
Have you been paying attention to how good Christian Wood has been this season? What’re you a casual? In case you have some catching up to do, Wood is averaging 22 points and ten rebounds on 55.8/42.1/68.8 splits. As chaos has descended around the Rockets from literally the beginning of camp, Wood has been the one constant. John Wall and Victor Oladipo have consistently missed games as well and yet, somehow the Rockets sit just a game and a half out of the playoffs. For a team that has at times been offensively challenged post-Harden trade, Wood’s ability to put the ball in the bucket has been as vital to his team’s success as anyones. Wood has been out of late with an ankle injury and the Rockets have lost three straight in decisive fashion, shocking no one who’s watched them and seen his value. Some in the west may have better numbers but the impact Wood has on whether the Rockets have success or not is undeniable and deserves to be recognized with an All-Star selection.
The case for Mike Conley as an All-Star this season is one that on the surface isn’t all that strong. His counting numbers aren’t mind-blowing and outside of his three-point percentage, his basic efficiency isn’t all that different from last season. However, as Mitchell and Rudy Gobert have had similar if not slightly worse seasons to last year and Bojan Bogdanovic has also disappointed, the Jazz are in first place in the entire NBA. How you ask? Mike Conley. Conley is in the middle of a throwback season to his peak in Memphis and has been exactly the player Utah hoped for when they traded for him. His ability to control the offence, lead the pace and establish a rhythm is the major reason why Utah sits fourth in the NBA in offensive rating. If you need numbers to help his case more, Conley is seventh in real-plus minus and top twenty in both win shares and offensive win shares in the league. He also has one of the best plus-minus’ in the league and is second in the NBA in FiveThirtyEight’s Total RAPTOR stat. I get he isn’t averaging 27 and seven but his impact has been undeniable. Much like Al Horford’s selection’s as a Celtic, it’s about the little things he brings to winning that helps his team be as good as they are. Conley has contributed to winning as much as anyone in basketball and deserves the reward of his first All-Star selection for his work.