Sport NBA Rookie Rankings: Cade Cunningham puts shooting slump behind him; Scottie Barnes continues to impress
Lakers-Pistons melee: LeBron James suspended one game for elbow; Isaiah Stewart two games for lashing out
Lakers F LeBron James was suspended one game for throwing an elbow at Pistons C Isaiah Stewart, who was suspended two games for trying to fight.The NBA suspended star Lakers forward LeBron James for one game for "recklessly hitting" Pistons center Isaiah Stewart on Sunday night that left his face bloodied and required eight stitches. Stewart will be suspended two games for "escalating an on-court altercation by repeatedly and aggressively pursuing" James in an unsportsmanlike manner.
Some first-year players are starting to creep up to that proverbial "rookie wall" where things start to get a little more difficult, and performances may not be as consistent as they were at the start of the NBA season. You also have guys likewho seem to be just hitting their groove to climb further up in the Rookie of the Year race. It's important to remember that inconsistency is to be expected from every rookie in the league, because it's part of development and growth. So while some of these raw numbers don't look as gaudy as they once did, that doesn't mean any of these players are busts. There's still plenty of basketball left to be played this season, and regression in both directions is natural for these young players, so just keep that in mind.
NBA Power Rankings: Warriors remain on top but Nets climbing fast
Brooklyn and Miami are the top-ranked teams from the East, but the Bucks are climbing fast. 1. Warriors (15-2, Last Week No. 1). Rookie Jonathan Kuminga has been getting more run of late, and the No. 7 pick is showing flashes of the crazy athleticism and potential he brings to the court. Steve Kerr used a young Kawhi Leonard as his comp: Insane athlete, raw, but on a team deep with talented veterans so he just has to play a role and make simple plays. So far, Kuminga has done that well and helped the Warriors, but it’s a long road from here to being Kawhi. The Warriors have won four in a row and 11-of-12, with a good showdown next Tuesday against the Suns.
Moving on to this week's rankings, remember that these will reflect a rookie's performance on a week-to-week basis only, and not the collective season. These are not Rookie of the Year standings. With that straightened out, here is a look at the top-performing rookies around the league.
Cunningham had perhaps his best week of the season, primarily because of his efficiency from just about everywhere on the floor. He shot 55.8 percent from the field and a ridiculous 60.9 percent from 3-point territory on over seven attempts a game. After several weeks of poor shooting numbers, Cunningham appears to be finally hitting a groove, which is great news for the. Against the , he had a career-high 28 points, while racking up 11 rebounds and five assists, and became the first rookie in Pistons history since Greg Monroe in 2010 to record a 20-10-5 game.
NBA Power Rankings: Suns keep winning, can't unseat Warriors; Lakers continue to fall; Wolves make big leap
This week had some of the steepest risers and fallers of the season thus farThe Phoenix Suns have won 14 straight games, and they're still not the No. 1 team in this week's Power Rankings. They have every right to be upset, and if I were a member of the organization I'd probably be composing a sharply worded Twitter draft right now, but the Golden State Warriors, who have won five in a row and lost just two games all season, have just been too good to unseat.
Diving a bit deeper into those shooting numbers, it appears Cunningham is just finally connecting on the good looks he's getting. Prior to this week, the No. 1 overall pick was shooting 20.9 percent on 3s when he was open, yet over the course of three games last week he shot a significantly improved 55.6 percent on open 3-point attempts. He's also connecting more on shots inside the arc where he had a defender in front of him, shooting 65.2 percent from the field with a defender 2-4 feet from him. Those percentages aren't sustainable, but it's encouraging to see that Cunningham's shooting is starting to catch up to his playmaking and rebounding ability.
If you want a snapshot of Barnes' impact on thethis season, look no further than his performance against the and last week. Against the Wizards, he only put up 11 points and six rebounds, but those numbers aren't indicative of just how much of an impact he made in that win. Barnes was tasked with guarding All-Star guard for most of the evening, to which he held him to three points on 1 of 5 on the night. He also held his own when he got switched on down in the paint:
NBA Rookie Ladder: Cade Cunningham is making a push for the top spot
After missing the first four games of the season and struggling upon his return, No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham is starting to hit his stride during his rookie season.Some hot starts have cooled off, some surprising starts have come back down to Earth and other first-year players are still establishing their roles on their team.
Against the Wizards, Barnes' defense shone through and he finished the game with a plus-11, the highest of any starter on the team. Against the Bucks, his 3-point shooting and playmaking ability highlighted his performance, showing off the different facets of his game. Barnes went 3 of 6 from deep, which continues a trend from the last two weeks of his improved shooting from beyond the arc. If that becomes a consistent weapon in his arsenal, it will only make him that much more impactful on offense.
In an impressive win over thelast week, Wagner was getting it done on both ends of the floor. Not only did he finish with 15 points on a supremely efficient 6 of 9 from the field, but he finished the night with three steals, once again proving to be a key cog in Orlando's defense. He put up the same stat line against the dominant , where he came up with some heads-up steals in a losing effort.
It wasn't his best defensive performance, which is to be expected when you're going against a dynamic offensive team like the Warriors whereis . But Wagner did his best to fight through endless amounts of screens, and he still made an impact on that end of the floor. As far as offense goes, Wagner didn't let Golden State's league-leading defense stop him from getting his shots in the paint, where he's making over 54 percent of his shots this season.
NBA Mock Draft 2021: Is Cade Cunningham or Jalen Green the No. 1 overall pick?
Sporting News' updated 2021 mock draft projecting pick Nos. 1-30 still has Cade Cunningham going first overall to Detroit, but the Pistons' decision isn't clear-cut.Holding this occasion in its proper perspective is not a bad thing. The basketball world has tended lately to operate as if every year’s draft has an obvious LeBron or AD or Zion at the top, but that is not how things have tended to develop. We’ve had about as many along the lines of Anthony Bennett, Markelle Fultz and Andrew Wiggins: a total flop, a mystifying disappointment, a productive but underwhelming regular.
Mobley recorded his sixth double-double of the year against the, which is the most of any rookie this season. Aside from Barnes, there isn't a more impactful rookie in this class in regards to their team's wins. Despite being just 20 years old, he essentially anchors Cleveland's defense with his versatility, which is why he may only have six points and seven rebounds in a win over the Washington Wizards, but still finish the game with a plus-21.
Duarte was moved back to the starting lineup in place ofwho is in health and safety protocols, and he took advantage of the opportunity. As the have gotten healthier this season, Duarte's role has shifted on offense, as he's used more as a spot-up shooter, than being able to put the ball on the ground and create for himself. It's understandable, given Indiana has a slew of talented players in , and that certainly take precedent over him in terms of touches and the amount of time they have the ball in their hands, but with every crossover into a step-back jumper and crafty drive to the rim Duarte shows us, it gives a glimpse into what a different role could do for him outside of just being a spot-up shooter. While his offensive role changes, he's still been a solid defender on the other end of the floor, making him an essential player in whatever capacity head coach Rick Carlisle wants to use him.
Lakers veteran Jared Dudley recruits Dwight Howard to return
The Lakers could use help at the center position this offseason, and Dudley believes Dwight Howard can provide it. Howard, who will soon be a free agent, shared a video on Instagram recently that showed him working out. He captioned the video “I want a parade!!! Let’s work.” As Lakers Daily pointed out, Dudley commented on the post telling the big man it is “time to come home!” Dudley is also set to become a free agent, but it’s possible he could be planning to sign another one-year minimum deal with the Lakers.Howard helped the Lakers win a title two seasons ago. He averaged 5.8 points and 4.
The second-round pick from Chicago got his name called in the starting lineup for the first time this season whenstar forward entered the league's health and safety protocols just two hours before tip off against the Nuggets. With that came a rush of emotions from the rookie and the crowd, and once the excitement of starting for the first time in his young NBA career wore off, Dosunmu made sure to show that head coach Billy Donovan made the right decision in trusting him.
The rookie put up an all-around performance against the Nuggets, finishing with 11 points, eight assists, six rebounds and a steal to top it off. He had some expected rookie mistakes that resulted in three turnovers, primarily on fastbreak opportunities where you could tell his brain was just moving too fast for his body, but aside from those missteps, Dosunmu showed incredible value on a night where the Bulls had to adjust quickly without DeRozan.
During training camp,big man said of Alperen Sengun: "He has great footwork. He's great at using his body. He reminds me of a smaller [Nikola] Jokic." While it may seem blasphemous to compare a 19-year-old rookie to the reigning MVP, Wood's not far off with his assessment. You watch Sengun and you see him directing plays like a guard would, but without the ball in his hands. Like this directive he gave to Garrison Mathews to pass the ball to Wood in the post, only for Sengun to set a screen to get Matthews open for a 3-pointer, which he drilled.
College Football Power Rankings: Cincinnati, Michigan step up big ahead of conference title games
The normally repetative College Football Playoff process may, finally, get shaken upThat's about to change. Maybe.
He's doing stuff like this every game, which is very similar to what Jokic does with the Nuggets. Sengun's court vision is incredibly impressive for someone of his size and age.
Mitchell had an incredibly inefficient week, with a 20-point performance sandwiched between an eight-point dud and two-point stinker to begin and end the week. At his best, Mitchell is knocking down 3s like he was against theen route to 20 points, while playing pestering defense on the other end. But those other two performances of the week indicate that he's not yet consistent enough to be impactful every night for Sacramento. Time will tell if that 20-point performance or those other two outings are more in line with what to expect from him on a regular basis.
After that barn-burning game the Thunder played against thein which Memphis beat OKC by an NBA-record 73 points, Mann responded by having a far better performance in a win over the Pistons. It's hard to fault Mann for that embarrassing loss to the Grizzlies when he's not used to being a starter and has split time this season with the G League. But in a more comfortable role where he's coming off the bench, he is more impactful, which resulted in a seven-point, three-rebound performance for the rookie.
Smart got signed by the Bucks on Nov. 29, and five days later he was playing 28 minutes for the defending champions where he finished with eight points, six rebounds and four assists. That's the definition of taking advantage of the opportunity you're given, and he earned more playing time in the following game against thelast week where he made all three of his shot attempts. He's making hustle plays for the Bucks, and is making a positive impact when he's on the floor.
NHL Power Rankings: Maple Leafs take top spot amid dominant stretch .
The Toronto Maple Leafs are living up to the Stanley Cup hype through the first quarter of the seasonPrior to opening night, the Toronto Maple Leafs had some of the highest expectations of any team in the league. Forget advancing past the first round of the playoffs: the goal is a Stanley Cup parade in Toronto. Well, that goal looks to be within reach, based on how everything looks these days.