Welcome to the weekly NBA stock report where we go around the league and examine whose stock is rising and whose is falling.
In this week’s edition of the Stock Report, All-Star Saturday gets an entertaining makeover, a pair of rookies soar to new heights and a struggling franchise hits rock bottom.
All-Star Saturday Night: The much-beloved (or not) Shooting Stars event has been axed from Saturday night’s festivities, but the trio of competitions scheduled should be more compelling than ever. Kyle Lowry becomes the first Toronto Raptors player to participate in the three-point shootout since Jason Kapono in 2009 and should have the hometown crowd rocking. It will also be interesting to see the reception Chris Bosh gets when he takes his turn. Will the Toronto faithful show him ill will or is All-Star Weekend a boo-free zone? Is there any chance someone knocks off reigning champ Steph Curry?
The Slam Dunk Contest is always the marquee event of the night, but for perhaps the first time ever, all eyes will be focused on the Skills Challenge. The oft-forgotten competition has upped its game this year by featuring numerous big men in the field of eight. Can DeMarcus Cousins or Anthony Davis dethrone Patrick Beverley?
Nikola Jokic: The Serbian big man was the 41st selection in the 2014 draft, and he’s burst onto the scene in his rookie season. Over the past 10 games or so, Jokic has seen an uptick in his playing time and he’s making the most of it. In those contests, he’s scored at least 15 points in six and reached double-digit rebounding figures in four. He enjoyed the best game of his career Monday against the Raptors, exploding for 27 points and 14 boards. Jokic has won over head coach Michael Malone, who recently said he wouldn’t trade his prized youngster for anybody.
The 20-year-old is a dangerous interior presence but can also step out and shoot the three, connecting on 36 per cent of his attempts from downtown. Oh, and his passport photo is pretty spectacular.
Myles Turner: Speaking of rookie bigs, there’s one in Indiana who is really starting to make his mark on the team. Turner’s minutes have soared through the roof since Jan. 17 and he’s played himself into a starting spot. His biggest game came against the league-leading Golden State Warriors on Jan. 22 when he went off for 31 points in just 27 minutes. He’s an efficient scorer but is also providing the Pacers with some valuable rim protection. Over his past eight outings, he’s recorded 24 blocks. Despite his size, he still has plenty of speed and athleticism to fit into the up-tempo offence the Pacers are trying to implement.
Raptors’ ability to finish off opponents: Wins are wins, and the Raptors have been racking up a lot of them lately, but it would be nice if they could pick some up without running their two all-stars into the ground every night. Toronto has not been able to step on opponents’ throats, and as a result, Lowry and DeMar DeRozan both sit in the top six in terms of minutes per game.
As evidenced in recent games against the Knicks, Pistons and Suns, the Raptors have no problem building up sizeable leads, they just struggle to put the nail in the coffin. It’s only slightly concerning now, but could grow into a real issue if it persists.
Terrence Jones: Still a tantalizing asset because of his potential and flashes of brilliance, Jones is averaging a mere 9.3 points and 4.5 rebounds through 45 games in 2015-16. He’s also shooting a career-worst 45 per cent from the field. The biggest knock on the forward is his inability to stay on the court. He’s dealt with a number of injuries to this point in his career, and was recently involved in a car accident that held him out of Thursday’s game against the Suns. He just turned 24 last month, so he still has plenty of time to get back on track, but the question has now become whether or not the Rockets will stick with him.
The Brooklyn Nets: The Nets are in the worst shape of any franchise in the NBA and maybe North American sports on the whole. They’re 1-9 in their past 10 games and sit second last in the Eastern Conference. Usually a team in this predicament can sell its fanbase on the upcoming influx of talent through the draft, but Brooklyn can’t even do that. Remember that trade that brought Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to New York? In addition to the numerous players traded away at the time, the Nets surrendered their first-round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018 to the Celtics and also gave Boston the right to swap picks in 2017.