NBA Canadian Roundup Quarantine Edition: Where they stood pre-shutdown

NBA insider Bobby Marks joins Writers Bloc to discuss the challenges presented with draft scouting and with the assessment of college talent without the NCAA Final Four tourney, and the pause in the season.

We all know where they currently stand: At home, probably playing video games and watching old highlight vids of themselves.

Now, let’s look at where they were just a week ago, before the NBA announced its season would halt following Rudy Gobert testing positive for COVID-19.

The shutdown comes as a mixed bag for Canadian NBA players — an abrupt wall in growing momentum for some, and a chance to reboot and find themselves for others. And with the schedule and possibility of a regular-season return very much up in the air, the questions keep piling up.

To mark one week in March without basketball — and in an effort to help parched NBA fans cope with withdrawal — here is the Quarantine Edition of our NBA Canadian Roundup.

Jamal Murray – Denver Nuggets

55 GP | 18.8 PPG | 4.8 APG | 3.9 RPG | 45.5 FG%

Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray gestures after hitting a 3-point basket against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second half of an NBA basketball game. (David Zalubowski/AP)

Career year. That’s the only fair way to describe Jamal Murray’s 2019-20 season — even if play doesn’t resume.

Murray was posting career highs in points and minutes per game, as well as field-goal percentage, before the forced hiatus.

But the 23-year-old guard seems to be enjoying his time at home. The NBA posted a video on Tuesday of Murray playing the theme song for the Avengers and Darth Vader’s Imperial March on piano. A man of many skills.

Andrew Wiggins – Golden State Warriors

54 GP | 21.8 PPG | 3.7 APG | 5.1 RPG | 44.7 FG%

Golden State Warriors guard Andrew Wiggins (22) dribbles the ball up the court against the Washington Wizards during the second half of an NBA basketball game in San Francisco. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

Talk about a roller coaster of a season for Andrew Wiggins, who was traded away from the Minnesota Timberwolves at the deadline after weeks of speculation on the rumour mill.

Wiggins saw just 12 games of action with his new team — only three of them wins. In a wasted season for the banged-up Warriors, Wiggins has had a slight dip in points per game despite 13 per cent better overall from the floor.

He still seems to be “a walking 20 points,” as Steph Curry put it back in February, and this team should look scary with Wiggins’s addition when it’s back at full force.

That said, Wiggins might be one of the players to benefit from this unfortunate time off.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Oklahoma City Thunder

63 GP | 19.3 PPG | 3.3 APG | 6.1 RPG | 47.3 FG%

Oklahoma City Thunder Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) battles the Toronto Raptors’ Terence Davis II (0) and Kyle Lowry (7). (Hans Deryk/CP)

Surprisingly, the Thunder were strongly set within playoff contention before the hiatus. And Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is one of the big reasons for that.

The sophomore guard appeared in all but one of the Thunder’s 64 games, leading the team in points per contest this season.

Gilgeous-Alexander did suffer a hip injury in early March, which caused him to miss his first game of the season on March 8 against the Boston Celtics. The break should be an opportunity to nurse that injury.

RJ Barrett – New York Knicks

56 GP | 14.3 PPG | 2.6 APG | 5 RPG | 40. FG%

New York Knicks forward RJ Barrett reacts after being called for a foul in the second half of an NBA basketball game. (David Zalubowski/AP)

After an injury sidelined him earlier in the season, RJ Barrett returned with a vengeance and was showing flashes of being a superstar in the making leading up to last week’s final games.

Barrett likely won’t take home the Rookie of the Year Award, with Ja Morant and Zion Williamson dominating that conversation — if one is even awarded this year, as NBA commissioner Adam Silver said on Wednesday he wasn’t “there yet” in deciding the fate of year-end hardware.

But the 19-year-old Toronto native certainly is getting comfortable with being the go-to guy at Madison Square Garden.

The forward posted a 27-point game in the Knicks’ win over the Houston Rockets back on March 2, including this clutch drive that showcased some strength, poise and confidence to knock down one of the favourites in the West.

Tristan Thompson – Cleveland Cavaliers

57 GP | 12 PPG | 2.1 APG | 10.1 RPG | 51.2 FG%

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Tristan Thompson, right, drives past Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, March 7, 2020, in Cleveland. (Tony Dejak/AP)

No, he didn’t go anywhere at the trade deadline. And no, he’s not back together with Khloe Kardashian.

Tristan Thompson was having a career-year until early February, and though his numbers in points, minutes and rebounds per game are still career highs and he is averaging a double-double, it’s undeniable that the centre lost some space with the Cavs’ mind-boggling acquisition of Andre Drummond.

Thompson was also inactive for the Cavs’ last game of March due to a knee injury. Not a great stretch for the Toronto native.

Dillon Brooks – Memphis Grizzlies

65 GP | 15.7 PPG | 2 APG | 3.3 RPG | 40.2 FG%

Memphis Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks (24) drives against New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball (2) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Memphis, Tenn. (Brandon Dill/AP)

The only player on this list to have appeared in every single game for his team, Dillon Brooks closed out his month of March on a high note, with 21 points against the Orlando Magic last week.

A 45th-overall pick in 2017, Brooks has had a breakout season, solidifying himself as a starting swingman and a reliable scoring option on a Grizzlies team that’s vying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

Brandon Clarke – Memphis Grizzlies

50 GP | 12 PPG | 1.4 APG | 5.8 RPG | 62.3 FG%

Memphis Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke (15) dunks in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, in Oklahoma City. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

Brandon Clarke’s season was already at risk before the COVID-19 crisis.

After a solid 50 first career games, Clarke suffered a quad injury that had kept him sidelined since late February. The Grizzlies announced on March 9 that they expected the 23-year-old to play again this season.

Memphis is currently the eighth seed in the West, so if the NBA returns this year, there’s at least a chance fans will get to see the rookie in action once more.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker – New Orleans Pelicans

41 GP | 5.1 PPG | 1.8 APG | 2.0 RPG | 33.9 FG%

Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea (5) defends as New Orleans Pelicans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker (0) dribbles the ball during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019 in Dallas. (Sam Hodde/AP)

Unlucky for him, Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s season really was over before the hiatus even happened.

The Pelicans rookie suffered a wrist fracture on March 7, and the team announced he would be out indefinitely.

Before the injury, Alexander-Walker was proving to be a solid bench contributor and a reliable rotation piece, with just over five points per game in 12.2 minutes per night.

Dwight Powell – Dallas Mavericks

40 GP | 9.4 PPG | 1.5 APG | 5.7 RPG | 63.8 FG%

The Dallas Mavericks’ Dwight Powell suffered an Achilles injury in a game against the Los Angeles Clippers. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

Another one in a long list of injured Canadians.

Dwight Powell has been out since Jan. 23 with a torn Achilles. Powell wasn’t expected back this season, though he has been making strides in his recovery. But regardless of how the schedule shapes up whenever sports resume, don’t expect to see the forward back on the court before 2020-21.

Powell’s greatest contribution this year came in the form of a video, released by the NBA on Tuesday, in which he and teammate Luka Doncic make the case for social distancing amid the virus pandemic.

Kelly Olynyk – Miami Heat

59 GP | 7.7 PPG | 1.6 APG | 4.4 RPG | 47.6 FG%

Miami Heat’s Kelly Olynyk reacts after hitting a three-point basket (Jeffrey Phelps/AP)

For Kelly Olynyk more than others, the season hiatus could be a tough pill to swallow.

After an up-and-down season that started with a knee injury, Olynyk had been getting in a good rhythm with the Heat in since early February. Granted, he posted four points in his last three games combined.

But at least he was healthy.

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