James isn’t far removed from having one of the worst months of his career. He averaged 23.5 points, 7.4 assists and 7.3 rebounds per game in January, and yet the Cavaliers lost eight of their 14 games and were significantly better in the minutes James was on the bench. (The Cavaliers outscored opponents by 4.1 points per 100 possessions with him off the court and were outscored by 8.8 points per 100 possessions with him on the court in those games. The only other time James’ team struggled that much with him on the court was when he was a 19-year-old rookie.)
Based on how well Harden has played and how few games he ended up missing with a hamstring injury, that stretch could be what prevents James from winning the award this season.
Still, there isn’t anyone like James when he’s locked in. He proved it in the final game before the trade deadline against the Timberwolves, when he scored 37 points, dished out 15 assists, grabbed 10 rebounds and hit the game-winning jump shot over Jimmy Butler in overtime.
Ball’s vision was one of his greatest strengths coming into the 2017 NBA Draft, and it has translated well to the NBA. He is currently one of 10 players averaging at least 7.0 assists per game, and he’s one of eight players averaging at least 13.0 potential assists per game. Ball has done a decent job of taking care of the ball, too, with an average of 2.6 assists per turnover. It’s not as high as someone like Chris Paul, who has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.6, but it puts him on the same page as Draymond Green, Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler and John Wall.
Ball is unique in today’s NBA in that he’s a pass-first point guard, not a score-first point guard. He’s constantly looking for his teammates, and he’s proven that he can set them up with high-percentage looks in a variety of ways.
Curry, to the surprise of Cook, reached out to the young guard to tell him to meet him an hour before the game.
He met with me in the locker room to go over a certain number of plays and suggested ones I should stick with, Cook said. At that time, I had limited practices and game action. He actually sat me down, and was patient. He did the same thing at halftime too. This occurred every game he was out. He would tell me what he saw and how to adjust.
Great run-blocking guards ready for big raises are hard to keep, as the Bengals experienced last year when they lost Kevin Zeitler. Norwell, an undrafted gem, is stepping into a market short on worthy offensive linemen, setting him up for a big payday elsewhere.