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‘I don’t think the kid has any weaknesses’

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Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone was straight forward when asked about Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is having an MVP season despite his team’s struggles.

Malone believes Gilgeous-Alexander is dangerous simply “when he’s on the floor,” the coach told reporters prior to Wednesday night’s matchup against Oklahoma City.

According to multiple NBA betting sites, the Thunder guard is the No. 1 favorite to win Most Improved Player of the Year in 2023. Check out which sports books are giving the Nuggets the eighth-best odds to win the championship this season.

“I don’t think the kid has any weaknesses in terms of offensive game and the arsenal he has,” the Nuggets coach added. “The guy is an MVP candidate.”

Oklahoma City ranks sixth in the NBA in scoring, averaging 116.4 points per game. In addition to carrying the team offensively, the Thunder guard leads the league this season in drives per game and 2-point field goals (162).

Nuggets coach Michael Malone says Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander doesn’t have any weaknesses in his game

Through 16 starts this season, Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging career highs of 31.1 points, 6.0 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.4 blocks per game. Plus, he’s shooting 52.6% from the field and 39.1% from outside the arc.

Moreover, the Kentucky product ranks fifth in points (497), third in points per game, second in field goals (180), fifth in free throws (119), and sixth in player efficiency rating (28.3).

Quite a few fans are in full agreement with the Nuggets coach.

Of course, the Thunder are using SGA in 32.9% of plays with the guard on the court. Not to mention, his true shooting percentage is an impressive 62.2%.

Last Wednesday, in Oklahoma City’s 121-120 loss to the Washington Wizards, the 24-year-old tied his career high in scoring with 42 points. He finished 14-of-22 (63.6%) shooting from the floor and 2-of-3 (66.7%) from downtown.

SGA joined Russell Westbrook (four times) and Kevin Durant (one time) as the only players in Thunder franchise history with three consecutive games of 35 points and five assists. From February through March 2015, Westbrook recorded four straight.

While the Thunder guard has not yet logged a double-double this season, the fifth-year player is still playing the best basketball of his NBA career.

Furthermore, the Nuggets play the Thunder on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET. A few sportsbooks show Oklahoma City as a 1-point favorite over Denver.

Our writing team here at Basketball Insiders would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! While there are not any NBA games on Thanksgiving, fans will tune in to watch football. Enjoy your feasts.





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‘It was a little different, for sure’

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On Monday, Scottie Barnes came off the bench for the first time during the regular season in the Toronto Raptors’ 100-88 home win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. For the 2021-22 Rookie of the Year, the feeling was different.

“It was a little different, for sure. It was all right,” Barnes said after the win on how it felt to come off the bench. “I don’t know. It was all right I guess.”

Per a few NBA betting sites, the Raptors possess the 14th-best odds to win the championship in 2023. Check out which sportsbooks are showing better odds for the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets.

The second-year Raptors star noticed some differences. “I don’t know,” continued Barnes. “I’m used to being out there to start off the game. But I guess it was just a little adjustment. I guess. I don’t know. It was just different I guess.”

Of course, the move came as no surprise to Barnes. “No. I knew it was happening,” responded the Florida State product. “It was just different.”

In 27 minutes played, Barnes finished his Monday night performance off the bench with 11 points, four rebounds, five assists, one steal, and three blocks. He finished 5-of-12 (41.7%) shooting from the floor.

Raptors forward Scottie Barnes says “it was a little different” to come off the bench for the first time during the regular season

When asked if he was OK with a different starting lineup, Barnes replied, “Yeah, it’s whatever the scheme was, the game plan. It was fun.” At least Barnes seemed cool about it.

Through 17 appearances this season, the Raptors wing is averaging 14.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game. He’s shooting 43.7% from the field and 34.8% behind the arc.

Barnes’ player efficiency rating (15.5) and true shooting percentage (50.4%) statistics are lower than his rookie-season numbers. However, the Raptors are utilizing Barnes in 21% of their plays with the forward on the court, which is a career-high usage percentage.

Furthermore, Toronto coach Nick Nurse is not the first to alter his starting five this season. Los Angeles Clippers coach Tyronn Lue decided to bring former Raptors star Kawhi Leonard off the bench.

And Russell Westbrook of the Los Angeles Lakers now leads his team’s second unit. Lakers coach Darvin Ham thought it was a necessary change. Although inconsistent, Westbrook is thriving in the sixth man role at this point of his 15-year playing career.

Through 18 appearances, Westbrook is averaging 15.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 7.3 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. Plus, he’s shooting 40.6% from the field and 31.6% from three-point range. The forward has also recorded six double-doubles.

After one game, it’s difficult to say whether or not this is the right decision by Nurse. On Nov. 19, in the Raptors’ 124-122 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Scottie Barnes recorded a season-high 28 points in 46 minutes.

Though, the wing has logged just two 20-point games this season. This time last season as a starter, Barnes recorded 20-plus points in four contests.

During the first round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs, Barnes came off the bench in Game 4 of the Raptors’ 110-102 home win over the Philadelphia 76ers. He finished that game with six points, 11 rebounds, and two assists in 26 minutes.





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Marcus Smart’s Playmaking Role Has Made Boston A More Dynamic Team

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The Boston Celtics are the best team in the NBA right now with a 17-4 record, winning 13 of their last 14 games. As usual, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown lead the way offensively for the Celtics and offseason addition Malcolm Brogdon is the third highest scorer on the team. A part of Boston’s game that many didn’t see coming was the playmaking role that Marcus Smart has stepped into. 

Marcus Smart is letting the league know that he is a two-way player and that he shouldn’t just be known for his defense. He dishes out the eighth most assists of any player per game so far this season. His role as a playmaker has made the Celtics that much more of a dynamic team.

NBA betting sites have the Celtics at (+400) to win the Finals this season.

Marcus Smart developing into an elite playmaker in Boston

Smart already has five games this season where he’s had at least 10 assists in a game. On Monday, he recorded a career-high 15 assists vs the Hornets and was joking around about his “X-ray vision” during the game.

“You kind of zone out and it’s just you out there doing practice passes, finding guys in the right spot at the right time,” … “Once you’re locked into that, guys start reading that, guys start reading your body language and they start making plays for you to give them the ball and make it even easier for you. When you get in that kind of streak, that kind of zone, your teammates see it and they’re excited for you.” – Marcus Smart

He’s starting to become an invaluable player for the Celtics. We already know what he can do on the defensive end, as he won DPOY last season and was the first guard to win the award since Gary Payton. Smart is a key member of the Celtics success so far this season.





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Spurs sign forward Alize Johnson, waive rookie Jordan Hall

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The San Antonio Spurs have signed G League standout Alize Johnson to a one-year deal and will waive rookie forward Jordan Hall, according to sources. Per team policy, terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Johnson signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the team in late August. However, the Spurs waived the Missouri State product in October. Now, the 26-year-old has another chance to play at the NBA level.

Based on a few NBA betting sites, the Spurs have the second-lowest odds to win the championship in 2023. A number of sportsbooks are giving the Utah Jazz and Sacramento Kings better playoff odds.

Through 72 career appearances, Johnson has averaged 2.5 points and 3.0 rebounds per game. He has also shot 48% from the field and 25% from outside the arc.

Last season, the forward made 23 appearances off the bench split between the Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards, and New Orleans Pelicans. He averaged 1.8 points, 2.7 boards, and 7.3 minutes per game.

Spurs sign G League star Alize Johnson, waive rookie Jordan Hall

While with the Brooklyn Nets in the 2020-21 season, in 18 games off the bench, Johnson averaged career highs of 5.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 10.5 minutes per contest. He recorded two double-doubles as well.

On March 24, 2021, in the Nets’ 118-88 loss to the Utah Jazz, the wing scored a career-high 23 points in 33 minutes of action. Along with grabbing 15 boards, he finished 11-of-15 (73.3%) shooting from the field and missed a shot from downtown.

If he can stay healthy, Johnson could benefit the Spurs’ frontcourt.

Moreover, in Brooklyn’s 130-113 win over the Indiana Pacers on April 29, Johnson ended his performance with a career-best 21 rebounds in 33 minutes played. In addition to putting up 20 points, he also shot 7-of-12 (58.3%) from the floor.

With the Raptors 905 of the G League, the forward averaged 16.6 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 4.2 assists during the 2020-21 season. He played 32 minutes per game in 15 starts.

Meanwhile, Jordan Hall went undrafted out of St. Joseph’s during this year’s offseason. He signed a two-way contract with the Spurs in August.

Nonetheless, he was waived two months later. In early November, Hall signed a rest-of-season contract with the team. This was a one-year deal for $935,891.

Through nine games off the bench with the Spurs, the wing averaged 3.1 points, 1.3 boards, and 1.2 assists per game. Not to mention, he was shooting 32.1% from the field and 20% from three-point range.

Considering Hall was logging just 9.2 minutes per game, he was playing decent with San Antonio. He was recalled from the Austin Spurs, the team’s G League affiliate, on Nov. 2.





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