Tarik Black, Lakers. The four year college player who received his degree from the University of Memphis and also played for Kansas was an undrafted power forward/center who worked his way on to two rosters. He was signed by Houston in 2014 after a solid summer league season and then was waived a few months later. The Lakers picked him up off the waiver wire and he has been a staple on their bench ever since. The Lakers bench leads the NBA in points and is second in rebounding which is where Black makes his living. He is a solid offensive rebounder who is always in the right place at the right time. What he lacks in explosion and offensive finishing talent he makes up for in physicality, hustle, boxing out and staying focused on his role: continue possessions. He is ranked 29th among NBA centers. His 16.7 PER is a career high. When the Lakers win, Black is a +17.4. When they lose, he is a -9.0.
T.J. Warren, Suns. The quiet secret in the Arizona desert is a former lottery pick small forward who can put the ball in the hole and guard his position. The 2014 draft pick is having a breakout season. He is playing the most minutes he has ever played (32.4), is taking the most shots he has ever taken in his career (15.6), has a career high 81.8% at the free throw line, is at a career high 4.3 rebounds, a career high steals at 1.9 per game and doesn’t turn the ball over. He averages 17 points, six points more than last season. He is the Suns future at the small forward position and even though he is currently injured, his scoring ability and physicality give the Suns a leg up on the perimeter as Warren and Devin Booker make a nice offensive tandem. He had a 30 point game against OKC and two 25+ games (Warriors, Blazers). He is ranked 33rd among NBA small forwards. His 17.2 PER is a career high. When the Suns win, Warren is a +12.3. When the Suns lose, he is a -15.2.
Tim Frazier, Pelicans. He had a tough job. Fill in for Jrue Holiday while he was taking care of his ailing wife. It was a win-win for Frazier. Everyone had empathy for Holiday so Frazier could step in and no one would care if he was horrible and if he was great that would be a bonus. He wasn’t great but he was very good. The undrafted point from Penn State paid his dues in the D-League. He made his Pelicans debut last spring when the Pelicans were ravaged by injuries and all he did in his first game was come off the bench and post 14 points and 9 assists. This season, no off the bench time. He has started every game, played 31 minutes, made 44.0% of his shots, 35.4% of his threes, 3.2 rebounds, 7.6 assists. His defense is mediocre to awful and he can’t make a midrange, but he is good from distance. He is ranked 20th among NBA point guards. His 13.9 PER matches last year’s PER. When the Pels win, Frazier is +17.2. When they lose he is -12.2.
Rodney Hood, Jazz. The shooting guard had a nightmare end to last season when he couldn’t make shots when he had to in order for the Jazz to win and secure a playoff berth. He witnessed the Kobe 60 points last hurrah up close and personal and as an inspiration Hood has started the season strong on every part of the floor. He hits the mid-range and long twos. The 23rd pick in the 2014 draft, a Duke one year player, is having his best year (so far) shooting the ball, 43.4%. He is at a career high behind the arc, 36.6%, which the Jazz desperately need. He is rebouding at a career best 4.4 per game and he doesn’t turn the ball over. His 16.1 points is a career high. His defense this year is better than last year. He has a career high PER of 15.8. When the Jazz win, Hood is +20.3. When they lose he is a – 9.3. He is ranked 5th among NBA shooting guards.
Nikola Jokic, Nuggets. The power forward from Serbia who was drafted in the second round in 2014 and was third in Rookie of the Year voting last year, is continuing his upward trend in the NBA big man circles. Jokic plays 23 minutes, shoots 50% and grabs almost seven rebounds. He controls the game from the paint and is a force to be dealt with. He had 17 rebounds against the Blazers and 14 rebounds against Hassan Whiteside and the Heat. He has all the potential to be a 14 and 10 player as the Nuggets move out of their rebuilding stage. He is ranked 11th among NBA power forwards. His PER is a career high 16.7. When the Nuggets win Jokic is a +19.1. When the Nuggets lose Jokic is -8.2.
photo via llananba