We are just over a week into the 2021-22 NBA season, so the Blue Zone takes a look at how former Blue Devils are doing so far:
Tatum, Ingram scoring at a high level to start the season
After a heartbreaking double-overtime, season-opening loss to the New York Knicks, forward Jayson Tatum is starting to perform like the perennial All-Star that Boston Celtics fans have grown accustomed to. Against the Knicks, Tatum was uncharacteristically inefficient from the field and shot 2-of-15 from three. He bounced back, posting consecutive games of 31 and 41 points against the Rockets and the Bulls respectively, shooting 50% from the field in both. Tatum is leading the Celtics with an impressive 26.6 points per game. Whether or not he and teammate Jaylen Brown can lead the Celtics to an NBA Finals run remains a question, but Tatum’s abilities as a pure scorer and dynamic athlete have never been in doubt.
While making the playoffs has become an expectation for the Celtics, the same can’t be said for the New Orleans Pelicans. Led by former second-overall draft pick Brandon Ingram, the Pelicans currently have a record of 1-4 and are second-to-last in the Western Conference standings. Despite this, Ingram is averaging 25.6 points per game along with 7.6 rebounds, both above his career averages. It is apparent that the Pelicans are missing the production of fellow Blue Devil Zion Williamson, who will be sidelined indefinitely following offseason foot surgery. Ingram will have to continue to carry the load in the meantime if his team is to remain competitive.
Curry taking on more responsibility
Most of the news surrounding the Philadelphia 76ers this season has been about the Ben Simmons saga. The seemingly imminent departure of their star point guard has been frustrating for 76ers fans. However, it has also turned more of the spotlight on Seth Curry. After signing a long-awaited contract extension over the summer, Curry has begun where he left off last postseason. The shooting guard is converting at a blistering 61.9% from 3-point range, averaging career highs of 16.3 points and 31.8 minutes per game. The threat that Curry poses from distance, coupled with the interior force that is Joel Embiid, has the 76ers right in the thick of Eastern Conference contenders.
Reddish, Jones have been keys off the bench
As a member of Duke’s historic recruiting trio in 2018, Hawks’ forward Cam Reddish has received the least attention since entering the league. While at Duke, Reddish struggled to find his role alongside Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett. He was a streaky shooter who lacked confidence at times, and, in his first two seasons with the Hawks, his patterns of inconsistency remained an issue. Despite having a smooth release, he shot a bewildering 26.2% from three last season. Through the first few games this year, though, Reddish has seemingly made a big leap. Coming off the bench, he is the Hawks second leading scorer, averaging 15.3 points per game and shooting 50.0% from distance. Standing at 6-foot-8, Reddish has all the right pieces for a productive NBA career, but the key will be consistency.
Another former Duke player who has been a star in their role off the bench is Tyus Jones. The 2015 NCAA Champion hasn’t had too many opportunities to earn a starting position, but that’s inevitable when you play for a team with Ja Morant, one of the best young stars in the NBA. Jones isn’t known for stout defense like his younger brother, Tre Jones, but he is one of the league’s top playmakers in the backup role. Here’s an impressive statistic: the Grizzlies guard led the entire NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio the past three seasons. Furthermore, in the 2018-19 season, Jones finished with a single-season NBA record-setting ratio of 6.96. He is clearly an elite decision maker with the ball, so Duke and Grizzlies fans can only hope Jones gets more chances to showcase it.
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