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Duke in the NBA: Williamson excels in return, Banchero continues elite rookie campaign

AJ Griffin scored a career-high 24 points against Milwaukee Monday night.
AJ Griffin scored a career-high 24 points against Milwaukee Monday night.

The NBA season is in full swing, and former Blue Devils have been leading their professional teams. The Blue Zone takes a look at their performances over the last week:

Zion Williamson doesn't miss a beat in return

The 2019 No. 1 overall pick made headlines recently as he returned to the court for the New Orleans Pelicans. Zion Williamson, who didn't play last season with a foot injury, is averaging 22.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists per contest. 

The former Duke star has recorded at least 20 points in six out of his nine games this season. In the month of November, the 6-foot-6 power forward has been a force, averaging 23.4 points. One thing that separates him is the strength of his play when his team is down. New Orleans suffered three losses in the past two weeks, and in each, Williamson recorded at least 26 points while sending two games, one against the Lakers and one against the Hawks, to overtime. In New Orleans' 114-105 and 115-111 wins against the Warriors and the Bulls, respectively, he settled for 16-and 19-point performances. But one thing that Williamson has proven this season is his consistency—something that was evident in his all-around excellence against Indiana Monday. The Spartanburg, S.C., native had seven rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a block to his name. Though the contest ended 129-122 in the Pacers' favor, it's clear that Williamson is still the dominant player that Duke fans know and love.

Paolo Banchero recording elite rookie season

Williamson isn't the only former Blue Devil and No. 1 overall pick that is making headlines these days. Paolo Banchero has been the Magic's star in nearly every contest this season, whether it be with his mighty rebounding skills or shooting talents. The Seattle native currently averages 23.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists per contest in the midst of a rookie campaign that could land Banchero in the record books and earn him an All-Star Game invitation if he remains consistent. 

Despite Banchero's success, Orlando is currently 3-9. In his last two games, losses to Houston 134-127 in regulation and to Sacramento 126-123 in overtime, he topped 30 points, leading the Magic in both matchups. The Rookie of the Year frontrunner notched is third double-double in his 33 point, 16 rebound performance against the Kings. After the two-straight 30-point showings, Banchero sprained his left ankle against the Rockets and was sidelined against the Mavericks Wednesday night.

AJ Griffin has break-out game

Like his former teammate Banchero, AJ Griffin is also breaking records this season. He recorded three steals in a 20-point-plus performance—and is the first rookie to ever do so. As Hawks' star Trae Young was out against the Bucks due to injury, Griffin finally got his chance to shine. The former ACC All-Freshman Team member played 31 minutes and made every second count, scoring 24 points on a 66.7% clip from the field. As Young returned to the starting lineup in the Atlanta's Wednesday night matchup with the Jazz, Griffin only knocked down one trey in his 10 minutes on the court. But with the performance he had against Milwaukee, Griffin is likely to get more playing time down the line.

Jayson Tatum leads Celtics to four straight wins

Jayson Tatum remains one of the top players in the league. The Eastern Conference Finals MVP is averaging 31.2 points a game. The Celtics have only suffered three losses this season, and thus far in November, they have been trending up. Though Boston lost 114-113 to Cleveland in overtime Nov. 2, the group hasn't lost since and is riding a four-game win streak. Tatum was the driver of the Celtics' 123-119 win against Chicago Friday, in which he scored 36 points and tallied 12 rebounds, and their close 109-106 victory against Memphis Monday, in which he had 39 points, just one point shy of his season high. In Boston's loss to the Cavaliers, the three-time All-Star did everything he could defensively to get his team on top, finishing the night with 12 rebounds and four blocks.

Brandon Ingram improves 3-point shot

Former ACC Freshman of the Year Brandon Ingram is known for being a high volume shooter inside the arc. But this season, the 6-foot-8 small forward has been more consistent from downtown, draining 52.9% of his treys in November. Ingram sat out most of Week 2 due to concussion protocol, but he returned in Week 3 and has gone 9-for-17 from three in his four games back. He has also remained consistent on defense, recording three straight two-block games.

Ana Young | Assistant Blue Zone Editor

Ana Young is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle’s 118th volume.


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