After the All-Star break, former Duke men's basketball stars have the postseason in their sights. The Blue Zone looks at their recent performances as the season heats up:
Jayson Tatum’s success continues
Star Celtics forward and former Blue Devil Jayson Tatum has been an MVP candidate for much of the season and is trending towards another All-NBA selection. He helped lead Boston to first place in the Eastern Conference prior to the All-Star break, and has continued his strong play since. In the brief eight-game stretch since the All-Star game, of which he played seven, the St. Louis native is averaging 28.0 points per game, just down from 30.6 in his prior 55 games. Tatum has also maintained his efficiency, as he is shooting 45.0% from the field in his last seven compared to 46.4% before, and 33.3% from deep compared to 35.7%. While his scoring may have slightly dipped, his rebounding and assist numbers have gone up, from 8.6 to 10.6 boards and 4.5 to 6.1 assists per game. Still, before defeating Portland on Wednesday, the Celtics had dropped three straight and are now 2-4 in their last six while being surpassed in the standings by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Kyrie Irving thriving as a Maverick
A fresh start seems to have elevated Kyrie Irving’s game to new heights. After a tumultuous three-and-a-half year stretch with the Brooklyn Nets, full of controversy and more headlines off the court than on, Irving was dealt to Dallas in a blockbuster trade back on Feb. 6. The Duke product has now appeared in 11 games as a Maverick and is averaging 27.5 points and 6.6 assists per contest, the former of which would be a career high. In addition, he is shooting a stellar 51.2% from the field, 41.4% from 3-point range and 94.4% from the charity stripe, all career marks albeit in a small sample. In Tuesday’s effort, Irving helped the Mavericks squeak past the Jazz 120-116 with a monster 17-point fourth quarter as part of a 33-point night, while also adding eight assists and six rebounds. Despite Irving’s play, Dallas is just 5-7 since acquiring him and is still fighting to stay out of the play-in tournament.
Tyus Jones thrust into bigger role
The NBA world was recently rocked with news of Grizzlies’ star point guard Ja Morant’s troubling off-the-court activities. While Morant has been away from the team the last two games, former Duke guard Tyus Jones has been forced to slide into the starting lineup. Jones, who was averaging 9.6 points and 4.5 assists per game on the season prior to Morant’s suspension, has been up to the challenge. Against the Clippers on Sunday he shot a blazing 5-for-7 from downtown as part of a 25-point, 12-assist double-double in just more than 36 minutes of action. Jones followed that up with a 16-point night against the Lakers on Tuesday while also grabbing three boards and dropping three dimes. However, Memphis dropped both games in Los Angeles and now sits third in the Western Conference standings.
Cam Reddish taking advantage of new team
Part of the highly-touted recruiting class that included Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish has struggled to find similar success in the NBA compared to his former Blue Devil teammates. After being drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 2019 and never really catching fire, he was traded to the Knicks in January 2022. He didn’t find much consistency before being dealt again to the Trail Blazers in early February. The move to Portland has revitalized Reddish, who seems to have finally found his role. In the 11 games since the trade, including 10 starts, Reddish is averaging career-bests of 13.8 points and 2.8 assists per game. In addition, he is knocking down 39.1% of his 3-point shots, a huge improvement from his 32.9% mark with the Hawks and 28.7% with the Knicks. The Trail Blazers will have to hope this improvement is here to stay as they fight to make the play-in down the stretch.
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