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Cats in the NBA

Former Kentucky Players in the NBA

Fox, Knox and Gilgeous-Alexander set for Friday night’s NBA Rising-Star Game

Fox, Knox and Gilgeous-Alexander set for Friday night’s NBA Rising-Star Game

The NBA Rising-Star game is almost upon us, and three former Wildcats will be on the game roster. De’Aaron Fox, Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will all suit up for the NBA’s up-and-comer competition. The Rising-Star game features players in their first and second years in the league. All the action is going down at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, but you can watch it all from the comfort of your home on TNT. The game is set to tip at 9 p.m.

In addition to the former Cats, players including Ben Simmons, Jayson Tatum and Trae Young will all participate. Knox got the call when Lonzo Ball pulled out of the game due to an ankle injury (or, he still doesn’t want to play next to Fox. Whatever you choose to believe).

Friday night’s game is just the beginning of a basketball-filled weekend. Of course, Kentucky vs. Tennessee takes place Saturday night, but so will the NBA Skills Challenge, 3-point contest and the Slam Dunk contest. The NBA All-Star game will be Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. In total, there will be an astonishing seven Wildcats participating in the weekend.

The Skills Challenge (Saturday, 2/16): De’Aaron Fox

The 3-point Contest (Saturday, 2/16): Devin Booker

The Slam Dunk Contest (Saturday, 2/16): Hamidou Diallo

The All-Stars Game (Sunday, 2/17): Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns.

How awesome would it be to see a Kentucky sweep? Gilgeous-Alexander may have picked against Booker in the 3-point competition, but he’s going with Hami for the dunk contest:

Remember, tonight’s action starts at 9 on TNT.


WATCH: Kevin Knox wrecks Ben Simmons

(Photo via NBA.com/Knicks)

Kentucky may have fallen to LSU Tuesday night, but Kevin Knox just reminded everyone who owns the professional league. The former Cat absolutely destroyed Ben Simmons, who played for LSU before being selected as the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft.

Yikes. And remember, Ben Simmons didn’t even enjoy his one year at LSU, saying he didn’t really know what he learned, “financially or just being a person,” during his time with the Tigers.

The dunk video is blowing up on Twitter right now – a few of Knox’s former teammates even chimed in about the slam:

Knox by 90 and Cats > Tigers.


(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

BBNBA: Booker Scores 27 in Return From Injury

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

Good morning, folks. Devin Booker scored over 25 points again. The Phoenix Suns also lost again. Let’s talk NBA.

RECAP

[11-47] Suns – 104 @ [30-26] Kings – 117

  • After sitting out the previous two games with a minor hamstring issue, Devin Booker returned to the Phoenix Suns and proceeded to drop 27 points on the Sacramento Kings. Booker also added eight rebounds and six assists while shooting 9-19 from the field but in a losing effort. There was also a nervous moment in the third quarter where Booker banged knees with Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic and had to limp himself to the sidelines. He would return and appeared to be fine, but it’s just another entry into the 2018-19 Devin Booker Book of Random Injuries. Through 58 Suns’ games this season, Booker has been sidelined for 15 of them with six different injuries.

  • For Sacramento, the team continued its push for the franchise’s first playoff appearance since the 2005-06 season and the Kings’ record of 30-26 is the best start to a season since 2004-05. Leading them against Phoenix was De’Aaron Fox, who dropped in 17 points on 5-11 shooting to go along with six rebounds and nine assists. Willie Cauley-Stein contributed 10 points and eight rebounds for the Kings, who dominated this game from the opening tip, leading by 15-plus points for a majority of the second half.
  • The Suns’ current losing streak of 14 games is the second longest in franchise history, only one game behind the record the team set last season.

[25-29] Heat – 118 @ [40-15] Warriors – 120

  • Bam Adebayo (MIA) and DeMarcus Cousins (GSW) went head-to-head for portions of this game but were hardly the main attractions. But to be fair, it’s hard to outshine Kevin Durant when he’s casually dropping 39 while Josh Richardson is pouring in a career-high 37 points in a game that came down to the very last possession.
  • Adebayo posted eight points, 11 rebounds, three assists, and two blocks in 25 minutes for the Heat while Cousins struggled for the first time since his return, scoring only seven points and pulling down three boards in 26 minutes.

Other notes

  • Rajon Rondo was held scoreless but did add three rebounds and seven assists against the Philadelphia 76ers as his Los Angeles Lakers fell on the road 120-143.
  • For the Orlando Magic, Isaiah Briscoe had a poor shooting night, missing seven of his eight attempts for only two points and two assists.
  • Check out the full stat sheet below.

STATISTICS

PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
Devin Booker (PHX)104-117 L @ SAC279-19 (3-5)86005-1535
De'Aaron Fox (SAC)117-104 W vs. PHX175-11 (2-4)69202+1031
Willie Cauley-Stein (SAC)117-104 W vs. PHX103-5 (0-0)82151+1226
Bam Adebayo (MIA)118-120 L @ GSW84-6 (0-0)113122-1025
DeMarcus Cousins (GSW)120-118 W vs. MIA72-6 (0-3)31232-1226
Isaiah Briscoe (ORL)124-108 W @ ATL21-8 (0-3)02001+422
Rajon Rondo (LAL)120-143 L @ PHI00-3 (0-0)37002-1415
Skal Labissiere (POR)101-102 L @ DALDNP-CD----------------
Alex Poythress (ATL)108-124 L vs. ORLDNP-G League----------------

TONIGHT IN THE NBA

7:00: Knicks (Knox) @ Cavaliers (Knight)

7:00: Wizards (Wall-out) @ Pistons

7:00: Hornets (Kidd-Gilchrist, Monk) @ Pacers

7:30: Nets @ Raptors

8:00: Bucks (Bledsoe) @ Bulls

8:00 (NBATV): Mavericks @ Rockets

8:00: Clippers (Gilgeous-Alexander) @ Timberwolves (Towns)

8:00: Trail Blazers (Labissiere) @ Thunder (Diallo, Noel, Patterson)

9:00: Heat (Adebayo) @ Nuggets (Lyles, Murray, Vanderbilt)


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


(Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)

Alex Poythress and Terrence Jones are Dominating the G League

(Photo via Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)

We’re used to talking about the Anthony Davis’ and Devin Booker’s of the BBNBA world, but what we don’t talk about enough is the former Kentucky Wildcats grinding and working their way up and through the ranks.

There are two ex-Cats specifically who are dominating in the NBA’s developmental league – the G League – and proving that they might be worth a call up to the big times.

Alex Poythress and Terrence Jones, both teammates for the Atlanta Hawks G League affiliate, the Erie Bayhawks, have been dominating the G League landscape as a dynamic duo of power and brute strength.

Poythress is on a two-way contract with the Atlanta Hawks and has appeared in 18 games with them this season, but has been moving back-and-forth between G League to NBA throughout the season and has played in 12 games with the Bayhawks.

But before we get more into Poythress and his situation, let’s talk about Jones first.

Jones has been a dominant G Leaguer for what feels like half-a-decade now. He first got his taste of the developmental league when it was still known as the D-League back in the 2012-13 season, averaging 19 points and nine rebounds per game in 24 appearances. After some injuries derailed his first attempt at the NBA, he spent some time overseas in China before making his way back to the New Orleans Pelicans (however he was waived when the team traded for DeMarcus Cousins). He eventually joined the Santa Cruz Warriors (Golden State Warriors G League affiliate) in Dec. 2017 and spent 16 games with them, averaging 19.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per outing.

Fast forward to this season, and Jones has been straight-up destroying the competition. Through 21 games with the Bayhawks this season, Jones is averaging 22.7 points (8th most among qualified G Leaguers), 9.3 rebounds (12th), and 6.0 assists (23rd) per game while shooting over 53 percent from the field. Perhaps the most outstanding statistic of his is the 3.3 three-point attempts per game that he’s connecting on at a 41.4 percent clip. He’s doing all of this in roughly 30 minutes per game. The talent may be a tier below the NBA, but Jones is putting up career-high numbers in a multitude of categories.

Jones still hasn’t been gifted a two-way contract, or even a 10-day contract, and there’s no assurance that he will with fewer 30 games left in the regular season. But, there should still be some hope.

The Hawks are bad. We know this. Jones knows this. And the Hawks definitely know this. They’re currently 18-37 and vying for a top pick. Signing Jones to some sort of low-risk, low-dollar deal just to see what he’s capable of makes sense for Atlanta. Their entire season has been based around the idea of developing their young talent and seeing what they might potentially have. So might as well throw the 27-year old Jones in there, too.

On Monday, Jones was named the G League Player of the Week for the week of Jan. 28 – Feb. 3 after averaging a near triple-double of 24.9 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 9.5 assists in two games. He dropped 41 points in late January and poured in 28 points in only 26 minutes less than two weeks before that.

His passing has become a noticeable upgrade. His three-pointer is reliable. The turnovers are still an issue, especially since he acts as a point-forward. But there is definite value in what Jones could bring to an NBA team.


Alex Poythress is in a different boat than Jones in terms of their NBA availability, but he’s putting up impressive numbers all the same.

Poythress is no stranger to the G League, either. He spent the majority of his 2016-17 season with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants (Indiana Pacers affiliate), playing in 46 games while averaging 18.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. He signed a two-way contract with the Pacers last season and played a few games in the G League, but was ultimately waived before signing another two-way deal with the Hawks back in August.

The 25-year old Poythress is on a two-way contract, which means the Hawks can pick-and-choose when they would like to promote him or send him back down to the Bayhawks (although the team can only keep a player on a two-way deal for a total of 45 days throughout the season). He began the year spending most of his time with the Hawks, appearing in 13 of the team’s first 16 games, and performed moderately well. He averaged 5.0 points and 3.8 rebounds in 15 minutes per game in those 13 matchups but topped double-digits in scoring only once.

Since then, Poythress returned for only one short stint with the Hawks, playing five games in late December, but was once again sent back to the G League where he has played exceptionally well.

Most recently, Poythress torched the Lakeland Magic (Orlando Magic affiliate) for 40 points on 18-28 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds and three blocked shots. On the year, he’s averaging 24.1 points and 9.5 rebounds per game while shooting nearly 53 percent from the field. He hasn’t played enough games to qualify for the G League leaderboards, but his scoring would rank sixth among all positions.

He’s already spent a good amount of his 45 available days with the Hawks so it’s unclear exactly how much of an opportunity he could potentially earn if they brought him back up. The organization has been shuffling him between the two teams for a solid part of the last four weeks, but he has yet to see any more NBA action.

The Hawks are still rebuilding, trying to learn which pieces fit best where and which players have the potential to make an impact in the future. With Poythress and Jones, Atlanta has two promising, hungry, and established G Leaguers who are chomping at the bit to make their mark. There’s still a chance that one of them can make the jump before the seasons end. Now if we can just start a petition to bring them both up at the same time…


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


2019 NBA Skills Challenge betting odds.

De’Aaron Fox is the Favorite to Win the Skills Challenge at All-Star Weekend

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Do you think you – or anyone in the entire galaxy, for that matter – could beat De’Aaron Fox in the NBA All-Star weekend Skills Challenge? No? Well, neither does Las Vegas.

According to the betting site, Bovada, Fox is the current favorite to win the competition that will feature other talented ball handlers such as rookie sensations Luka Doncic (DAL) and Trae Young (ATL) along with gifted big men such as Nikola Jokic (DEN) and Nikola Vucevic (ORL).

2019 NBA Skills Challenge betting odds.

When looking at the field though, it’s no wonder the former Kentucky guard is the favorite. Fox is hands down the quickest of the group (Mike Conley [MEM] might be his only competitor in that area, but only if it’s the Conley of three years ago, which is not going to be the case), but is probably the fourth-best passer behind some combination of Doncic, Young, and Jokic. I’d say Doncic will be Fox’s biggest challenge with Jokic following up behind the two. Id’ also say the two wing players, Jayson Tatum (BOS) and Kyle Kuzma (LAL), will absolutely surprise some people with how easy they’ll be able to run through this course. They are incredibly fluid and rather graceful when they have the ball in their hands. It should be an exciting event.

Fox isn’t going to be the only former Wildcat participating in one of these special events next weekend, though. Both Devin Booker and Hamidou Diallo will participate in the 3-Point Contest and Slam-Dunk Contest, respectively, but neither are considered favorites like Fox.

Booker is tied with Buddy Hield for the second-highest odds behind only – of course – the greatest shooter of all time in Stephen Curry (GSW). Steph’s brother, Seth (POR), is also among the group of 10 and other notable names include Damian Lillard (POR), Kemba Walker (CHA), and the great Dirk Nowitzki (DAL). For my personal pick to win this contest, I’ve actually elected to go with the younger Curry, Seth, who currently leads the league in three-point shooting percentage, connecting on 66 of his 136 attempts (48.5 percent).

2019 NBA 3-Point Contest betting odds.

As for Diallo, he is the underdog for the Dunk Contest by a considerable margin. Among the group, Diallo has the lowest odds out of John Collins (ATL), Dennis Smith Jr. (NYK), and Miles Bridges (CHA). Now some credit is due to Diallo, who is one of the bounciest players that no one has seen yet and got into the contest despite playing in fewer than 12 minutes per game. But he hasn’t been able to showcase his true dunking ability in the pros just yet. And if you’ve seen any of the other three players dunk a basketball this season, you’d understand why Diallo is so far behind the pack. Smith Jr. attacks the rim like it stole his girlfriend, Collins is just a massive and alien-like athlete, and Bridges’ power dunks, where he cocks the ball all the way back to his feet before unloading every ounce of aggression he has, will leave entire arenas stunned into confusion.

2019 NBA Dunk Contest betting odds.

Place your bets now, you’ll have several opportunities to win/lose money off a bunch of former Kentucky players.


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan