The 2021-22 season is entering the homestretch, with roughly 20
games to go per team and the playoffs slated to start in less than
two months (What?!).
Maybe it's just from the extended break, but the last few weeks
have felt particularly rife with frustration and criticism from all
parties in the league. It's important, for instance, to be
critical, think in-depth and discuss the ins and outs of award
voting. That's part of the media job and part of talking about the
NBA! However, I've felt routinely bogged down by some of the
When it comes down to it, I just want to enjoy the league, get
myself down into the minutiae, bask in the fleeting moments of this
season and appreciate some of the things that have consistently
brought a smile to my face or warmth to my heart this season.
So, without further ado, here are some things I've really
enjoyed throughout the season that I want to give some shine!
Isaac Okoro's quiet
The Cleveland Cavaliers have been
one of the darlings of the NBA this season, stunning the majority
of analysts and league personnel with their stellar play. Evan
Mobley is going to be a star. Jarrett Allen
rightfully earned an All-Star nod after some
massive improvements across the board. Darius Garland stirs the
drank like few in the league. Kevin Love has a claim to Sixth Man
of the Year!
This team just jibes in so many
ways. They've kept their heads above water through rough stretches
with injury and difficult patches in their schedule. A good
Isaac Okoro, the fifth overall
pick in the 2020 draft, does not grab the headlines. His box score
is roughly the same as last season.
Yet he is central to what the
Cavs do. He papers over so much for Cleveland in a way that isn't
always palpable, but when he's not on court, it's just kind of like
"ohhh ok, I get it now."
Okoro isn't treated like a shooter, and rightfully so — he's
shooting 30.2% from deep in his young career. Earlier in the
season, he tried to gun his way through it at times, hoisting up
open threes. At other times, he'd immediately drive an open look
from the perimeter towards the rim. The balance never felt right.
However, in 2022, he seems to have found that groove — becoming
more comfortable toggling between driving and keeping defenses
guessing. He's hitting 33% of his threes in 2022, on slightly over
two per game. For where he's at right now, it's good enough.
To supplement that, he's been incredibly assertive as an
off-ball player, timing cuts well when the defense helps off of
He's a menace floating baseline,
either off 45 cuts when the nail defender ball-watches, or flying
in from the key to snag offensive rebounds.
Okoro has such a great nose for
the ball. He never seems to pause once the ball goes into action,
and uses that advantageous extra split-second against the
He's pushed the issue more in
transition off of defensive rebounds to bring a different dynamic
to the Cavs' offense (21st in transition frequency per Cleaning the
Glass) and self-create easier baskets.
He's found ways to meaningfully
impact winning as a second-year player in a way that most upper
lottery picks aren't asked to do so early. I don't know what to
think about his trajectory (a future article!), but it's clear that
right now he's a vital cog in Cleveland's present and future. The
playoffs will be a huge test for him and the Cavaliers, but I see
it going well for him, as a guy who just makes it work.
I really didn't enjoy watching the Dallas Mavericks play early
in the season. I found their offense pretty drab, the defense was
blah, and execution all-around felt off.
I was way too unfair and overly critical. Jason Kidd has really
impressed me this season — the Mavs are a top notch defensive unit,
and Luka continues to be one of the brightest stars in basketball.
Jalen Brunson has taken another step and remains an absolute joy
with his footwork and craft.
Often, it seems as though that's where the conversation ends
(especially with Kristaps Porzingis now gone), and that's a
Dallas does lack a true second star, but man, they have some
incredibly effective and endearing role players — Dorian
Finney-Smith is having a fantastic season! He's a very solid
defender, both on and off the ball, but I've been more impressed
with his offensive growth this season.
When he came out of Florida, he was a relatively shaky shooter
and didn't shoot around league average until his fourth NBA season
(38.1% on around 5 per game over the last three seasons). He
started to put together more drives last season, attacking off the
catch. Possessions could occasionally die if he was closed out on
and then forced to put the ball on the deck.
Not the case anymore!
He can hit the corner if the tagger comes, or find the dunker
spot if the defender steps up. He's not going to ignite the
offense, but he can keep it circulating.
Meanwhile, Maxi Kleber is always a delight as a defensive player
— probably the best individual defender on the Mavs and a fringe
He just defends everyone, and he does it with
conviction. Per Basketball Index, he rates in the top 5% of their
defensive role versatility metric and top 7% in positional
versatility, a testament to his utility.
He possesses great lateral quickness for his size, but his
timing stands out even more. Kleber is adept at contesting shots,
disrupting windows with gumption. He's solid on rotations and as a
help side shot-blocker.
Jason Kidd has utilized Josh Green as a screener and more of a
turnkey in the team's offense, letting him thrive on the margins
rather than forcing him into a smaller role as a theoretical spacer
just for the sake of theoretical spacing. He's brought a vertical
element the team really lacks and his rugby background pops with
his physicality. Small screeners can still screen effectively, and
Green is living proof!
He has good court vision and ability to get off passes on the
short-roll. He has decent touch on floaters, and while his jumpshot
is mostly a pipe dream at the moment, I see the vision. Buy Green
Dwight Powell has found some of the lift he lost and has been
more serviceable in Dallas' revamped defensive system.
Reggie Bullock is such a quality defender and, after one of the
worst shooting slumps I've witnessed in some time, he's shot 43%
from deep in 2022.
The Mavs are certainly built around Luka Doncic, but the players
around him are more than they tend to get credit for.
Oshae Brissett: Off-ball
There are few players in the
league I enjoy watching operate more than Oshae Brissett of the
This one play may be the best 14
second summarization you'll ever find of a player.
Brissett is a tremendous
opportunistic scorer, always opening himself up to easy looks and
as an outlet for teammates (The Haliburton-Brissett combo is
He times the cut as soon as help
is committed, but Patrick Beverley makes a late rotation and
recovers to tip the ball.
But wait, there's
Brissett tosses himself out of
bounds to secure the ball and throw a mid-air pass back to Buddy
Hield, who's wide open in the corner. Many a player makes this play
and then floats under the rim, but Oshae immediately relocates to
The ball keeps moving around the
perimeter. Swing-swing, and Oshae hits a wide-open three on a
possession that wouldn't have already been over if he hadn't made
an extra effort.
Keep him in mind when thinking
about Indiana's future.
An appreciation of facial
Lu Dort is already one of the
most revered point of attack defenders in basketball. Add on the
mask and I'd like to think he gets a +4 to all defensive
attributes, like when you put on new armor in a Bethesda
Wendell Carter Jr. donned the
goggles and hasn't looked back, ascending like the hybrid combo big
that was promised.
Reggie Jackson: Starting point
I don't care what his
true-shooting percentage is, he has literally never missed a jumper
when he has glasses on.
I'm all in on eyewear, and
players who feel the same have profited heavily this
Jeff Green, still
Jeff Green is in the midst of his
14th NBA season, which is an absolute trip to type. Fun fact: he
has never played less than 20 minutes per game in a season, and
that doesn't look like it'll change this year. He's started the
majority of the season with the Nuggets, and has continued to be a
pretty darn solid pro.
His defense has ... uhh ... been
lacking, but he continues to do what made me fall in love with his
game as a kid: ripping the rim with dunks.
He's second on the Nuggets this
season in dunks with 48, his highest total mark since the 2017-18
season with the Cavs. His career dunk reel is insanely underrated
if you have 10 minutes to kill.
Green has thrived in Denver's
offense, playing off of Nikola Jokic as a cutter and
The bounce he still has, the
consistency with which he exhibits it, and some of the contact
finishes he continues to put on tape are just absurd at this point.
I've really enjoyed his season and the stability he's found as a
role player later in his career.
I really liked Quentin Grimes at
Houston and thought he had a real place in the NBA. That being
said, I am routinely taken aback by his on-court impact in this,
his rookie year.
On a team that's struggled to
meet expectations, he's surpassed all of mine. The shot from deep
has been money. He's intrigued attacking off the catch with some
interesting flashes of live-dribble passing.
The defense, oh man the
There just are not many players
in the world who can move their feet the way Quentin Grimes does
when he's sliding at the point of attack.
He sheds screens like mad,
seemingly refusing to let the ball leave his area of effect. The
way his feet move is rhythmic, a controlled-yet-maniacal pace that
I find mesmerizing.
One of my favorite things to do
at night is take a few minutes to tune into a Knicks game just to
watch Grimes muck it up on the perimeter.
Fun and awesome things are happening all around us in the NBA.
Sometimes, I really need to take a step back and go "hey, it's
pretty cool the way Ziaire Williams just sprints to the corner,"
acknowledge the absurdity that is DeMar DeRozan's season without
taking stock of his MVP odds, and appreciate the other great things
that may have become commonplace. Basketball is a special sport.
Reminding myself why I love it everyday makes me appreciate it even
Looking to go to the hottest
concerts, sports, theater & family shows near you? Get 100%
guaranteed tickets to more than 125,000 live events from
TicketSmarter, the official ticket marketplace of
BasketballNews.com. Order online