Vacation for myself and through the All Star break means a bigger sample size. Here is the youth report for February 3rd through February 22nd.
Player of the Weeks: Collin Sexton
Averages: 21.7 points, 4.8 assists, 2.2 rebounds, 43.1 FG%, 43.8 3P%, 55.6 TS% in six games
It’ll be hard for any player to dethrone Sexton when he is playing this well. While his usage has been steady for the season, he has been getting more touches as the season has gone on. Increasing his average touches per game from 56 in December, 65 in January, and now 70 so far in February.
While that many touches would have likely caused a revolt among his teammates early in the season, he’s shown an improved understanding of when to give the ball up. Sporting an assist percentage of 19.5 over his last 15 games.
He’s far from a naturally gifted passer, but he’s starting to recognize the opportunities his athleticism can create for others. He can get by most primary defenders with ease, causing the defense to collapse and generating assist opportunities with dump-offs and kick-outs.
Darius Garland is tasked with trying to set up the offense and play as a more traditional point guard. But Sexton’s ability to add supplemental play making and create opportunity for others helps make up for Garland’s inconsistency and bring the overall assist numbers for the team closer to acceptable.
Over the last 15 games Sexton has a 15.7 assist percentage with Garland on the floor and 25.6 with him off the floor. Both numbers are an improvement from last season when he was operating as the full time point guard.
Maintaining this play would make playing the two guards far more tenable offensively. Conceding that the defense will in all likelihood be a mess with any combination of their guards.
It also opens up different opportunities for J.B. Bickerstaff to stagger the guards in different ways. The growth of Sexton, Garland and Porter Jr. will determine what roles they play moving forward for the team. But as long as they are all on the roster they will need to figure out how to best maximize their minutes together in any combination.
Averages: 12.2 points, 5.5 assists, 0.8 rebounds, 45.5 FG%, 37 3P%, 54.2 TS% in six games
It’s hard to imagine anybody on the roster needed the All Star break more than Darius Garland. For the most part, he’s played a fairly consistent role since finding his stride in mid-December.
He’s functioned as a traditional point guard, trying to find the right balance between getting others involved and getting his own shots. He has continued to have stretches of being tentative and even a few instances where he was clearly pressing and actively harmful on the court.
But for the most part, his effectiveness overall has been determined by his ability to make shots. When the shots are falling, he settles into a rhythm and makes fairly good decisions. The assist numbers have been steady, but the shooting percentages have not been.
On the plus side, the fact Garland’s play making ability seems better than advertised and he’s struggling in the one area he was projected to excel in can be viewed as encouraging. Perhaps after some time off, he will start making his outside shots at a more consistent rate.
Until he adds some muscle this summer it’s hard to imagine him having meaningful success at the rim. But how he performs as a shooter for the remainder of the season could be instructive when it comes to determining how far he has to go.
Kevin Porter Jr.
Averages: 10.8 points, 2.5 assists, 2.5 rebounds, 48.1 FG%, 46.2 3P%, 55 TS% in six games
While Garland has looked refreshed after the break, Porter Jr. appears to have lost some of the momentum he built after his return prior to the break. After being ejected against Washington and ineffective against Miami.
But these rough patches are something we’ve come to expect from him this season. No player on this team plays less like his averages than him. The high water marks have been exceptional, displaying an impressive ability to create a shot for himself or others. While vanishing or falling apart in other games.
The good news is that his memory has seemed short this season. He has shown mental toughness and will likely respond to these two poor games.
Bickerstaff has indicated that Porter Jr. will continue to receive more responsibility for the remainder of the season. He will be tasked with initiating plays, likely with the second unit.
Like Garland, the key will be to see if the high water marks for this season can become more frequent. As well as the lows to be less low. Porter Jr. might have the highest ceiling as a two-way player on the team. But he will need to work on how foul prone he can be and work towards keeping his composure.
Averages this week: 11.8 points, 3 assists, 6 rebounds, 42.4 FG%, 34.2 3P%, 54.1 TS% in six games.
Osman’s game was really falling off heading into the break. He couldn’t get his shots to fall and was fading into the background with the acquisition of Andre Drummond.
Fortunately the early returns look promising for Osman, with a strong showing against Washington and an okay game against the Heat.
While his development won’t be as important to focus on as the guards, his presence can help make things easier for them. He’s the closest thing this team has had to a reliable wing shooter this season. Runs out in transition and can create opportunities for himself without the ball.
Maintaining those activity levels for the remainder of the year will be important for both his own play, as well as the impact it will have on everybody else.
Stats as of Feb. 22.