Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA Weekly Column

Logo for Diehlman at Halftime column. - Graphics Editor / Jana Jackstis

Throw open the front door, bask in the sunlight. Heck, go listen to Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” Spring has finally arrived!

Winter wasn’t too fun this year, but maybe warmer weather will cheer us up. I know Houston fans are happy – not because of the warm weather, but they finally snapped their twenty game losing streak!

And you know what else is being “sprung” on us? The NBA trade deadline. This year’s deadline is tomorrow, Thursday, March 25, so we’ll have to wait and see if anything major happens or if it’s mainly a dud.

For example, Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry is rumored to be on the trading block. The Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers are reportedly interested, but Toronto is being cautious. Could you imagine the audience’s reaction from the Wells Fargo Center if Lowry was a 76er?

To add some context, he went to college at Villanova and was born in Philadelphia. Being on his hometown team would be a lovely trifecta!

Cleveland’s Andre Drummond is also a big name to watch out for. He’s most likely going to be bought out or traded and, given his resume, he should have more than one suitor. This is the last chance for contending teams to make a move in order to keep up with their overlords. Let the battle begin!

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

1 Highlight, 1 Lowlight, 1 Random Stat

Highlight: Who would’ve guessed that all the Atlanta Hawks had to do to go on a nice winning streak was to fire head coach Lloyd Pierce? The Hawks play at State Farm Arena, so I guess Jake wasn’t lying when he says the famous catchphrase, “When you need a real deal, State Farm is there.”

Replacing Pierce is former Pacers head coach Nate McMillan. Since McMillan has taken over, Atlanta won eight straight before losing to the Clippers on Monday.

The Hawks are led by star point guard Trae Young. Young was drafted by Dallas, while Luka Dončić was drafted by Atlanta. They were immediately traded for one another. Young averages 25.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 9.4 assists per contest. Teammate John Collins averages 18.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. This is an impressive turnaround from Atlanta, who’s now fourth in the East! If they can steady the ship now, there should be no excuses if they miss the playoffs.

Lowlight: Pull up a socially-distanced chair real quick because we need to have a talk…specifically, a G.O.A.T. talk (Greatest of All Time). This won’t be your typical LeBron vs. Jordan argument. Nor will it be the classic Wentz vs. Foles drama.

No, no, no. We’re talking about Ja Morant.

The Memphis Grizzlies star point guard, who’s in his second year as a pro, is already an all-time great. You may be thinking, “At what?” He’s an all-time great at missed dunks to absolutely embarrass opponents.

Every time I see this guy on my Bleacher Report feed or a highlight reel in general, Morant is going for one of the biggest dunks we’ve ever seen only to miss it and almost injure himself in the process. On Friday, he missed a big slam on Golden State’s Draymond Green. If you watch the replay, the ball starts to fall out of his hand too early.

Another example happened last year, where Morant almost wiped the floor with Cleveland’s Kevin Love by hurdling him. His right leg didn’t clear Love, but neither of them was hurt.

I don’t know if there was a player similar to this in the past. For today’s league, though, Morant is the king of missed dunks.

Random Stat: My, oh my, how the Cleveland Cavaliers have fallen. They were interesting for the first week, as they went 4-2 in that span. Then, reality slapped them: this roster isn’t a Finals contender right now.

LeBron James is gone for real this time (unless he signs a 1-day contract before retirement). But, one of the main things going their way is the exciting backcourt of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, or “Sexland,” as Cavs fans like to call them.

Both are 6’1”, which is small for two guards on the court at the same time, and they can dazzle with their skills. While Garland has shown to be better at passing this season, Sexton is the better scorer. Even with these two causing trouble for other teams, there are some issues that are holding their potential back.

Cleveland is toward the bottom in defensive rating (23/30), including 27th out of 30 in opponents’ field goal percent and 28th out of 30 in opponents’ 3 point percent. I’m not saying one player will magically make them into a championship team, unless we’re talking about Kawhi Leonard carrying the Raptors to a title two seasons ago. But, the Cavs’ first homework assignment should be going after defensive specialists and teaching their players to clamp.

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