Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA column

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I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving! Somehow, Christmas is already around the corner.

With the NFL hogging the Thanksgiving games every year, the NBA loves to hog the Christmas slate. But, we’ll get there when we get there.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Patrick Beverley was suspended for three games after shoving Phoenix Suns center DeAndre Ayton in L.A.’s loss to Phoenix last Tuesday. Ayton appeared to be standing over L.A.’s Austin Reaves after a foul, and Beverley shoved Ayton in the back. Players’ emotions can run high in certain situations. Even L.A. coach Darvin Ham said that Beverley was defending his teammate.

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

Highlight

After a disappointing early exit in the playoffs last season, the Atlanta Hawks are looking to re-assert themselves as true contenders with a 12-10 record thus far, good enough to be tied for sixth in the Eastern Conference.

One major change they made in the offseason was acquiring Dejounte Murray from the Spurs. A backcourt of Trae Young and Murray should be a force for years to come, given their young ages and abilities. Besides the almost 28 points and 10 assists that Young provides each night, along with Murray’s all-around skillset, Atlanta has other key pieces.

De’Andre Hunter, John Collins and Clint Capela should be on every opponent’s radar in film study. From great defense to highlight dunks, you can never leave them alone. Even though Atlanta traded away Kevin Huerter and Danilo Gallinari, the Hawks don’t seem to miss them that much. Then you have Head Coach Nate McMillan.

When he was promoted from an interim position in 2020, he transformed the Hawks and led them to a 27-11 record. They lost in the Eastern Conference Finals. Not bad.

I’ll leave you with this — while the Braves have a few months to go until spring training, and since nobody is afraid of the Falcons, the Hawks are currently Atlanta’s must-watch team.

Lowlight

Would you look at that, the Detroit Pistons are still at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Detroit is 5-18 this season, which is the worst record in the NBA.

Even though the Pistons had two impressive road wins in Denver and Utah last week, and they clearly have talent for the future, it’s not their time yet. Head coach Dwane Casey is in his fifth year as the leader of this squad, and the closest thing to a “winning” record he’s had there was when he went 41-41 in his first year.

Star forward Cade Cunningham, who’s averaging 19.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and six assists per game, is dealing with a shin injury. Detroit is trying to decide if he should get surgery now and end his season (they would be wise to say “yes” to that).

Amazingly, despite these woes, Detroit is only 5.5 games out of the final play-in tournament seed. This could just be a factor of a weaker Eastern Conference, but could you imagine if the Pistons somehow got that 10th seed? For the time being, though, if you’re a Pistons fan, don’t set your expectations too high.

Random Stat

The Indiana Pacers may have struck gold when they acquired Tyrese Haliburton from the Sacramento Kings last year.

The former Iowa State Cyclone, who will be 23 years old in February, is averaging an absurd NBA-leading 11.1 assists per game this season! He is averaging 13.6 assists per game in his last five contests as well. And I haven’t even gotten to the best part.

Over the last five seasons, Haliburton has had three games with at least 15 assists and zero turnovers. The rest of the league has had three games of that caliber combined! We might have CP3 2.0 on our hands.

Haliburton’s contributions are a big reason why the Pacers are in the top five in the Eastern Conference. If you don’t believe me, take a peek at his P.E.R., or Player Efficiency Rating. It’s at 23.58, which is the 12th-best in the league.

For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.

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