Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA column

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Logo for Diehlman at Halftime column. - Graphics Editor / Julia Quennessen

More information pertaining to the All-Star Game has been unveiled.

Boston Celtics Interim Head Coach Joe Mazzulla will be leading Team Giannis, while Denver Nuggets Head Coach Mike Malone will be in charge of Team LeBron. In addition to the coaches, the All-Star reserves were announced this past Thursday, Feb. 2.

Bam Adebayo, DeMar DeRozan, Jaylen Brown, Tyrese Haliburton, Jrue Holiday, Julius Randle and Joel Embiid are reserves for the Eastern Conference.

Meanwhile, in the Western Conference, we have Paul George, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jaren Jackson Jr., Damian Lillard, Lauri Markkanen, Domantas Sabonis and Ja Morant. These players will go up against one another on Sunday, Feb. 19, at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Finally, we have a bombshell to report. Kyrie Irving has been traded to the Dallas Mavericks, pairing him with Luka Dončić! Wow!

Irving requested a trade on Friday because talks of a contract extension with the Nets broke down. You have to believe Kevin Durant will soon bolt as well. Durant requested a trade over the summer before rescinding it after talking with Brooklyn’s front office.

Editor’s Note: On Feb. 9, Kevin Durant was traded to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder and four unprotected first-round picks.

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

Highlight

Unless we see a collapse for the ages from the Sacramento Kings, it looks like they will be clinching a playoff berth!

The Kings are 31-23 and third in the West, behind the Memphis Grizzlies and Denver Nuggets. Domantas Sabonis, who is shooting an absurd 61.5% from the field, was named an All-Star reserve, but fans are wondering how point guard De’Aaron Fox wasn’t named to the roster at all. The former Kentucky Wildcat is averaging 24.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game. Surprisingly, even with the Kings having a great season, the points and assists per game aren’t even career highs for Fox!

Under new Head Coach Mike Brown, Sacramento is sure to have a great core for the foreseeable future with the likes of Kevin Huerter, Keegan Murray and Davion Mitchell. While I’m not sure how they would fare in the playoffs this year with their young roster, there are franchise cornerstones in California’s capital.

Lowlight

After a strong start to the 2022-23 season, and briefly holding the top seed in the West, the Pelicans are falling back down to Earth.

New Orleans is 29-27 and seventh in the West, while recently snapping a 10-game losing streak. A huge reason why they’re dropping in the standings is that Zion Williamson is still out with a hamstring strain. The Pelicans could certainly use his 26 points per game back as soon as possible. Fortunately, reports are saying that he should be returning soon.

Even though Head Coach Willie Green has turned the organization around, they still need time before NBA fans consider them a true contender. The franchise has never been to the Western Conference Finals, even with players like Anthony Davis and Chris Paul playing for them over the years.

With a core of Brandon Ingram, C.J. McCollum and young guys like Jose Alvarado, New Orleans will be a fun group to watch in the coming seasons. If I’m a Pelicans fan, I’m just hoping that Williamson returns and plays like he did before the hamstring injury, since hamstrings are a tricky injury to deal with.

Random Stat

To see how good an athlete is, there are two tests to determine ability: the eye test and the box score.

The eye test is obviously watching them on TV or in person, while the box score judges an athlete solely based on their box-score stats. Regardless of what test we use, we can clearly tell what kind of defensive impact at least four players in the league have, considering that they’re averaging two or more blocks.

The top four in blocks per game are Nic Claxton, Brook Lopez, Myles Turner and Walker Kessler. Kessler’s presence on this list is particularly impressive, given that he’s a rookie.

Jaren Jackson Jr. of the Grizzlies, however, is averaging 3.3 blocks per game this season! He should be leading the league then, right? He isn’t because he’s only played 36 games.

The other four players mentioned have averaged 49.5 games played this season. When coaching staffs are scouting for upcoming games, driving to the paint and trying to score on these men is probably not a smart idea.

What makes this statistic even cooler is that Claxton and Kessler were taken outside of the top 15 spots in their respective draft classes. Some front offices just know how to find a diamond in the rough.

For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.

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