Credit: AP, USA TODAY Sports - Scanpix | BasketNews illustration
Credit AP, USA TODAY Sports - Scanpix | BasketNews illustration

We had yet another interesting week for the NBA Euro community for some different reasons as BasketNews continues its NBA Europe edition.

Doncic finally gets some accompany from Porzingis while Jokic shoves Morris and becomes suspended while his brother gets involved to add some unexpected twist to the story.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was missing because of an ankle sprain while Nikola Vucevic tested positive COVID-19. We wish health to both of them and also hats off to Damian Rudez, who just called it a day for his basketball career.

The Croatian sharpshooter left an interesting legacy in NBA as he sent 40% behind the arc in his first season at Indiana Pacers but also went into the top of the anti-rebounding list among the big players having only grabbed 3% of available rebounds when he was on the floor despite being 2.08.

Still, future NBA champion coach Frank Vogel once called him "Maybe our highest IQ player on the team” Not bad. 

Porzingis’ On the Spot  

After suffering from back tightness and being sidelined for nearly 10 days, Kristaps Porzingis returned with much-needed offensive support to lead Dallas for two more wins last week. 

Considering that slow starters from the West like the Clippers and the Suns are starting to climb up in the standings with having successive wins, coach Jason Kidd should be happy to see the helping hand from the Latvian.

Starting the week with a moderate game against New Orleans Pelicans, Porzingis’ contribution improved gradually, with an apex of 32 points 7 rebounds, 3 blocks effort to accompany Luka Doncic on the way for a shiny win against the San Antonio Spurs.  

Despite his 22 points and 12 rebounds double-double effort fell short of anchoring the Mavericks for a win against the Bulls, Porzingis’ 54.5% FG and 44% non-garbage time 3-point shooting throughout last week was a confidence-booster. 

Until last week, the same figures were almost abysmal: 36.4% FG and 21.1% 3 FG for him. When put into the context with Dallas’ shooting woes as they are currently in the bottom ten of effective field percentages, Porzingis’ presence on the court becomes even more valuable.

The worries regarding his overall efficiency aside, Luka Doncic also scored 32 points against Chicago and made his first triple-double of the season as a statement. On the other hand, it is not a secret that he needs more help with carrying the load at this point of the season. 

As his shooting is getting away from the rim, Doncic’s true shooting percentage is currently on the lowest point among his career figures (52.6%, per, and that’s why Porzingis’ timing for complementary support is also important. 

What is the durability of this partnership when we consider Porzingis’ intermittent medical troubles? Hard to tell.

Jokic-Morris Brothers’ Fight Club 

Last week started with a rather strange incident. 

Everything looked fine when Denver Nuggets managed to shut down a very hot Miami Heat, where once again, Nikola Jokic was leading his team with the first triple-double of the season with 25 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists (with 71% FG!)  

Perhaps, Jokic reflected all his frustration on Markieff Morris in a nasty moment as he gave a ‘bodycheck’ to the Nuggets star with an unnecessary and completely avoidable late contract. 

Jokic’s reaction was explosive on the court, and both players got ejected, but luckily the events did not go that much far as the game itself was concerned.

However, the altercation went beyond Jokic and Morris themselves and was carried to the virtual platforms by the family entourage of both players. 

As a threatening response to Marcus Morris, the twin brother of Markieff, Jokic Brothers just popped up on Twitter with a new account to quickly gather 30,000 followers in 6 hours. The account does not exist anymore, but the tweets were buzzing around social media the entire week. 

Credit Uygar Karaca

Eventually, Jokic was given a one-game suspension (Morris was fined), and on his return against Atlanta Hawks and Trail Blazers, the reigning MVP continued where he left off. 

His first triple-double of the season (22 pts 19 rebs 10 assists) was followed by another 28 points 9 rebounds, 9 assists combination. Once again, he gave a clinic about how to create options in the offense absence of Micheal Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray.

In that game against Portland,  he provided seven of the first eight buckets of Nuggets. He knows what the team needs the most at any given time.

Schroder Shifts Gear 

We already mentioned Dennis Schröder’s offensive showdown in the earlier days of the season but last week was something else. He is getting used to his slightly transformed role of becoming a part of the starting line-up, from being a potential 6th man in the original setup of Ime Udoka’s team.

After succumbing to Dallas with Doncic’s buzzer-beater three, the Celtics bounced back with wins against Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks. In the process, Schroder came out of nowhere to lead his team in the offense.

Against the Raptors, his 20 points, 4 assists contribution looked a bit untidy with 8 turnovers, but he led the Celtics to pass the Bucks in overtime.

While Bucks did not have Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, and Donte DiVincenzo, Schroder even got the MVP chants, where he recorded 38 points and 8 rebounds. 

Things would have been even shinier if Schroder managed to make the last shot in the final buzzer in the Cavaliers game. In this way, he could have stopped the Celtics blowing, reaching an 18 points 3rd quarter lead, but he missed. 

Despite his offensive role being more discernible, Schröder also found a place in the switching scheme of Ime Udoka’s defensive design.

From the beginning of the season until the beginning of November the 1st, the Celtics were 19th in the defensive ratings. In 15 days, they’ve climbed to 5th place in this department. 

Udoka finds Schröder “competitive” in defense as he is intimidating the opponent’s wide-open threes with agile closeouts. 

While Jason Tatum is still trying to find his rhythm and Jalen Brown is struggling with injury, Schröder’s initiative in the offense is immensely valuable. He is making most of those minutes count in a very productive way. 

Pokusevski is a Silent Contributor 

Aleksej Pokusevski does not make triple-doubles. Not even close. His amazing 20+ points games that we witnessed last season are yet to come. But being one of the youngest players in the league, the Serbian power forward’s not so visible contributions also helped Oklahoma City Thunder to get four wins in a row, two of them came last week. 

Complying with his role in the team, the Serbian does not use many shots, and scoring figures are far from being striking in the first look.

However, he played over 10 minutes on the average per game, and his usage rates are hovering around 20%, indicating that he uses the ball frequently when he is on the floor.

But what matters most is his efficiency. In his second NBA year, Pokusevski keeps his assist rate beyond 13%, including the five assists he made in two games last week: against Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans. 

As a 2.13 player, Pokusevski exhibits unexpected fluidity and exposes us to his exceptional court vision. But when leaving these meta-statistic abilities that might sound a bit abstract, on-court/off-court figures provide some more material. 

When Pokusevski is on the court, OKC Thunder allow -4.6 points less and grab +4.6 offensive rebounds more (per Cleaning the Glass). In the same vein, Pokusevski helps his team to cut opponents’ offensive rebounding percentage by 10%.

Last night, Thunder’s winning run ended against the Nets, where Pokusevksi scored 8 points and grabbed 6 rebounds with 4/9 two-point shooting. Probably, we will hear his name more and more frequently in the near future.

The Warriors are Back and Bjelica is in the Mix 

Nemanja Bjelica’s addition in the summer to the Golden State Warriors camp was not supposed to create a particular excitement among their fans, but the Serbian NBA veteran is once again proving his worth with the multiple skills that he brings to the arsenal of the Splash Brothers.

Last week, the Warriors added three more wins against Atlanta Hawks, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Chicago Bulls, and Bjelica offered his humble and balanced but yet, very effective and stable contribution.

Playing 17.3 meaningful minutes per game, he scored 7.5 points, grabbed 4.0 rebounds, and made 2.0 assists on average, including 4 assists against Chicago.

Warriors are leading the league with an 11-1 record, and they are yet to lose in November. And Klay Thompson is yet to return. Exciting times around the Golden Gate. 

One thing that takes particular attention with Bjelica is his plus/minus contribution. The reliability of this particular analytical tool is debatable, and it would be very misleading to reach very sharp assessments by offering 100% commitment to plus/minus ratings.

However, some numbers are simply attractive. When calculated per 100 possessions, Bjelica’s on-court plus-minus score is +30.1, the second-highest among the league (behind his teammate Gary Payton II, 37.6 per)

In addition to that, both Bjelica’s offensive and defensive ratings are pretty, which puts him on the top of the net rating list in the entire league (per NBA Advanced Stats).

His non-garbage time 3 FG % is an NBA career-high, 46%. All things aside, even his teammates are somewhat surprised with Bjelica’s off-dribble passing skills. As ironical as its sounds, Bjelica is almost being rediscovered at the age of 33 nowadays. 

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