VIDEO: Pacers top Magic in Orlando
By Ben Leibowitz, Special to NBA.com
Throughout the 82-game grind of the NBA season, rest can mean a world of difference wherever players find it.
That can mean taking a day off on the second (or first) day of a back-to-back set, sitting out during the fourth quarter of blowout victories (as Stephen Curry has done often this season), or, more recently, the rest provided via February’s All-Star break. In theory, the hiatus provides a time for many players to refuel for the stretch run. Fresh legs generally translate into players performing to the best of their abilities, but that isn’t always the case.
As the PointAfter team discovered for the week following All-Star weekend, it sometimes takes more than rest to quash shooting slumps.
Note: Statistics in this article cover games between Feb. 19-25.
Guard: George Hill, Indiana Pacers
As a 29-year-old, eight-year veteran, George Hill has been around the block. San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich once extolled Hill as “my favorite player” prior to the trade that sent him to Indiana in exchange for Kawhi Leonard, according to Express-News’ Jeff McDonald. That’s high praise coming from one of the greatest coaches in NBA history.
Of course, even those who gain favor from genius basketball minds are not immune to shooting slumps. And, boy, did Hill come out of the All-Star break cold.
Hill shot 3-for-11 on Feb. 19 in a win against Oklahoma City — though he nearly recorded a triple-double with 11 rebounds and nine assists to accompany his nine points.
From there, Hill was 2-for-11 against the Orlando Magic, and then he missed all seven of his field goal attempts in a loss to the Miami Heat.
He rebounded nicely against the New York Knicks by converting five of eight shots, but even that outing only managed to raise his shooting percentage to 27 percent over his last four contests.
Wing: Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
For Suns fans fishing for something (anything) positive during the course of a nightmare season, Booker has been a lifeline.
The 19-year-old rookie provides a glimmer of hope for the future in the desert. And while he deserves praise for his performance in the Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout — finishing a respectable third place behind Klay Thompson and Curry — there’s a chance his shooting stroke lost its passport in Toronto before Booker’s trip back to U.S. soil.
In Booker’s best outing since his first go-around of All-Star festivities, he finished 3-of-9 from the field in a loss against the mighty Spurs. In the other three games, he went 3-for-11, 2-for-10 and 3-for-12.
Add it all up, and Booker shot a woeful 26.2 percent over his last four outings. All four of those games were Suns losses, and Phoenix has not won a game in over a month.
But hey, at least the rook shoots a respectable 39.6 percent from three-point range on the season.
Forward/Center: Marcus Morris, Detroit Pistons
The first Morris twin to be traded away from Phoenix, Marcus hasn’t even cracked 40 percent shooting in a single game since the All-Star break.
He shot a ghastly 30.6 percent from the field over the course of the week. His best game from a percentage standpoint over that stretch came in an upset win against the Cleveland Cavaliers in which “Mook” went 6-of-16 shooting. He converted just one of his six shots from beyond the arc in that affair.
Though Morris caught fire throughout December by averaging 15.2 points on 46.9 percent shooting from the field and 44.2 percent from deep, he’s come careening back down to earth since. In fact, his shooting percentages (mainly from beyond the arc) look ugly compared to the last two seasons spent with the Suns.
The Pistons continue to play better when Morris is on the court, but that can be tied to the fact that the 6-foot-9 forward plays most of his minutes with Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson.
In any case, Detroit needs Morris to lock in for the stretch run if the Pistons are going to have hope of making the playoffs in 2016.
Ben Leibowitz is a writer for PointAfter, a sports data aggregation and visualization website that’s part of the Graphiq network. Visit PointAfter to get all the information about NBA Players, NBA Historical Teams and dozens of other topics.