The NBA regular season is a marathon, not a sprint. The action after the All-Star break is filled with teams giving younger players an extended look, franchises making a deliberate playoff push while trying to sneak in rest for their stars and some squads dare we say it – tanking.
Every season there are more than a few breakthroughs after the All-Star Game and this year is no different with a surprising mix of young players and some established veterans making a resurgence.
This list won’t include the James Harden’s, Karl-Anthony Towns’s and Donovan Mitchell’s of the world. Instead we will focus on some of the unheralded guys around the league putting in work.
Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
Pre: 16.9 points, 7.6 assists, 41% FG, 31% 3PT, 79.8% FT
Post: 29.4 points, 9.3 assists, 47.4% FG, 47.3% 3PT, 91.2% FT
Much of the early season conversation surrounding Young revolved around Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk’s decision to trade the No. 3 overall pick (Luka Doncic) in the 2018 draft to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for the No. 5 overall selection (Young) and a top-five protected 2019 first round pick.
Doncic came right out of the cereal box with a short learning curve. Young, on the other hand, took a bit to find his pro rhythm. Fast forward post All-Star break and Young is putting up silly video game stat lines and is just a shade away from the 50/50/90 club through seven games. The Mavericks pick, as things stand currently, would convey which would give the Hawks another asset in their rebuilding plans.
Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers
Pre: 17.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 48% FG, 29% 3PT, 66% FT
Post: 27.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 57% FG, 53% 3PT, 75% FT
The Lakers are a mess. Rumors are swirling around the job status of head coach Luke Walton, the Anthony Davis trade talk seemingly sucked the life out of the locker and injuries sapped the squad of the necessary depth needed to navigate the challenging Western Conference.
But Ingram has up his game post All-Star break in most relevant metrics. Ingram will undoubtedly continue to hear his name in trade talks over the next few months, but his recent play hasn’t been a hype job.
Dwight Powell, Dallas Mavericks
Pre: 8.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 58% FG, 24% 3PT
Post: 16.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 62% FG, 56% 3PT
It’s easy to get lost on a team with the arrival of rookie Luka Doncic, the possible retirement of future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki and the trade for big man Kristaps Porzingis, but Powell’s play since the All-Star break stands out. Powell is playing 32 minutes per game since the break and has maximized his increased role in head coach Rick Carlisle’s rotation.
Bojan Bogdanovic, Indiana Pacers
Pre: 16.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 49% FG, 43% 3PT
Post: 24.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 54% FG, 45% 3PT
With All-Star guard Victor Oladipo on the shelf, Bogdanovic has emerged as a go-to scorer for Indiana and the team sits third in the Eastern Conference standings. What most don’t realize is Bogdanovic has increased his points and rebounds per game production every season since entering the league in 2015.
Tobias Harris, Philadelphia 76ers
Pre: 20.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 50% FG, 43% 3PT, 87% FT
Post: 24.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 53% FG, 40% 3PT, 89% FT
Harris has dismantled any belief it would take a lengthy amount of time to get adjusted to his new surroundings in Philadelphia. Instead, Harris has quickly maximized his role in the rotation and become the team’s leading scorer since the All-Star break.
New York Knicks Duo
Alonzo Trier and Mitchell Robinson
Credit to the Knicks’ front office for finding two valuable young assets to aid in their rebuilding plans. Robison was selected with the No. 36 overall pick in the 2018 draft. The rookie big man is averaging 10.7 points and 9.5 rebounds on 78 percent shooting from the field since the break. But most importantly, Robinson has emerged as elite-level rim protector averaging 2.3 blocks on the season and 3.7 swats since the break.
Trier signed a two-way contract with the team last summer and has exceeded expectations. The wing has emerged as a consistent double-digit scorer for the season and is averaging a whopping 19 points per game on 56 percent shooting from three-point range since the All-Star break.
Detroit Pistons Trio
Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard and Wayne Ellington
The Pistons have had only one playoff berth since 2010, but currently sit sixth in the Eastern Conference, winning eight of their past 10 contests. Big men Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond are the best players in Detroit but Ellington, Kennard and Jackson have been lights out since the break – especially from three-point land. Jackson (44 percent), Kennard (54 percent) and Ellington (45 percent) are all well-above 40 percent from beyond the arc post All-Star combining for 9.3 three-pointers made per game.
Chicago Bulls Trio
Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez
The Bulls are 4-3 post All-Star break and this trio has been the primary driver of the surprising above .500 play. LaVine is averaging 27 points per game since the break and Markkanen is posting 24.6 points and 12.4 rebounds per night. Lopez, the veteran of the group, has turned back the clock by averaging 16 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 33 minutes of action.