Hoosiers In The NBA: Vonleh’s Time To Shine?

While the NBA regular season hasn’t ended quite yet, it may have for one former Hoosier. In steps, another former Hoosier may have a chance to salvage his rookie season. This week I’ll go more in-depth on the Charlotte Hornets fading playoff hopes and Noah Vonleh’s big opportunity with both Cody Zeller and Al Jefferson possibly done for the year. Plus we’ll check in on Eric Gordon’s increased scoring and Victor Oladipo’s decreased shooting percentage:

Cody Zeller: Forward, Charlotte Hornets:

Game Log: vs Boston (L 116-104), vs Detroit (W 102-78), @ Indiana (L 93-74), vs Philadelphia (W 93-92).

Noah Vonleh: Forward, Charlotte Hornets:

Vs Detroit (W 102-78): 0 points (0-1 FG), personal foul, 2 minutes.

@ Indiana (L 93-74): 4 points (2-2 FG), 3 rebounds, 12 minutes.

Vs Philadelphia (W 93-92): 6 points (3-6 FG), 6 rebounds, assist, steal, 3 personal fouls, 14 minutes.

We may have seen the last of Cody Zeller this season. While there is no official word one way or another, it’s a fact that while the Hornets have been struggling to stay in the Eastern Conference Playoff race, Zeller has sat out 13 of the Hornet’s last 14 games with soreness in his shoulder. Even if he’s just day-to-day, the days are running out for the Hornets, who are 1.5 games back with six games left. That might not seem like that big of a deficit but it became one when Al Jefferson was forced to sit out. This leaves the Hornets with barely any frontcourt scoring as only Marvin Williams can score consistently.

Enter Noah Vonleh, who spent 90%of his rookie season wasting away at the end of the Hornets’ bench. Can Vonleh be that frontcourt scoring threat that helps propel the Hornets into the playoffs? That’s very doubtful, but that doesn’t make this a bad thing for Vonleh and the Hornets.

If anything, this is Vonleh’s chance to show what he has learned over the year and apply it to these last few games. We’ve already seen a few glimpses this week with Vonleh’s performance against the Philadelphia 76ers. Vonleh battled Nerlens Noel and came away with 6 points and 6 rebounds in 14 minutes of valuable bench play. If Vonleh can play like that for the rest of the season, it will bode well for him in terms of playing time next year.

Eric Gordon: Guard, New Orleans Pelicans:

@ Los Angeles Lakers (W 113-92): 10 points (2-5 FG)(4-6 FT), 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 turnovers, 3 personal fouls, 28 minutes.

@ Sacramento (W 101-95): 21 points (6-16 FG)(5-6 FT), rebound, 2 assists, steal, turnover, personal foul, 31 minutes.

@ Portland (L 99-90): 22 points (9-16 FG), rebound, assist, steal, personal foul, 36 minutes.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have lost three in a row while the New Orleans Pelicans have won four of their last five, leaving them just a half-game behind for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Gordon was a much bigger factor this week, including a 21-point performance in a win at Sacramento. Gordon needs to continue to have scoring performances like that to be helpful for the Pelicans as he has become a non-factor on the boards.

Granted he never was a strong presence on the glass (averaging between 2.5 and 3 rebounds a game most of the season) but grabbing 13 total rebounds in his last 10 games is pitiful. Luckily the assists have stayed up as Gordon recorded 41 assists in those same 10 games. The Pelicans have enough rebounders to make Gordon’s lack of rebounding a non-issue, but he’ll need to maintain his scoring and assist numbers if the Pelicans are to jump the Thunder and hold them off down the stretch.

Victor Oladipo: Guard, Orlando Magic:

Vs San Antonio (L 103-91): 24 points (9-19 FG)(4-4 FT), 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 turnovers, personal foul, 40 minutes.

@ Minnesota (W 97-84): 8 points (4-19 FG), rebound, 7 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers, 4 personal fouls, 38 minutes.

@ Milwaukee (W 97-90): 15 points (6-19 FG)(2-3 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, block, 2 turnovers, 2 personal fouls, 37 minutes.

At halftime against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Oladipo had made four of his nine field goals attempts and had eight points. In six quarters since, Oladipo is an atrocious 6 of 29 (20.7%) from the floor, including 0 of 10 in the second half of the Timberwolves game. Add the fact that it was the first time in 18 games Oladipo didn’t attempt a free throw and you have the end of Oladipo’s streak of double-digit scoring games, which ended at 43 in a row.

The numbers by themselves don’t really matter, especially since the Orlando Magic won both games and Oladipo is the type of player who would trade statistics for wins in a heartbeat. However, it is the trend that is worrisome. Oladipo put in so much work during the offseason to prove he was a better shooter this year and his stats have reflected that. His shooting splits this season (44.3% FG/34.3% 3FG/83.2% FT) are much better than his rookie splits (41.9%/32.7%/78.0%). However, the splits I just gave for this season were Oladipo’s numbers last week. His current shooting splits (43.7%/33.5%/83.3%) only show minimal improvement in the overall and long-range shooting which just isn’t true. The reason for the slipping numbers is probably nothing more than fatigue but you’d hate to see all of Oladipo’s hard work barely show on the stat sheet. Hopefully, this was just a cold shooting streak and Oladipo can finish the season strong.

Season averages:

Cody Zeller: 7.6ppg, 5.8rpg, 1.6apg, 0.56spg, 0.79bpg, 1.0tpg, 2.5fpg, 46.1% FG, 100.0% 3FG, 77.4% FT, 24.0mpg.

Noah Vonleh: 2.5ppg, 2.2rpg, 0.2apg, 0.16spg, 0.32bpg, 0.3tpg, 0.6fpg, 44.7% FG, 20.0% 3FG, 75.0% FT, 7.2mpg.

Eric Gordon: 13.3ppg, 2.6rpg, 3.9apg, 0.84spg, 0.24bpg, 2.1tpg, 2.4fpg, 41.4% FG, 45.0% 3FG, 80.5% FT, 33.3mpg.

Victor Oladipo: 17.6ppg, 4.2rpg, 4.2apg, 1.64spg, 0.22bpg, 2.8tpg, 2.6fpg, 43.7% FG, 33.5% 3FG, 83.3% FT, 35.3mpg.

Christian Watford: Forward, Reno Bighorns (D-League affiliate of the Sacramento Kings):

Game Log: vs Bakersfield (W 131-105), @ Santa Cruz (W 143-135).

Will Sheehey: Forward, Los Angeles D-Fenders (D-League affiliate of the Los Angeles Lakers):

@ Austin (L 107-99): 8 points (4-5 FG), rebound, assist, steal, 2 turnovers, 2 personal fouls, 27 minutes.

@ Rio Grande (W 130-123): 19 points (7-11 FG)(1-1 FT), 3 rebounds, 5 assists, turnover, personal foul, 36 minutes.

D-League Season averages:

Christian Watford: 10.6ppg, 5.6rpg, 1.6apg, 0.70spg, 0.45bpg, 1.7tpg, 1.5fpg, 38.8% FG, 30.8% 3FG, 76.3% FT, 26.5mpg

Will Sheehey: 9.4ppg, 3.2rpg, 1.5apg, 0.53spg, 0.12bpg, 0.6tpg, 1.6fpg, 47.2% FG, 38.5% 3FG, 92.9% FT, 25.6mpg.

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