Hoosiers In The NBA: Zeller and Vonleh Set Career-Highs Against Nuggets

If you want up-to-date information on former Hoosiers in the NBA or immediate reactions to how they are performing, follow me on Twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBA. This past week was a great one for former Hoosier playing in the NBA, as three of them set new season-highs in scoring, two of them occurring in the same game. There’s also some big news regarding Victor Oladipo and All-Star weekend (not the game itself but something arguably more exciting) as well as some interesting rumors that may greatly affect Oladipo’s play. Let’s stop this preamble and check out how everyone did this past week in the Association:

Cody Zeller: Forward, Charlotte Hornets:

@ San Antonio (L 95-86): 9 points (3-7 FG)(2-2 FT), 13 rebounds, 7 assists, block, 2 turnovers, 37 minutes.

@ Denver (W 104-86): 21 points (10-11 FG)(1-2 FT), 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 3 personal fouls, 32 minutes.

It was a very eventful week for Cody Zeller, who not only set a new career-high for points but also assists, steals, and field goals made. Without Marvin Williams and Bismack Biyombo on the active roster, any competition to Zeller’s minutes has been removed and thus he is playing more freely. Yet that isn’t the sole reason for his increase in stats. Zeller is finally being more involved in the offense, as evidenced by his rising assist numbers. Over the past three weeks, Zeller is averaging 3.6 assists a game, including six against the Miami Heat last week and a career-high seven assists against the San Antonio Spurs this week. In that Spurs game, Zeller came close to a triple-double but fell one point and three assists short (9pts, 13rebs, 7asts). Oh and Zeller finally made his first NBA three. I’m serious.

Yet that wasn’t even Zeller’s best game this week; that goes to the Charlotte Hornets thrashing of the Denver Nuggets. If Zeller hadn’t already made 8 of 8 shots against Boston earlier in January, this would have been the best shooting game of his career as he made a career-high 10 field goals on 11 shot attempts for a career-high 21 points. He also added in 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, and tied a career-high 3 steals. Williams will be back anytime soon as all he needs to do is clear a concussion test, but Zeller may have persuaded Coach Steve Clifford enough with his recent play that he deserves to play the majority of the power forward minutes instead of splitting it 50/50 with Williams.

Noah Vonleh: Forward, Charlotte Hornets:

@ San Antonio (L 95-86): 4 points (1-1 FG)(2-2 FT), assist, personal foul, 9 minutes.

@ Denver (W 104-86): 10 points (3-5 FG)(4-6 FT), 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 turnovers, personal foul, 16 minutes.

I’ll be honest, I was a little worried about how Noah Vonleh would handle getting so much meaningful playing time on a team fighting to make the playoffs but he proved he could handle it this past week. Vonleh only played in one quarter against the Spurs, but it was the Nuggets game where he helped the Hornets’ bench obliterate Denver’s bench to practically put the game away before halftime. Vonleh ended up scoring a career-high 10 points as well as grabbing 7 rebounds and blocked two shots, both also career-highs, in 16 minutes of play. As stated above, Williams’ return is imminent so Vonleh could soon be back to being buried on the bench, but this week was very promising for the former Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

Eric Gordon: Guard, New Orleans Pelicans:

Vs Philadelphia (W 99-74): 13 points (5-9 FG)(1-1 FT), rebound, 5 assists, steal, turnover, personal foul, 25 minutes.

Vs Denver (L 93-85): 11 points (4-15 FG)(1-2 FT), 6 rebounds, 6 assists, block, 2 turnovers, 3 personal fouls, 42 minutes.

Vs Los Angeles Clippers (W 108-103): 28 points (10-20 FG)(3-3 FT), 2 rebounds, 7 assists, steal, 3 turnovers, 38 minutes.

Eric Gordon was having a slow week and then all of a sudden BOOM! Gordon faced his old team, the Los Angeles Clippers, and put on a show to help the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Clippers without All-star Anthony Davis. Not only did Gordon score a season-high 28 points, but he continued to be a great distributor by dishing out 7 assists. He was also hot from deep, hitting 5 of 7 from behind the arc. Maybe most importantly, Gordon has some evidence to show the Pelicans front office that in fact, he isn’t as expendable as they thought. Gordon may need a few more of these kinds of games to guarantee he stays in New Orleans beyond this season, but this was a great first step.

Victor Oladipo: Guard, Orlando Magic:

@ Memphis (L 103-94): 18 points (6-11 FG)(5-6 FT), 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 3 turnovers, 2 personal fouls, 33 minutes.

Vs Milwaukee (L 115-100): 21 points (6-17 FG)(9-11 FT), 5 rebounds, assist, steal, 3 turnovers, 3 personal fouls, 34 minutes.

For as hot as Victor Oladipo has been in 2015, he was the only former Hoosier to not set a season-high this week (okay he did hit a season-high nine free throws, but that pales in comparison to what the other three did). However, Oladipo did officially get announced to participate in the Slam Dunk Contest. Those who were lucky enough to have watched Vic do the same thing at Hoosier Hysteria know that the NBA world is in for a treat when the former All-American starts throwing down his intense and creative dunks. Hopefully, he can recover from a sore right Achilles that kept him out of the Dallas Mavericks game this weekend and has him questionable tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder so he can go back to his normal self and bring down the house at All-Star Weekend.

Yet normalcy may not be in the cards for Oladipo’s team. There have been many reports that the Orlando Magic are really close to firing head coach Jacque Vaughn. Whoever steps in could potentially change Oladipo’s progression, positively or negatively. The word seems to be that one of the assistants will take over for the rest of the season, but another name has been floated out there as well. That name is former Orlando Magic guard and former head coach Scott Skiles. Personally, I think Skiles, a former point guard with great passing ability, would have the best impact on a still-learning Oladipo but it’s not my decision to make. The Magic realize that Vaughn isn’t the answer, so let’s hope they do find the answer for Oladipo’s sake.

Season averages:

Cody Zeller: 7.9ppg, 5.7rpg, 1.6apg, 0.61spg, 0.78bpg, 1.0tpg, 2.5fpg, 46.8% FG, 100.0% 3FG, 75.0% FT, 24.3mpg.

Noah Vonleh: 2.9ppg, 2.5rpg, 0.2apg, 0.20spg, 0.30bpg, 0.4tpg, 0.7fpg, 43.5% FG, 25.0% 3FG, 66.7% FT, 8.4mpg.

Eric Gordon: 12.6ppg, 2.8rpg, 3.7apg, 0.92spg, 0.23bpg, 1.9tpg, 2.6fpg, 43.3% FG, 40.9% 3FG, 79.6% FT, 33.2mpg.

Victor Oladipo: 16.6ppg, 3.8rpg, 3.8apg, 1.60spg, 0.10bpg, 2.7tpg, 2.6fpg, 45.5% FG, 36.0% 3FG, 79.1% FT, 33.7mpg.

Christian Watford: Forward, Maine Red Claws (D-League affiliate of the Boston Celtics):

@ Canton (W 104-92): 12 points (4-11 FG)(3-4 FT), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, steal, 2 blocks, 2 turnovers, 4 personal fouls, 33 minutes.

Vs Fort Wayne (L 109-104): 7 points (2-5 FG)(2-4 FT), 5 rebounds, turnover, 21 minutes.

D-League Season averages:

Christian Watford: 12.2ppg, 6.4rpg, 1.4apg, 0.63spg, 0.47bpg, 1.8tpg, 1.6fpg, 39.9% FG, 28.8% 3FG, 73.5% FT, 28.8mpg

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