Separating NBA Flukes from Flashes of Brilliance

Maxwell Ogden@MaxwellOgdenCorrespondent IIIDecember 8, 2012

Separating NBA Flukes from Flashes of Brilliance

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    The 2012-13 NBA regular season has provided fans with more than a few extraordinary displays of skill. From Larry Sanders' triple-double to Mickael Pietrus' thundering comeback to the league, we've all been granted the opportunity to witness mesmerizing performances.

    The question is, which performances have been flukes and which have been flashes of brilliance?

    In order to answer that question, we must evaluate the nature of each outstanding game played. For instance, how have they fared in games since? Is their style of play one that could sustain their present success?

    Those questions and more will be answered.

Paul George, Indiana Pacers

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    Age: 22

    Opponent: Chicago Bulls

    Result: 80-76, Win

    Date: December 4th, 2012

    Stat Line

    34 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 14-of-25 FG

    During a December 4th showdown with the Chicago Bulls, Paul George had one of the best individual performances of the young regular season.

    George shot 14-of-25 from the floor and finished with 34 points on the evening. The high-riser also finished with nine rebounds, three steals and two blocks, which displays how dominant he was on both ends of the floor.

    So was this a flash of brilliance or a fluke performance?

    Although he has been inconsistent through his first two years in the league, this game was a sign of things to come from George. For proof, he followed the performance up with 22 points and eight rebounds against the Portland Trail Blazers.

    Furthermore, George is a 6'10" shooting guard with supreme athleticism.

    With phenomenal pure shooting ability and the size to overwhelm any opponent, we can expect George to become a legitimate star in the NBA. He proved that two weeks earlier when he dropped 37 points on the New Orleans Hornets.

    If that doesn't do it for you, what will?


    Final Verdict: Flash of Brilliance

Jodie Meeks, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Age: 25

    Opponent: Denver Nuggets

    Result: 122-103, Win

    Date: November 30th, 2012

    Stat Line

    21 points, 2 assists, 1 steal, 7-of-8 3PT

    Matched up against the Denver Nuggets, Jodie Meeks decided that it was his time to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to victory. The former Kentucky Wildcat finished with 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc.

    This was both a fluke performance and a flash of brilliance.

    This is a tricky one.

    Jodie Meeks is talented enough to put up big numbers every game. The issue is, the Lakers are so thin along the perimeter that their heavy reliance upon Meeks for three-point shooting will result in inconsistent results.

    For instance, Meeks is averaging 6.3 points per game in his three appearances since this performance. He's also shooting 27.3 percent from the field.

    Once again, this was a fluke and flash at the same time.

    Until LA bolsters their perimeter shooting, don't expect any form of consistency. Steve Nash's return should help Meeks, but the date of his comeback has yet to be decided.

    Until Nash is back, call it a fluke.


    Final Verdict: Fluke

Larry Sanders, Milwaukee Bucks

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    Age: 24

    Opponent: Minnesota Timberwolves

    Result: 95-85 Loss

    Date: November 30th, 2012

    Stat Line

    10 points, 12 rebounds, 10 blocks, 1 steal, 5-of-7 FG

    During a 95-85 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Larry Sanders posted 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocks.

    Sanders became the second player in Milwaukee Bucks history to complete a triple-double in such a manner.

    The first was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

    The following evening, Sanders put up 18 points and 16 rebounds in a 91-88 victory over the Boston Celtics. He'd follow that performance up with eight points, seven rebounds and seven blocks against the New Orleans Hornets.

    Do you understand how good this kid can be?

    For the season, Sanders is averaging 7.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.9 blocks in 22.7 minutes of play. In other words, the former VCU standout is already elite.

    He just needs the minutes to prove it.


    Final Verdict: Flash of Brilliance

Mike Dunleavy, Milwaukee Bucks

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    Age: 32

    Opponent: Cleveland Cavaliers

    Result: 105-102, Win

    Date: November 3rd, 2012

    Stat Line

    29 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 10-of-12 FG

    In one of the greatest shooting performance of the decade, Mike Dunleavy dazzled fans with his all-around play against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    Dunleavy finished with 29 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, two steals and one block on 10-of-12 shooting from the floor and 6-of-7 shooting from distance. How's that for efficiency?

    Dunleavy has cooled down since then.

    He's failed to score in double figures in any of his past five outings and hasn't hit 20 points since the Cavaliers game on November 3rd.

    Even if it was a fluke performance, there is an asterisk to be placed.

    Dunleavy is known for shooting the lights out and will continue to do so. He shot 4-for-7 from beyond the arc against the New Orleans Hornets on November 17th.

    He also scored 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the floor and 5-of-8 from beyond the arc against the New York Knicks during the 2011-12 NBA regular season.

    He may not do it often, but Dunleavy could do it again.


    Final Verdict: Fluke

Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets

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    Age: 24

    Opponent: New York Knicks

    Result: 131-103, Win

    Date: November 23rd, 2012

    Stat Line

    31 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals, 1 block, 13-of-17 FG

    Chandler Parsons is one of the NBA's hidden gems. Despite producing at a consistent mark, the small forward has been lost among the obscurity of the Houston Rockets.

    Maybe his 31 point, five rebound, four assist and four steal performance against the New York Knicks will change that.

    Parsons was lights out from all over the floor, going 13-of-17 from the field and 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. He also played a turnover-free game, which further proves the efficiency of the former Florida Gator.

    It also speaks volumes for his consistency.

    Entering the game against the Knicks, Parsons had posted a double-double in four of his past five games. The one time he failed to, Parsons scored 24 points against the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Are you a believer yet? If not, you should be.


    Final Verdict: Flash of Brilliance

Mickael Pietrus, Toronto Raptors

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    Age: 30

    Opponent: Sacramento Kings

    Result: 107-100, Loss

    Date: December 5th, 2012

    Stat Line

    21 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal

    The same game in which Kyle Lowry dominated saw veteran Mickael Pietrus rise from the ashes and put up 21 points and six rebounds on 8-of-15 shooting.

    This performance is a fluke if there ever was one.

    This is not to say that Pietrus can't find his stroke from time to time, but that would be ignoring his purpose with Toronto.

    Pietrus is a defender by design and nothing more in head coach Dwane Casey's system. His hot shooting came on a night in which Andrea Bargnani shot 3-of-14 from the floor.

    Even if that were to transpire again, Pietrus playing 40 minutes is unlikely to.

    The veteran will provide high-quality defense and is a respectable threat from beyond the arc. He'll slow down elite scorers, agitate younger opponents and work his magic during late-game situations.

    What Pietrus will not do, however, is consistently put up 20 points. Not with such perimeter depth around him.


    Final Verdict: Fluke

Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns

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    Age: 23

    Opponent: Dallas Mavericks

    Result: 97-94, Loss

    Date: December 6th, 2012

    Stat Line

    15 points, 17 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks

    The signature play of Markieff Morris' evening came when Michael Beasley made a bullet pass that hit off of the bottom of the backboard. Morris responded by ripping it out of a defender's hands, taking a power dribble, faking his opponent into the air and finishing off the glass.

    Although the play won't be on SportsCenter, it spoke volumes to how mature a player the 23-year-old Morris has become.

    For the night, Morris put up 15 points, 17 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. He also connected on a three-pointer.

    Although his defense is in need of improvement, this is a performance that proves Morris' limitless upside.

    Morris isn't the type of player who is going to blow you away with one area of his game. Instead, he's the fundamentally sound big whose work ethic and motor is unquestioned.

    More or less, he's a less-grounded Zach Randolph.

    Morris will grind in the paint and fight for every rebound and loose ball. He'll finish well around the basket, consistently connect from mid-range and even display solid form from three-point range.

    It's only a matter of time before we see Morris posting a nightly double-double.


    Final Verdict: Flash of Brilliance

Nick Young, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Age: 27

    Opponent: Toronto Raptors

    Result: 106-98, Win

    Date: November 20th, 2012

    Stat Line

    23 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 block

    Nick Young is one of the most mercurial players in the NBA. The primary reason behind that truth is his uncanny ability to go from great to dismal on a night-by-night basis.

    Young's mercurial nature was on full display when he posted 23 points on 7-of-13 shooting against the Toronto Raptors on November 20th.

    We'd normally avoid commenting on a 23-point outing from a shooting guard. This performance, however, came during a span of seven double-figure scoring efforts in 10 appearances.

    This caused us to believe that Young had finally discovered his rhythm. Not so fast.

    Young has missed the 10-point mark in each of his past four games. He has shot 36.0 percent from the floor during that span.

    That number is much more reflective of where Young stands rather than his 23-point outing against Toronto.


    Final Verdict: Fluke

Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Age: 24

    Opponent: Oklahoma City Thunder

    Result: 116-109, Loss

    Date: November 24th, 2012

    Stat Line

    29 points, 15 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, 1 steal

    If you're unfamiliar with Thaddeus Young, you're really missing out. Not only is he one of the most physically gifted forwards in the game, but he's one of the most versatile.

    Young's versatility was on full display against the Oklahoma City Thunder November 24th. 

    Matched up against Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka, Young erupted for 29 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, one block and a steal. He did so on 13-of-23 shooting and scored a majority of his baskets in the paint.

    As every Sixers fan will tell you, this is yet another flash of brilliance from the 24-year-old Young.

    The former Georgia Tech standout has at least 20 points in three of his past six games. For the season, he's averaging 14.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals on 52.8 percent shooting.

    Although his mid-range game is in need of development, Young proved one important thing with this performance.

    Stardom is a jump shot away.


    Final Verdict: Flash of Brilliance

Andray Blatche, Brooklyn Nets

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    Age: 26

    Opponent: Oklahoma City Thunder

    Result: 117-111, Loss

    Date: December 4th, 2012

    Stat Line

    19 points, 11 rebounds, 3 steals, 7-of-15 FG

    Andray Blatche has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2012-13 NBA regular season.

    He and his 10.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 19.3 minutes per game are a major reason the Brooklyn Nets are 11-6.

    His standout performance came against the Oklahoma City Thunder on December 4th when he posted 19 points and 11 rebounds.

    Most will claim that Blatche cannot maintain this level of play, but he can. In fact, he has.

    Blatche is averaging 17.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals over his past five games. He also has three double-doubles.

    In other words, Blatche is the latest player to escape the Washington Wizards and discover success. Nick Young and JaVale McGee can attest to that.

    Blatche may be mercurial, but he's also for real. A flash of brilliance for certain.


    Final Verdict: Flash of Brilliance