Every NBA Team's Hottest Player Right Now

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 25, 2013

Every NBA Team's Hottest Player Right Now

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    As NBA squads toil through the midwinter portion of the 2012-13 campaign, which players are shining brightest for their respective teams?

    Several superstars continue to be the hottest performers on their clubs, but there are a handful of role players who are currently excelling.

    Sometimes being the "hottest" player on the team doesn't mean you're shooting the lights out. Rebounding prowess, defense and passing skills are also taken into account.

    Who is on a roll for your favorite team?

    Find out as we break down the hottest baller for each franchise.

Washington Wizards: Martell Webster

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    Heat Check: 50% FG, 48% 3PT over last five games

    Washington swingman Martell Webster picked his game up when Bradley Beal started to cool off, and the Wizards are more competitive as a result.

    Webster has been extra hot the last couple of games, shooting a combined 7-of-10 from beyond the arc and 10-of-10 from the charity stripe.

    He was crucial to the Wizards' win in his return to Portland, hitting 8-of-11 from the field for 24 points and six assists against the Trail Blazers.

    It's unlikely that he'll be able to continue at such a clip, especially with inconsistent playing time being a near certainty. Washington has several young wings to utilize, and Randy Wittman will go with the hot hand.

Utah Jazz: Al Jefferson

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    Heat Check: Five straight double-doubles

    Randy Foye has been firing on all cylinders, but the Utah Jazz wouldn't be on a winning streak right now if Al Jefferson wasn't cleaning up the boards and finishing in the post.

    Jefferson has always been a double-double threat, and he's stringing a bunch together in late January.

    Utah's most satisfying triumph during its four-game winning streak was the win over the Miami Heat, and Jefferson had a huge hand in the victory. He terrorized Miami's frontcourt as he grabbed 11 boards and scored 23 points, including 7-of-8 from the free-throw line.

    He cooled off slightly in Utah's win over the Washington Wizards, but he will try to continue his solid January with upcoming games against the Los Angeles Lakers and Indiana Pacers.

Toronto Raptors: Jose Calderon

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    Heat Check: 63% FG, 53% 3PT over last four games

    With all the changes to the Toronto Raptors franchise in the 2012 offseason, the 2012-13 campaign has been a relatively rocky one for Jose Calderon.

    However, he's made the most of it, especially in his last quartet of games.

    Calderon's resurgence included an absolute clinic against the Los Angeles Lakers, as he scored 22 and tossed nine assists in Toronto's win.

    When Calderon excels, it's not jaw-dropping, Rajon Rondo-esque stuff. He uses polished fundamentals and terrific timing to dissect defenses and make his teammates look better.

San Antonio Spurs: Tony Parker

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    Heat Check: 52% FG, 21.8 PPG, 10.4 APG over last five games

    San Antonio Spurs fans can thank Tony Parker for their current six-game winning streak.

    The star floor general is only getting better at knifing his way through the defense and into the paint. He's gotten so good at it, in fact, that he doesn't need to take outside shots too often.

    This penetration consistently results in layups for himself or wide-open jumpers for teammates. Sometimes, his drives don't directly result in buckets, but they get the defense scrambling and start the ball movement that leads to points.

    Parker averages a modest 7.4 assists per game on the season, but in recent days, he's been a greater threat to dish a dozen or more.

Sacramento Kings: DeMarcus Cousins

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    Heat Check: 21.7 PPG, 13.3 RPG over last six games

    Sacramento Kings star DeMarcus Cousins has terrorized opponents on the boards lately. 

    His great instincts and soft hands make him a pest on the offensive glass, and he rarely lets opponents get more than one shot off on the other end.

    Cousins has posted a double-double in six straight games, but these aren't the kind of double-doubles that Nikola Vucevic or Omer Asik gets. He's routinely dropping 20-plus points to accompany 13-plus boards.

    His well-documented character issues have soured many fans' opinion of him, but almost any coach would love to get such on-court dominance from a 22-year-old.

Portland Trail Blazers: J.J. Hickson

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    Heat Check: 67% FG, 15.4 PPG, 11 RPG over last five games

    Almost everyone in the Portland Trail Blazers starting five has been highly productive lately, and that's because they have to be.

    The one who has been the hottest from the field and on the glass is J.J. Hickson, who has raised his offensive game over the past week or so.

    Hickson lives off energy plays, pick-and-rolls and rebound putbacks. By the end of each week, he's liable to post two or three double-doubles.

    J.J. Hickson has his 24th double-double of the season; only Zach Randolph (27) and David Lee (25 entering day) have more.

    — ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 24, 2013

    This past week, he posted four. Western Conference frontcourts, beware.

Phoenix Suns: Luis Scola

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    Heat Check: 56% FG, 17 PPG, 8 RPG over last three games

    Argentinian power forward Luis Scola has been a vital component of the Phoenix Suns' attack as they've won three out of their last five contests.

    The sixth-year NBA veteran won't blow you away with his numbers or underwhelming highlight reels, but he's clearly been the franchise's most valuable player the last few games.

    He has the kind of range to consistently connect on 18-to-20-foot jumpers, and he also has a great touch on short bankers and putbacks near the cup.

    It seems like Phoenix rides a different player every week, and this week, it's Scola's turn.

Philadelphia 76ers: Evan Turner

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    Heat Check: Seven assists in each of his last three games

    January hasn't treated the Philadelphia 76ers too well, as the team has gone 3-8 and fallen further below .500. But in the last couple of games, Evan Turner has stepped up.

    He's shooting efficiently from long range, hitting 54 percent of his triples over the last four games. He's also been extremely active on the glass and running the offense.

    Philly's loss to San Antonio was Turner's best game in three weeks. He scored 18, hauled in 12 rebounds and tallied seven assists. When he's in the flow of the offense, he helps take some of the pressure off Jrue Holiday.

    If Turner could actually sustain this superb play, the 76ers would be that much closer to the No. 8 seed.

Orlando Magic: J.J. Redick

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    Heat Check: 57% 3PT, 17 PPG over last five games

    Orlando Magic guard J.J. Redick hoists a fair share of three-point attempts every night. Lately, he's seldom missing more than one or two per contest.

    Redick has markedly developed as an overall player throughout his NBA career, but that doesn't change the fact that he's deadliest when he's launching triple tries.

    Much to Orlando's dismay, the Magic have been unable to cash in on Redick's recent hot streak.

    Even his 9-of-10 shooting (including 5-of-6 from distance) and 26 points weren't enough to boost the squad past the mediocre Detroit Pistons.

    There are some glaring basketball flaws in Orlando, but Redick isn't one of them.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant

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    Heat Check: 38.5 PPG, 6.3 APG, 55-of-57 FT (97% FT) over last four games

    Kevin Durant is doing everything humanly possible to keep the Oklahoma City Thunder atop the Western Conference standings.

    His latest endeavors have been some of the best of his career. Durant notched a career-high scoring night with 52 against the Dallas Mavericks, and he followed that up with a couple of games that were arguably more impressive.

    In three straight subsequent outings, the Durantula scored no less than 32 points while notching at least seven assists. In the process, he's made opponents pay by getting to the free-throw line and rarely missing.

    He's one of the leaders in the MVP race, and his late-January onslaught is only strengthening his case.

New York Knicks: Carmelo Anthony

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    Heat Check: 29.8 PPG, 4.4 APG over past five games

    Carmelo Anthony continues to be the primary gunner for the New York Knicks, but what makes him the "hottest" Knickerbocker right now is his increased assist production.

    He's getting his share of shots and piling up points in the high 20s and low 30s, yet he's also connecting with teammates a handful of times every night.

    'Melo's shooting percentage isn't spectacular of late. So what does he do to make up for it and keep himself involved?

    Get to the free-throw line.

    He's always good for a few trips to the charity stripe, and he's 84 percent on his foul tosses over the last couple of weeks.

New Orleans Hornets: Greivis Vasquez

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    Heat Check: 12.3 APG over last three games

    The return of Eric Gordon has helped Greivis Vasquez become one of the hottest point guards in the West the last couple of weeks.

    Vazquez has taken advantage of the New Orleans Hornets' full arsenal of Gordon, Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis. He's not only a methodical and creative passer in the half court, but his accuracy on long passes in transition is exceptional.

    While speedier point guards might be focused more on using the dribble to get the ball up the court, Vasquez keeps his head up and advances the ball through the air. His value to the team can't be understated:

    Over last 7gms, @hornets (6-1) posting a +10.8NetRtg (+/- per 100 poss.) w/ @greivisvasquez on court, -8.5 when he's off

    — NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) January 18, 2013

    Whenever he scores 15 and drops 10 dimes, the Hornets are tough to top.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Andrei Kirilenko

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    Heat Check: 59% FG, 16 PPG, 7 RPG, 3.3 APG, 2.5 SPG over last four games

    With Kevin Love missing so much time this season, the Minnesota Timberwolves have relied on a variety of sources on both ends of the floor.

    Over the past week, it's Andrei Kirilenko who has stepped up and made plays all over the court.

    The 6'9" forward works as hard as anyone to get himself in the best position possible, and it often leads to high-percentage opportunities. 

    Kirilenko's 8-of-11 outing against the Houston Rockets on Jan. 19 resulted in a win for the Wolves, but unfortunately, Minnesota has been unable to scrape together a victory since then.

Milwaukee Bucks: Ersan Ilyasova

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    Heat Check: Back-to-back games with 27 points and 14-plus rebounds

    Brandon Jennings might be scoring a bunch, but Ersan Ilyasova is the Milwaukee Bucks' hottest player right now because of his efficiency. He's 20-of-31 from the field over his last couple of outings, as he's been mixing his work on the boards with his long-distance shooting and mid-range game.

    Ilyasova has also been outstanding on the glass lately. He was particularly effective in Milwaukee's win over Philadelphia, as he snatched seven offensive boards and a total of 16. 

    This recent uptick in production could earn him more consistent playing time moving forward.

    Ersan Ilyasova is the only player in the league to post 27+ pts and 14+ reb in consecutive games this season. #Bucks

    — Bucks PR (@BucksPR) January 23, 2013

    2012-13 has been a rough season for Ilyasova, so it's good to see him turn some heads again.

Miami Heat: LeBron James

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    Heat Check: 62% FG, 29.4 PPG, 8.4 APG, 2.4 SPG over last five games

    There aren't many players in NBA history who can flirt with 30 points per game for a couple of weeks while also dishing more than eight assists per contest.

    LeBron James has asserted himself even more than usual, getting into the lane continuously and converting at a high rate. He followed up a 39-point night against the Los Angeles Lakers with a triple-double masterpiece against the Toronto Raptors.

    All the while, he's playing stifling defense and rarely committing any turnovers.

    King James has essentially been the only player the Miami Heat can count on this season. But when Dwyane Wade turns it up like he has this past week, Erik Spoelstra's bunch is nearly unstoppable.

Memphis Grizzlies: Mike Conley

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    Heat Check: 51% FG, 16 PPG, 5.3 APG, 2.3 SPG over last four games

    As usual, there's no one single player who's carried the Memphis Grizzlies over the past few games.

    Although it's a group effort, Mike Conley's been the most efficient from the field. In addition, he's spread the wealth and wreaked havoc by harassing opposing point guards.

    In Memphis' most recent win, Conley tallied 19 points, six assists, two steals and zero turnovers against the Los Angeles Lakers.

    The Grizzlies rely largely on ball movement, but when Conley and Rudy Gay have an advantage in isolation, the frontcourt knows how to play angles and position themselves for easy catch-and-finishes.

Los Angeles Lakers: Pau Gasol

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    Heat Check: 52% FG over last four games

    Let's be clear: No one on the Los Angeles Lakers is truly hot, and almost every player on the team deserves a slap on the wrist.

    The player who has shot the ball most efficiently from the field in recent games is none other than Pau Gasol.

    With modest minutes, the formerly heralded forward has regained his old swagger and done his best to offensively boost the team. His week was highlighted by a 10-of-15 shooting performance in a loss to the Toronto Raptors.

    Gasol's resurgence has been nice, but L.A. is still knee-deep in problems on both sides of the ball.

Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin

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    Heat Check: 50% FG, 21.5 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 4.5 APG over last four games

    With Chris Paul in and out of the lineup, the Los Angeles Clippers have struggled, suffering their worst losing streak since late November.

    Nevertheless, Blake Griffin has been able to generate offense and get high-percentage opportunities. He is locked in as a rebounder and a finisher offensively, and he's also protecting the rim and creating turnovers defensively.

    J.A. Adande reacted to Griffin's admirable performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder:

    This Clippers loss sure won't be for lack of effort by Blake Griffin. 31 points, 10 rebs, 5 assists.

    — J.A. Adande (@jadande) January 23, 2013

    Griffin needs to bring that same intensity in upcoming back-to-back encounters with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Indiana Pacers: Paul George

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    Heat Check: 46% 3PT, 20.2 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 4.2 APG, 2.0 SPG over last five games

    Paul George finished out his audition for the 2013 All-Star Game strong, and he was rewarded with a roster spot.

    Until this season, he was barely a double-digit scorer. Now, he's a dynamic, all-around player who can score from inside and out, distribute the ball and crash the boards.

    Two of his best games of the season came in back-to-back wins last week against the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies. George poured in 31 points and added five steals against the Rockets, and then he came one assist shy of a triple-double against the Grizzlies.

    Pacers fans hope this breakout season is just the beginning of a long, productive career for the 22-year-old.

Houston Rockets: Carlos Delfino

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    Heat Check: At least three three-pointers and 15 points in each of last four games

    The Houston Rockets are playing some of their worst basketball collectively in January, yet Carlos Delfino is playing some of his best hoops individually.

    He's nearly the only Rocket who's shooting the ball efficiently lately. One of his best games of the season came last week against the Indiana Pacers, as Delfino went 6-of-11, including three triples. He finished with 17 points, five assists and a pair of steals in just 24 minutes.

    The eighth-year veteran out of Argentina has fit in pretty well in Houston's up-tempo, high-scoring system. His shooting skills help stretch defenses, allowing James Harden and Jeremy Lin to operate off the dribble.

Golden State Warriors: Jarrett Jack

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    Heat Check: 18.0 PPG, 10 APG over last four games

    Jarrett Jack's assist-per-game average for 2012-13 is 5.6, and his career average is 4.3.

    Somebody must have told him it wasn't good enough, and he listened. Jack has been wheeling and dealing in his last few games, and the Golden State Warriors have consequently returned to their winning ways.

    Last week, Jack posted three straight games with at least 18 points and 10 assists. His signature game was a 25-point, 12-assist outburst against the New Orleans Hornets.

    Elias Says: Jarrett Jack has 4 games this season with 15 Pts, 10 Ast off bench. Rest of NBA: 3 such games es.pn/WoC5qx

    — ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 22, 2013

    Jack is making a great case for best reserve point guard in the NBA.

Detroit Pistons: Greg Monroe

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    Heat Check: Three double-doubles and 4.2 APG over last five games

    When he's not driving to the bucket or crashing the boards, Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe is craftily setting up teammates.

    Monroe showed his passing potential during college, so his increased assist production in 2012-13 isn't all that surprising. He's one of the best interior passers in the game, exhibiting great vision from the high post and deft touch on his bounce passes.

    Detroit benefited appreciably from his assortment of talents in last week's victory over the Boston Celtics. Monroe scored 15, but his most important contributions came in the form of 11 rebounds and five assists.

Denver Nuggets: Ty Lawson

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    Heat Check: 60% 3PT, 20.3 PPG, 7.3 APG over last three games

    Outside of the Oklahoma City Thunder, no one has been able to bottle up Ty Lawson lately.

    The Denver Nuggets' guard hits our list of hottest players because he rediscovered his three-point finesse and distributed the ball well over the last week.

    The 2012-13 campaign has been a year of unanticipated regression for Lawson, so his late-January surge brings a smile to George Karl's face.

    There's a lot of basketball remaining in the season, so Lawson has a chance to change what has been a disappointment into a development.

Dallas Mavericks: O.J. Mayo

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    Heat Check: Only Mavericks player with at least 15 points in last four games

    No one on the Dallas Mavericks has been truly "hot" over the last couple of weeks, but O.J. Mayo has been the most productive source of offense. He's a big reason the squad has won five of its last six games.

    With his triple-threat to shoot, dish or weave his way to the tin, Mayo has been the most dynamic weapon for the Mavs of late. His 20 points and nine assists helped Dallas upend the Minnesota Timberwolves, and his 18 points and seven assists nearly knocked off the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    Mayo's averaging 4.1 per game on the season, but he's dealing 5.1 per night in January. Will five-plus assists be the new norm for him the rest of the season?

    Even with Dirk Nowitzki back, Dallas needs Mayo to fill up the hoop and create offense every night.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Tristan Thompson

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    Heat Check: Four double-doubles in last seven games

    Kyrie Irving exploded for 40 on Tuesday night, but the Cleveland Cavalier who has improved and picked up the most steam lately is Tristan Thompson.

    Cleveland's season has been crazy, complete with major injuries and a midseason trade. But Thompson has been an increasingly brighter spot for them.

    He's shooting 51 percent in January, and his highlights include a 19-point, 14-rebound effort in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers and a 21-point, nine-rebound outburst in a win over the Boston Celtics.

    Bleacher Report NBA lead writer Ethan Sherwood Strauss is inspired by Thompson's recent upswing:

    Tristan Thompson is leading in my imaginary "Most Improved Over the Course of the Season" award.

    — Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) January 23, 2013

    Will Thompson's prominence in the Cavs' rotation diminish with the addition of Marreese Speights?

Chicago Bulls: Carlos Boozer

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    Heat Check: 50% FG, 20.4 PPG and 11.6 RPG over last five games

    Teammates Joakim Noah and Luol Deng might be headed to the All-Star Game, but Carlos Boozer has been the best Chicago Bull over the past half-dozen games.

    Boozer enjoyed a trio of gems last week. Let's take a stroll through short-term memory lane:

    • He dropped 36 points (16-of-24 shooting) and 12 rebounds in a win over the Toronto Raptors.
    • Then Boozer nearly notched a 20-20 game (19 points, 20 boards) in a win over the Boston Celtics.
    • He also scored 17 and grabbed 14 rebounds in a close loss against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Charlotte Bobcats: Kemba Walker

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    Heat Check: 49% FG, 46% 3PT, 19.6 PPG, 5.2 APG over last five games

    The Charlotte Bobcats aren't historically abominable like they were in 2011-12, and Kemba Walker is a big reason why.

    Sure, they're still one of the worst franchises in basketball, but Walker is turning lots of heads and keeping the offense afloat on a nightly basis.

    After carving up the Sacramento Kings for 10 dimes, Walker outdueled James Harden in a 35-point showing against the Houston Rockets.

    He's quickly learning how to use his speed to not only get himself open but to push the pace and feed his comrades the ball. It's a shame a player like Walker won't have a fighting chance to be in the playoffs.

Brooklyn Nets: Brook Lopez

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    Heat Check: 58% FG, 20 PPG, 8.4 RPG over last five games

    The Brooklyn Nets are now the third-best team in the East and they're currently the hottest team in the NBA with 10 wins in their last 11 games.

    So who's the hottest player on the hottest squad in the league? Brook Lopez.

    He's been quite efficient in the paint, and he's still stepping out and utilizing his mid-range jumper. Lopez is also protecting the rim successfully without getting into any foul trouble the last half-dozen games.

    His recent surge wasn't enough to get him an All-Star bid, but he's nonetheless one of the hottest players in the Atlantic Division.

Boston Celtics: Rajon Rondo

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    Heat Check: Averaging a triple-double (16 points, 11.3 assists and 10.7 rebounds) over last three games

    The Boston Celtics are on a miserable five-game skid, but don't blame Rajon Rondo.

    He's been carrying the team the last two weeks, scoring from all angles and piling up the assists in Hall of Fame fashion.

    One day, he's dropping 30 points in a marathon game, and the next, he's unloading 15 assists on the Detroit Pistons. Then, if it seemed like that wasn't enough, he attacked the backboards and snagged 13 rebounds against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    Finally, he put it all together for his 17th career triple-double in a loss to the New York Knicks.

    Celtics fans are asking the rest of the league, "What's your point guard been up to lately?"

Atlanta Hawks: Kyle Korver

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    Heat Check: 62% FG, 61% 3PT, 15.2 PPG in last five games (18 PPG in last three games)

    Lou Williams' unfortunate ACL tear gave shooting guard Kyle Korver more minutes and a more featured role in the Atlanta Hawks' offense.

    Korver has seized the opportunity in a big way.

    He has fired away from deep, nailing at least three triples over the last four games. His latest assault included 5-of-6 shooting from long range and 21 total points in Atlanta's win over the Charlotte Bobcats.

    When teams don't do a good job keeping tabs on Korver, the result can be disastrous. The Bobcats got burned, but they're not the only victims. Check out his gaudy game log.


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