NBA Team of the Week: LeBron James leads the way
As the trade deadline struck, there was big news off the court. But who made headlines on the court in Week 17?
Point guard – Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
As the Trail Blazers continue to chase playoff seeding, their explosive backcourt is taking turns to put up some serious numbers. While CJ McCollum scored 50 in three quarters a fortnight ago, Damian Lillard had his own 50-point game last week as Portland blew out the Kings in Sacramento.
Lillard averaged 35.7 points for the week as he also scored 39 points in a game against Utah. This season, the Trail Blazers’ point guard is posting a career-high shooting percentage while averaging 25.8 points per game (sixth in the league), and this week he heads to his first All-Star game in three years.
Shooting guard – Jimmy Butler (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Though the Wolves’ defence has stuttered in recent weeks, Jimmy Butler has done his part on the offensive end. Butler put up 35 points against the Cavs in an overtime shootout last week, while he also scored 38 in his first game back in Chicago since being traded to the Wolves. Butler playing an average of 37.2 minutes per game (and 42.1 last week) makes his sustained high level of performance even more incredible. Coach Thibs apparently doesn’t want to rest his big players, and it seems Butler doesn’t need rest anyway.
Small forward – Paul George (Oklahoma City Thunder)
It’s been a big week for the Thunder, facing off against Kevin Durant’s Warriors before injuries sidelined Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook for the rest of the week. Paul George stood up big time in those games, scoring 38 against the Warriors as the Westbrook-George one-two punch was too much for the reigning champs to handle.
In their other two games, George scored 29 and 33 points, respectively, as he was at the helm of the ship, and the Thunder picked up a valuable win without some of their stars. The five-time All-Star’s defence continues to be elite, which is even more important now with lockdown guard Andre Roberson out for the season.
Power forward – LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Anyone counting out the Cavs needs to remember what LeBron James is capable of, especially since the Cavs changed half their roster on trade deadline day. This new roster doesn’t have any pseudo-kings causing trouble like Isaiah Thomas did on its previous iteration, and it seems like a trouble-free roster, with pieces well suited to James. On their first game together, a reinvigorated Cavs team blew out the East-favoured Celtics in Boston, and that was two days after LeBron carried a Cedi Osman-powered skeleton crew to a road win against Atlanta.
LeBron averaged 27 points, nine rebounds and ten assists in the 3-1 week, a positive performance that even included a mind-blowing capitulation against Orlando. An overtime win against the Wolves was the swansong for the old Cavs roster, as LeBron blocked Butler to save the game and then hit the game-winner himself. There won’t be many Cavs fans asking for those days back.
Center – Clint Capela (Houston Rockets)
The Rockets are still the Warriors’ closest challenger, and despite their elite guard play, Clint Capela has been a big reason for their impressive record. Averaging 18.0 points and 13.8 rebounds for the week, he’s been the model of consistency as he continues to be a rock in the middle of D’Antoni’s pick-and-roll offense. Against Denver on Friday, Capela posted the first 20/20 game by a Rocket since Dwight Howard did it two years ago, which is no small feat against elite big men like Nikola Jokic.
Who did we miss? Comment below!