Teams have just under 30 games left in the NBA season and there are still many questions left to be answered. Can Mike Conley lead his time back into the playoffs after their rough start to the season? Will Evan Turner be moved before the trade deadline? Will Jared Sullinger continue his strong play or finally show the effects of a full NBA season? How will Greg Oden impact the Heat as the head towards the playoffs? Those questions will all be answered over the next two months, and we'll be sure to keep you updated on all the answers the come from them.
Mike Conley - PG - Memphis Grizzlies
While still recovering from an ankle sprain, Conley sat out the two games that the Grizzlies played last before the All Star break hit. The good news for Memphis is that Conley is planning to play in tonight's game against the New York Knicks. So far Conley has missed seven games due to the ankle injury, but the Grizzlies have managed to stay afloat while their floor general has been on the mend, compiling a 4-3 record during that span.
Conley is having a career year in his seventh season in the NBA, averaging 18 points per game, which is up from the 14.6 points per game he averaged last year. While Memphis struggled early this year, the play of Conley helped them to weather the Marc Gasol injury and enter the All Star break with a 29-23 record, which is good for ninth place in the Western Conference. The Grizzlies sit a game and a half behind Golden State and Phoenix, while sixth place Dallas is just two games in front of Memphis.
Kosta Koufos - F/C - Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies gave Koufos a little work before the All Star break hit, letting him log 13 minutes in a win over Washington, and then 20 minutes the next night in a win over Orlando. Against the Wizards, Koufos finished with seven points and four rebounds. While against Orlando his shot was a little off, only shooting 2-7 to finish with six points and another four boards.
Compared with last year, where he started 81 games for Denver, Koufos has only started 22 games so far this year. The injury of Marc Gasol earlier in the year gave Koufos a boom in his minutes, but now he isn't seeing nearly as much floor time. In 18.6 minutes per game this year, Koufos is averaging nearly seven points per game and six rebounds per contest. Still Koufos is a valuable asset for the Grizzlies to have in case the injury bug appears again the front court.
Evan Turner - G/F - Philadelphia 76ers
After suffering a couple embarrassing loses to close out the previous week, last week saw the 76ers only have one game, which they lost by five at Utah. That had to be an encouraging sign though after losing their previous two by more than 40 points. Turner put together a solid game, scoring 21 points and pulling down five boards in the loss.
While there has been much speculation about where the future may take Turner, whether it be via trade this year or free agency at the end of the year, Turner is putting up the best season of his young career.The 17.5 points per game he is averaging this year is an improvement by four points per game on what he averaged last year. The rebounding and assists are down for Turner, but some of that could be due to the surrounding team. It'll be interesting to see if Turner is dealt before the upcoming trade deadline, and if he is where he might possibly land.
Jared Sullinger - F/C - Boston Celtics
Before Jared Sullinger participated in Friday's Rising Stars game, he had to help the Celtics try and knock off the Spurs. Nothing went according to plan against San Antonio for either Boston or Sullinger though. The Celtics lost the game 104-92 and Sullinger was limited to just 19 minutes due to the flu. The big man couldn't find his range, only shooting 2-9 to finish with four points and seven rebounds. The lack of production snapped a streak of six straight games with a double-double for Sullinger.
On Friday night Sullinger suited up for Team Webber in the Rising Stars game, draining two three-pointers in the first minute. For the game Sullinger played 20 minutes and was 5-11 from the field, with nine of those shots coming from behind the arc. Sullinger was able to hit a third of those three-pointers on his way to 13 points as his team lost to Team Hill 142-136.
After only getting to play in 45 games last year, Sullinger has already suited up for 52 games this season. The second year player has become a big part of what is going on this year, starting 39 games and averaging 13.2 points per game, which is more than double what he averaged in his rookie year. While the Celtics sport a 19-35 record, they are just 5.5 games back of eighth place in the Eastern Conference. A big last 28 games from Sullinger could help Boston to sneak back into playoff contention.
Byron Mullens - F/C - Los Angeles Clippers
In the only game that the Clippers played last week on Wednesday night Mullens didn't see any time on the court. This continued what has been a season full of little to no playing time for Mullens so far. After starting 41 of the 53 games he played last year where he averaged nearly 27 minutes per game, Mullens is only averaging 6.2 minutes per game in the 27 games he has played. The Clippers have played 55 games so far on the season, which means there has been nearly 30 games this year that Mullens has seen no playing time in.
With the huge drop in playing time, the numbers that Mullens have put up have slid as well. After averaging 10.6 points per game last year and 6.4 rebounds per game, this year Mullens is only averaging 2.5 points per game and 1.2 rebounds per game. The lack of production from Mullens hasn't hurt the Clippers though so far this season, as the team has put up a 37-18 record so far, which is good for fourth in the Western Conference. The Clippers are six games back of top-seeded Oklahoma City, which is tied with Houston and Portland, who sit in third and fifth in the Western Conference, respectively. I wouldn't hold my breath in looking for Mullens to get any increases in playing time going forward, as the Clippers seem to have settled into a nice rhythm as they head towards the playoffs.
Greg Oden - C - Miami Heat
The Heat finished up before the All Star break with a couple games out west, where they earned wins over Phoenix and Golden State. Oden didn't see any time against Phoenix, but did play three minutes in the 111-110 win over Golden State. In that game Oden was on only the court long enough to miss a couple free throws, grab a rebound, and commit two fouls. As the Heat head towards the playoffs it wouldn't be a surprise to see Oden see his minutes increase as the Heat try and get him ready for what Miami is hoping will be another lengthy playoff run.
The former number one draft picks has only been back for nine games, but just seeing him back on the court at all is a great story. Before this year the last time that Oden was on an NBA court in a regular season game was back in the 2009-10 season where he started 21 games for Portland. In that short season Oden averaged 11.1 points per game, 8.5 rebounds per game, and 2.3 blocks per game. While so far this season Oden hasn't come close to those numbers with him getting eight minutes per game, he has had his moments of being a force inside. The Heat don't need him to be a superstar on a team that has won the last two NBA Championships, but his size off the bench could be an asset for them in the playoffs.