Greg Monroe – Monroe has been on a tear since January. And while the rest of his team is in a state of disarray, Monroe keeps coming to work and putting up solid numbers for the Pistons. He’s been the one positive thing in a tumultuous time for Detroit fans. He’s been fantastic while showing more maturity than most of the veterans on his team.
On his recent hot streak, Monroe has upped his season averages to 8.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, but his slow start to the season weighs those numbers down. Check what he’s done over his last five games: 13 points, a 12-point, 12-rebound game, a 27-point, 12-rebound game, a 16-point, 11-rebound game and then a 12-point, 16-rebound game one rebound away from tying his career-high. The 20-year-old has been a real bright spot. Shooting 54 percent from the floor in 26 minutes per game, expect Monroe’s minutes to climb for the final stretch of the season.
Wes Johnson – Johnson’s first year in the NBA has been the prototypical rookie season: He’s had ups and downs, shown flashes of great things, had many more stretches of not-so-great things and is learning as he goes. Lately, though, he’s been doing his best to work on the inconsistencies and to produce for his team every time he is on the floor.
Johnson is a scorer and sometimes scorers need a little time to find their way on the big stage. In his last four games, Johnson is averaging over 14 points per contest, well above his 9.1 point-per-game average. While his minutes have fluctuated greatly over the course of the season, when he gets to stay on the floor, Johnson has shown what he can do. At least in bits and pieces.
Xavier Henry – Henry is not on this list because of numbers or performances, but because he might be missing the rest of his rookie season. Henry has been on the inactive list for the past three games and Ronald Tillery of the Commercial Appeal is reporting that the rook will travel to New York to visit a doctor for a second opinion on his chronically sore right knee. Whether Henry opts for surgery on the knee or not, it sounds very likely that he will miss the remainder of the season and will work to get himself ready for offseason training. From contract negotiation to injury, it hasn’t been the dream first season anyone would hope for. Here’s to wishing Henry health and a much stronger sophomore season.
Denver @ Utah, Thursday, 10:30 p.m. ET – I’m not even sure if you can call the Denver Nuggets underdogs, but since having to ship Carmelo Anthony out to New York, it’s been extra rewarding to watch this team compete and win and figure out their new roster. While rookie Gary Forbes may or may not get into the game for the Nuggets, Derrick Favors will definitely get time for the Jazz and this is always a good thing. Here are two teams who went through a shakeup during the deadline facing off in the West. What more could you ask for?
Toronto @ New Jersey, Friday, 3 p.m. ET – This game was originally on the schedule so you could check out Ed Davis versus Derrick Favors, but after Favors was sent to Utah in the Devin Harris/Deron Williams swap last week, there’s not really a rookie match up here. Still, you should watch because it will be the first regular season NBA game to take place in London. And because Davis is one of the most rewarding rookies to watch in the league. Seriously.