1. Markieff Morris – Markieff Morris finally came back down to Earth last week, ending his streak of 20-point games at three. The older Morris did, however, have his final game of the streak this week (23 points with five rebounds against New Orleans), which played a huge role in him holding down the number one spot on this list. Morris continues to make all of the hustle plays, and he has emerged as a top rebounder on a young Phoenix Suns’ team. Morris will have a great opportunity to rebound from his temporary dip in production, as the Suns have three games against Sacramento (twice) and Charlotte in the upcoming week. Against Sacramento, Miles Plumlee will draw the tough assignment of DeMarcus Cousins, meaning Morris will be up against guys like Patrick Patterson and Jason Thompson (who are averaging a COMBINED total of 11.7 points and 11.2 rebounds per game); against Charlotte, Morris will face off against Josh McRoberts, who averages a mere 9.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. Markieff Morris will be facing far from the most fearsome competition in the league this week, so I fully expect Morris to have a couple of monstrous performances, similar to the ones that earned him the number one spot on this list in the first place.
2. Paul Pierce – Each week I’ve mentioned that age is affecting Paul Pierce. This time, age is not only affecting Pierce’s play, but it is making him sit out games all together. Pierce played 41 minutes against Phoenix, and as a result, he was simply unable to play in the Nets’ next game. This is going to be a major problem going forward, especially because Brooklyn is struggling early in the season and needs to start putting together wins now. This is a scary trend, especially considering that head coach Jason Kidd is in his first coaching job, and it was HIS decision to play Pierce for 41 minutes that kept him from being able to play in the next game. Kidd really doesn’t have a grip on the Pierce situation, and he will probably be removed as head coach sooner rather than later, considering Nets’ owner Mikhail Prokhorov has made it quite clear that he wants to win this year. If Kidd feels the pressure from his owner, he may try to get the most out of Pierce, so he could see a temporary rise in numbers, but ultimately Pierce will continue to have a season that is far below the standards most expected. Unfotunately, this year could possibly be the last for Paul Pierce in the NBA.
3. Kirk Hinrich – Everything about Kirk Hinrich (pictured below) baffles me: The goggles (its hard to know whether they’re awesome or ridicuolous at this point), the one sleeve, the fact that his numbers have actually improved each of the last three seasons. At the ripe age of 32, Hinrich has been quite fun to watch as he is often a defensive force, but this season he has done something he hasn’t done since the 2006-2007 NBA season. Kirk Hinrich has been getting to the free-throw line at a rate of once every 10 minutes, which is just slightly lower than that of starter Derrick Rose (and his player efficiency rating is approximately four points higher than Rose’s as well). Now I am not in any way insinuating that the players are of equal value or caliber, but Hinrich has been solid filling in for Derrick Rose, especially when the former Memphis point guard had to sit out against Toronto due to hamstring trouble. Hinrich stepped up and had 12 points, four assists, three rebounds, two steals, and one block, leading his team to a sixteen-point victory; Hinrich followed up on that performance the very next day with 13 points, eight assists, four rebounds, and one block. Chicago went 3-0 last week, and unlike Pierce and Chalmers, Hinrich played in every single game. This was enough for him to jump all the way up to third this week, although as Rose returns to form I expect to see a little dip in production from Hinrich.
4. Mario Chalmers – Mario, Mario, Mario… It was hard for me to decide what to do with Mario this week. Statistically he was slightly better than Hinrich, but Mario Chalmers has shown himself to be a little too aggressive (or even dirty). After racking up ANOTHER flagrant foul, the Alaska native was suspended for Miami’s last contest against Charlotte, which is frustrating for Heat fans to say the least. It has gotten to the point where Chalmers’ aggressive nature is now causing him to miss games, and although some fans feel that this last incident was a mere accident, Chalmers has been in positions like that far too often this year. It can be hard to overcome a reputation as a dirty player in the league, just ask DeMarcus Cousins who is averaging 4.4 fouls per game (specifically one foul every 7.08 minutes of playing time). Chalmers is averaging one foul for every 9.5 minutes, which is definitely a problem. However, as long as Chalmers stays on the court, his place on this list will likely trend upward.
5. Marcus Morris – Marcus Morris was solid this week, but nothing more, averaging 8.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 0.7 assists in his three outings off the bench. The younger of the twins has been a great role player for the Suns, and there is no reason to think his role will diminish moving forward. The Morris twins are finally performing like the Suns hoped they would when they reunited the brothers last season, and there is nothing to suggest that their potential has been reached. Marcus Morris should continue to put up solid numbers the rest of the year, and I anticipate he will continue to see 20-25 minutes per game. Like I talked about with Markieff Morris, Marcus will be going up against some lesser competition this week, so his numbers will probably rise over the next couple of games, and he might even be a dark horse candidate for player of the week.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Kirk Hinrich
Kirk Hinrich was, in a word, smooth, as he filled in for Derrick Rose and contributed to three Bulls’ wins over the last week. Hinrich may not have had the best overall stats, but he did manage to play in every game, which was huge considering that he was given an opportunity to start against Toronto. Hinrich narrowly beat out the likes of Paul Pierce, Markieff Morris, and Thomas Robinson, who had a monstrous performance in a victory (albeit an incredibly controversial win) against the Suns. Ultimately, it was his overall impact on his team that led to Hinrich winning this award, and he continued to showcase his versatility, netting solid amounts of points, assists, and rebounds. With Derrick Rose returning to form, I doubt Hinrich will have the opportunity to win this award again, but he has shown himself to be a very capable player, and a key piece of the 2013-2014 Chicago Bulls.
Overall, it was an underwhelming week for the Jayhawks in the NBA, but with many favorable matchups ahead, next week is shaping up to be a great one. No player really earned the player of the week award, which almost fell to Xavier Henry simply because of his absolutely absurd poster-dunk on Jeff Withey. However, there is one bright spot in all of this, and it is that a new wave of Jayhawks will soon be entering the NBA. Wiggins, Embiid, and Selden are all projected by ESPN to be drafted in the top 10 of the 2014 NBA Draft, meaning that as guys like Pierce and Hinrich move toward the end of their careers, they will be replaced by guys with equal, and possibly even greater, talent. Moving forward I want to highlight a couple of matchups, specifically the Suns versus the Kings. Phoenix and Sacramento will face off on back to back nights, with the first game being Tuesday, the 19th (in Sacramento), and the second coming on Wednesday in Phoenix. Ben McLemore has recently taken over a starting role in Sacramento, and those games will be crucial for both him and the Morris twins as they look to impress again this week.