Duke in the NBA: Williamson excels in return, Banchero continues elite rookie campaign

The NBA season is in full swing and the former Blue Devils have led their professional teams. The Blue Zone takes a look at their performances over the last week:

Zion Williamson doesn’t miss a beat in return

The 2019 No. 1 overall pick made headlines recently when he returned to the court for the New Orleans Pelicans. Zion Williamson, who sat out last season with a foot injury, is averaging 22.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.

The former Duke star has recorded at least 20 points in six of his nine games this season. In the month of November, the 6-foot-6 power forward has been a force, averaging 23.4 points. One thing that separates him is the strength of his game when his team is down. New Orleans suffered three losses in the last two weeks, and in each one, Williamson recorded at least 26 points as he sent two games, one against the Lakers and one against the Hawks, into overtime. In New Orleans’ 114-105 and 115-111 wins against the Warriors and Bulls, respectively, he settled for 16- and 19-point performances. But one thing Williamson has shown this season is his consistency, something that was evident in his overall excellence against Indiana on Monday. The Spartanburg, SC native had seven rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a block to his name. Although the game ended 129-122 in favor of the Pacers, it’s clear Williamson remains the dominant player Duke fans know and love.

Paolo Banchero recording elite rookie season

Williamson isn’t the only former Blue Devil and No. 1 overall pick making headlines these days. Paolo Banchero has been the Magic’s star in almost every game this season, whether it’s with his powerful rebounding skills or his shooting. The Seattle native is currently averaging 23.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game in the midst of a rookie campaign that could land Banchero in the record books and earn him an All-Star invite if he stays consistent.

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Despite Banchero’s success, Orlando is currently 3-9. In his last two games, losses to Houston 134-127 in regulation time and to Sacramento 126-123 in overtime, he surpassed 30 points, leading the Magic in both matches. The favorite for Rookie of the Year is the third double-double in his 33-point, 16-rebound performance against the Kings. After two straight 30-point displays, Banchero sprained his left ankle against the Rockets and was sidelined against the Mavericks on Wednesday night.

AJ Griffin has a breakout game

Like his former teammate Banchero, AJ Griffin is also breaking records this season. He recorded three steals in a 20-plus-point performance, and is the first rookie to do so. With Hawks star Trae Young out against the Bucks due to injury, Griffin finally got a chance to shine. The former ACC All-Freshman team member played 31 minutes and made every second count, scoring 24 points on a clip of 66.7% from the field. When Young returned to the starting lineup in Atlanta’s Wednesday night matchup with the Jazz, Griffin only made one 3-pointer in his 10 minutes on the floor. But with the performance he had against Milwaukee, Griffin is likely to get more playing time down the line.

Jayson Tatum leads the Celtics to four straight wins

Jayson Tatum is still one of the best players in the league. The Eastern Conference Finals MVP is averaging 31.2 points per game. The Celtics have only suffered three losses this season, and so far in November, they’ve been on an upward trend. Although Boston lost 114-113 to Cleveland in overtime on Nov. 2, the group hasn’t lost since and is riding a four-game winning streak. Tatum was the driving force behind the Celtics’ 123-119 win over Chicago on Friday, in which he had 36 points and 12 rebounds, and their close 109-106 win over Memphis on Monday, in which he scored 39 points, just one point away from its peak season. In Boston’s loss to the Cavaliers, the three-time All-Star did everything he could defensively to put his team on top, finishing the night with 12 rebounds and four blocks.

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Brandon Ingram improves the 3-point shot

Former ACC Freshman of the Year Brandon Ingram is known for being a high-volume shooter inside the arc. But this season, the 6-foot-8 small forward has been more consistent from downtown, landing 52.9% of his 3-pointers in November. Ingram sat out most of Week 2 due to the concussion protocol, but he returned in Week 3 and has gone 9-for-17 from three in his four games back. He has also remained consistent on defense, posting three straight two-block games.

anna young
| Editorial Assistant Blue Zone

Ana Young is a sophomore at Trinity and the Blue Zone’s assistant editor for volume 118 of The Chronicle.

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