Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA Weekly Column

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Logo for Diehlman at Halftime column. - Graphics Editor / Julia Quennessen

Man, what a time it is to be a sports fan. March Madness has already begun, and the NBA is in the final few weeks of the regular season.

Last week, we saw something that only a few have ever done. Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns scored 32 points in the third quarter alone against the Spurs. Towns finished the night with a career-high and the Timberwolves record 60 points, along with 17 rebounds.

As I’ve mentioned in recent articles, Towns is a center. Someone scoring that efficiently and being able to shoot from deep is a beautiful combination.

Also, on Saturday, March 19, LeBron James passed Karl Malone for the second all-time record in regular-season scoring. James needs 1,441 points to jump ahead of the all-time leader: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Assuming he continues to average about 20-25 points per game and barring injuries, James should reach the milestone in the next year or so.

“The Kid from Akron” just keeps breaking record after record. My question is: if he does move ahead of Kareem, against what team will he break the milestone?

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

Highlight, Lowlight, Random Stat

Highlight

Memphis, Tennessee.

It’s the birthplace of icons like Aretha Franklin, Morgan Freeman and Justin Timberlake. It’s famous for blues music. Oh yeah, and they also have the Grizzlies.

Memphis is still flying high as we head toward the end of the regular season, as they sit behind the Phoenix Sun for the top seed in the West. The Golden State Warriors are right behind them, but they shouldn’t be a threat now due to Steph Curry’s injury.

Their star, Ja Morant, who many have tried to put in the MVP conversation, is still averaging 27.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 6.7 assists per game. Beyond Morant, this is a very different Grizzlies team than what we saw last year, the one that got slapped by Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs.

Memphis’ Head Coach Taylor Jenkins has a nice supporting cast around Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr., including Desmond Bane and Dillon Brooks. I have confidence in them to go far in the postseason this year, but Memphis can’t fully rely on regular-season success translating to the playoffs.

There is still work to be done. There are still haters to prove wrong. For now, though, the Grizzlies are on the right track.

Lowlight

Get out the champagne. Prepare the fireworks. Start the parade.

Congratulations, Detroit Pistons! You don’t have the worst record in the league!

Unfortunately, along with the other sports teams in the Motor City, the Pistons still make us laugh whenever they try and be competitive. Even though Detroit has rookie Cade Cunningham as a weapon for the foreseeable future, there’s no way this team can compete with other Eastern Conference teams like Philadelphia, Brooklyn, or Milwaukee in the next few seasons.

This will be a very slow rebuilding process as they gather pieces for battle through free agency and, more realistically, the draft.

So far, next to Cunningham, Detroit has Jerami Grant and Saddiq Bey as offensive threats. Can the latter two be superstars on other teams? Probably not.

Am I saying that Cunningham, Grant, and Bey are a “Big 3?” No.

However, championship contenders have to start somewhere. Detroit has lost 14-straight playoff games. Let’s hope a turnaround is in store for them.

Random Stat

As you can tell from the intro this week, we talked a lot about scoring. Well, guess what? How about another stat on scoring?

In the 74-year history of the NBA, an international player has never led the league in scoring. This season could change that.

Three of the top four leading scorers this year, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Luka Dončić, are foreign-born. Embiid hails from Cameroon, Antetokounmpo is from Greece, and Dončić was born in Slovenia.

Out of those three, Embiid and Antetokounmpo have the greatest chances of reaching this milestone. But if LeBron James, who’s in second place with 29.8 points per game, wins the scoring title, the trend will stay alive.

When thinking about other players who could’ve broken this trend, the two international players that came to my mind were Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki is from Germany, while Duncan was born in St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Let’s look at the bigger picture, though. No matter if Embiid or Antetokounmpo shatter the trend this year or not, it’s only a matter of time until someone does.

For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.

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