From a superstar rediscovering his shooting touch, to a young sniper scoring in bunches, to a bruising forward adjusting to a Sixth Man role, here are the DOGS of the Week!
Top DOG of the Week:
LeBron James (4-0 record, wins over TOR, WAS, MIN, & PHI)
“You just got to shake his hand when he is making shots like that.” – Ish Smith
Yep, that’s how it probably feels playing against a red-hot LeBron James lately.
It’s no coincidence Cleveland’s 7-game winning streak goes hand in hand with LeBron being named our Top DOG of the Week. After struggling with his shot for the first couple of months, LBJ is getting easier looks with a full supply of weapons across the roster.
Kyrie Irving is back, Kevin Love is settling into a more comfortable role, and Tristan Thompson is finally in the starting five. For now, all is well in #theland – CLE sits atop the Eastern Conference with a record of 26-9, 4 games ahead of the second place Bulls.
This past week, LeBron powered the Cavs to victory by scoring 20 points versus the Raps, torching the Wizards for 34 points and 10 boards, controlling the pace v. Minny (13 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists) and absolutely TOYING with the Sixers (37, 9 dimes, 7 boards).
The Philly game pretty much served as a bold proclamation that he’s still able to dominate games while maintaining ridiculous shooting percentages (15-22 on the night). He flew through the air like a brushed-off trapeze artist…all night long.
It’s an encouraging sign LeBron is clicking on all cylinders to begin the new year. Motivated by his early shooting struggles, LeBron will continue to make recurring Top DOG appearances before the All-Star break.
UnderDOG of the Week:
Khris Middleton (1-2 record, win over DAL)
“We got it to Khris and he made a big-time play.” – John Henson
Gee, how can a recent $70 million man be classified as an UnderDOG? Well, when your team is 15-24 and significantly falling short of lofty preseason expectations, it’s possible! Khris Middleton, a Star UnderDOG, might just make the jump into Top DOG territory if/when his stellar play translates to more victories.
Not many swingmen have been hotter than Middleton the past couple of weeks. Since Dec. 29, Khash has scored 20, or more, five times (including a 36-point outburst v. OKC & 33 points v. Indy), while shooting over 45% in all but one contest.
Sadly, the Bucks have gone 3-4 during that span and are running in place at 13th in the Conference. In the midst of Milwaukee’s struggles, however, Middleton is developing into a pseudo go-to guy – best perimeter threat (by FAR; game-winning bucket v. DAL on Jan. 8), shooting 50% on triples his last 12 games.
If they can find a way to bounce back (or forward?) in the standings, then maybe his DOG Status will take a similar leap.
Salty DOG of the Week
Zach Randolph (3-1, wins over POR, DEN, & BOS)
“We just let them punk us, and they did.” – Jared Sullinger
If you haven’t been paying much attention to the endless grind in Memphis, Coach Dave Joerger (semi) recently moved Randolph to a Sixth Man role for more consistent bench production, to possibly motivate Jeff Green (joined the starting five) and for better floor spacing next to Marc Gasol.
Randolph, to his credit, has taken the “demotion” in stride and now relishes bringing energy in the second unit. This previous week is a prime example of Z-Bo’s heightened aggression and focus.
His best performances were a demolition of both Portland and Boston’s front court. Zach pounded the Blazers for 26 and 18 and made key plays en route to a 25-point, 13-rebound showing v. Boston. True, throwback numbers…
The Grizz have been looking for a shot in the arm for about a couple of years now, to be honest. Staying true to their tough-minded strategy, while adding personnel (Je. Green, Matt Barnes, Mario Chalmers) to execute said strategy, could actually work if Randolph can dominate in a reserve role.