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NBA Wildcats: 2 Months In

Rounding up the latest news with former Wildcats in the NBA.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at New York Knicks Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we’re two months into the new NBA season, it’s time for a look at what’s been happening recently with the Kentucky Wildcats in the NBA.

Monk Gets Whacked

Malik Monk is having an improved sophomore season in the NBA, averaging 10.3 points for the 14-14 Charlotte Hornets. He made a rookie mistake, though, when he ran out on the floor and celebrated during Jeremy Lamb’s game-winner against the Pistons. Monk was assessed a technical foul, but Charlotte still won the game 108-107. The best part of it all was when Hornets owner Michael Jordan popped Monk in the back of the head as if to say, ‘Seriously?’ You know you messed up when you get that from arguably the best player of all time, but it was a learning experience for a young player that’s trending upward.

Cousins Return News

As Demarcus Cousins is still rehabbing his Achilles injury, everyone is speculating when he will make his return to the floor. Cousins was assigned to Golden State’s G-League affiliate earlier this week, which made it feel like he was ahead of schedule. The reports are all over the place as his return has been expected around Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and February. The Warriors have the luxury of being one of the most dominant teams in league history, so they are in no rush to get him back until he’s at 100%.

PG’s Lead Top Teams

Kentucky has been known for their floor generals over the last few years and two of the league’s best teams are led by Wildcat point guards. Eric Bledsoe is overshadowed by Antetokounmpo and Middleton in Milwaukee, but he’s having a sneaky good season for the Bucks. Bledsoe is averaging 16 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds on 51% shooting from the field for the second best team in the Eastern Conference. Jamal Murray has developed into a great second-option for Denver, who’s tied for best in the West with Golden State. Murray is averaging 17 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds, but his percentages need to continue to improve. Both players will be huge pieces for their teams’ success over the course of the rest of the season.

Rooks Breaking Out Of Their Shells

Most rookies in the NBA naturally struggle at some point of their first year, but two Cats are continuing to shine for their big market franchises. In New York, Kevin Knox is starting to get comfortable for the Knicks, averaging 22 points over his last three games. Knicks coach David Fizdale said, “He’s getting better and we’re watching his growth right before our eyes.” In LA, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been a big piece of the Clipper’s success this season by averaging 10 points on 48% shooting from the field. Both players will be essential pieces in their franchises for years to come and will only get better from here.

KAT is Back

It’s been a little over a month since Jimmy Butler was traded to Philadelphia and you can see the difference in Karl-Anthony Towns. In the 16 games since the trade, KAT has averaged 23 points and 13 rebounds on 49% shooting from the field and 39% from three while the team has gone 9-7. You wouldn’t think another All-Star would have such a negative effect on him, but the pieces obviously weren’t fitting and they couldn’t let Butler just walk in free agency. With Towns back playing at an All-NBA level, the Timberwolves can refocus and do what they can to right the ship in an intensely competitive Western Conference.

Can the Kings keep it coming?

If the NBA were a joke, the Sacramento Kings would be the very painful punchline based on the last few years. The organization has been a mess from top to bottom and their seasons were more about draft position than conference standings. 28 games into the season, though, the Kings are two games above .500 and are 0.5 games behind the eighth seed. De’Aaron Fox has shaken any doubt he’ll be a star and is establishing himself as a franchise player with averages of 18 points and 8 assists on 48% from the field and an eye-catching 41% from three.

Willie Cauley-Stein has slowed down a bit, dropping to an average of 14 points, but is still grabbing 8.5 rebounds a game on 54% shooting. The Kings having improved in this many categories and actually being competitive this late in the year is unheard as of late. If these two keep up their play, and if they get some more contributions from teammates like Skal Labissiere, the Kings will have their chance down the stretch.

New Orleans’ New Wildcat Duo

Last season, the pairing of Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins was fairly successful. With Cousins gone to Golden State, the Pelicans did their best to replace him with signing Julius Randle. Although he’s obviously not the same player, Randle has been fantastic this season for New Orleans. Over the last six games, Randle has averaged 27 points on 59% shooting and 11 rebounds.

Meanwhile, Anthony Davis is continuing to do Anthony Davis things. Over the last month, he’s averaged 30 points and 12 rebounds in 15 games. The Pelicans are 1.5 games out of the playoffs, but they have more than enough, especially with these two, to stay in the conversation until the very end.