It's been a long and winding path to becoming a productive NBA player for Markelle Fultz, culminating in an impressive triple-double last night that helped the Magic secure a key victory over the Lakers in Los Angeles. The game marked the Lakers' first loss to a sub-.500 team in what was Fultz's second career triple-double. With Orlando's veteran point guard D.J. Augustin dealing with a knee injury that still requires further testing, Fultz, who is rostered in just shy of 40% of ESPN leagues, could see his role expand in coming games.
Facing Fultz and the Magic, LeBron James had a prolific night dishing out the ball, matching a career-high with 19 assists. The Lakers scored 48 points off of LeBron's passes -- the most they've scored across his two seasons with the team. In fact, LeBron's 19 assists were more than the rest of the Lakers combined (15). It was also the most by any Lakers player since Nick Van Exel dished out 23 in 1997. The King's performance was also the most assists of any NBA player age 35 or older since Steve Nash matched the feat in a game against the Lakers in 2011.
Markelle Fultz, Orlando Magic: 21 points (9-19 FG), 11 rebounds, 10 assists, 1 TO
In a win over the Celtics last night, rookie Sekou Doumbouya became the youngest player in Pistons history to produce 20-plus points in a game He joins Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, and LeBron James as the only players in NBA history to have scored 24-plus points in a game at his current age (19 years, 23 days old) or younger. Detroit entered this past offseason without a truly promising franchise-caliber prospect, but in drafting Doumbouya, they might have finally found such a talent.
Miami's Kendrick Nunn delivered 33 points in a win over the Spurs on Wednesday and has been heating up from the field after enduring a scoring slump earlier this month. The undrafted rookie has managed 21 PPG, 1.6 combined steals and blocks, and 2.3 3PG during the past week. The performance marked his fifth 25-point game this season -- the most by any Heat rookie since Dwyane Wade in 2003-04, who had six such outings that year. Teammate Goran Dragic notched 17 points on Wednesday thanks to hitting half of his 10 attempts from 3-point range. He is now shooting 47% from beyond the arc in his last five games. Dragic is available in roughly 40% of ESPN leagues as of Thursday morning.
It was a good night for young NBA talent as Denver's Michael Porter Jr. produced a team-high 19 points, eight rebounds and three combined steals and blocks. A full 17 of Porter's points came in the first half, his second-highest total in any half of his young career.
Still over a month from his 21st birthday, Luka Doncic continued his assault on the record books with his 20th career triple-double, a rare 25-15-15 performance versus the Kings on Wednesday. Doncic has now recorded 20 career triple-doubles in just 109 games. Only Oscar Robertson, who did so in just 45 games, reached that career milestone quicker. Doncic wasted no time in securing the triple-double last night, getting there with over nine minutes remaining in the third quarter. In terms of actual game time, it was the fastest triple-double by any Mavericks player over the past 20 seasons.
For a bit of fun nostalgia, on this date back in 1993, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal staged an epic duel that saw Jordan score 64 points while rookie O'Neal had 29 points and 24 rebounds in the Magic's overtime win over the Bulls.
Injuries of note
Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said on Wednesday that the team anticipates Zion Williamson will make his debut at home on Jan. 22 against the San Antonio Spurs.
Jamal Murray suffered what appeared to be a significant left ankle injury against the Hornets on Wednesday and needed help leaving the court. This injury leaves him doubtful for tonight's meeting against the Warriors, opening a key role for backup guard Monte Morris.
Analytics advantage for Thursday
The Warriors ended the contractual roadblock that has kept surging SG Damion Lee out of the lineup by signing him to a multiyear contract on Wednesday. Lee's likely return to Golden State's starting lineup tonight against a likely depleted Denver backcourt is interesting. Lee averaged 14.2 PPG and 10.1 combined assists and rebounds in his past 13 appearances, all starts. With a healthy usage rate of 20.1% during this stretch, Lee is clearly a focal point of Golden State's rebuild. He is a savvy free-agent acquisition to consider ahead of tonight's game, as he's available in nearly 75% of ESPN leagues.
Top players to watch on Thursday
Fultz seeks to follow up yesterday's huge line tonight against Patrick Beverley of the Clippers in another matchup in the Staples Center. It's a compelling challenge for the third-year guard.