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We’ve got less than a month left in the NBA regular season, which is typically when scores start getting lopsided throughout the league. So, this week, we’re going to pay tribute to three players that are not already dreaming about Cancun.

1. Zion’s back? Zion’s back!

Remember back in December, after the New Orleans Pelicans lost by 44 points to the Los Angeles Lakers in the In-Season Tournament, how everyone started asking if Zion Williamson, who had just 13 points and two rebounds in 26 minutes in that game, was ever going to get in shape and take basketball seriously? 

Well, he seems to have answered that question. Since the All-Star break, he’s averaging 22.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists. More than that, though, he looks spry and svelte — people around the Pelicans say he’s lost about 20 pounds since the in-season tournament — and springy. He’s taking the ball coast-to-coast regularly. He’s hunting the rim and roasting bigger defenders and bullying smaller ones. He once again looks like the walking mismatch that he was three seasons ago. And just look at this dunk from Tuesday night!

“Even stuff as simple as, like, locker room pregame, he’s just a little less jovial, a little but less laughing, joking,” Pelicans forward Larry Nance said Tuesday after the New Orlean’s 104-91 win in Brooklyn over the Nets, a game in which Zion had 28 points, seven rebounds and four assists. “Just sitting at his locker, just head down, eyes cut, just really focused on the task at hand. And to his credit, he’s come out and handled business.”

The Pelicans have now won eight of their last 10 and 16 of their last 21. They’re sixth in defensive rating and ninth in offensive rating. They’ve climbed all the way up into the West’s No. 5 seed, and are just a half-game behind the LA Clippers for that fourth slot. The two are all but locked in to face off in the first round, and the Pelicans have won three out of their four matchups this season, with Zion carving the Clippers up last week. 

All of which is to say: Don’t be surprised if, come May, we’re once again talking about Zion as one the most impactful players in the league. 

2. Jalen Green’s revival 

You know how we’ve spent all this time discussing how the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors are slotted to face each other in the West’s 9-10 play-in game? Well, the Houston Rockets might have something to say about that. They’ve won six in a row, and eight of their last 10, and as of Wednesday were just three games behind the 10th-place Warriors.

The reason for this late season turnaround? Jalen Green is playing the best basketball of his career. 

Green has exploded in March. For maybe the first time in his career he looks like the hyped prospect the Rockets grabbed with the 2nd pick in 2021. He’s been more decisive with the ball. He’s making better and quicker reads, particularly in the pick-and-roll. And he’s hitting shots. In March (nine games) he’s averaging 26.6 points per game on 40% shooting while drilling 40% of his 3s, all major upticks from his previous marks.

What’s been interesting is that a lot of this has come with Alperen Sengun, who suffered an ankle sprain last week, off the court. With Sengun out, the Rockets have gone with a smaller look featuring Green, Fred VanVllet, Dillon Brooks, Jabari Smith and Amen Thompson. It’s been a small sample size, but that group has scored 138.4 per 100 possessions since Sengun went down, a ridiculous mark, and outscored opponents by 18. 

The Rockets only have 14 games remaining on their schedule. It’s going to be hard to catch the Warriors or Lakers in such a short amount of time. But give them credit — and especially Green, for playing out the end of this season and laying the foundation for next year. 

3. Jalen Suggs’ breakout  

Did you know that if the season ended today, the Orlando Magic would be the East’s No. 5 seed? They’d cooled after a hot start but now have won four in a row and nine of their last 11. Paolo Banchero has been the catalyst for them, especially on offense, but Jalen Suggs developing a jump shot and becoming a dangerous offensive player might be the most consequential thing to happen to the Magic this season.

Suggs has always been a defensive stud. But entering this season, he was a 27.1% 3-point shooter, making it hard to keep him on the court. Especially on a Magic team where the two forwards — Banchero and Franz Wagner — are ball-dominant slashing big men who serve as the engines of the offense. 

That’s all changed this year. Suggs has drilled 40.1% of his 3s, and has done so on high volume (5.2 per game). After hitting just 128 triples in his first two NBA seasons, Suggs has already made 130 this season. Because of this, the Magic can now leave him on the floor and slot him onto, well, whoever. Suggs can lock down almost every position—and regularly does. Which has played a major role in the Magic owning the league’s fourth-best defense.

It’s unlikely the Magic will win a playoff series this year — their offense, ranked 23rd, is going to struggle to generate points in that environment, but they have lots of cap room and draft picks to make a trade to upgrade the offense in the summer. Suggs developing into an elite role player gives them all sorts of flexibility. 

Yaron Weitzman is an NBA writer for FOX Sports and the author of Tanking to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Most Audacious Process in the History of Professional Sports. Follow him on Twitter @YaronWeitzman.

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