Another week complete in the NBA year as were starting to draw closer to the Christmas day slate. At the end of this week, all players who were signed or dealt to another team this past off season will be eligible to be traded to another team.
Now don’t expect a frenzy of moves at the completion of the week but smaller trades may begin to happen. Players like Marco Belinelli and Ersan Illysaova (Hawks), and Robin Lopez and Nikola Mirotic (Bulls) are four players on clear tanking teams that could be moved as teams begin to gear up for a playoff push. These guys would be easier to deal for before the chaos of the trade deadline.
30. Chicago Bulls – record – 5-20
Good news: The Bulls have won two in a row for the first time all season! Bad news (depending on how you look at it): The Bulls still have the leagues worst record. Kris Dunn is however actually showing out to be a legit player averaging 15.2 points, 8.0 assists and 2.0 steals in his past five games.
29. Atlanta Hawks – record 6-20
The Hawks have a roster that needs 2-3 years at the very least before we start considering them a playoff contender again. Atlanta is not an attractive option for free agents so the front office will have to build through the draft. Trading Dennis Schroeder would be a logical option as they would be sure to add another first round pick in this draft or the next. Teams like the Knicks and Spurs would more than likely express interest.
28. Dallas Mavericks – record 7-20
After winning four of six, the Mavericks have dropped three consecutive road games to the Celtics, Bucks and Timberwolves. The real question is how do the Mavericks rebuild their winning image? They’ve tried the quick fix with Harrison Barnes and trading for Noel at the deadline a year ago. Fast forward a few months and Noel is getting DNP – Coaches decisions.
27. Memphis Grizzlies – record 8-18
Should the Grizzlies bite the bullet and entertain trade offers for Mike Conley and Marc Gasol? Is it time to officially blow it all up? Sure seems that way as the losses continue to pile on. Conley, despite his injury history and rich contract should gather significant trade interest. As for Gasol? Would a Tristian Thompson, Cedi Osman and the Brooklyn Pick be something the Grizzlies should consider? Voting yes on that.
26. Sacramento King – record 8-18
It’s legit crazy how good Zach Randolph has been for this Kings team. Over his last five games, the 36 year old veteran is averaging 23.2 points on 60.9% shooting from the field, grabbing 10.9 rebounds and dishing out 2.8 assists a night. Zach Randolph has been a terrific signing for the Kings.
25. Phoenix Suns – record 9-19
Devin Booker being out 2-3 weeks makes the Suns borderline unwatchable. It’s good to keep tabs on Josh Jackson to see how the fourth overall pick is developing and T.J Warren has shown to be a legit scorer. Don’t be surprised if the Suns aim to sell high on Warren and maximize his value at the deadline.
24. Charlotte Hornets – record 9-16
Time for Michael Jordan to complete turn over this roster. Jordan should consider himself lucky Kemba Walker has proved to be a loyal and humble star and that Walker has not publicly voiced his displeasure with the team. Walker is a free agent at the end of the 2018 year. Can anyone really expect him to stay in Charlotte?
23. Los Angles Clippers – record 9-15
The Clippers got good news this week with Danilo Gallinari returning to the lineup and that Milos Teodosic is closing in on a return this upcoming week. Maybe it’s not too late for the Clippers to save their miserable start to the year as they only sit 2.5 games behind the 8th spot. If they continue to fall further back however, expect Deandre Jordan to be traded.
22. Orlando Magic – record – 11-17
The Orlando Magic maybe got the best valued free agent signing of the offseason getting Jonathon Simmons for the next three years for $6.3 million annually. Simmons is averaging 15.4 points on 34.6% shooting from three this year. Aaron Gordon being out with a concussion would be bad news for the team if this becomes a prolonged issue.
21. Brooklyn Nets – record 10-15
Brooklyn made waves around the NBA acquiring Jahil Okafor from the 76ers. The Nets now have the second (D’Angelo Russell) and third overall selection for the 215 draft. Not a bad calendar year for Sean Marks as he was dealt the impossible task of rebuilding the Nets with no draft picks.
20. Los Angles Lakers – record 10-15
The Lakers have now won 2 in a row following a five game losing streak. They wrap up their five game road trip with trips to Madison Square Garden and a visit to LeBron and the Cavs. Watching Lonzo draw four defenders in the paint and dishing it out to Brandon Ingram for the game winning three probably gave Laker fans awesome dreams that night.
19. Miami Heat – record 12-13
Four of the next five games the Heat play will be against teams under .500. Portland will be the only team above .500 and that game is in Miami. A 4-1 stretch to move the Heat up the East Standings should not be unreasonable to expect.
18. Oklahoma City Thunder – record – 12 -13
The Thunder are starting to win some games having won 4 of 5 currently. However, no win has looked impressive and it’s obvious this big three combination is barely working. Carmelo Anthony is barely cracking 40% shooting from the field and looking like he should be coming off the bench. The Thunder need to move Steven Adams if they want to make this work and be a win now team. The Thunder need a bench, not a center who is getting 14 points and 8 rebounds and making over $20 million a year.
17. Utah Jazz – record 13-14
Utah has hit a rut despite the return of Rudy Gobert to the lineup. Having lost three in a row, the Jazz are only sitting a .5 game up on the Thunder. The Jazz just began a 6 game road trip with a loss to the Bucks. On the road the Jazz are just 2-9 on the season. Not a great outlook for the Jazz team going forward.
16. Detroit Pistons – record 14-12
The Pistons hot start was fun while it lasted and the good vibes coming for Detroit have reached a stopping point. A six game losing stream has knocked the Pistons to only one game above the Knicks and 76ers for the final playoff spot. The offense has only cracked the 100 point plateau twice during the six game skid.
15. Philadelphia 76ers – record 13-13
The 76ers have fell back to earth a bit with a current four game losing streak. Joel Embiid has missed the past two games for rest purposes and a stiff back. Although probably nothing serious, there has to be some fear in the back of the mind of 76ers fans that Embiid’s back could be a ongoing issue.
14. New York Knicks – record 13-13
The Knicks have struggled offensively without Tim Hardaway Jr, and have become easier to defend in his absence. Hardaway was able to create his own shot and apart for Porzingis, no one else on the Knicks roster can really do that effectively. Hardaway should be re-evaluated next week to see how his injury is progressing.
13. Portland Trailblazers – record – 13-12
Portland is another team on a lengthy losing streak and falling down the standings. Worst part? All four losses have been at home and the closet game was within 7 points. Up ahead? A 5 game road trip for Portland where they’ve actually fared better than at home (6-4 away record).
12. Washington Wizards – record 14-12
The Wizards have managed to stay afloat despite John Wall’s injury and this is with the chaotic loss to the Clippers to close out the week. Bradley Beal had his first 50 point game of his career scoring 51 against Portland on Tuesday night.
11. New Orleans Pelicans – record 14-13
The Pelicans finally got good injury news when it comes to Anthony Davis. After Davis strained his quad, he was only absent for one game and was able to return to the starting lineup last night. Demarcus Cousins continues to dominate in all aspects of the game and should be the most sought free agent come the summer (Yes, LeBron is a free agent but LeBron dictates his moves).
10. Denver Nuggets – record 14-12
The Nuggets are trying to stay in a playoff spot as they are without Jokic indefinitely and Millsap is out for 3 months. Kenneth Faried and Mason Plumlee have been giving solid minutes off the bench but are no where near the two players they are trying to replace. Denver is just 4-10 away from home. A record that needs to change if they are to snap their playoff drought.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves – record 16-11
The Timberwolves need depth. Actually they have some depth but Tom Thibodeau is intent on only playing 8 man rotations. Burning players out before the mid point of the year does not seem like a great coaching tactic especially since the Wolves have the talent to be a threat in the playoffs.
8. Milwaukee Bucks – record 15-10
Milwaukee is starting to get it together and becoming more consistent. The Bucks have now won 6 of 7 and are up to the four spot in the east. Eric Bledsoe seems to be getting more comfortable in his role. Expect the Bucks to be a contender when Deandre Jordan becomes available.
7. Indian Pacers – record 16-11
It’s time to admit that Victor Oladipo may be the best guard in the Eastern Conference. Yes, I realize that Kyrie, Lowry, Derozan, Wall (injured), Beal all play in the East but who is doing better and exceeding expectations more than Oladipo? Last night’s 47 point explosion was just another great moment for the soon to be first time all star.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers – record 19-8
The Cavs are clicking and firing on all cylinders and LeBron James should be the NBA MVP at the moment. Amazing to believe that a player in his 15th season could be this dominate and become even more efficient but that’s exactly what LeBron has done. The Cavs still need to make roster adjustments to compete with the top tier.
5. San Antonio Spurs – record 19-8
Finally the Spur have an expected return date for Kawhi Leonard. Leonard, who has yet to play this year with a quad injury, is expected to play in Tuesday’s game at the Mavericks. It’s incredible the Spurs are 11 games over .500 without him.
4. Toronto Raptors – record 17-7
The Raptors are surging as they are on a 6 game winning streak and own an NBA best 9-1 home record. The Raptors feature the NBA’s third highest scoring average and have scored between 102 and 126 points in all 6 wins during the streak. Fully expecting the Raptors to be serious buyers at the deadline as they try capitalize on the Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan era.
3. Golden State Warriors – 21-6
Steph Curry has been out with a sprained ankle and is expected to continue to miss time through Christmas. In the two games without Curry, Durant has scored 71 points, grabbed 21 rebounds, dished out 17 assists and blocked 7 shots in 75 minutes of play. An unleashed Durant is an awesome Durant.
2. Boston Celtics – record 23-5
The Celtics have finally be dethroned from the top spot. Brad Stevens deserves the coach of the year award after returning only four player from a roster that was the number 1 overall seed in the East a year ago. Fast forward and the Celtics are four games up in the East with Gordon Hayward missing all but 5 minutes of the season. Ready for good news Celtics fans? Hayward is expected to be out of his boot in 2 weeks.
1. Houston Rockets – record – 20-4
The Rockets have taken over the top spot as they have yet to lose a game with Chris Paul and James Harden playing in the lineup together. The duo may be the single most talented back court to ever play play as teammates. As deserving as LeBron is for MVP, so is James Harden and Harden having finished the runner up in each of the past seasons, he seems due for the award.