FOX Sports activities NBA Reporter
We’re lower than a month away from the NBA commerce deadline, so it is particularly fascinating to have a look at which groups are thriving and which of them are flailing on this week’s Inventory Watch.
Rising: The Lakers
Essentially the most shocking current win-streak has belonged to the Lakers, who strung collectively 5 straight victories with out Anthony Davis earlier than falling to Denver on Monday in a sport with out LeBron James and AD.
When Davis suffered a stress harm to his proper foot in mid-December, it appeared a positive guess that the Lakers had been going to plummet within the standings. Davis was enjoying MVP-caliber basketball and, with out him, how would the 38-year-old James be capable of shoulder the load of each superstars?
The joke’s on us.
James has scored not less than 30 factors in 10 of his final 13 video games, together with two 40-plus level performances. Over his final 15 video games, James has averaged 32.3 factors on 55.6% taking pictures, 7.8 rebounds and 6.8 assists. James was named Western Convention Participant of the Week on Monday, his first time profitable the weekly award since Dec. 2021.
James has been a drive. Thomas Bryant has excelled as a starter. And in the course of the Lakers’ win-streak, the group quickened its tempo to make up for dimension deficiencies and locked in on rebounding.
It has been a profitable recipe for a group that’s going to have a troublesome stretch forward, with harm information popping out Friday that key function gamers Austin Reaves and Lonnie Walker IV are anticipated to overlook the subsequent week or two. However the Lakers additionally acquired some very promising information: This week, Davis will start the ramp-up course of to return to the ground, as ESPN first reported.
The Lakers have withstood Davis’ absence to this point. Now the query is, when Davis returns, with James enjoying so properly, can the Lakers dig themselves out of twelfth place within the Western Convention and into playoff competition? Presently, they’re just one sport behind Portland for the ultimate play-in slot and simply three video games behind Sacramento for fifth place.
Falling: Brooklyn Nets
Why are the Nets on this class, you is likely to be asking. They’ve received 14 of their final 15 video games, skyrocketing to second place within the Japanese Convention with a report of 27-13.
Effectively, that is an anticipatory fall.
The Nets acquired fairly a blow Monday when famous person Kevin Durant was identified with an remoted MCL sprain in his proper knee. He is reportedly going to be sidelined for a couple of month, based on ESPN.
Durant has been phenomenal this season, averaging 29.7 factors on 55.9% taking pictures, 6.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists. He has been the Nets’ glue the previous few seasons, persistently enjoying nice basketball amid the group’s frequent drama.
Now, it will be Kyrie Irving’s time to select up the slack.
When Durant suffered an MCL harm in his left knee in Jan. 2022, the Nets had been 5-17 over his greater than 1.5 month absence. Nonetheless, throughout that point, Irving wasn’t with the group throughout residence video games due to the New York Metropolis vaccination mandate.
It may be on Irving to verify the same slide does not occur once more.
The Grizzlies are the most well liked group within the league proper now, profitable their final seven video games. They’ve achieved their second-best 40-game begin in franchise historical past at 27-13, trailing solely their 29-11 report in 2014-15.
They’re hungry. They’re deep. And famous person Ja Morant is on a mission to show that his group is the true deal and will probably be enjoying into the summer time.
The Grizzlies are tied for the perfect defensive ranking within the league (109) and have the eleventh greatest offensive ranking (113.9).
Even with Morant sidelined the final two video games, the Grizzlies have not missed a beat with wins over Utah and San Antonio. Towards the Spurs on Monday, all 5 starters scored in double figures.
The Clippers have misplaced six video games in a row for the primary time within the Kawhi Leonard-Paul George period.
Most just lately, they fell to Atlanta on Sunday, despite the fact that that they had an 11-point lead halfway by means of the fourth quarter.
It is irritating for a Clippers group that entered this season with championship expectations. Leonard missed all of final season due to an ACL harm and Paul George performed solely 31 video games. With each of them again, the Clippers had been anticipated to make some actual noise within the league.
But it surely’s clear the Clippers have been taking their foot off of the gasoline, highlighted by their 33-point loss to Denver final week.
“That is the spot the place we see in case you actually benefit from the sport and if we’re a group, seeing if we will dig out this gap,” Leonard advised reporters Sunday. “It’s enjoyable. It is a good problem for us.”
George has missed the group’s final two video games due to a proper hamstring harm. However Leonard performed a season-high 38 minutes Monday, ending with 29 factors, seven rebounds and 4 assists — nevertheless it nonetheless wasn’t sufficient.
The Clippers have proven a definite lack of focus and urgency just lately and issues aren’t going to get simpler for them anytime quickly. This week they play Denver on Tuesday and Dallas on Friday, groups which are in first and fourth place within the Western Convention, respectively.
The Clippers want to determine a strategy to flip issues round quickly earlier than one more season that started with lofty expectations ends in disappointment.
Melissa Rohlin is an NBA author for FOX Sports activities. She beforehand lined the league for Sports activities Illustrated, the Los Angeles Instances, the Bay Space Information Group and the San Antonio Categorical-Information. Observe her on Twitter @melissarohlin.
Get extra from Nationwide Basketball Affiliation Observe your favorites to get details about video games, information and extra