The halfway point of the NBA season passed for most teams this week. The race for playoff seeding has started, as has the race for the bottom of the standings as teams look toward the elite prospects in this summer’s draft class.
If you are paying attention to the landscape of the league, especially for betting purposes, it’s important to know which squads have recently increased or decreased their stock. Here we discuss the risers and fallers from the past week in the NBA.
NBA Week 12 Risers
Portland Trail Blazers (26-17, No. 4 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 4-0)
The Trail Blazers are a confusing team. Sometimes, they look like a contender for the unofficial honor of “best non-Warriors team in the Western Conference.” Other times, they don’t look like they belong in the playoff bracket.
Right now, though, Portland is hot. Center Jusuf Nurkic is having a massive breakout year with career highs in points (15.2), rebounds (10.4), assists (2.9), steals (1.1) and blocks (1.4) per game, as well as field-goal (51.5) and free-throw (74.2) percentages. Most of those numbers are on the rise with his recent play, too.
The big X-factor for Portland, though, is its bench production. Normally, the Blazers have a below-average bench, but the likes of Nik Stauskas, Meyers Leonard, Evan Turner and Seth Curry have been hot lately. Can they keep it up?
Washington Wizards (18-25, No. 10 in the Eastern Conference, Past week record: 3-1)
The Wizards still aren’t where they should be given their amount of talent, but they are moving closer to that point right now.
Without John Wall, Bradley Beal is finding an ideal role as the team’s star (29.8 points and five assists per game in his last four contests). Overall, the squad is rediscovering the recipe that led to lots of wins last season when Tomas Satoransky subbed in as the starting point guard for the injured Wall. There has been more ball movement without a ball-dominant point guard there to run things.
So what’s the key for Washington now? Winning on the road. The Wizards got one great road win this week (116-98 in Oklahoma City), but the team has still lost nine of its last 10 games away from the Capital One Arena.
Atlanta Hawks (13-29, No. 12 in the Eastern Conference, Past week record: 2-2)
The Hawks are separating themselves from the Eastern Conference’s tanking tier, which includes the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers. Atlanta is now at least three games ahead of each of those squads despite possessing a similar amount of talent.
The Hawks had three impressive performances in the past week. They blew out the Miami Heat by 24 points, they lost to the East-leading Toronto Raptors by three points on the road and they beat the Philadelphia 76ers on the road.
Atlanta is seeing some really nice things from its young core. 21-year-old big man John Collins is still raw defensively, but he’s averaging 20.9 points and 12.2 rebounds per game since the beginning of December with a field-goal percentage of 58.2.
Rookie point guard Trae Young is finally converting more consistently on his three-point shot, making 21 of his last 48 shots (43.8 percent) from downtown. Another rookie first-round pick, Kevin Huerter, just dropped 29 points on the 76ers in a two-point win.
NBA Week 12 Fallers
Detroit Pistons (17-23, No. 9 in the Eastern Conference, Past week record: 0-4)
The Pistons are simply not good right now. Blake Griffin is having an All-Star year, but nobody else is really standing out. Andre Drummond has taken a clear step back, which is not what you want to see from a 25-year-old center who is owed around $27 million per year potentially through 2020-21.
Detroit’s cupboard of perimeter assets is just so bare. Reggie Bullock, Langston Galloway, Stanley Johnson, Bruce Brown, Ish Smith, Jose Calderon, Glenn Robinson and Luke Kennard aren’t moving the needle in a positive direction. Reggie Jackson? Well, he is not the guy you want as the point guard of a successful team.
Honestly, a trade of Drummond might be the right way to go about rebuilding the franchise. Having two big men as the best players on the team isn’t the way to go in 2019.
With all of these issues, Detroit is still 9th in its conference and only 1.5 games out of a playoff spot. The Eastern Conference has been very forgiving this season.
Oklahoma City Thunder (25-16, No. 3 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 0-3)
At what point do people start realizing that Russell Westbrook just isn’t playing like an All-Star this season? Westbrook’s true-shooting percentage of 47.8 this season would be bad enough to keep a player out of many NBA rotations and he is still taking 19.8 shots per game. That’s a decrease from previous years, but it’s too many for someone with major efficiency problems.
Other things are going well for the Thunder. They have the No. 1 defense led by several athletic stoppers, and Paul George, Steven Adams and Jerami Grant are all having career years.
However, Westbrook’s slump, as well as the underwhelming performance from Dennis Schroder, are concerns. OKC is sliding and just doesn’t have much quality depth at the moment.
OKC really needs Nerlens Noel and Andre Roberson to come back from their injuries soon.
Orlando Magic (17-24, No. 11 in the Eastern Conference, Past week record: 0-3)
The Magic’s situation isn’t that different from the Pistons’. Both are fringe playoff teams in this weak East with all of their assets best suited to play the 4 or 5. They each have a star big man who’s an All-Star candidate (Blake Griffin for the Pistons and Nikola Vucevic for the Magic) who don’t have much help, especially on offense. Both teams’ perimeter play is poor.
Orlando needs to work toward some sort of trade. The team is not going to optimize Aaron Gordon, Vucevic, Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba with them all playing on the same team.
Unfortunately, there is no major blue-chip prospect that has proven much of anything on the roster. Gordon looked like that at the start of last season, but he has regressed significantly. The Magic could probably use a tank, but they are out of position for a good draft pick thanks to a strong start.