NBA Form in Week 12: Who’s On The Up & Who is Going Down?

Luka DoncicThe NBA season is halfway over and the trade deadline is less than three weeks away. Which teams should make deals? All 30 squads should at least entertain the possibility of making a tweak, or even two or three tweaks, before February 6.

Which teams are on the rise and on the decline as the league prepares for the closing half of the season? Let’s talk about it.

Three Teams On The Upgrade in NBA Week 12

Dallas Mavericks (27-15, No. 6 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 4-0)

At the beginning of this week, it would’ve been reasonable to assume that the Mavericks were trending downward in the standings. They had lost five out of seven games and were without Kristaps Porzingis for the next several games, and the team was never expected to be this good this season. Maybe some regression to the mean was due?

Well, Porzingis remained out this entire week, but the Mavs still won all four games. The team’s defense is somewhat inconsistent without the 7’3” Unicorn patrolling the paint, but the offense is still dynamite, thanks to Luka Doncic’s superstar play and great role player production.

One of those key role players is Tim Hardaway Jr. Dallas’ starting shooting guard has been maligned for his inconsistent shooting and large contract, but he has contributed well this season, particularly in January. Ever since returning from a hamstring injury eight games ago, he has averaged 17.6 points in just 28.6 minutes per game, shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three. He is also showing some consistency, with at least 12 points in all eight of those games.

Atlanta Hawks (10-32, No. 15 in the Eastern Conference, Past week record: 2-1)

The Hawks are on a two-game winning streak! This is absolutely a big deal for a team that has the Eastern Conference’s worst record and hasn’t won consecutive games since the first two contests of the season. On Friday, Atlanta also broke a 23-year winless streak in San Antonio, beating the Spurs on the road for the first time since 1997.

Franchise building blocks Trae Young and John Collins are both back in the lineup and are finding chemistry with each other. Young wing players Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish are starting to figure things out a bit after disappointing starts to the season.

Atlanta will be getting back point guard Jeff Teague from the Minnesota Timberwolves via trade. Teague should fill a hole as a nice backup behind Young.

The Hawks have dug themselves too deep of a hole to make the playoffs. Maybe they can start to play better basketball the rest of the way, especially now that expectations of making a big leap this season aren’t weighing on them anymore.

Memphis Grizzlies (20-22, No. 8 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 3-0)

Speaking of exciting young guard-big man duos, the Grizzlies have an absolutely amazing one in point guard Ja Morant and big man Jaren Jackson Jr. Both guys are 20 years old. Unlike the Hawks’ duo of Young and Collins, this Grizzlies squad has outperformed expectations overall this season by a big margin.

Morant is going to be a perennial All-Star in the very near future. Jackson is developing into a very unique big man with accurate, high-volume three-point shooting combined with very good defensive abilities.

The Grizzlies have a bunch of other players that fans should be pumped about, too. Veteran center Jonas Valanciunas is filling his offensive and rebounding specialist role perfectly, shooting guard Dillon Brooks gives the Grizzlies hot shooting at opportune times and athletic youngsters Brandon Clarke and De’Anthony Melton fill the stat sheet nightly while playing strong defense.

Three Out-of-Form NBA Teams in Week 12

Charlotte Hornets (15-29, No. 11 in the Eastern Conference, Past week record: 0-3)

The Hornets had been slowly falling out of playoff contention for the past month or two. But in the past couple of weeks, they seem to have officially removed their names from the postseason conversation. It’s not surprising, to be honest.

Charlotte has overachieved this season, especially on offense. The improvements of Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier this season are cool stories, but it is not a good sign if they are your clear top two options on offense.

Right now, the Hornets have a lot of veterans on the roster that the team should be aggressively shopping on the trade market. Nicolas Batum, Cody Zeller, Bismack Biyombo, Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are making a combined $85 million this year, and none of them should factor into the future plans of the franchise.

Washington Wizards (13-28, No. 12 in the Eastern Conference, Past week record: 0-3)

Another team in the Eastern Conference that had hung around the playoff hunt for a while is also showing that it doesn’t belong. The Wizards responded to a stretch of three wins in four games by losing three consecutive contests by a combined 49 points.

Worse yet, face of the franchise Bradley Beal is now criticizing the team’s culture, and he says his frustration builds with each loss. Considering the players on the Wizards’ roster are not particularly talented compared to most of the rest of the league, that frustration will probably continue to grow.

Will the Wizards try to trade Beal? It is probably an option they should at least explore, because Washington’s asset situation may not be the best to build a winner around the 26-year-old guard at this point.

Houston Rockets (26-14, No. 5 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 1-2)

The Rockets’ run of shaky play dates back to four games ago, when they lost by 21 points to the Oklahoma City Thunder. In total, they have lost three of their last four games despite all four opponents being at least four games below them in the standings.

Superstar guard James Harden is still putting up great numbers on the season, but he has shot below 30 percent from the field in three of his past five games. He has had games of eight and 11 turnovers in that span as well.

The Rockets love three-and-D players to place around Harden and Russell Westbrook. Two of those key guys, PJ Tucker and Danuel House, are just 13-of-59 from three-point range since December 29 and the team is staggering a bit. In that same stretch, Ben McLemore has been much better from downtown (27-of-63) but there’s a tradeoff because his defense is so much worse than that of the other guys.

It definitely wouldn’t be surprising to see the Rockets scour the trade market for some more reliable three-and-D help.