NBA Latest Trends: Risers and Fallers for Week 15

Collin SextonThe trade deadline isn’t for another six days, but the past few days have been packed with updates on two very important situations.

First, Anthony Davis made a formal trade request from the New Orleans Pelicans. Second, the New York Knicks traded Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks in a blockbuster move that looks to benefit Dallas heavily.

In light of this information and the games that have happened in the past week, let’s break down the league’s top three risers and top three fallers from recent NBA events.

NBA Week 15 Risers

Denver Nuggets (35-15, No. 2 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 4-0)

If you thought the Nuggets were going to give the Golden State Warriors the West’s No. 1 seed without a fight, think again. Denver is coming off a four-game win streak in the span of just six days and is still just one-half game away from the star-studded Warriors.

Denver is finally starting to get healthy, so watch out. Jamal Murray did just suffer a minor ankle injury that has sidelined him for the last three games, but it shouldn’t be a huge deal in the long run.

Center Nikola Jokic continues to dominate with his post play and spectacular passing ability.

However, the Nuggets are also really deep. Gary Harris, Paul Millsap, Will Barton, Monte Morris, Juan Hernangomez, Malik Beasley and Mason Plumlee have all been net positives for the Nuggets and have helped maintain a solid defense that continues to surprise pundits.

Cleveland Cavaliers (11-41, No. 14 in the Eastern Conference, Past week record: 2-1)

The Cavs appeared on last week’s “fallers” list for being completely inept in every game and never even challenging their opponent at any point. This week, they have reversed their fortunes with a loss and then two consecutive wins. This is their first run of consecutive wins since November 24 and 25. Even in Cleveland’s loss, the squad was very competitive and only lost to the Miami Heat by six points.

There are some pluses and minuses to the recent streak. On the positive side, prospects Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic look like real building blocks with their recent play, and veterans like Larry Nance Jr., Alec Burks, Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson are becoming steadier with their play.

However, the Cavs are a team that needs to get a franchise centerpiece in this year’s draft. Too many wins is not good for that. Also, 2018 first-round pick Collin Sexton has been very disappointing this season and now has gone 11 straight games without making more than half of his field-goal attempts.

San Antonio Spurs (31-22, No. 5 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 4-0)

The Spurs’ four wins this week didn’t come against amazing competition. San Antonio got past the New Orleans Pelicans, Washington Wizards, Phoenix Suns and Brooklyn Nets, in order. None of them were huge blowouts.

Considering San Antonio was coming off a stretch of four losses in six games, the team definitely should be happy with where it’s gotten to now. The Spurs have been able to stay in lock step with the third- and fourth-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers, despite the fact that both squads are on winning streaks of at least three games at the moment.

Star wing DeMar DeRozan has been in and out of the lineup with some minor ankle soreness, and he’s been very unimpressive for the past month or two even when he has played. However, second-year guard Derrick White has done a fabulous job soaking up guard minutes and initiating the offense for the past five weeks or so.

White was an afterthought for many league observers this season, but he has averaged 15.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.4 steals on a 60.7/48.8/75.8 shooting slash in his last 18 games.

NBA Week 15 Fallers

Indiana Pacers (32-19, No. 4 in the Eastern Conference, Past week record: 0-4)

The Pacers are easily the NBA’s biggest faller this week. There’s no doubt about it. A little over a  week ago, they were 32-15 and had a legitimate shot at sneaking in for the East’s top seed if the Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers faltered a bit.

Now, their best player, Victor Oladipo, is out for the year with a quad injury. The primary ball-handler off the bench, Tyreke Evans, is also out, which leaves a gaping hole in the perimeter creation department.

The rest of the roster hasn’t stepped up in their absences, especially Sixth Man of the Year Domantas Sabonis. Sabonis is shooting just 37.5 percent from the field and averaging only 7.8 points in his last four games. Prior to this stretch, his averages in those categories were 61.9 percent and 14.9 points per game.

New Orleans Pelicans (23-29, No. 13 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 1-2)

Given their many injuries, the Pelicans haven’t played that badly as of late against a pretty tough schedule. In particular, former No. 2 overall draft pick Jahlil Okafor has found his stride with a really good stretch of scoring inside the paint. However, the news of Anthony Davis requesting a trade early Thursday morning was a major bombshell for the franchise.

Davis has a finger injury right now, but recent reports are suggesting that he might not play for the franchise at all as the team searches for potential trade partners before the deadline later this month.

New Orleans is already struggling with injuries to E’Twaun Moore, Elfrid Payton, Julius Randle and Nikola Mirotic. I see a lot of losses in the Pelicans’ future as they adjust to life without Davis and deal with the many other maladies ravaging the team at the moment.

New York Knicks (10-40, No. 15 in the Eastern Conference, Past week record: 0-4)

This is another trade-related inclusion. The Knicks played horribly once again this week, losing four straight games to push their losing streak to 11 contests.

With the news of their trade of Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke for Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews and two future first-round picks, I’m just not loving New York’s direction. Smith Jr. could be something good, but he’s not something yet. Jordan and Matthews are expiring deals, so New York will have a bunch of cap space to use on signing a star (or potentially two stars) this summer.

With Porzingis gone and the Knicks having virtually no players who have proven to be good yet under contract for next season, will stars even want to sign in New York?

The Knicks will continue to be bad the rest of this season (though maybe not quite as bad as they have been), but their future looks worse after Thursday.