NBA Week 15 Performances: Who’s Advanced & Retreated?

Kawhi LeonardThe NBA’s trade deadline passed on Thursday and we got a bunch of big moves that changed the league’s structure. D’Angelo Russell, Clint Capela, Andrew Wiggins, Andre Drummond, Marcus Morris and Andre Iguodala all moved teams, among other important players.

For this NBA Week 15 review of those on the move and decline, we will take into account recent play as well as how teams changed their outlook with their deadline moves (or non-moves).

NBA Week 15 Advancers

Denver Nuggets (36-16, No. 3 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 2-1)

The Nuggets have had really nice wins in four of their last five games. They have gone on the road to beat two of the NBA’s best home teams (the Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz). They have also demolished the hot Portland Trail Blazers and eked out another win over the Jazz.

They have done all of that with a long list of injuries that includes Paul Millsap, Michael Porter Jr., Will Barton, Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee all being totally or partially gone from the rotation during that time.

Once this team is healthy, it should be able really to separate itself from the West’s second major tier of teams. Combine that with the Nuggets’ trading for a first-round pick and a couple prospects for two players who were playing limited minutes, and this franchise looks to be in great shape heading into the future.

Atlanta Hawks (14-39, No. 14 in the Eastern Conference, Past week record: 1-3)

Atlanta is likely going to stay near the bottom of the Eastern Conference for the rest of this season. The team has been rocked by injuries recently and the adjustment period between new starting center Clint Capela and the rest of his teammates will take time once his heel injury is all healed up.

The Hawks’ future suddenly looks brighter after the trade deadline. Having Capela now and getting Dewayne Dedmon back up shores up a major weakness at center for Atlanta. We know that point guard Trae Young will hit both of them for tons of lobs on the Hawks’ offense.

The big question for the Hawks moving forward is whether Capela can mesh with power forward John Collins. Both guys are high-flying dunkers in the pick-and-roll on the offensive. However, talent is king in the NBA and the Hawks definitely got more of it at the trade deadline.

Los Angeles Clippers (36-15, No. 2 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 3-0)

Along with the Nuggets, the Clippers have created some separation from the Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference. The Clips have taken over the No. 2 spot in the conference and would definitely benefit from being able to avoid the Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs until the Western Conference Finals.

On the court, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are back to playing together and they have been great. Both guys are playing unselfishly and racking up plenty of assists while locking down opponents on the perimeter.

Of course, another big reason the Clips deserve a spot here is their trade-deadline acquisition of Marcus Morris. Morris is yet another versatile forward for this team at 6’8” and 235 pounds. He should be a big help to the squad as it tries to put together balanced lineups in preparation for the postseason.

NBA Week 15 Retreaters

Philadelphia 76ers (32-21, No. 5 in the Eastern Conference, Past week record: 1-3)

The 76ers snapped a four-game losing streak on Friday against the Grizzlies thanks to a 34-point performance from Furkan Korkmaz, but Sixers fans probably have trouble getting excited about home wins these days.

Philly has now lost five road games in a row and is 2-11 in its last 13 games away from home. Why does this matter? Because of this cold stretch, the Sixers are now out of the East’s top four and would have to start the postseason on the road if the season ended today. The Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat are all at least three games ahead of Philly and all three squads either are rolling or got significantly better at the trade deadline.

The Sixers did acquire Glenn Robinson Jr. and Alec Burks this week, so we’ll see if that helps at all. The team is still in search of that elusive offensive chemistry, as supposedly reliable shooters like Tobias Horris, Al Horford and Josh Richardson have not been particularly consistent this season.

Indiana Pacers (31-21, No. 6 in the Eastern Conference, Past week record: 0-4)

Speaking of mid-tier Eastern Conference playoff teams, the Pacers blew an opportunity this season to keep pace with some of the East’s elite teams, losing all four of their contests.

Returning star guard Victor Oladipo has not been helpful at all in his four games back, averaging just 9.5 points per game on a 33.6 true-shooting percentage. The absence of T.J. Warren (18.1 points per game on 59 percent true shooting this season) has also been a killer for an Indiana team that relies on balance.

I’ve thought all year that this Pacers team has been overachieving, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they faded a bit down the stretch as other more talented teams step it up. However, the team does seem to have good chemistry, so we’ll see if the Pacers prove me wrong.

San Antonio Spurs (22-29, No. 10 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 1-3)

When you look at the teams out of the playoff picture this season, it is mostly squads built around young cores that maybe have a few veterans here and there to fill in the cracks. The Spurs are the opposite.

Aging stars DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge run the very mediocre show in San Antonio, while younger players Derrick White, Lonnie Walker, Dejounte Murray and Jakob Poeltl have to sit and watch with lesser roles. The Spurs rarely ever do anything at the trade deadline, but many thought they finally might make a trade this season given their awkward situation.

The bottom line for this Spurs team is that reaching the playoffs for the 23rd straight season this year is unlikely. Even if they do, they are an easy first-round elimination for one of the West’s elite teams. Why doesn’t this team just embrace the future?