The NBA trade deadline is three weeks away and the rumors are popping up all over the place, which is part of what NBC Sports’ Corey Robinson and I break down on the latest PBT Extra podcast.
First, we get to Steve Kerr’s comments that Stephen Curry modern MJ – is Curry really involved in the conversation with Jordan? How about off-court impact?
From there it’s Corey’s Jukebox and some of VanVleet’s musical speech, followed by a discussion about whether it’s a good thing to have G-League’s Mac McClung in the All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest. Then it was time for trade talks…and what world record do you think you could break?
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Nothing changes at the very top of the NBC Sports NBA Power Rankings because the Nuggets, Celtics, and Grizzlies have winning streaks. Philadelphia climbs to fourth with their own streak while Brooklyn struggles without KD.
1. Nuggets (31-13, #1 last week) While the Nuggets’ best offense in the league rightfully grabs the headlines, Denver has the third-best defense in the NBA in the last 10 games — it’s this end of the floor that raises questions about making the playoffs, but when they play like that they have the answers. They also have Nikola Jokic. On a night when the Nuggets were sloppy in the second half and nearly succumbed to a 15-point lead at halftime, Jokic bailed them out by stepping back and winning 3 games in a losing game. He does a hell of a job MVP.
NIKOLA JOKIC NAMED THE GAME 😱 pic.twitter.com/5zu0ALNLn4
— NBA (@NBA) January 16, 2023
2. Celtics (33-12, HB 2) Brooklyn stumbles without Kevin DuranThe Bucks have never been healthy this season, and Boston took advantage of it all and opened up a comfortable four-game lead in the East. They should finish the season as the #1 seed in the East, and maybe the entire NBA. Boston have won seven games in a row – mostly because their shooting has returned to normal (after they left them in December) – and they could make an announcement on Thursday that the Golden State Warriors will take rematch in the final match.
3. Grizzlies (30-13, LW 3). The biggest concern was what could slow the Grizzlies’ playoff run. Desmond BainJJ Redick and Tommy Alter’s confession on The Old Man and Three podcast that he’ll likely need foot surgery during the off-season to really clean things up. The Grizzlies need Bain’s pick, and he’s been close to it lately, averaging 22 points per night in his last five games, shooting 51.9% overall and shooting 59.4% of 3. He’s playing less 30 minutes a night, the real test comes. when his minutes increase to the mid-30s per game (closer to playoff numbers). Memphis have won 10 games in a row and after the Cavs are at home on Wednesday, they are embarking on an interesting five-game trip across the West.
4. 76ers (28-16, LW 5). Watch the 76ers in person (as I did last week), and the path to a deep playoff run will open in one step: James Harden/Joel Embiid the pick-and-roll is almost unstoppable. It’s kind of a signature move with elite players where the team can play in late May or maybe June. There are other questions about the Sixers’ playoff run – defense in the guard, Embiid staying healthy, Harden not melting away in the elimination game – but you can see this team’s journey to a place they haven’t been since Allen Iverson. step over Tyronne Liu. Philadelphia – an impressive 3-0 score at the start of their journey across the West.
5. Cavaliers (28-17, LW 6). Cleveland isn’t going to find its long-term answer in the top three by the trade deadline, but it’s possible to get someone like Malik Beasley from Utah or Bojan Bogdanovic from Detroit could help in the next season or two while a long-term answer is being sought. Kevin Love maybe in a shooting slump but he still had his moment of the week playfully spanking Larry Nancy Jr. during a dead ball and Nancy is trying to get a foul out of it somehow.
6. Bucks (29-16, LV 8). Milwaukee is still afloat, scoring 2-2 with Giannis Antetokounmpo out (knee pain) but expected to return this weekend. What kept the Bucks going all season long—despite a devastating string of injuries to key players—is that they found their defense again. Milwaukee lost that defense last regular season (14th in the league), but bounced back this season, finishing third in defense led by potential Defensive Player of the Year. Brooke Lopez (and that Antetokumbō guy). The Bucks have had a lot of rest this week (Tuesday through Saturday), but they got a good test when they come back against the Cavaliers.
7. Nets (27-16, DW 4). The Nets started 0-3 without Kevin Durant because they can’t generate offense – they’re scoring less points for possession in those three games. They ask a lot Kyrie Irving, but back in Cleveland, he was better at working alongside another star than generating offense himself. And Ben Simmons…well, he gives assists, which is nice. He is what he is at the moment. It doesn’t get any easier for the Nets, who go West and have the Suns, Jazz, Warriors, and then fly to Philadelphia to deal with their old friend James Harden and his hot new Sixers team.
8. Kings (24-18, DX 10). The best way to ensure your team makes the playoffs is to take care of the cases against the teams you need to win. The Kings did just that last week, beating the Rockets (twice) and the Spurs (plus the Magic before). Now things get tricky at home with the thunder rising followed by the 76ers and the Grizzlies. Domantas Sabonis will be an All-Star in the West (whether he gets the starting nod due to injuries Anthony Davis and Zion Williamson another question) but De’Aaron Fox join him in Salt Lake City? Fox deserves it, but being on the West’s best defenders list is brutal. Coaches don’t have an easy choice.
9. Knicks (25-20, LV 11). Jalen Brunson is on fire – and brings his All-Star participation to the attention of coaches – averaging 33 points per game from his last five, 48.3% shooting and 4.3 assists per night. No one notices as trade negotiations begin to escalate around the team, and New York listens to proposals Cam reddish but turning away commands asking about Immanuel Quickly. The Knicks won 7-of-9, but they’re targeting 4-of-5 in Atlanta on Friday.
10. Pelicans (26-20, DX 7). Impressive stats of the week: Pelicans are 7-5 in both games Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson missed. It’s merit CJ McCollum, which has recently been a great replacement for Willie Green and his defense. It also shouldn’t happen that often. Fans are frustrated, and there is reportedly frustration within the Pelicans organization that – for the second season in a row – Brandon Ingram has missed significant time with an injury that didn’t seem like it should have distracted him for that long. He should be back soon, but no one will believe it until they see it.
11. Mavericks (24-21, LV 9). Dallas won 1-4 on the recent road trip and one win required double overtime, some crazy Luka Doncic magic and a belated auspicious call to get there. Moreover, Doncic looked exhausted during the trip. Paint over the mural if you wish, but the opinion expressed that Doncic needs help is both true and the opinion of many fans. The Mavericks are now home to 6 out of 8 and they have some interesting tests this week. Heat and Clippers (they lost to Los Angeles last week).
12. Heat (24-21, DW 13). Credit Bam Adebayo to develop your game. He got into trouble in the playoffs a couple of years ago when his path to the rim was cut off and he dared to take a short float. Its float is now close to automatic at 10 feet, making it much harder to cover. Don’t put too much weight on last week’s wins against a small Bucks team (minus Middleton or Antetokounmpo), but win where you can…