The Los Angeles Lakers reportedly still believe they can make a deal to turn things around, Kemba Walker is now with the Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs look like they’re gunning for another generationally talented big man.
Here’s a look at what’s happening around the NBA right now.
Does a Lakers-Pacers trade still make any sense for either side?
The Los Angeles Lakers blew a 17-point lead fall to the Indiana Pacers 116-115 Monday night on an Andrew Nembhard buzzer-beating three-pointer.
The loss halted a small two-game win streak the Lakers were on, but, overall, the team has been playing better of late, having lost just twice out of their last seven games. Still, though, L.A. only sports a 7-12 record in a tie for 12th place in the Western Conference.
Hence why Monday’s game against Indiana was so intriguing. Since the off-season, the Lakers and Pacers have been reportedly connected in trade discussions with the idea that Los Angeles would look to acquire Myles Turner and Buddy Hield from Indiana for a package that would include Russell Westbrook and draft assets.
ESPN’s Dave McMenamin recently reported that L.A. actually backed away from such a deal in the off-season, though, saying that the Lakers believe they will be able to revisit the trade later in the season, in addition to having more options in a trade elsewhere from Dec. 15 onwards (when players who signed off-season contracts become trade eligible).
According to McMenamin’s report, there’s belief in the Lakers locker room that they’re only a couple of pieces away from turning their season around and becoming a title contender.
Belief in a locker room is never a bad thing, but it’s hard to think that Los Angeles’ front office might still think they could make a deal with Indiana anymore given the Pacers’ success this season.
While adding additional shooting and rim protection in the form of Hield and Turner makes sense for the Lakers, if you’re Indiana, why would you want to give up these pieces – especially for a deal that would see Westbrook coming back and might mess up the backcourt rotation that the Pacers have figured out between Tyrese Haliburton, Nembhard and Bennedict Mathurin that is clearly working.
Yes, Westbrook has played a lot better since being converted into a sixth man for the Lakers, but that doesn’t mean he would work in that role everywhere else.
The bottom line is that the Pacers and Lakers and trending in different directions, and the pieces that many thought would be available in Indiana likely aren’t anymore because this is a team that, to the surprise of just about everyone in the league, looks legitimately good and has its sights set on a top three spot in the East now instead of trying to collect draft assets in a rebuild.
Kemba Walker is a Maverick, but Luka still probably needs a lot more help
The Dallas Mavericks are getting some reinforcements in the form of former four-time all-star guard Kemba Walker.
Though at the age of 32 and having gone through some tough injury luck, Walker still looks like a decent low-risk, possibly-high-reward pickup for the Mavs as he was signed by Dallas on a non-guaranteed deal after he was waived by the Detroit Pistons before this season began.
In theory, Walker will add additional ball-handling, playmaking, shot creation and scoring to help with some of the load that Luka Doncic must take on in those departments – kind of like what Jalen Brunson did a season ago.
The problem, though, is that Walker now isn’t the player he once was and isn’t who Brunson is now. Bringing in Walker looks like an act of desperation from the Mavs because they failed to re-sign Brunson, who was an excellent complement to Doncic.
Dallas appears to be in a similar situation to the Cleveland Cavaliers during the mid-to-late 2000s when they had a young LeBron James. When you have the best young player in the world on your roster, flaws in it are easily corrected because of said superstar’s inherent abilities, but when you look around at the supporting cast – the likes of Anderson Varejao, Larry Hughes and Daniel Gibson with James and Christian Wood, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kemba Walker with Doncic – it becomes apparent that there probably isn’t enough support there.
Put another way, for all the MVP talk surrounding Doncic, the Mavericks are only 10-10 in 10th place in the West. He needs more help.
How the Celtics have become an historically great offensive team
The Boston Celtics are playing the best offence the league has ever seen, putting up 120.9 points per 100 possessions, a mark that would trump the Brooklyn Nets’ 118.3 points per 100 possessions mark they set during the 72-game 2020-21 season be more than two full points per 100 possessions.
It’s a staggering a figure and, while conventional logic says the C’s will eventually slow down, given the way they’re going about this historic attack there should be belief they can keep up for a full 82 games.
As Bobby Manning of CelticsBlog has pointed out, interim head coach Joe Mazzulla and the Celtics have built on the foundation that Ime Udoka put in place last season, creating an offence built on reads the players make on the floor.
It was originally designed to open up the playmaking potential for players like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but it’s now expanded to the entire team, leading to guys like Marcus Smart – who converted into a point guard full time last season – and Derrick White into becoming smarter, more dangerous shot creators for others as well.
This combined with the addition of Malcolm Brogdon running the second unit has turned the Celtics into a nigh-impossible team to guard because they don’t really run set plays. Everything is a matter of reading and reacting, which is much more difficult to prepare for if you’re an opposing team’s coaching staff.
This juggernaut Boston offence has catapulted the Celtics to the top of the Eastern Conference standings, despite the team playing only a middling defence.
The Spurs are making a real run towards the bottom
In Wemby Watch news, the San Antonio Spurs are making some real strides towards the bottom of the standings having lost eight straight and 13 of their last 14 games after beginning the season 5-2.
This plummet towards the bottom now has them just a half-game back (ahead?) from a bottom-three spot in the league, which gives them the best odds at landing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft (14 per cent chance).
Given where the Spurs are, this makes a ton of sense to do, particularly when you think of all the success the team’s had before in draft years when generational-looking big men are up for grabs.
With that said, though, what of the ultimate status of Gregg Popovich? He’s in the final year of a three-year contract and there hasn’t been any word about an extension yet.
At 73 years old, five NBA titles, three coach of the year awards and the most coaching wins in NBA history, there really isn’t anything left for Popovich left to do, so this could very well be his last season coaching, and gifting the Spurs a shot at Victor Wembanyama would be a hell of a parting gift.