By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and no Kevin Durant (hamstring) and no Kyrie Irving (back) didn’t prevent the Brooklyn Nets from completing an improbable come-from-behind victory over the Phoenix Suns. James Harden’s MVP-level run continued with another masterful showing, including knocking down a dagger three-pointer in the closing minute to give Brooklyn the lead. Harden ended the game with 38 points on 22 shots, 11 dimes, and seven boards. He’s playing at a level beyond even his MVP-winning season, and the Nets are rolling as a result. Brooklyn has won four straight heading into a Thursday night showdown against the Lakers.
Cleveland appears set to move on from center Andre Drummond, shutting down the veteran while seeking a trade partner. Drummond has been putting up numbers for the rebuilding Cavaliers, averaging 17.5 points and 13.5 boards a game. However, his game is limited due to his inconsistency to convert around the basket, complete inability to dribble or pass, and a tendency for him to overrate his own play-making ability. Cleveland’s future is committed to Jarrett Allen, and giving the young big man as much playing time is crucial for the team’s development. Given Drummond’s sizeable contract and limited skillset, finding a trade partner will not be an easy task despite his on-court value. It wouldn’t be a surprise for Drummond to be a candidate for a buyout in the coming days or weeks.
While Drummond does still possess a modicum on-court worth due to his rebounding prowess, the same cannot be said for Blake Griffin. Like Drummond, Griffin was recently shut down by the Detroit Pistons. Griffin’s contract is arguably the worst in the NBA, with a player-option totaling $39 million next season. The Pistons have publicly stated a commitment to dealing Griffin, but it is nearly impossible to see a trade happening. Griffin’s sizeable contract and lengthy injury history make him a near-certainty to be bought out. The only question is whether or not he lands with a contender as a role player on a minimum deal once he hits the open market.
Knicks forward Julius Randle further bolstered his All-Star case on Monday night with a massive showing in a win over the Bulls. Randle embarrassed Chicago’s defense, going for 44 points on 22 shots, including hitting seven 3-pointers. Randle has always been a solid role player, but he’s proving to be more than capable of shouldering the load for an offense this season. The New York Knicks have won three straight games to improve to 14-15 on the season. The Knicks will look to make it four straight tonight against the Orlando Magic.
Minnesota’s tough season suffered another blow on Tuesday with news that guard D’Angelo Russell will miss the next month-plus following knee surgery. The Timberwolves went all-in on the combination of Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns this season, but the duo has been limited to a total of five games together due to injury and COVID. Minnesota leads the NBA in losses, and even with Towns back in action and rookie Anthony Edwards improving by the game, things are looking bleak in the short-term for the Timberwolves.
Los Angeles will be without All-Star Anthony Davis for the next two-to-three weeks following a calf strain. Of course, in this case, the calf strain is a much greater concern than traditional given Davis’s recent bout with Achilles tendinosis. One of the league’s elite players, Davis’s absence will leave an unfillable void for the Lakers. Given the team’s championship aspirations, there is a zero-percent chance L.A. rushes Davis back to the court until he is fully healthy. Until then, LeBron James will likely continue to be burdened with an excessive workload for the Lakers. To date, James has yet to miss a game this season.
Though his hype has dissipated considerably compared to a year ago, Zion Williamson continues to live up to his billing as a potential generational talent. On Tuesday night, Williamson played old-school bully-ball against the Grizzlies, going for 31 points on 13-of-16 shooting. It was a worthy follow-up to a 36-point effort from last week in which he hit 14-of-15 from the field. On the season, Williamson is putting up over 24 points-per-game for the Pelicans. Due to the Western Conference’s ridiculous nature, it remains tough to forecast New Orleans to make a playoff run despite only being 2.5 games out of the eighth seed. However, the Pelicans are trending in the right direction long-term, and Williamson’s steady improvement is the reason.