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Please let this Oklahoma City Thunder team stay healthy forever.
Who’s up, down after this weekend’s hoops?
We love starting our Mondays by checking the NBA Stock Report after a weekend of hoops. Which team should you buy or sell? Who’s too high or low? Economics jargon and basketball! Let’s check some notable trends:
📈: Sacramento Kings. Don’t look now, but the 8-4 Kings are a problem once again and have won six straight. You can thank De’Aaron Fox’s return from his ankle injury. In four games back, he’s putting up 32.3 points on 52.3 percent overall shooting and 44.4 percent from deep. On the season, the Kings are scoring 14 more points per 100 possessions with Fox on the floor.
📈: Milwaukee Bucks. Winners of four straight (they’re supposed to beat the Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Hornets), the Bucks’ 132-125 victory over the 9-5 Dallas Mavericks reminded us what this team is supposed to look like, namely Freak Time (combined 67 points, 19 assists and 18 rebounds against Dallas).
📉: Golden State Warriors. Klay Thompson has been rough (more on that below), Draymond Green is suspended for being Rudy Gobert’s expensive backpack, and the Warriors are somehow just 1-6 at home (tied for the NBA’s second-worst home record). This is the opposite of last season, when they couldn’t win on the road.
📉: Denver Nuggets. Can the championship hangover not kick in until the season’s fourth week? Nothing serious about Denver’s bad week just yet, but the 9-4 Nuggets just lost to New Orleans and Cleveland. And the Cavs dominated the champs.
📉: Jordan Poole. Still waiting for that breakout game? Us too. Poole and his 2-10 Washington Wizards have lost five in a row. He has 64 points on 70 shot attempts during this stretch.
📈: Karl-Anthony Towns. Over the Minnesota Timberwolves’ hot stretch (5-1 record), KAT is getting all of the yarn. In that span, he’s averaging 26.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and three assists while shooting 59.4 percent from the field, 48.5 percent on 3s and 92.3 percent from the line. He also made the game-winner in Minnesota’s 121-120 win over New Orleans.
📉: Detroit Pistons. The Pistons started the season 2-1 and are a league-worst 2-12. They’ve had a tough schedule, but it doesn’t let up until … like … January?
📈: Oklahoma City Thunder. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is crushing during the team’s five-game win streak, posting 31-5-5 and a 67.1 true shooting percentage in that time. On Saturday, Chet Holmgren dominated the Warriors with 36-10-5, including this ridiculous, game-tying 3-pointer to force overtime.
The Latest From Shams
Phoenix’s big three must wait
In case you missed it, the Suns won’t see their newly formed big three for a while after the team announced Friday that Bradley Beal will be out and re-evaluated in three weeks as he deals with a back injury.
The team is calling the injury a “low back strain.” I’m told an assortment of issues has caused Beal discomfort and tightness in his back and, at points since the initial injury in training camp, Beal has dealt with nerve irritation from his back down to his legs.
In three games this season, the three-time All-Star has averaged 17.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per contest, but he’s been out since a flare-up in his back hours before Wednesday’s game. We’ll continue to monitor Beal’s rehab progress and status as the weeks go along. The Suns (7-6) have won three in a row, including Sunday’s double-overtime win at Utah.
Should the Warriors do something?
I don’t know exactly what the Warriors offered the 33-year-old Thompson during extension negotiations that seemingly went nowhere, but the future Hall of Famer decided to bet on himself. Typically, that has been smart for him to do. He’s one of his era’s best competitors, an all-time great shooter and an undeniable winner. But, as Las Vegas’ bright lights can attest to, you sometimes lose these bets.
Thompson has had an abysmal start to the season. Through 13 games:
- Thompson’s 14 points per game would mark his fewest since his rookie season in 2011-12 (12.5). His overall shooting (40 percent) and 3-point efficiency (33) are on pace for career lows.
- Along with the worst true shooting percentage of his career (52) Thompson also has the worst turnover rate of his career (12.9 percent), the first time he’s had a double-digit mark.
- During the Warriors’ six-game losing streak, he’s averaging 11 points on 30.9 percent from the field and 28.2 percent on 3s.
And, despite Thompson doing his best to compete, his defense isn’t close to what it once was. At his peak, his two-way impact is what made him so special. This season, the Warriors are better without him on the court, though it’s a marginal difference due to the early-season sample size.
Is a Warriors change fathomable? Probably not. The idea of them trading Thompson seems reactionary at best. There are also plenty of ways he can turn it around. Thompon is currently making 50 percent of his wide-open 3-pointers compared to just 19.4 percent of his open 3s. Going forward, I’d guess he can shoot 20 percent on open 3s with his weak hand.
Is it simply a matter of Thompson just making shots and everything snowballing from there? This season’s struggles would be easier to weather if not for him making over $40 million. If Thompson’s salary comes down to the $20-25 million range in his next deal, slow starts become easier to deal with.
The Warriors flat-out can’t compete for a title without a massive bounce back from Thompson.
He’ll always remind you he’s good
Another NBA season means more high-level production from the ageless wonder LeBron James, who will soon turn 39 years old. On the season, he’s averaging 26.4 points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.5 assists with 58.6/39.7/69.1 shooting splits. The Lakers are a dominant team (plus-7.7 net rating) with him on the floor and barely resemble a pro squad (minus-17.1 net rating) when he sits.
On Friday, LeBron put up 35 points on 13-of-22 shooting in a blowout win over the reeling/tanking Portland Trail Blazers. The league’s all-time scoring leader made sure to fire some shots at critics on Instagram afterward.
LeBron James’ Instagram caption showing a screenshot of his 35 point game at 38 years old:
“But I just came here to make movies though! Ain’t that what y’all said right!?! 👂” pic.twitter.com/oeA03VICbl
— NBA Buzz (@OfficialNBABuzz) November 19, 2023
He’s speaking to some of the talking head accusations back from 2018, when it was said LeBron joined the Lakers just to make movies and other projects with his entertainment entity, SpringHill Company. Since then, he’s won a title, set countless more records and defied Father Time’s attempted swings at him. Last night, LeBron dominated in the Lakers’ 105-104 victory over the Dillon Brooks-led Houston Rockets. LeBron had 37 points on 14-of-19 shooting, eight assists and six rebounds. He also let people know that Brooks is simply too small to defend him. Sometimes, it’s good to be king.
Former Warriors executive Bob Myers tells us about dealing with Draymond Green.
Remember James Harden saying he’s the system? That best applies to Tyrese Haliburton.
It gets worse for the Memphis Grizzlies: Marcus Smart is out three to five weeks.
Along with being unsightly, the In-Season Tournament courts may be unsafe.
Marcus Thompson II explains why the Warriors need Draymond Green on the court.
Screen Game (All times Eastern)
- Main Screen: Knicks-Wolves (8 p.m.). Two of the best defenses in the league so far. Time for an old-school score?
- Second Screen: Kings-Pelicans (8 p.m.). Big measuring stick game for both teams trying to prove themselves when healthy.
- League Pass Game of the Night: Rockets-Warriors (10 p.m.). Brooks going against the Warriors is always a spectacle. Full schedule here.
(Top photo of Klay Thompson: Lachlan Cunningham / Getty Images)