Newswire Notebook: Malik Beasley’s Emergence and More

by February 28, 2020
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Malik Beasley of the Minnesota Timberwolves

Each week here at SLAM we’re going to empty out the notebook and give you some facts and figures about each NBA team. These are meant to give you a one-stop shop for what’s been happening around the league and highlight a few things you may have missed! You can find the Eastern Conference notes here.

  • Dallas Mavericks – Dallas is continuing to deal with injuries. Dwight Powell is out for the season, and now Luka Doncic (ankle) and Jalen Brunson (shoulder) are nicked up. For Doncic, it doesn’t seem serious, but it is a bit troubling that he continues to have ankle troubles. Brunson has a torn labrum in his right shoulder, but he’s a lefty and is planning to try to play through it. The Mavs have lots of guard depth, but getting healthy for the playoff run is key.
  • Denver Nuggets – The Nuggets aren’t catching the Lakers for the top spot in the Western Conference, but they’ve been able to hold off the Clippers and Rockets so far. A big reason why is Denver is finally healthy. With their full roster, the Nuggets are legitimately 10 deep. Mike Malone can now use the rest of the regular season to figure out his playoff rotation.
  • Golden State Warriors – One star back, one star out for the Dubs. Stephen Curry’s return is right around the corner, but Klay Thompson was ruled out for the season recently. Steve Kerr will get a look at how Curry, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins can work together over the season’s final 20 games or so, and then Thompson will slide in as a plug-and-play addition next season. Golden State also continues to cycle through 10-day players, as Dragan Bender and Mychal Mulder have both signed on recently.
  • Houston Rockets – Houston is fully committed to the small-ball style. Unless Tristan Thompson is shockingly bought out in the next couple of days, the Rockets will stick with a “center” rotation of P.J. Tucker and Jeff Green, the latter of whom will sign for the rest of the season. It’s worked so far, as Houston has won five straight games. One worry: Will Tucker have enough in the tank to make this a multi-month thing in a playoff run?
  • Los Angeles Clippers – Doc Rivers and a handful of players have recently intimated that it’s time for the Clippers to figure out who they are. Due to injuries, load management and recent trades/signings, LA has about a month and a half to figure out their rotation. Sure, the roster is stacked with talent. But it’s up to Rivers to figure out how all that talent fits and time is starting to running out.
  • Los Angeles Lakers – Markieff Morris is now in the fold for the Lakers. That might be the final move for Los Angeles, as the buyout market has really dried up. Morris gives the Lakers some additional depth up front, and that could be key down the stretch. LA hasn’t had a real backup for Anthony Davis, as Kyle Kuzma is more of a swing forward than a true four. With Morris, Frank Vogel can now spot Davis some rest days or keep him out when the inevitable bumps and bruises come. With a 5.5-game cushion in the standings, expect the Lakers to turn the focus to being healthy and rested for the playoffs.
  • Memphis Grizzlies – Memphis’ Cinderella season seems to be closing in on midnight. The Grizzlies lead for the last playoff spot in the West is down to just three games, and five teams have closed to within 4.5 games. With Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke and Justise Winslow sidelined with injuries for at least a few weeks, it’s going to be tough for Memphis to hold off the charge.
  • Minnesota Timberwolves – The Wolves hope at the trade deadline was to get their new additions on the floor with Karl-Anthony Towns and get a glimpse of their future. Now, Towns is out for at least a couple of weeks with a fractured left wrist. On the flip side, Malik Beasley is playing great since getting to Minnesota. He’s averaged 21.7 PPG on nearly 42% as a Timberwolf. D’Angelo Russell got the headlines as a trade addition, but Beasley may be just as big a part of the future in Minnesota.
  • New Orleans Pelicans – Have you seen this Zion kid? He’s pretty good! In all seriousness, Williamson’s debut has jolted the Pelicans into the Western Conference playoff race. New Orleans is now just three games behind Memphis. And the Pels have a very easy closing schedule. Would you like to see a Lakers vs. Pelicans series in Round 1? Us too!
  • Oklahoma City Thunder – The Thunder have gone from a nice story to a full-scale playoff team. Did you know OKC is only four games behind for the two-seed? Didn’t think so. And they’re getting some wings back, as Terrance Ferguson and Hamidou Diallo are both healthy now. Neither is a star, but for a team that needs wing depth, they’ll take what they can get.
  • Phoenix Suns – Phoenix simply can’t have nice things. Deandre Ayton is back and dominating. Key veterans Aron Baynes and Ricky Rubio are healthy. Devin Booker is an All-Star. So, of course, they lose a key player to injury. Kelly Oubre Jr., who was having a career-year, suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee and will likely miss the rest of the season. Oubre is seeking a second opinion, but the Suns are preparing for life without him.
  • Portland Trail Blazers – Even without Damian Lillard, the Blazers have hung around the playoff race. Portland is three games behind Memphis and they have one of the easier closing schedules left. There is still no clear return timetable for Jusuf Nurkic or Zach Collins, but if the Trail Blazers can hang in there, they’ll add as much talent as anyone for the final playoff push.
  • Sacramento Kings – The Kings are making an improbable run at the playoffs. Sacramento has gone 6-4 over their last 10 games to get back in the race. Luke Walton’s lineup swap of Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield has worked as well. Bogdanovic has averaged 14.2 PPG as a starter, while Hield has been instant-offense off the bench at 20.2 PPG on 48.9% from behind the arc.
  • San Antonio Spurs – San Antonio is scratching and clawing to extend their playoff streak to 24 years. They’ve been passed by New Orleans in the standings, which means the Spurs will have to pass the Pelicans, Trail Blazers and Grizzlies to get into the postseason. Gregg Popovich is leaning heavily on LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, but is finally getting improved play from the Spurs role players. It’s a tall task, but bet against San Antonio at your own peril.
  • Utah Jazz – To put it simply, the Jazz are a mess right now. Utah has lost four straight games and this week Quin Snyder made a messy lineup shuffle. On Wednesday morning, Mike Conley was informed he’d go back to the bench and Royce O’Neale would open games again. By the time players showed up at the arena, Conley was back in the opening group and Joe Ingles was coming off the bench. That confusing back-and-forth sums up where the Jazz are at right now.
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