1) Winners and… other winners from Derrick Rose trade
Derrick Rose and Tom Thibodeau, together again.
It will become official in the coming days, one of the NBA’s best buddy cop franchises is back together in a third city, with the Pistons trading Rose to New York for Dennis Smith Jr. and a second-round pick.
Traditionally, I like to do a winners and losers post after trades like this, but in this case I’m not sure there are any big losers …
Unless Tom Thibodeau finds minutes for Rose at the expense of emerging rookie Immanuel Quickley. That’s the real concern with this trade, that it plays into Thibodeau’s worst tendencies as a coach of a young team — playing veterans to win now at the expense of developing young players. If Thibs leans into heavy minutes for Elfrid Payton and Rose at the point and Quickley gets squeezed (and his minutes were already too low), this is a loss for New York. But I doubt that happens. In today’s NBA game, a team cannot have too many ball handlers and shot creators on the court at once, and Quickley can play either guard spot. Thibodeau should play Rose and Quickley together (plus Rose could fill a mentor role). How the backcourt rotation shakes out is something to watch, but I’m optimistic things will be fine in Madison Square Garden.
This is a win for New York because its playoff chances just got better. At a surprising 11-13, the Knicks are currently the seven seed in the East, and Fivethirtyeight.com projects them to be the 10-seed in the East — making the play-in game — with a 32% chance of advancing to the playoffs. Rose increases those odds. He provides depth and scoring New York needs.
Detroit wasn’t going to re-sign Rose next offseason and the decision to find a trade was mutual. The Pistons get a decent second-round pick (likely in the 40s) and a long look up close at Smith to see if he can be a reclamation project (something Detroit likes to do, as evidenced by picking up Jahlil Okafor and Josh Jackson). It’s not a lot, but there was a limited market for Rose, so Detroit did well considering — this is a win that way.
This is not a trade that dramatically moves the needle for either side, but both teams get something that can help them — that’s win-win. No real losers here.
2) Sacramento has won four in a row, above .500 after beating Clippers
You can take Luke Walton off the hot seat.
When the Kings started 4-10 with a historically bad defense, Walton’s seat was getting very warm. In the offseason Sacramento had brought in Alvin Gentry as Walton’s top assistant, putting a ready-made replacement next to him on the bench. Walton was on top of everyone’s “first coach to be fired” list.
Then Sacramento turned it around — they have four wins in a row after beating the shorthanded Clippers on Sunday, 113-110, behind 36 points from De’Aaron Fox.
Sacramento has won 7-of-8 and improved to 12-11 this season, tied for eighth in the West with Golden State. The Kings have done that against the third toughest schedule in the league so far. The key in the turnaround is the defense that was historically bad early has been average — 13th in the league — over the past seven games. The offense has seen a step forward, too, but just getting a few stops changes everything.
Postgame there was a lot of praise from the players for Walton and his coaching style — including from Buddy Hield, who was so mad at Walton after last season (when Hield got moved to the bench) he wouldn’t speak to his coach. Via Jason Jones at The Athletic:
“Last year, he coached us different,” guard Buddy Hield said. “I just feel like he’s way more alert, and I feel like from when we’re messing up those few games, we’d be at practice and he’d show a lot of mistakes and we’d correct them. And that’s what coaches do, they correct mistakes we’re getting burned on.”
“Him taking the next step in leading us in the right direction, even in timeouts and how he’s managing the game, he’s letting us play and letting us be ourselves, just being fun out there,” Hield said. “I think everybody loves the way he’s handled us.”
It looks like Walton’s job is safe, at least as much as any NBA coach not named Popovich or Spoelstra feels safe.
3) Injury update on Hawks De’Andre Hunter, Cavs’ Larry Nance Jr.
Some not great injury updates to round out the Sunday news.
De’Andre Hunter — who has been out the last four Atlanta games due to a knee issue — will now be out at least another couple of weeks after having his right knee scoped. Officially, the team said Hunger “will undergo a lateral meniscus arthroscopic debridement procedure on Monday.” Hunter has played strong wing defense for Atlanta this season while making a leap forward on offense averaging 17.2 points a game, hitting 36.6% of his threes, and finishing much better at the rim. The Hawks are +9.2 per 100 possessions when he is on the court this season.
Cleveland’s Larry Nance Jr. suffered a fractured fourth metacarpal on his left hand against the Bucks Saturday night, the team announced. The injury is commonly known as a “boxers’ fracture,” it’s fairly common around the NBA, and it takes 5-6 weeks to recover from it. Nance is averaging 9.3 points and 6.8 rebounds a game for the Cavaliers, but more importantly providing quality defense at the four.
One other injury note, Oklahoma City’s Mike Muscala sustained a concussion during Saturday against Minnesota and has been placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol. Muscala is averaging 9.7 points and 3.5 rebounds a night this season for the Thunder.