Five Things We Learned in NBA Monday: Just a reminder Anthony Davis is as good as anyone right now

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If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while putting Clyde Frazier’s suits in a bracket to choose the best one

1) Anthony Davis is playing as well as anyone in the NBA. And he’s just 21. Anthony Davis is not going to win the MVP award this season because his campaign doesn’t come with a compelling narrative (I think Westbrook leads there) and the Pelicans likely miss the playoffs. But make no mistake, he’s played as well as anyone in the league this season and gotten it done at both ends. He showed it again Monday night, putting up a huge line against the Bucks: 43 points on 17-of-23 shooting, 10 rebounds, six assists, and a couple blocks. But more than that it was how he did it — he had 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the fourth quarter, taking the game over down the stretch by knocking down midrange shots (even showing off a floater) to get the Pelicans the win on the road. He is unreal.

2) Giannis Antetokounmpo just keeps getting better every day. The one guy who could try to challenge Anthony Davis for the “best young player in the game” title is the Greek Freak, and he put up an impressive line against Davis’ Pelicans: 29 points, five rebounds, four assists, three steals, three blocks. He’s not Davis, and the Bucks lost, but Antetokounmpo is just fun to watch play the game.

3) Hassan Whiteside is going to get suspended for this. Also, Miami’s playoff dreams are fading. First let’s talk playoffs. This is what the loss of Chris Bosh for the season has done to Miami — they went from being a playoff lock to a team that, even at home, can’t beat the Boston Celtics. Those Celtics are another team in the playoff mix and they have been on a run behind Isaiah Thomas, who closed out this game brilliantly (and the Heat were without Goran Dragic to counter). Miami is just half a game out of the playoffs as of this loss, but watching them play it’s hard to see them catching Indiana or Charlotte.

As for Whiteside, this is his second immature skirmish of the past week, and this one is going to cost him a game or two.

4) The Wizards can beat a playoff team. Sure, it’s a tired Hornets team on the second night of a back-to-back, but the Wizards will take it. No questions asked. John Wall was using his speed to pressure the Hornets defense early. Marcin Gortat was fantastic in the paint (20 points). The Wizards needed a win like this; the question is can they build off it.

5) Even the Nuggets can beat up on the Knicks. Just a reminder that the best thing about the Knicks right now are Walt Frazier’s suits. Denver has been a franchise in disarray of late having lost 14-of-17 and firing their coach (although to be fair, they have played more free under interim coach Melvin Hunt),  but they owned New York — the Nuggets went on a 12-0 run late in the second quarter to take charge, outscored the Knicks by 16 in the third quarter and led by as many as 34. At least the Knicks are ensuring good lottery odds. But you can’t underestimate the amount of work that roster needs.

Rumor: Suns, Magic have inquired about Knicks’ Frank Ntilikina

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Where do the Knicks stand on Frank Ntilikina, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft (taken ahead of Dennis Smith Jr. Zach Collins, and Donovan Mitchell)?

This should tell you all you need to know: The Denver Nuggets decided to cast Emmanuel Mudiay aside and the Knicks traded for him and instantly Mudiay jumped Ntilikina on the depth chart.

Ntilikina has played good defense but unimpressive offense for the Knicks this season and there is a thought from other teams around the league they may try to trade the young European.

A few teams are interested, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, but — shocker! — there may be a split in the front office about what to do between president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry.

Despite the Knicks’ clear lack of confidence in Ntilikina, teams have inquired about the 20-year-old, with the Magic and Suns expressing interest, according to a source. And this is where it gets interesting. There seems to be a debate within the Knicks on whether to deal Ntilikina. He was drafted by Mills and has supporters in the front office. But, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, Perry, who took the job after Ntilikina was drafted, recently approached the Atlanta Hawks to gauge whether the team was interested in dealing for the guard (Hawks have Trae Young and weren’t interested).

The Suns and Magic both desperately need point guards. However, neither are offering much in trades knowing that come free agency next July there will be better, more established targets — D'Angelo Russell, Terry Rozier, among others.

Ntilikina is a good perimeter defender whose skills could be developed in the right situation into a rotation point guard. Probably. But because the offers will be lowball, the Knicks would essentially just be dumping the No. 8 pick of a season ago, a guy who is only 20 years old. That would be a mistake — if the Knicks can’t get decent value back, keep Ntilikina and try to develop him themselves. Point guards take longer to come around in the NBA, maybe Ntilikina will develop into a player the Knicks want to keep.

But the rumors are out there and it’s something to keep an eye on.

Markelle Fultz returns to Philadelphia to do shoulder rehab with team

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Markelle Fultz is back with the 76ers.

Not in uniform for games, but he is back from Los Angeles and in Philadelphia working out with the team to recover from thoracic outlet syndrome, according to multiple reports. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the story, then Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia confirmed it.

Fultz was in the arena for the Sixers game Saturday against the Thunder on national television (though not suited up to play).

There is no timetable for Fultz’s return, although his agent has said he expects Fultz to be back on the court this season. Whether that would be with the Sixers is another question, teams have called about the availability of the No. 1 pick from the 2017 NBA Draft, but the offers have been so lowball that none of them have been seriously considered by Philadelphia.

After consulting with a number of specialists just a few weeks into the season (and just after the Jimmy Butler trade), the 20-year-old Fultz was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, a pinching of the nerve through the collarbone area. Since December he has been in Los Angeles is doing physical therapy to relieve the issue.

Fultz has returned to Philadelphia and is continuing that therapy.

 

Report: Rockets trying to trade Carmelo Anthony, likely to waive Nunnally to create roster spot

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To bring in some front line depth in the form of Kenneth Faried Monday, the Houston Rockets first have to clear a roster spot.

That led to a lot of speculation it could be Carmelo Anthony who is let go, he remains on the roster but not with the team, in a kind of limbo while the Rockets and ‘Melo’s agent look for a landing spot. (He reportedly has several options and will choose one before the trade deadline, but if he really liked any of those options he would have already taken them rather than waiting for a better offer.)

The Rockets are “aggressively” trying to trade Anthony and find him a new home before Monday, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported. However, James Nunnally is the most likely guy out, he was just signed to a 10-day contract.

If the Rockets haven’t waived ‘Melo yet, they’re not going to do it now.

Houston GM Daryl Morey is also working the phone lines to find wing depth to add to the Rockets’ roster. While James Harden‘s historic streak has carried the Rockets back into the playoff picture in the West, this is not the same Houston team that was a threat to the Warriors a season ago. Morey’s off-season gambles — including Anthony — have not panned out, and he is now trying to correct them.

Pelicans’ Anthony Davis out 1-2 weeks with sprained finger

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This is bad.

The New Orleans Pelicans are 21-25 and four games back of the eight seed in the West having lost 3-of-4 on the current road trip. When Anthony Davis is not on the court, the Pelicans get outscored by 4.2 points per 100 possessions.

Davis is not going to be on the court for a week or two due to a sprained finger, the team announced Saturday morning.

Looking ahead at the schedule, Davis is likely to miss between three and seven games.

Davis has played at an MVP level this season, averaging 29.3 points per game on 50.8 percent shooting, plus grabs 13.3 rebounds and dishes out 4.4 assists a night. And that’s just on offense, defensively he is one of the best rim protecting bigs in the league, averaging 2.6 blocks per game. Davis leads the NBA in win shares (8.3) and PER at 30.9. He has been an absolute beast all season long.

Yet he hasn’t been able to lead the Pelicans to a winning record because of the roster around him (and injuries that have sapped what little depth New Orleans had to begin with).

Because of that, the intensely competitive Davis — who has talked about legacy mattering more to him than money — is expected to turn down a $239 million contract extension from the Pelicans next summer. At that point New Orleans will have to consider trading him and 29 teams will be lined up to talk deal (the Celtics and Lakers are expected to be at the front of that line).