LOS ANGELES — Three Things To Know is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.
1) Players to watch on the buyout market
The trade deadline has come and gone, but a few more transactions are coming — for some of the players traded, they were simply salaries to balance out the deal but their new team isn’t looking to get them on the court. Those players — along with some guys not traded that teams are ready to move on from — will be bought out of their contracts in the coming week or two and made free agents. (Traditionally, the player gives up a little bit of money to be set free from a situation neither he nor the team wants).
We make too much of this buyout market — rarely do these players move the needle for a team making a deep playoff run (Enes Kanter did for the Trail Blazers in their 2019 Western Conference Finals run when Jusuf Nurkic got hurt, for example). These are players teams were willing to trade, then another team was willing to let walk away. That happens for a reason. Still, there are solid point guards on the market, players who could help some, especially for what is left of the regular season.
Here are a few names to watch.
• Russell Westbrook. Both the Lakers and Westbrook were ready to move on from that marriage, but Westbrook will not be playing games for the Jazz, he will get bought out. Will he get more minutes, more touches, and be happy somewhere else? Will he accept a sixth-man role again, or does he see something larger? There is some mutual interest with the Clippers and Paul George is reportedly recruiting him (but they have Eric Gordon and Bones Hyland, so how many minutes are there?).
• Reggie Jackson. The Clippers sent him to Charlotte to get the backup center they wanted in Mason Plumlee. The Hornets plan to buy out Jackson, who is averaging 10.9 points a game this season and shooting 35% from 3.
• John Wall. The other former Clippers point guard is not sticking around for a reunion in Houston, he will be bought out. His market as a free agent may be limited, but some teams may call.
• It is expected the Magic will buy out Patrick Beverley, the point guard they acquired from the Lakers in the Mo Bamba trade. He brings some grit and intensity that a team may need.
• While there was speculation, the Cavaliers are not going to buy out Kevin Love, he is sticking around for the Cavs’ playoff run.
2) Khris Middleton and the Bucks are looking better every game
Khris Middleton returned to the Bucks from his knee issues on Jan 23. The Bucks haven’t lost since.
That win streak reached nine on Thursday night when the Bucks looked like their contending selves in the second half and bested a shorthanded but feisty Lakers team, 115-106. Giannis Antetokounmpo looked like an MVP putting up an almost casual 38.
A strong performance from Giannis in the Bucks W.
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📲 https://t.co/EfGWQh1oha pic.twitter.com/wKeHgBP6vW
— NBA (@NBA) February 10, 2023
But the return of Middleton — even on a minute’s restriction — has fueled the Bucks’ run. Because his minutes are limited, he’s been aggressive and attacked when he’s had opportunities.
“I think Khris being aggressive opens up everything else for us,” Jrue Holiday said postgame. “I feel like he makes the game look easy, which he does. Especially scoring, how he gets to his spots, how he fades on people. He’s a tough guard. So for him, it’s like, he does what he does and then it kind of opens it up and, like we said earlier, kind of keeps that balance for everybody else. So him being aggressive makes our team a lot better.”
The Bucks are looking a lot better — and about to add Jae Crowder and his physicality and defense — should scare the rest of the league.
3) Spencer Dinwiddie is back in Brooklyn, puts up 25 in win
Kyrie Irving heading to Dallas and teaming up with Luka Doncic was the obvious headline of that blockbuster trade, but there was another interesting part to it:
Spencer Dinwiddie returned to Brooklyn, where he first made a name for himself in the NBA.
He looked at home in his first game back, scoring 25 for the Nets in a win over the Bulls, 116-105.
New Nets got it done in the Brooklyn W 💪
Dinwiddie: 25 PTS, 5 REB, 6 AST, 4 STL
Finney-Smith: 9 PTS, 9 REB pic.twitter.com/67UqAUq7Lo
— NBA (@NBA) February 10, 2023
The Bulls made an interesting choice standing pat and not doing anything at the trade deadline. If the argument is they haven’t been whole this season without Lonzo Ball, look around the league at all the teams winning without their stars for stretches.
The Nets may be without their stars for the remaining 27 games, but they have a team of solid role players, a 3.5-game cushion to be in the top six and a 6.5-game cushion to make the play-in — the Nets are headed to the postseason. They are still going to make it. Brooklyn may not last long once it does get there (although making the top eight is very possible), but postseason games are in the Nets’ future.