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Around the NBA: Kings surge, the competitive Eastern Conference, and trade notes

We take a look at what’s trending around the NBA, including the latest trade buzz.

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NBA: Sacramento Kings at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022-23 NBA season hasn’t disappointed. Between a close MVP race and the best Eastern Conference we’ve seen in years, there’s a ton to talk about.

The Beam Team is rollin’

Trading Tyrese Haliburton remains questionable, but Domantas Sabonis has been the main driving force to the Kings’ early-season success. They now sit at a very respectable 25-18 record, winning their last five games. That’s good enough for third(!) in the Western Conference.

While the Kings improved their overall talent, head coach Mike Brown deserves a considerable amount of credit. As of right now, they have the third-best offense in the NBA, only trailing the Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets. We all knew De’Aaron Fox and Sabonis had talent, but they’ve optimized both well, surrounding them with capable shooters like Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes and Malik Monk.

It’s still early in the season, but it’s hard not seeing the Kings break their 20-year long playoff drought barring injury. The West is considerably weaker than it’s been. For perspective, the Dallas Mavericks are the fifth seed, and they’re only two games above .500. The Kings’ offense looks legit, and if they manage to bring up their defense to around league average they’ll be a competitive playoff team in the West.

Dysfunction and mismanagement have plagued the Kings for years, but it’s hard not to feel good for Kings fans. They deserve this.

The East is a bloodbath

Remember all those years where everyone was obsessed with the Western Conference and how competitive it was? The script has done a 180, with the East becoming the powerhouse conference.

At the top are the Boston Celtics, who have the league’s best offense and rank within the top six in defense. Thus far, they’re the only team in the East with a considerable cushion in the standings. They’re 33-12, which is four games ahead of the two-seeded Milwaukee Bucks. After this, things get majorly bunched up.

Credit to the Milwaukee Bucks, who just haven’t had much of a chance to be fully healthy this year. They sit at a 29-16 record, which is quite impressive factoring in injuries. They have multiple teams on their coattails, however, including the streaking Sixers (0.5 game behind) and the rising Cleveland Cavaliers (one game behind). The Nets have been falling in the standings without KD, but you’d imagine they’ll be back in the mix upon his return.

The Celtics seem destined to be the one seed, but how seeds 2-5 fall into place is anyone’s guess. Using Tankathon’s schedule strength tool, we can get a feel for what might happen:

  • The Sixers have the toughest remaining schedule in the league. Their toughest remaining games include the Celtics (three times), Nuggets (two times), Grizzlies, Nets (three times), Bucks (two times), and Cavs (two times).
  • Milwaukee has the 12th-hardest schedule, with the Nets right behind them at 13th.
  • Cleveland could take a jump in the second half of the year. They have the fourth-easiest schedule in the NBA, with their hardest games featuring the Celtics (twice), Nets (twice), Sixers (twice), Bucks, Grizzlies, and Nuggets.
  • Boston’s remaining schedule ranks middle of the pack, at 10th-easiest in the league. Barring injury, it’s hard to see them falling far in the standings.

Even the East’s sixth seed race is as competitive as ever. It’ll be up for grabs for any team. Teams like the Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers, and Chicago Bulls will all be fighting for it to avoid the play-in tournament.

Recent trade rumors

We’re under a month until the NBA’s trade deadline, with trade reports and rumors coming in bunches. Here’s the most recent news:

  • Shams Charania reported that the Knicks are increasing efforts on getting Cam Reddish moved, with the Mavericks, Lakers and Bucks being potential suitors.
  • The Spurs are reportedly asking for two first-round picks for Jakob Poeltl, who is one of the most underrated centers in the league. He’s a capable finisher and rim protector, and would fit on numerous teams. Charania listed the Celtics and Raptors as potential suitors.
  • The Wizards are looking to move Rui Hachimura, with multiple Western Conference teams logging interest.
  • John Collins has been linked to the Utah Jazz. The Wizards have also registered interest in Atlanta’s big man.
  • The Clippers are looking for a backup big to Zubac. As of right now, their only “real” bench big is Moses Brown, who is on a two-way contract.
  • The Spurs and Hornets appear to be the two major deadline sellers, as of right now.

Most of these are smaller rumors, but we’ve seen the quantity of reports increase in the past few days. Expect these rumors/reports to increase in the coming weeks.

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