Business is picking up around the league. The NBA trade deadline is Thursday (for transparency, this article is written on Wednesday evening) and we have already seen some moves being made. The Cleveland Cavaliers traded for Caris LeVert, the Indiana Pacers have moved Domantas Sabonis out west to Sacramento, and there are still questions as to whether guys like James Harden, Ben Simmons, and Russell Westbrook will be moved.
Of course, those questions will be answered by the time this article is published.
Point Guard | Utah Jazz
All the Utah Jazz needed was to see the calendar turn to February for their fortunes to start to turn. January was a frustrating month for Conley and the Jazz, with Utah going 4-12 in the first month of 2022. The Jazz have already almost matched their win total from last month, winning their first three games of February.
The return of Donovan Mitchell to the Utah lineup not only helped the team return to their winning ways, it also helped to boost the production from Mike Conley. Even though Conley went just 2-of-10 from behind the arc on Monday night against the Knicks, the former Ohio State guard still scored 18 points in the 113-104 win.
The area where Conley has picked up his play lately has been on the defensive end. In five of Utah’s last seven games, Conley has recorded at least two steals. The best of those performances came last Wednesday in a 108-104 win against Denver, when he was credited with four steals against the Nuggets, tying a season-high. Conley has also blocked one shot in each of Utah’s last three games. Even though Conley isn’t quite at the level on the defensive end that he was a decade ago when he was averaging over two steals per game, the veteran is still a force on defense.
Duane Washington Jr.
Point Guard | Indiana Pacers
Just as it looked like Duane Washington Jr. was getting comfortable in his role with the Indiana Pacers, things got turned upside down. Washington had one of his best weeks in the NBA, scoring at least 10 points in three of the four games that he played. Even though the Pacers lost all four of their games, Washington scored 17 points against Chicago on Friday night and against Cleveland on Sunday. The seven rebounds Washington pulled down against Chicago and the three steals he recorded on Tuesday against Atlanta were both career-high marks.
Over the weekend it looked as if Washington might see his role expand since the Pacers traded Caris LeVert to Cleveland. The good vibes didn’t last too long though, as on Tuesday Indiana acquired Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield from Sacramento in a trade. Now with Haliburton and Hield in the mix along with Malcolm Brogdon and Chris Duarte, it remains to be seen where Washington fits in the mix in the backcourt.
Small Forward | Houston Rockets
Wins have been rare for the Houston Rockets this year. One of the few victories on Houston’s record came last Wednesday when they defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 115-104. Jae’Sean Tate only had six points, but he did contribute in other ways, grabbing five rebounds, and recording a season-high four steals. The victory snapped a four-game losing streak by the Rockets.
Unfortunately for Houston, the win last Wednesday didn’t snowball into more wins, as the Rockets have lost their last three games. During that time, Tate’s best performance came on Tuesday in a 110-97 loss to New Orleans, when he almost recorded a double-double by scoring nine points and pulling down nine rebounds. The former Buckeye also nabbed three steals against the Pelicans.
The Rockets may be one of the worst teams in the NBA this year, but at least Tate does have something to look forward to in a couple weeks. As announced a couple weeks ago, Tate has been selected to play in the Rising Stars Challenge. The format has been tweaked a bit, with those selected divided up into four teams of seven players. Tate will be on Team Barry, which will be coached by Rick Barry, and includes Evan Mobley of the Cleveland Cavaliers and top overall draft pick Cade Cunningham of the Detroit Pistons.
Point Guard | Minnesota Timberwolves
After last playing on Jan. 27 against Golden State, D’Angelo Russell returned to the court on Sunday. Russell scored 22 points and dished out eight assists in the 118-105 victory over Detroit. The former Buckeye followed his return up with 14 points and seven assists in a blowout win over Sacramento on Tuesday. The Timberwolves have now won their last five games overall, with the first three of those wins coming with Russell unavailable due to injury.
Small Forward | San Antonio Spurs
Pop said Keita Bates-Diop has suffered a setback after clearing protocols.— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) February 3, 2022
Bates-Diop is out tonight after playing against the Warriors. It was his first game after clearing health and safety protocols.
"He can't play back to backs, that's what I was told," Pop said.
Keita Bates-Diop has had a rough go of things lately. After missing some time after entering health and safety protocols due to a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, Bates-Diop hasn’t bounced back as quickly as other have after being able to leave protocols. According to San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich, Bates-Diop isn’t able to play back-to-back games at this point. While that could change in the future, Bates-Diop will have to work on his conditioning to get to that point.
Bates-Diop was able to play in one game last week, scoring four points in 14 minutes in a 131-106 win over Houston. Luckily for Bates-Diop he doesn’t have to be in a hurry to return to 100% since the Spurs are just 20-34 on the year, so they aren’t exactly threatening for a playoff spot. Since the start of 2022, San Antonio is 6-14.