Last week we saw multiple NBA superstars and other key players find new homes. This week we got a taste of how these players mesh with their new surrounding casts.
Three of the biggest names of the deadline have yet to debut with their new teams. Ben Simmons being the first has not yet suited up for the Brooklyn Nets as he continues to work through bettering his mental health and acclimating to a new environment. Simmons said in a recent press conference that there is no set timetable for his return, but he hopes to be able to play in Brooklyn’s game against his former team in the Wells Fargo Center on March 10. Meanwhile, Simmons has been seen courtside sitting with injured superstar and new teammate Kevin Durant which is a positive sign that Durant seems to be taking Simmons under his wing.
On the other side of this trade, James Harden has been seen attending practices in Philadelphia but has also pulled himself out of the All-Star Game due to an alleged “hamstring injury”. Jarrett Allen, center for the Cleveland Cavaliers will be his replacement. A practice photo of Harden went viral this week showing him with his arms held high in a sort of victory pose telling us that Harden is very excited to be on his new team.
The other key player yet to debut is Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis was traded from the Dallas Mavericks to the Washington Wizards right before the deadline. Struggling with a bruised right knee, coach Wes Unseld Jr. announced that his injury had not progressed enough for Porzingis to debut until after the All-Star Break.
As for those who have played, we begin in Sacramento with Domantas Sabonis. Sabonis, now sporting the number 10, has played four games so far for the Kings. His first was a 132-119 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves where he put up 22 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, and a steal in 33 minutes played. It seems that there was no need to work out the kinks as Sabonis had his foot on the gas right from the start. In his second game, a 123-110 win over the Washington Wizards, he put up 16 points, 11 rebounds, and seven rebounds. The third was an awful overall performance for the Kings as Sabonis put up nine points, nine rebounds, two assists, a steal, and a block in a 109-85 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. Sabonis got back on track in his most recent contest in a competitive 125-118 loss to the Chicago Bulls with 22 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, and a pair of steals. The double-double machine is thriving thus far, whether he can change the losing culture in Sacramento is yet to be seen.
On Sabonis’s old squad, the Indiana Pacers, they have found similar success with their new pieces. Also having played four games since the trade, Indiana is 1-3 with Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield on the court. However, these losses do not fall on them as in these four games Haliburton is averaging 20.7 points, 11 assists, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.2 steals. Haliburton has been the primary ball-handler and with his playmaking skills, and his high assist numbers have only improved along with his scoring showing promise that he could be the superstar of the future for Indiana. As for Hield, he is averaging 20 points, six rebounds, six assists, half a steal, and half a block, including a 36-point outburst in Indiana’s 128-119 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on February 15.
In New Orleans, CJ McCollum is breaking the mold that he is a destined second option. McCollum in four games for the Pelicans has been dominant with averages of 26 points, seven rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 1.25 blocks a game. The Pelicans are 1-3 in these four games but in the ideal situation with the return of Zion Williamson on the horizon the Pelicans could be a dark horse powerhouse in the future.
Back in Portland, two underappreciated and underperforming players are breaking out. Justise Winslow was acquired from the Clippers in the Norman Powell trade and in six games with the Blazers is averaging 12 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.7 steals, and 0.8 blocks. For Winslow, a lottery pick in 2015 who never has seemed to be able to find his place in the NBA, these are intriguing numbers. Another player with a similar career thus far is budding out in Portland: Josh Hart. Hart is averaging 24 points, five rebounds, and 4.3 assists in three games. With these additions and Anfernee Simmons and Jusuf Nurkic on fire, the Trail Blazers are on a four-game winning streak and find themselves with a play-in spot for the moment.