Jerami Grant has played so well in his first season as a Piston that teams were trying to persuade Troy Weaver, Detroit’s new general manager, to immediately trade him. Some of Weaver’s roster choices have been questioned, but promise from the rookies Saddiq Bey (one Eastern Conference Player of the Week Award already to his credit) and Isaiah Stewart (17.3 points and 13.3 rebounds per game in one recent three-game stretch), on top of Grant’s progress, have long-suffering Pistons fans feeling cautiously optimistic.
27. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves’ new coach, Chris Finch, who worked in Denver as Nikola Jokic was rising to prominence, is trying to similarly expand Karl-Anthony Towns’s game. Towns and his good friend D’Angelo Russell are finally both healthy, Anthony Edwards is a constant presence in highlight reels and Alex Rodriguez (yes, that A-Rod) is trying to buy the team. There’s a lot going on, but sadly nothing to make you forget that this will be Minnesota’s 16th playoff miss in 17 seasons.
28. Orlando Magic
At this early stage, Orlando has reason to feel hopeful about its decision in March to trade away the long-tenured threesome of Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier. More telling grades will depend on how Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz recover from their serious knee injuries, but Wendell Carter Jr., acquired from Chicago in the Vucevic trade, is off to a promising start.
29. Cleveland Cavaliers
In early February, with the Cavaliers at 10-11, Collin Sexton wrote a piece for The Players’ Tribune titled “Back on the Map.” The team promptly lost its next 10 games and has spent the last two months mired in losing and an injury crunch. Kevin Love, one of the last remaining links to Cleveland’s glory days, has averaged 13.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in April, but remains difficult to trade with two years and $60.2 million left on his contract.
30. Houston Rockets
After waiting 20 years to get his first head coaching job, Stephen Silas has endured the longest of rookie seasons. James Harden’s holdout, Russell Westbrook’s trade to Washington, six roller-coaster weeks coaching Harden, Harden’s trade to the Nets — and all of that followed by copious amounts of losing, injuries and scrutiny. The indignity of it all: Houston loses its top draft pick to Oklahoma City if it falls outside the top four of the draft lottery.