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25. Orlando Magic (26)
The Magic are 29th in free-throw rate and 26th in offensive rebound percentage, which mostly explains their 24th-ranked offense. When you don’t get freebies by drawing contact and rarely manufacture second chances to score, you’ve got little chance of putting up points at a passable rate.
At 1-4 in its last five games, Orlando is wasting a phenomenal season from Nikola Vucevic, who averaged 23.4 points, 12.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.8 blocks in that stretch. One guy can only do so much.
24. Atlanta Hawks (23)
John Collins scored a career-high 35 points in Wednesday’s 121-101 win over the Bulls as he continued to pile up numbers in his sophomore season. He’s up to 19.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game on 59.1 percent shooting from the field and 37.5 percent from deep.
It’s concerning, though, that his block and steal rates are both dramatically down from last year. Is this an effort thing? A team-mandated change in tactics to keep a young big out of foul trouble?
Hopefully, it’s the latter. The Hawks (1-2 this week) need their prized prospects to stay focused on the little things as they rebuild.
23. Dallas Mavericks (21)
Dallas snapped a four-game losing streak with Tuesday’s 106-98 win over the Clippers, and Dennis Smith Jr. returned from the brink of what seemed like an inevitable trade to start and contribute 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Head coach Rick Carlisle largely staggered Smith and Luka Doncic’s minutes, which could keep Smith happy and pump up his trade value. That’s a win-win.
Visibly frustrated, Doncic was 0-of-8 from deep in the win over L.A., but he’ll be fine. He can keep riding the high of his first triple-double, which came in Monday’s loss to the Bucks.
22. Detroit Pistons (24)
The Pistons are 3-2 in their last five games after they eked out a 98-94 win against New Orleans on Wednesday, but Blake Griffin isn’t happy with his team’s level of focus. When Reggie Jackson mugged for the camera as Griffin delivered that sober indictment in a postgame interview, it was almost too on the nose to be believable.
Griffin is doing all he can. He put up 37 points, nine rebounds and seven assists against the Pels, giving him 17 30-point games on the year, the most he’s had in a single season. Over his last five contests, Detroit’s surefire All-Star is averaging 33.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.6 assists with a 51.4/41.9/77.4 shooting split.
21. Sacramento Kings (19)
Buddy Hield hit a buzzer-beater on Saturday to stun the Pistons and log Sacramento’s only victory on its six-game road trip. Two dates remain—at the Grizzlies and at the Clippers—before the weary Kings return to Sacramento.
With three starters out against Toronto and playing the second night of a back-to-back, the run-and-gun Kings faltered late. Marvin Bagley III posted a career-high 22 points in his first start, but Sacramento had few other bright spots to celebrate in that 120-105 defeat. If De’Aaron Fox’s sore toe lingers, things could get ugly.
The Kings are 24-24 with a minus-1.7 net rating. In the West, only the Grizzlies and Suns grade out worse by that metric.