NBA trends: Andre Drummond and Pistons ascending, Pelicans crashing

Pistons center Andre Drummond works in the post against Hawks center Al Horford during a game Oct. 27.

Pistons center Andre Drummond works in the post against Hawks center Al Horford during a game Oct. 27.

(Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

What’s trending this week in the NBA:

Drummond’s ascent

The 2015-16 season has just begun but Detroit center Andre Drummond is a big reason why the Pistons, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2009, won four of their first five games. Drummond has been tremendous, averaging 18.6 points and 19.0 rebounds.

Should Pistons fans worry the team didn’t sign Drummond to a long-term extension before the Nov. 2 deadline? Answer: no. Drummond will still be a restricted free next summer, giving the Pistons the right of first refusal. Look for the 22-year-old to sign a long-term deal to stay in July, with a starting salary of about $21 million for the 2016-17 season.


The Beal deal

Washington guard Bradley Beal, who helped the Wizards beat San Antonio on Wednesday with a game-winning three-pointer, also didn’t receive a contract extension — but he too is likely to re-sign next summer.

By delaying a deal with Beal, the Wizards may have just enough cap space to pursue the prize of the 2016 free agent class, Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant, who was born in Washington. A trio of John Wall, Beal and Durant would be an explosive combination.

Walton takes charge

Luke Walton is keeping Steve Kerr’s chair warm in Golden State, serving as the team’s interim coach while Kerr recuperates from back surgery. After winning their first NBA title in 40 years, the Warriors actually look like they’ve improved over last season’s 67-win squad.

Meanwhile, Walton, a two-time champion as a player with the Lakers, is showing he can coach. It certainly helps to have the NBA’s reigning most valuable player in Stephen Curry on the roster, but Walton has slipped into his new role with ease. If Kerr’s return is a long way off, could Walton earn coach-of-the-year votes?

Bottom feeders

The Lakers have gotten off to a slow start, but a playoff run this season always seemed a stretch. What of the New Orleans Pelicans? With young star Anthony Davis and new Coach Alvin Gentry, who was hired to ignite their offense, oddsmakers expected the Pelicans to grab a playoff spot in the ultra-talented Western Conference. Then the Pelicans lost their first five games by an average of 12 points.

Injuries have derailed the Pelicans, notably to guards Tyreke Evans, Norris Cole and former UCLA Bruin Jrue Holiday, who is still working his way back from leg surgery in February. Even with a 22-year-old All-Star in Davis, wins in this league are hard to come by without a healthy roster. Then again, playing the Warriors twice hasn’t helped.

Losing big

The Memphis Grizzlies kept nearly the same roster together from last season, but something isn’t quite right. The Grizzlies have already lost three games by an average of 33 points, including a 50-point blowout to the Warriors. The Grizzlies’ offense tends to be anemic, so it has always relied on a stellar defense. If the Memphis defense isn’t up to its usual standard, the Grizzlies may not be the playoff lock they were expected to be.

Misfiring in Houston

Meanwhile, the Rockets opened with three straight 20-point losses. Part of their struggle is because Dwight Howard has sat out several games. The rest of the blame falls on All-Star guard James Harden. Kobe Bryant recently lambasted his own play, but he’s 37 years old. Harden’s drop-off is harder to explain, given that he is 11 years younger than Bryant: Through his first five games Harden shot 29.4% from the field and made only 16.4% of his three-point attempts. Then on Friday, Harden emerged from his slump, scoring a season-high 43 in a win over Sacramento.

—Eric Pincus


Clippers at Dallas

When: 5 p.m. PST, Wednesday.


Update: It was a coup for Mark Cuban last summer when free-agent center DeAndre Jordan agreed to sign with the Mavericks. A few days later, Jordan changed his mind and re-signed with the Clippers. Ever since the NBA released its schedule, this game has been penciled in as a must-see. Two weeks ago, the Clippers won their home opener against the Mavericks, 104-88. Jordan, a career 42% free-throw shooter, missed six of eight free throws in that game. Expect Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle to send Jordan to the line as often as possible.

—Barry Stavro