NBA Stock Watch: Anthony Davis is back, and the Kings are finally fun again

Are we witnessing a revival of Anthony Davis? And how about those reborn Sacramento kings? Yes, the Sacramento Kings.

With nearly 20 games into the NBA season, here’s our weekly look at the teams and players going up and down.

Editing: Anthony Davis

When Lakers coach Darvin Ham was hired this summer, he took Davis to dinner. His message to the big man was simple: you are the key to the team’s success.

Ham believed LeBron James would be LeBron James. He thought Russell Westbrook was going to improve (he couldn’t play much worse than last season). So he saw Davis as the team’s real difference maker. Simply put, when Davis is engaged and aggressive on both sides of the court, the Lakers are competitive. When it isn’t, they’re mediocre.

Davis proved Ham’s theory correct.

With James missing the team’s last four games with a strained left adductor, Davis has made it his mission to put the team on his back. He led the Lakers to three straight wins for the first time this season, averaging 35 points and 17.3 rebounds during that streak. In the team’s last win, a 31-point rout of the San Antonio Spurs, Davis had 30 points on 12 shooting on 19, 18 rebounds, three steals and one block.

“He has to be the focal point, he has to spearhead the charge,” Ham said. “It’s just the way we’re built.”

Fall: The Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers moved from the top seed in the Western Conference to the eighth seed after losing three straight, including four of their last five.

They suffered a setback when Damian Lillard sprained his right calf against Utah on Saturday. He will be reassessed in one to two weeks. Lillard leads the team in points (26.3) and assists (7.0).

While another calf strain sidelined Lillard for four games earlier this month, the current silver lining is that this calf strain shouldn’t be as serious.

Without their superstar, Anfernee Simons will have to take up some of the offensive charge.

Rise: The Sacramento Kings

When Mike Brown took over at Sactown, there was a new sense of hope for the organization. Maybe it was Brown’s charismatic smile. Or his promise to revamp the team’s culture. Or just being a highly respected coach who was given another opportunity to lead an organization.

There was something that pushed you both for Brown and for a franchise that had missed the playoffs 16 years in a row. Then the Kings opened the season with an 0-4 record, and the idea that things could be different seemed like wishful thinking.

But the Kings turned things around.

They won six games in a row for the first time since January 2005. They currently have the best offensive rating (118.6) in the league, and De’Aaron Fox was named Western Conference Player of the Week after averaged 25 points on 60 percent shooting and 8.0 assists over the team’s last three games.

The Kings could be a playoff team if they can improve defensively (currently they’re 26th in the league). And it’s no exaggeration that they are improving in this area given that Brown is a defensive specialist who helped the Warriors win a championship last season by focusing on this end of the field as a assistant coach.

It’s cool to see Brown imbue a long-failed franchise with enthusiasm and hope. Of course, it’s early days and the Kings are in fifth place in the Western Conference, just half a game ahead of the ninth-placed Dallas Mavericks. But the fact that they are finally enjoying some success is no small feat.

It’s good for the league, and it’s a relief for Kings fans who have suffered for more than a decade and a half.

Fall: The Detroit Pistons

They have lost seven games in a row and won only three this season. And it doesn’t look like things are going to change any time soon.

The Pistons weren’t considered a playoff team before this season, but they weren’t expected to be either. this wrong. They were a .500 team in the final 42 games of last season. Returning a large portion of the roster, it looked like they would only get better.

But Detroit has the fifth-worst offensive rating in the league (108.7), only to be overtaken by its abysmal defense (second-worst in the league at 117.7).

Not to mention that the Pistons have been hit with the injury bug. Star goalkeeper Cade Cunningham is expected to miss a lot of time, potentially the entire season, with a stress fracture in his tibia. And the team will be without Isaiah Stewart (sprained right toe) for at least a few more weeks, while Saddiq Bey is out with an ankle injury.

Things aren’t looking great for the Pistons right now. except for the fact that they could be in first position to win the Victor Wembanyama lottery.

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Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.

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