FOX Sports NBA Reporter
Another week, another NBA Stock Watch.
Here are the players and teams around the league that are trending upward, and … the opposite direction.
Rising: Zion Williamson
As the clock expired in a game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Phoenix Suns, Zion Williamson couldn’t help himself.
He was wide open. And he was playing against the team that eliminated his squad in the playoffs last season. At that moment, he violated the league’s unwritten code which expects a player to run out the clock in the final seconds of a game that’s not close.
Instead, Williamson elevated for a spinning windmill jam to give his team a 128-1117 win, sending the crowd at Smoothie King Center into a fit of excitement — and the Suns into a fit of rage.
Regardless of whether you think Williamson’s dunk was unsportsmanlike, one thing is for sure: He’s looking damn good, and he’s having fun. It’s a relief for basketball fans after Williamson missed all of last season because of a foot injury and was relentlessly mocked for gaining weight over that time.
Over the last week, Williamson has shined, averaging 33 points on 70.4% shooting and 8.3 rebounds. He had led the Pelicans to three straight wins before a loss Tuesday night. They are tied for the best record in the Western Conference at 18-9.
To add insult to injury for the Suns, two of the Pelicans’ wins came at their expense last week. And in both of those games, Williamson had 35 points.
Falling: Phoenix Suns
The Suns have hit their biggest rut of the young season, losing five consecutive games. Up until now, they hadn’t dropped more than two games in a row.
They’ve fallen to Dallas, Boston and New Orleans twice. Tuesday night, they lost to the lowly Rockets. Their loss to the Celtics was especially embarrassing, a 27-point drubbing on their home court.
Over their last five games, the Suns have had the second-worst defensive rating (122.4, behind the Wizards) and offensive rating (107.5) in the league. To put that into perspective, on the season, they’re seventh in defense (111.5) and fourth in offense (115.7).
So, why the decline?
For starters, Devin Booker has averaged 14 points on 31.8% shooting over his last three games, a steep drop-off from the 27.4 points on 47.8% shooting he’s averaging on the season.
Then there’s Chris Paul, who is still working his way back from a 14-game absence because of a sore heel. In two of the three games since his return, he has scored six points or fewer.
Rising: Joel Embiid
Joel Embiid has long scratched his head over why he has never won an MVP award. Over the last week, those who have watched him play are scratching their heads for the same reason.
Embiid has scored at least 31 points in each of his last five outings, capped off by a brilliant 53-point, 12-rebound showing in a win over Charlotte on Sunday.
He leads the league in scoring, averaging a career-high 33.3 points on 53.8% shooting and 9.7 rebounds.
Embiid has also kept the 76ers competitive despite significant absences from James Harden and Tyrese Maxey because of injuries.
The 76ers are fifth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 15-12, six games behind the first-place Celtics (22-7).
Falling: Washington Wizards
The Wizards have lost seven straight games, the longest losing streak in the league.
And to make matters trickier, they’re about to embark on a six-game trip and five of the teams they’ll play have winning records, including Denver, the Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix, Utah and Sacramento.
The only team they’ll face over that stretch that doesn’t have a winning record is the Los Angeles Lakers, which recently beat them 130-119.
It doesn’t look like things are going to turn around any time soon for the Wizards, who have lost 10 of their last 11 games and are struggling mightily with the injury bug.
Their hope is that Bradley Beal (hamstring strain) can make a comeback as quickly as possible. Beal has been cleared to resume on-court basketball activities, but the team added that his return will be determined by “his clinical evolution,” which is a bit too vague to be encouraging at this moment.
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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