NBA Power Rankings: Gearing up for the trade deadline
The NBA rumor mill never comes to a halt, but it does seem unusually quiet with the trade deadline just days away.
The players mentioned most of the time as being potentially on the move, such as Cleveland’s Kevin Love or Detroit’s Andre Drummond, have been very low-key about their eagerness to start anew. And with so many teams invoking load management as more than a concept but a way of life, there seems to be a greater likelihood that teams will ride out the group they have currently rather than involve themselves in a major shake-up.
The Boston Celtics have been among the top teams in the Eastern Conference most of this season, finding ways to win despite key players all season being in and out of the lineup with an assortment of injuries and illnesses. Yes, it comes with the territory. The same can be said for change this time of year, which is always possible.
But now more than ever, it seems the top teams are more content to work with what they have already rather than make a significant change.
And that’s in part why there has been minimal movement in this week’s Power Rankings.
30. Minnesota Timberwolves (15-33)
Rank last week: 30
The coaches voting for All-Star reserves put a high premium on winning, which is why Karl-Anthony Towns, despite statistically being a top-10 talent, was left off the All-Star roster as the face of a franchise that has lost 11 straight.
29. Atlanta Hawks (13-37)
Rank last week: 29
The Hawks are big man hunting these days, with their sights set on Houston’s Clint Capela and Detroit’s Andre Drummond.
28. Golden State Warriors (11-39)
Rank last week: 28
The Warriors will once again be represented during All-Star weekend with rookie Eric Paschall being selected to participate in the Rising Stars Challenge.
27. Charlotte Hornets (16-33)
Rank last week: 27
The Hornets are among the teams inquiring about Andre Drummond, a move that is more about Charlotte’s long-term future than efforts to salvage what will be another trip to the lottery in June.
26. New York Knicks (14-36)
Rank last week: 24
If there’s one bright spot for the Knicks this season, it has been the play of R.J. Barrett, who ranks among the league’s rookie leaders in several categories.
25. Cleveland Cavaliers (13-37)
Rank last week: 25
The losses continue to mount for the Cavaliers, losers of three straight and 10 of their last 11 games.
24. Sacramento Kings (18-31)
Rank last week: 26
Inquiries will continue to flow in for Bogdan Bogdanovic, but look for the Kings to get a long-term deal done with him this summer.
23. Detroit Pistons (18-33)
Rank last week: 22
Of all the head-scratchers surrounding this Detroit team, nothing stands out more than how the Pistons have consistently struggled to rebound the ball all season despite having Andre Drummond, who is one of the best in the game.
22. Chicago Bulls (19-32)
Rank last week: 19
The Bulls rank 12th in points allowed per game (108.7) this season, but during their current three-game losing streak they are allowing a league-high 125.7 points per game.
21. Washington Wizards (17-31)
Rank last week: 23
A case can be made for Bradley Beal being among the All-Star snubs. And then you look at the low 3-point shooting (a career-low 32.4 percent), turnovers per game (a career-high 3.2 per game) and then there’s the Wizards’ overall record.
20. New Orleans Pelicans (20-30)
Rank last week: 17
It took a couple games, but the Pelicans have figured out how to get the most out of Zion Williamson in limited minutes and still win as the Pelicans are currently riding a three-game winning streak.
19. Phoenix Suns (20-29)
Rank last week: 16
At 27.2 points per game, Devin Booker has the highest scoring average among Western Conference players to not be named to this month’s All-Star Game.
18. Orlando Magic (21-28)
Rank last week: 15
Look for the Magic to try and bolster an offense at the trade deadline that currently has an offensive rating that ranks 26th (105.0) in the league.
17. San Antonio Spurs (22-26)
Rank last week: 20
The Spurs have an 8-14 road record that’s likely to get worse — a lot worse — with a run of eight straight away from home coming up.
15. Memphis Grizzlies (24-25)
Rank last week: 14
The skirmish between Jae Crowder and the New York Knicks momentarily took the spotlight off of what was once again a good week of basketball for the Grizzlies as they try to solidify themselves as a playoff team this season.
14. Portland Trail Blazers (23-27)
Rank last week: 18
Damian Lillard continues to score at a historic clip which has the Blazers nipping at the Memphis Grizzlies heels for that eighth and final playoff spot out West.
13. Philadelphia 76ers (31-19)
Rank last week: 10
Joel Embiid declined to speak to the media after Philly’s loss at Boston on Saturday. He had 11 points, shot 1-for-11 from the field against a Boston team that didn’t have Enes Kanter (hip) or Kemba Walker (knee). No need to talk. ‘Nuff said.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (30-20)
Rank last week: 12
One of the biggest overachievers this season, do they keep the band together going forward or break off a huge chunk (Chris Paul? Steven Adams?) for more future assets and young talent?
11. Dallas Mavericks (30-19)
Rank last week: 8
The Mavericks defense went through some major slippage in January, with a defensive rating of 115.8 which ranked 28th in the league compared to their 17th-ranked defense this season.
10. Houston Rockets (31-18)
Rank last week: 13
Always the innovator, the Rockets played no one taller than 6-foot-6 recently (something that had not happened in more than 50 years) and won. So expect the historically small, “small-ball lineup” to continue on going forward.
9. Indiana Pacers (31-18)
Rank last week: 9
Victor Oladipo shaking off the rust that comes with missing more than half of the NBA season while still trying to help the Pacers climb the East standings will be challenging for all involved.
8. Boston Celtics (33-15)
Rank last week: 11
Considering Kemba Walker has already had three surgeries/procedures on his left knee before arriving in Boston, load management was a matter of when — not if — it would happen.
7. Los Angeles Clippers (34-15)
Rank last week: 6
The Clippers will play four of their next six games on the road, and that’s not a bad thing considering they have won four of their last five games away from the Staples Center.
6. Utah Jazz (32-17)
Rank last week: 3
The Jazz were one of the hottest teams just a week ago, but now they’re singing a totally different tune having lost three in a row.
5. Miami Heat (33-15)
Rank last week: 7
Amid all the talk about the Heat needing to add an All-Star caliber big man, Miami has one in Bam Adebayo, who will play in his first All-Star Game this month.
4. Toronto Raptors (35-14)
Rank last week: 4
They surprised us a year ago by winning it all. Head coach Nick Nurse and his crew are back, proving they were not a fluke even without Kawhi Leonard.
3. Denver Nuggets (34-16)
Rank last week: 5
Of the teams near the top of the NBA standings, the Nuggets are the most likely to pull off a significant, blockbuster-type deal.
2. Los Angeles Lakers (37-11)
Rank last week: 2
The All-Star break can’t get here soon enough for the Lakers, who could use the time off to reset emotionally following the tragic death of basketball icon Kobe Bryant.
1. Milwaukee Bucks (42-7)
Rank last week: 1
The Bucks are on pace to become the NBA’s third 70-win club by finishing out the season with a 28-5 record, which is more than doable.