NBA Power Rankings: Trade winds are just starting to pick up
Where will Kevin Love wind up? What about his teammate Tristan Thompson? Minnesota’s 3-and-D guy Robert Covington is available. Who’s interested?
We often think about trade rumors closer towards the February trade deadline, but there are a handful of teams that might be open to moving players they signed this summer, moves that can’t be executed until December 15. Teams look to strike for a variety of reasons, whether it’s to add a talent that they think can take to another stratosphere in terms of their play, to clear salary cap space going forward, or to add what may be the missing piece for a run at the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Much of the talk surrounding the Boston Celtics and what they need to do to get better revolves around the center position. Multiple league sources have indicated the Celtics are open to the idea if a team wants to talk, but they are not aggressively looking to made a trade … yet.
“You just never really know with Danny,” a league executive told NBC Sports Boston. “A ‘no’ on a deal today, could become a ‘hey, let’s do it’ tomorrow depending on if circumstances play out that make doing a deal a logical, sensible move to make."
And as deals get talked about and eventually completed, it also will impact where teams stack up in our weekly power rankings, which include a newcomer at the top of the list with the usual roller coaster-like movement.
30. New York Knicks (5-20)
Rank last week: 29
Firing David Fizdale doesn’t change the fact that this Knicks team isn’t constructed to compete let alone win anytime soon.
29. Golden State Warriors (5-21)
Rank last week: 30
The Warriors redshirt season rolls on with Golden State continuing to play its way into a really high lottery pick in next June’s NBA draft.
28. Cleveland Cavaliers (5-19)
Rank last week: 26
The biggest intrigue these days in Cleveland centers around who will be moved first — Tristan Thompson or Kevin Love.
27. New Orleans Pelicans (6-19)
Rank last week: 28
With the initial timeline for Zion Williamson’s return having come and gone, there’s a growing sense around the league that this may wind up being a redshirt year for last June’s No. 1 overall pick.
26. Atlanta Hawks (6-19)
Rank last week: 27
With a bunch of future first- and second-round picks in their war chest, the struggling Hawks have the potential to be a player on the trade market this season.
25. Washington Wizards (7-16)
Rank last week: 24
The Wizards have lost six of their last seven, but now they hit a stretch now with three winnable games against Memphis, Detroit, and Chicago.
23. Minnesota Timberwolves (10-14)
Losers of six in a row, the Timberwolves’ misery will likely be extended for at least one more game with the Los Angeles Clippers coming to town.
22. San Antonio Spurs (9-14)
Rank last week: 23
The Spurs are moving up the standings in part by doing a better job of moving the ball. They rank sixth in the league in assists (27.0) in their last four games, three of which were Spurs victories.
21. Portland Trail Blazers (10-15)
Rank last week: 20
If the Blazers can get past the Nuggets, they’ll have a little momentum going into a stretch in which they play five consecutive teams with a losing record.
20. Chicago Bulls (9-17)
Rank last week: 22
Zach LaVine has been in scoring the ball more efficiently this season, aided by him connecting on a career-best 41.8 percent of his 3’s. Among players who are averaging at least three made 3-pointers per game, LaVine’s shooting percentage is the fifth-best of the group.
19. Charlotte Hornets (11-16)
Rank last week: 17
The Hornets have been shooting lots of 3’s this season, but have taken it to another level in the last five games, three of which were Charlotte wins. In those five games, the Hornets averaged 16 made 3’s per game which ranks second only to — who else? — the Houston Rockets (16.4 made 3’s per game).
18. Orlando Magic (11-13)
Rank last week: 14
The Magic may be on the rise, but the smackdown delivered recently by the Los Angeles Clippers serves as a reminder that they still have a ways to go before they’re a legit threat to compete, let alone beat, the best of the best in the NBA.
17. Detroit Pistons (10-14)
Derrick Rose, averaging 16.1 points while shooting 48.8 percent from the field, remains one of the few bright spots for a Pistons team that for the most part has been underwhelming in their overall play.
16. Oklahoma City Thunder (11-13)
Rank last week: 21
Having won five of their last seven games, the Thunder are looking more like a contender for one of the last playoff spots in the West rather than a team that’s in full rebuild mode.
15. Phoenix Suns (11-13)
Rank last week: 19
Kelly Oubre Jr. has picked up where he left off last season upon arriving in Phoenix while delivering some much-needed scoring (17.4 points) and rebounding (6.3) to complement Devin Booker’s play.
14. Brooklyn Nets (13-11)
Rank last week: 13
Spencer Dinwiddie, in the first year of a three-year, $34.3 million deal, continues to be one of the sneaky-good signings this past offseason.
13. Sacramento Kings (11-13)
Rank last week: 16
The Kings have Marvin Bagley III coming off the bench after he missed 22 games with a thumb injury. Which is more important: winning games because of a stronger bench or keeping Bagley happy by returning him to the starting lineup?
12. Denver Nuggets (14-8)
Rank last week: 4
Look for the Nuggets to be buyers at the trade deadline with a roster that looks good on paper, but clearly needs another high-level talent if they want to secure a spot among the best out West.
11. Utah Jazz (14-11)
Rank last week: 12
The Jazz would be wise to take advantage of a soft pocket in their schedule this week with games coming up against Golden State, Orlando and Atlanta.
10. Indiana Pacers (16-9)
Rank last week: 10
Malcolm Brogdon’s drive-and-kick game has been among the many revelations about him that we see in Indiana, that we didn’t see as much of — and didn’t know existed to the extent that we see now — when he played for Milwaukee.
9. Houston Rockets (16-8)
Rank last week: 11
James Harden recently racked up his fourth 55-point game on the road, with only one man in front of him now in that category: Wilt Chamberlain, who did it 31 times.
8. Toronto Raptors (16-8)
Rank last week: 8
When you consider the impact of losing a player like Kawhi Leonard to free agency, only to come back and be just as strong in terms of wins and losses … the Raptors have been one of the bigger surprises because of their ability to still be among the top teams in the East.
7. Dallas Mavericks (16-7)
Rank last week: 5
With the trade rumors surrounding Kevin Love only heating up with time, don’t be surprised if the Mavericks try to get in on the bidding process.
6. Philadelphia 76ers (18-7)
Rank last week: 7
Joel Embiid is good, but he could easily morph into ridiculously scary-good if he channels the recent criticism from Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal and pursue being more dominant night-in and night-out as it relates to where he’s at now in his overall basketball growth.
5. Miami Heat (18-6)
Rank last week: 8
Winners of their last three, the Heat's upcoming games against the Los Angeles Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks will speak volumes as to whether it’s time to start seriously looking at Miami as a title contender.
4. Boston Celtics (17-6)
Rank last week: 6
Gordon Hayward comes back from a broken left hand for a couple games, only to suffer another setback at Indiana after getting whacked in the nose. You hope for Hayward’s sake he’s getting all these injuries out of the way early so that he can have a nice, strong finish in the end.
3. Los Angeles Clippers (19-7)
Rank last week: 3
The good folks in Toronto welcome Kawhi Leonard back for the first time and give him his NBA championship. So what does he do? He drops 23 points on them and the Clippers win going away, 112-92.
1. Milwaukee Bucks (22-3)
Rank last week: 2
The Bucks are legit, people. We talk a lot about Giannis Antetokounmpo, and understandably so. But the play of Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton has been huge in their success and why they have every reason to believe they will be the last team standing in the East.