Updated Power Ranking of the New Western Conference
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
The NBA Trade Deadline has come and gone, and with it a flurry of deals both major and minor took place.
The teams in the NBA's Western Conference seemed to have been the most active in adding and subtracting players on their rosters.
Player movement doesn't just impact your fantasy basketball team, it impacts the real ones too. This season the trade deadline took place later in the regular season due to the lockout that cost the league games in November and December.
That means that playoff teams acquiring new players today have limited time to get their new acquisitions used to a new system in a new city, with new teammates.
That, as well as the actual incoming or outgoing talent, will all play a role on who's up and who's down in the Western Conference power rankings among teams in playoff contention.
Here's where they stand as of now.
Waving the White Flag: Portland, Utah, Phoenix and Golden State
Andrew Bogut may have a big impact in Golden State, but it probably won't be this year.
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Sometimes actions speak louder than words—in fact, sometimes inaction speaks louder than words as well.
That's why the four teams listed above, none of which started the day holding one of the eight playoff spots in the Western Conference, have all in their own way declared the pursuit of a playoff berth this season all but finished.
Both Phoenix and Utah started the day as teams that weren't awful, but had also shown that they weren't going to be in the postseason. Both teams remained inactive throughout the day as well. Without improving their rosters, there's no logical reason to expect either team to make the playoffs.
Portland, on the other hand, started the day in shambles, and as of now appear to be in the process of "cleaning house." Yes, the team was only three-and-a-half games out of the playoff hunt, but they had lost four of their last five games and had shown a total lack of interest in competing on the court.
The Blazers lost by 42 points to the Knicks last night, and today the team jettisoned starting center Marcus Camby and starting forward Gerald Wallace, as well as firing head coach Nate McMillan. This season is being written off by the Blazers, who will try to start fresh next year.
Golden State is another team that was not that far removed from playoff contention, but saw an opportunity to shore up some of the team's more glaring deficiencies in exchange for competing night-in, night-out through the remainder of this season.
On Tuesday night, the Warriors dealt prolific scorer Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks along with Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown in exchange for former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Bogut and swingman Stephen Jackson.
Bogut is a tough defensive presence who may miss the remainder of the season due to an ankle injury. Jackson was dealt earlier today to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for Richard Jefferson, another defensive-minded player.
Both the Warriors and Blazers are hoping for improvement in the 2012-2013 season.
The Odd Team Out: Minnesota Timberwolves
Ricky Rubio's injury will prove too much for the Timberwolves to overcome.
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
A week ago, the Timberwolves seemed like a team on the verge of cracking the playoff ceiling and then causing trouble once the postseason started.
One week later, they look more like a team that will finish just out of reach of the last playoff spot.
The loss of point guard Ricky Rubio for the remainder of the season last Friday night is going to create too steep a mountain to climb to get into the Western Conference playoffs.
The Wolves didn't execute any deadline deals, but the remaining roster has enough talent to prevent the team from totally tanking down the stretch.
The No. 8 Seed: Dallas Mavericks
Dirk and the Mavs have had an up-and-down season but they'll still make the playoffs.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
No one said repeating as champs would be easy.
Dallas is finding out just how tough it can be first hand. The team underwent some major personnel changes before the season started. The Mavericks still appear to be figuring out how all the new parts fit together as the season enters its final month.
The Mavericks didn't make any deadline deals, and they're 24-20 and occupying the eighth spot in the playoff chase. That does not seem too likely to change in the season's final few weeks.
The No. 7 Seed: Houston Rockets
The Rockets tried to find a way to compensate for the loss of Kyle Lowry at the trade deadline.
When the Rockets lost point guard Kyle Lowry to a bacterial infection, their hopes of dramatically improving their playoff seeding changed to trying to ensure a playoff seeding.
The team has already inserted backup point guard Goran Dragic into the starting lineup with positive results.
Today the team acquired a backup for their former backup at the point guard position. Lakers veteran Derek Fisher was acquired in exchange for Jordan Hill. The Rockets also managed to grab the Lakers' first-round pick in this June's NBA draft. It won't be a high pick, but this season's draft looks to be very deep.
Dealing Jordan Hill was no small move. The Rockets were already soft at the center position, with Samuel Dalembert starting and Hill as the primary backup. That situation was also rectified by dealing two former first-round picks who were languishing on the Rockets bench.
Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet were both lottery picks, but neither has caught on in the NBA as of yet. If they are going to find success in the league, it will be in Portland. Portland sent veteran center Marcus Camby, who is still a very good defensive big man, back to Houston.
Adding Camby won't just make the Rockets better defensively under the basket. His shot-blocking ability is good enough to make dribble penetrators think twice about exploiting an advantage on the perimeter.
The Rockets aren't a lot better after today, but they've plugged some of the holes that were exposed when Lowry was lost to injury.
The No. 6 Seed: Denver Nuggets
Javale McGee will bring youth, athleticism and inconsistency to Denver.
Rob Carr/Getty Images
The Denver Nuggets are trying to have it both ways.
The trade they made today doesn't officially "write-off" the 2011-2012 season, but it also doesn't scream "we're all in!"
Then again, the team will have a lot more salary-cap flexibility after this season.
The Nuggets were part of a three-team deal today that ended up netting Denver's young and inconsistent center JaVale McGee and veteran big man Ronny Turiaf.
Denver had to part with their athletic big man Nene in the deal, though.
Nene could be seen as "tough to replace," but he's missed considerable time to injury this season, and his chronically aching knees have made it tough to declare him 100-percent healthy even when he's playing.
He's a more mature and productive player than McGee when he's healthy, but since he hasn't been healthy and since the Nuggets have amassed a record of 24-19 to this point, Denver rightfully felt that the team wouldn't implode by dealing him.
More importantly, Nene is signed to a sizable contract for the next five years, whereas McGee is a restricted free agent this summer.
The Nuggets didn't give up on this season, and they created more room to improve the team for next season. All in all, not a bad deal.
The No. 5 Seed: Los Angeles Clippers
Nick Young is a nice and needed addition to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
The Los Angeles Clippers had a great plan to put together a top-tier team before this season began. It almost worked, too.
First the team acquired one of the league's best point guards in Chris Paul. Then they went out and signed Chauncey Billups to provide outside shooting, adding ball-handling and veteran leadership.
It looked like it was going to work out pretty well. Then Billups ruptured his Achilles tendon and was lost for the season. What remained of the Clippers was still a very good team, but it was one that was too dependent on fast-break points and lacked outside shooting.
Today the Clippers made an attempt to rectify that problem by dealing for Washington Wizards shooting guard Nick Young. It was part of a larger three-team deal, but all the Clippers had to part with was bench-warmer Brian Cook and a future second-round draft pick. Adding Young will help, but it might not help enough to fend off the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies may get power forward Zach Randolph back tomorrow night, and the addition of Randolph may prove to be too much for the Clippers to overcome in the playoff seeding race.
The No. 4 Seed: The Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies have been waiting for power forward Zach Randolph to return from a knee injury.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
The Memphis Grizzlies have gotten four games out of the man who is considered to be their best player, Zach Randolph. He's been out with a knee injury since early in the season.
The Grizzlies have put together a very good season in Randolph's absence. They have a 24-17 record and are sitting in position for the fifth seed in the Western Conference. Will Randolph's return be enough to provide a significant lift for the Grizzlies?
It depends on how "significant" is defined. The return of Randolph, which could come as soon as Friday night, might provide a big enough boost to allow them to overtake the Los Angeles Clippers in the race for postseason seeding.
The teams are currently tied, although the Clippers own a tie breaker which would give then an edge if the season were to end today. It doesn't end today, though, and if Randolph does come back on Friday he could provide enough added firepower to push Memphis ahead of the Clippers.
The No. 3 Seed: San Antonio Spurs
Tim Duncan hopes to lead his Spurs back to another NBA Title.
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
The San Antonio Spurs are once again sitting near the top of the Western Conference. They've got the second best record and a fairly safe four-game divisional lead over Memphis.
The Spurs have had some issues scoring this season, especially when Manu Ginobili was lost to injury. Today the Spurs pulled the trigger on a deal that will make them a little weaker on defense and a little more lethal on offense.
The Spurs sent Richard Jefferson and their 2012 first-round draft pick to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for recently acquired shooting guard Stephen Jackson. Jackson is currently nursing a pulled hamstring.
Nearly 10 years ago, Jackson played a role in the Spurs' 2002-2003 NBA title run. When he returns to San Antonio, there will be some familiar faces.
Can Jackson get healthy and provide enough offensive firepower to improve the Spurs' playoff standing?
He might help the team, but the Spurs are only two games ahead of a Lakers team that desperately needed a point guard to run the offense. The Lakers got that earlier today, and that two-game lead the Spurs currently own may not be enough of a cushion to hold off a Lakers surge.
The No. 2 Seed: Los Angeles Lakers
Ramon Sessions will push the Lakers toward the top of the Western Conference.
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
When a team is missing a key ingredient, the entire team suffers. If that ingredient can be added, it can produce dramatic results.
When the sun rose this morning, the Lakers needed a point guard. Well, before the sun set, the Lakers acquired one.
The Lakers mixed up their team today without breaking up the talented trio of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
In are Ramon Sessions, Jordan Hill and Christian Eyenga. Out are Derek Fisher, Jason Kapono, Luke Walton and the Lakers' 2012 first-round draft pick.
In other words, the Lakers managed to give up just one player who contributed on a nightly basis, and replaced him with two players who can contribute—one of whom is exactly what the team needs to make a run at an NBA championship this year.
The Lakers are currently five-and-a-half games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. With just over a month left in the regular season, it's not likely they can catch Oklahoma City, but that doesn't mean they're not a better team right now.
The No. 1 Seed: Oklahoma City Thunder
All-Star MVP Kevin Durant hopes to raise a different trophy this June.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
With the best record in the Western Conference and the second best record in the entire league, there weren't too many reasons for the Oklahoma City Thunder to make a trade at the trade deadline today.
So the team chose not to, and there's nothing wrong with that. They're still one of the better teams in the league. When the regular season ends, they'll have the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, but that doesn't mean they'll make it to the NBA Finals.
The Thunder may feature the most athletic and dynamic grouping of scorers in the league. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden can get up and down the court as well as any trio in basketball.
The problem is that the team may rely just a bit too much on the transition game. They're not bad out of the half court, but to push the tempo you've got to win the battle of the boards.
The best rebounding team in the league is the Los Angeles Lakers, not the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder are still the best team today, and they'll probably be the best team in the league in a month, as well. Yet as the playoffs progress, it won't be a surprise if the Thunder have some problems.
For now, they're still No. 1, though.