NBA Power Rankings: How Trade Deadline Decisions Impact Each Team's Outlook
With the NBA trade deadline gone and passed, it's a good time to look at how this year's trades have impacted the short and long-term landscape of the NBA.
That's what we look at in this week's NBA power rankings, as some teams have positioned themselves for stretch runs with a trade (Oklahoma City), while other teams have an eye out strictly for the future (Orlando). Some teams (Houston) have an eye out for both.
That being said, some of these trades that were made—or not made—will end up being big parts of the success of playoff teams. The right cog on a championship team isn't often known until the season is over, and that's the case with this year's group of NBA players changing teams.
With an eye toward how trades will impact the NBA Finals, here's a look at this week's edition of power rankings. Check out where your team falls and what they have to do to move up the rankings in the coming weeks.
Note: Records accurate as of 7 a.m. ET on Feb. 28.
1. Miami Heat (41-14)
Miami's biggest deadline deal was getting Chris Andersen, who has been surprisingly active and a big asset to the NBA's most dangerous full-court team. His defense and intensity have been nice, but we all know another championship is going to fall on the shoulders of the Big 3 (specifically LBJ).
The Heat did give away Dexter Pittman to the Memphis Grizzlies to clear cap space, but we're betting he wasn't the locker room problem that could keep the Heat from back-to-back titles.
2. San Antonio Spurs (45-14)
The Spurs were actively shopping DeJuan Blair but couldn't find a taker for the free agent-to-be forward, so they are content to sit tight—and for good reason. Tony Parker is playing like the MVP of the league and the Spurs keep on rolling along.
San Antonio has no regrets from this year's deadline, and based on its track record, it's hard to argue with the franchise's management.
How would you grade OKC's latest moves?
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (42-15)
The Thunder never cease to amaze at the deadline.
They acquired Kendrick Perkins two years ago in a shocker, and this year sent guard Eric Maynor to Portland for yet another draft pick they can use in the coming seasons. The Thunder made room for the signing of Derek Fisher (again), and clearly are looking to recapture some of that magic instead of rely on Reggie Jackson full time.
With Fisher back in the fold and this team looking as dangerous on offense as ever, the real key isn't going to be Maynor, it's going to be Kevin Martin. Picking up Ronnie Brewer also helps for defensive situations and it didn't cost OKC much in the process. Yet another solid deadline could reap rewards for the Thunder both this season and beyond.
4. Indiana Pacers (36-21)
Despite interest in J.J. Redick and reports that the Pacers might trade Danny Granger, Indiana stayed put. That's OK because one man, Paul George, has come into his own this season. The All-Star will have to shine the brightest for the Pacers to have a shot against the Heat in a seven game series, but getting back a full-strength Granger should help depth in Indy.
5. Memphis Grizzlies (38-18)
The Grizz made their biggest move (Rudy Gay) before the deadline, and the team has actually found more consistency since dealing its best swingman away. We'll see if that assertion holds water once postseason play rolls around, but right now Memphis is a true dark horse to make the Western Conference Finals.
6. Los Angeles Clippers (41-18)
After all the talk of sending away Eric Bledsoe, Caron Butler and/or DeAndre Jordan for Kevin Garnett, the Clippers have stood pat. When Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are connecting for dunks like this one, it's hard to say they made the wrong choice.
The depth is still a little spotty in the frontcourt, but if the game is close in the playoffs, the Clippers will take their chances. Having CP3 makes that possible.
7. Denver Nuggets (37-22)
Denver went into the hostile Portland arena and escaped with a two-point win on Wednesday night, solidifying the choice not to make any key moves at the deadline.
Although there are pundits that believe the Nuggets are still missing one key player, I think they can be a force in the playoffs. It's all about getting hot at the right time, and there are very few teams that have the depth and length that Denver puts on the floor every night.
8. New York Knicks (34-20)
The Knicks traded away Brewer and added Kenyon Martin, but we all know old age is the only culprit that will attack New York in the playoffs. Offensively, the Knicks are as good as any team and defensively there are very few holds when Tyson Chandler is keeping the signals in line.
That being said, trading away a valuable defender for a second-round pick seems a little odd, even if it was to clear some cap room in the process. The Knicks are still dangerous, though, and the deadline did nothing to change that.
9. Golden State Warriors (33-25)
Stephen Curry's remarkable Madison Square Garden performance aside, this is a different Warrior team than those of the past. There's an energy that's unmatched in other arenas across basketball when these guys are at their best, and Curry is the catalyst for that effort.
The best trade that Golden State could have made would have been finding a cure for any future Andrew Bogut injuries. I know a few men (mostly in Milwaukee) that would have traded their souls for that cure.
10. Brooklyn Nets (34-24)
Despite being in trade talks for Josh Smith and others, the Nets didn't find a way to dump MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries or Andray Blatche. That leaves this "dream team" in the same state it was before the deadline started—waiting on the real Deron Williams to show up.
After three of his last five games have featured 20-plus point scoring, it appears that wish has been granted, although the Nets are still losing close games to top teams.
11. Boston Celtics (30-27)
KG and Paul Pierce are still in Green and White, and Rajon Rondo isn't walking in the door. Yet the Celtics added Jordan Crawford and have a healthy Avery Bradley, and appear to be better in the process.
When will the rebuild begin? Danny Ainge refuses to let this team go quietly, but will it matter come playoff time?
12. Houston Rockets (31-28)
The Rockets get the nod over some equally tough Western Conference foes because of one man—James Harden.
Although Houston has lost two straight and the Lakers are closing the gap in the West, the Rockets have that 2003 Suns feel to what they can accomplish in the playoffs. A bunch of young guns and a point guard (Jeremy Lin) that can light it up equals both a dangerous offense and a dangerous opponent.
Throw in Thomas Robinson, the newest Rocket, and things get even more interesting. The Rockets now have three (if you count Royce White and Terrence Jones) first-round picks from the 2012 draft, and have built themselves a winner both this season and beyond. It's a great day to be a fan of Houston sports (except maybe the Astros).
13. Utah Jazz (31-27)
The gang all stayed put in Utah, which means no one really wanted to overpay for Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson. Can you blame them?
Utah seems doomed to its existence for the past few years—make the playoffs, compete hard and then lose out. With all the young talent the team has accrued and some money available for free agency next season, that might all change in 2013-14.
14. Los Angeles Lakers (28-30)
This is not a team that can win a title.
Without the cap space or personnel to make a minor trade, the Lakers stayed put. It means they are still on the hook for a number of large salaries next season and still don't know if Dwight Howard is returning. This year it limited them from addressing wing depth and defense, two areas that will ultimately doom L.A. in any kind of playoff run.
15. Chicago Bulls (32-25)
I know the Bulls boast a solid record, but until Derrick Rose walks out of the tunnel on game night, the Bulls just don't get it done for me. They failed to dump Rip Hamilton or acquire J.J. Redick and now have to compete against the sharpshooter as he tries to help the Bucks move up the ranks.
Chicago is also missing Omer Asik, and there's nothing about the Bulls that tells me they are ready to compete without Rose back in place—deadline deal or not.
16. Atlanta Hawks (33-23)
Cap space is our friend.
That's what Danny Ferry and the rest of Atlanta management must think, because there were several suitors for Josh Smith and none of those deals were deemed worthy enough to pull the trigger. The Hawks did make a minor deal (Anthony Morrow to Dallas for Dahntay Jones), but that just adds another DeShawn Stevenson clone to a team still seeking a true center.
Is Dwight Howard this team's target come June? Cap space would suggest so. For now, the Hawks will focus on staying in position to try and surprise Indiana or New York in a playoff series.
17. Milwaukee Bucks (28-28)
After acquiring Redick, it appears the Bucks are serious about at least making some noise in the playoffs. A big win against Dallas will help those chances, as will better play from the tag-team guard combo of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings.
Since Milwaukee expects to have to match Jennings' best offer this summer, it will be interesting to see his level of focus down the stretch. Does he want to play in Milwaukee for another four years? The deadline came and went and he and Ellis are both still in town. It's time to make the best of it and push for the playoffs.
18. Portland Trail Blazers (26-31)
Rip City got Maynor for a draft pick, and now has an interesting combo it can play at the guard position. Damian Lillard is in position to be the Rookie of the Year (barring a huge upset elsewhere), and adding Maynor to create depth at the position will be key heading into next year.
Portland isn't out of contention for the playoffs, but losses to playoff teams like Denver certainly don't help its case moving forward with about 20 games to play.
19. Dallas Mavericks (25-32)
Dallas has been the epitome of strange this year. The Mavs got back Dirk Nowitzki in December and have been a much better team since, but they can't win close games and O.J. Mayo is a turnover machine when it matters most.
Although Dallas got sharpshooter Anthony Morrow to provide depth at the guard position, he's yet to see meaningful minutes. The Mavs shot just 3-of-12 in a loss to Memphis on Wednesday night, yet Morrow didn't sniff the court.
It's looking more and more like Dallas just wanted his $4 million expiring salary. Mark Cuban might be playing for next season before this one is over.
20. Cleveland Cavaliers (20-38)
I like what Cleveland is doing. By adding some depth with Marreese Speights and getting a draft pick in the process, Cleveland continues to look for the right mix of veterans and future talent.
The record doesn't suggest it, but this is a team that is capable of competing every night. Kyrie Irving is a bona-fide star, and things are really starting to look up in Cleveland—even if the record doesn't suggest it quite yet.
21. Toronto Raptors (23-35)
Despite a couple of bad losses to Cleveland and Washington, Gay has made the Raptors an interesting team for next season. The Raps have used their trade chips (Jose Calderon, draft picks) to pick up Kyle Lowry, Gay and still have room to play youngsters like DeMar DeRozan and slam dunk champ Terrence Ross.
Things didn't get saucy in Toronto over the deadline, but they might next season if this current group of players lets their talent show out in the East. Who knows, next year's Golden State rise could be north of the border.
22. Detroit Pistons (23-37)
The Pistons did their trading when jumping in and picking up Calderon. Now that he is in place (until the end of this season) to go alongside Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, Detroit is no longer a pushover in the East.
This season doesn't look great in terms of making the postseason, but another draft and another free-agent class and we might be talking about the Pistons in a different light next season.
23. New Orleans Hornets (20-39)
Rumors about Eric Gordon continue to swirl, yet the Hornets still have their star guard in uniform each night. Like the Cavs, the record hasn't told the whole story this year. New Orleans is a tough out, and will be next year (as the Pelicans), too, if the strong play of Greivis Vasquez keeps up.
24. Philadelphia 76ers (22-33)
Philadelphia is a sinking ship. It's hit rock bottom, and no trade would have saved this season. Even Doug Collins knows things have gotten bad, calling out his players and not showing any signs of encouragement on the Andrew Bynum front.
This season is one to forget if you're a 76ers fans.
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (20-34)
Injuries, injuries and more injuries.
Chalk this season up to that and call it a day. No one wanted to take on Brandon Roy's contract, and callers for AK47 were rebuffed right away (and for good reason). The J.J. Barea/Ricky Rubio show is in full swing in Minny, at least until Kevin Love comes back.
26. Washington Wizards (18-38)
Things are so bad in Washington that its own announcer thought an airball was the game-winner.
Even so, the Wizards have John Wall and Bradley Beal. The rest of the teams on this list do not. The Wizards pulled off a minor deal for Leandro Barbosa on deadline day, but that deal nets them nothing more than an expiring contract. Back to the draft drawing board for Washington.
27. Phoenix Suns (20-39)
The Morris twins are back together! Someone call Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen! Call those two girls (Lindsay Lohan and Lindsay Lohan) from Parent Trap! Call Bill Self and see if he wants to coach in the NBA!
All jokes aside, I love the move Phoenix made to reunite the brothers. Things obviously aren't going to work out forever with Luis Scola, and Marcus Morris is another viable backup who can guard multiple positions, stretch the floor and bang inside.
Great trade for Phoenix, as was clearing space for Kendall Marshall by sending Sebastian Telfair up north to Toronto.
28. Charlotte Bobcats (13-44)
As bad as the Bobcats are, I like their toughness more than the bottom two teams on this list. It's unfortunate they were unable to find a deal for Ben Gordon, but after the blowup with Mike Dunlap, can you blame other teams?
Exciting rookies (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) and some stellar guard play rank Charlotte ahead of the final two teams on this list, because teamwork and desire still mean something to this writer when it comes to NBA rankings.
29. Sacramento Kings (20-39)
Oh, Sacramento. Where do we being?
We'll start with trading away a first-round pick (Robinson) for three guys that likely won't see much time in your rotation. Patrick Patterson has the best chance, but what is the motivation for trading away him over Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins?
Part of it has to be desperation, which can always doom a franchise from time to time. Part of it is terrible strategy, something this new Seattle investment group will have to work on if they want to contend once the team moves cities in the near future.
For the time being, Sac-town will ride out this wave with some new players, but will also have the same two headaches they've been rumored to want to trade for the past two seasons. It was an interesting deadline day in Sacramento, to say the least.
30. Orlando Magic (16-42)
It's been a frustrating season for the Magic, and for good reason. The team is playing with mostly youngsters and a few veterans, and had to deal with the loss of Glen Davis in the process.
They did right by J.J. Redick and also got back a good shooter in Doron Lamb, already a product of new general manager Rob Hennigan's philosophy. If there's a team that wants to start planning for the future now, it's Orlando.
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