The trade deadline has passed and the Eastern Conference has taken two superstars from the West.
Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams were sent east by the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz, respectively. Anthony joined forces with Amar'e Stoudemire and the New York Knicks. Williams is the first piece in New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov's puzzle.
With the addition of these big names to the East, the conference takes on a new look. The big four teams (Celtics, Heat, Bulls, Magic) remain elite. The Knicks took a giant leap toward elite status, but it may take a couple years or another player before they break through. The Nets finally landed a star, but they still have a long way to go.
These rankings show where East teams stand in a conference on the rise.
In the words of Tom Petty, the Cleveland Cavaliers are "free fallin".
A year (and certain player) removed from the best regular-season record in the NBA, the Cavs have dropped to the bottom of the NBA. J.J. Hickson hasn't lived up to expectations. Mo Williams clearly misses the open shots that LeBron James created for him.
The Cavaliers dealt Williams and Jamario Moon to the Los Angeles Clippers for Baron Davis and a 2011 first-round pick. Yes, they took on more cap, but they got a high-end pick for next year that will help their future.
The Cavs have a lot of issues to solve before they can deliver a championship to Cleveland before LeBron wins one in Miami.
The Toronto Raptors are still a developing team.
The Raptors have players with lots of potential, but they're lacking a star. Andrea Bargnani has done a good job of taking on the scoring load of the departed Chris Bosh. DeMar DeRozan has displayed his athletic ability in games and at the dunk contest.
The Raptors added James Johnson from the Chicago Bulls before the deadline. He played 26 minutes in his first game, scoring nine points, grabbing five boards and registering three blocks.
The result: A five-point win over Johnson's former team, the Bulls.
John Wall has not disappointed in his rookie year. However, the Wizards have.
After adding Josh Howard, Al Thornton and Rashard Lewis, some thought that the Wizards would begin to crawl up the Eastern Conference. Instead, they can't seem to win games on the road. Washington is 1-27 away from the Verizon Center this season.
The Wizards sent Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong to the Atlanta Hawks before the deadline. The Wizards obtained Mike Bibby, Jordan Crawford, Maurice Evans and a 2011 first-round draft pick from the Hawks.
Bibby will serve the Wizards well as a backup because of his age and experience. The Wizards did well in this trade, as they already have their point guard of the future.
Brandon Jennings' return to the roster makes the Milwaukee Bucks a better team, but they're still far away from where they want to be.
The Bucks didn't make a move at the deadline and their team remains below average. Drew Gooden has underwhelmed as a Buck and Corey Maggette is a hot and cold player.
A bright spot for the Bucks was the return of Michael Redd to practice on Feb. 21. Redd has been out for 13 months with knee problems.
Even with Redd, the Bucks will still miss the playoffs this season.
The Detroit Pistons are an odd group of veterans.
Their roster is a mash-up of good players that haven't seemed to work together. The Pistons added Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon in the last few years, but neither has produced as they've expected them to.
Tracy McGrady has been formidable in his new role as a guard and Rodney Stuckey is still exceeding expectations in Detroit. However, the Pistons don't seem to work well as a team and many of their players are on the decline.
The Pistons need to unload some salaries and start looking further down the road.
The Charlotte Bobcats sent Gerald Wallace packing right before this year's trade deadline to Portland for Joel Przybilla and a first-round draft pick.
This may have been a good move for the Bobcats' future, but it hurts them this season. They have nothing to show for the trade this year, so they will slide down the Eastern Conference standings. They are left with Stephen Jackson's offensive skills and D.J. Augustin's play-making ability.
With Wallace, the Bobcats were a scary team to meet in the playoffs. Without Wallace, this team could be swept if they qualify for the postseason.
The biggest news in New Jersey these days is the acquisition of Deron Williams.
Williams is one of the best point guards in the league and will attract more talent to New Jersey in the coming years. However, the Nets had to give up a significant amount to add Williams.
Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and two first-round draft picks are a lot to shell out for one player. It looks as if the Nets are expecting to land another big name this summer.
For now, the Nets slide up into the top ten Eastern Conference teams, despite not quite being playoff-ready. They still need to add more to the team before the next step.
The Indiana Pacers currently hold the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.
However, starting shooting guard Mike Dunleavy has a broken thumb. With the injury, the Pacers lose their best shooter. To fill the void, ESPN's Chad Ford reported that the Pacers tried to add O.J. Mayo from the Memphis Grizzlies right on the deadline, but failed to do so in time.
Danny Granger has seen his scoring decline this year, but the team is more balanced because of it. The Pacers have some good wins this season, but are far from consistent. Mayo has also had troubles with inconsistency this season, but the Pacers were willing to take a risk on him.
The addition of Mayo could have made the Pacers a threat, but—as they are—they will not pose a challenge to the best in the East.
The Philadelphia 76ers remained still during the NBA trade deadline.
Although rumors circulated about Andre Iguodala being sent away, the Sixers decided to stay with their current roster. Behind improved play by Elton Brand and the steady work of Jrue Holiday, the Sixers have won seven of their last ten.
Iguodala has not become the superstar he was projected to become, but this has allowed the emergence of some young talent. Holiday, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young look good in Philadelphia and the Sixers are a playoff team.
The Sixers aren't a threat to win this year, but this team has a great setup for the future.
The Atlanta Hawks have been toward the top of the Eastern Conference since adding Joe Johnson to the roster.
This year, the disparity in the East has increased. The Hawks, looking to keep up with the trend, made a move for Kirk Hinrich. The point guard for Kansas is still fairly young and showed tremendous upside in Chicago, only leaving to make room for Derrick Rose.
The Hawks also got Hilton Armstrong in the aforementioned deal. Bibby was starting to show signs of slowing down on both sides of the ball. Hinrich gives Atlanta a better chance to win right now.
Although the Hawks improved their team, they won't be a serious factor in the East this year.
If you haven't heard, the New York Knicks added Carmelo Anthony.
In one of the biggest deadline deals in NBA history, the Knicks acquired Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups from the Denver Nuggets. The Knicks sent Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari and two first-round draft picks—among other things—to the Nuggets.
In Melo's debut, he scored 27 points in front of an energetic Madison Square Garden crowd. Billups also chipped in 21 of his own to lead the Knicks to victory.
New York hasn't been this pumped up about about basketball in a long time, but Knicks fans shouldn't get too stir-crazy. The Knicks could challenge a top team in the first couple rounds, but likely won't get past the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Dwight Howard is becoming more dominant with each passing day. The Magic center is living up to all the hype and playing like he's expected to.
So, why aren't the Magic in the title conversation?
The role players on this team are not getting the job done. Jason Richardson isn't scoring like he used to. Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu aren't making a strong impact either. The Magic have the players to get it done, they just aren't right now.
If this team doesn't sort things out soon, this season may pass by and Dwight Howard might leave as a free agent.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Bulls are a team that's playing great basketball.
Derrick Rose is a popular choice for MVP and Carlos Boozer has been a force inside. With Joakim Noah returning on Feb. 23, the Bulls look poised to make a run for the NBA Finals.
Rumor was that the Bulls were going to make a deal for a shooting guard before the deadline, but the Bulls weren't active. If a player like Taj Gibson or Kyle Korver gets hot in the playoffs, the Bulls can beat anybody.
Even if they don't, Derrick Rose will be a tough match-up for any Eastern Conference point guard. He's playing well enough to bring a title back to Chicago.
The Boston Celtics were extremely active on Feb. 24—but they should have remained how they were.
With Shaquille O'Neal visibly hobbled, the Celtics decided to deal Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. The Celtics also sent Nate Robinson in the same trade.
Perkins was the main defender on Dwight Howard in games against the Magic and gave the Celtics a size advantage against the Heat, Spurs and Lakers. With Green, they add scoring. They must be banking that Krstic can play quality minutes against the bigs around the leagues.
They also sent Marquis Daniels, Luke Harangody and Semih Erden packing.
Unless Rajon Rondo thinks he can guard Dwight Howard, the Celtics might have just made things harder on themselves. If they stayed put, they would have been the favorite to win the title.
The Miami Heat got all of the deal-making out of their system in the offseason.
The Heat kept their roster the same and avoided making any deadline deals, despite talk that Mike Miller was on the trade block. Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh have been much more comfortable playing with each other.
James Jones and Eddie House have proven their ability to knock down an open three if called upon. If Mario Chalmers and Zydrunas Ilgauskas understand their roles in the playoffs, its tough to find a team that will take down the Heat.
If the Heat's version of the "Big Three" play together and recognize who's hot and who's not, they will bring an NBA Championship to Miami in their first season together.