2017 NBA Power Rankings: Post-Trade Deadline Standings for All 30 Teams

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 24, 2017

2017 NBA Power Rankings: Post-Trade Deadline Standings for All 30 Teams

0 of 30

    Layne Murdoch Jr./Getty Images

    This week's NBA power rankings are going to be a little different.

    Instead of the usual week's worth of games to judge, we've got one night of competition and a whole mess of trades. That means we need to embrace speculation because we can't know for sure how all the additions and subtractions will affect the league hierarchy until we see them in practice.

    That's kind of exciting, though, right? And isn't that why everyone goes nuts for the trade deadline anyway? Because you get to employ some imagination? Because you can marvel at the idea of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins playing together (and then actually see it for the first time on Thursday)?

    In addition to transactions shaking things up, we'll have to gauge what certain teams' inaction signals about their plans for the rest of the year. If a club on the fringes of playoff contention stood pat, do we interpret that as concession or confidence?

    We won't get into the buyout options until next week, but we'll reference relevant rumors on that front where necessary.

    As always, the goal here is organizing all 30 teams into an order that reflects their current strength.

    A lot has changed this week, so let's get to it.

30. Brookyn Nets

1 of 30

    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    ←→ No Movement

    You've got to hand it to the Brooklyn Nets for making the best of a bad situation by replenishing their draft assets a piece at a time.

    By sending Bojan Bogdanovic to the Washington Wizards and taking back Andrew Nicholson's contract, Brooklyn added what should be a late first-rounder in the 2017 draft. The Nets also still have the Boston Celtics' first-rounder (and lose their own) via a swap.

    It's not out of the realm of possibility that Brooklyn could package those selections and move up in what many see as a deep draft.

    The Nets are still asset-poor, and none of this helps them climb out of the No. 30 spot. But, Jeremy Lin being cleared for a return to practice might, and the team immediately ahead of them could really commit to tanking under a new regime. Plus, more generally, we have to seize on the rare opportunities to praise this team whenever they arise.

29. Los Angeles Lakers

2 of 30

    Chris Marion/Getty Images

    ←→ No Movement

    After a massive All-Star break overhaul, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are in, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak are out. And the full, uncompromised rebuild is a "go."

    L.A.'s new regime sent Lou Williams to the Houston Rockets for Corey Brewer and a pick that'll fall somewhere near the end of the first round in 2017, and...

    All of the Lakers' focus now turns to preserving their own first-round pick in the 2017 draft, an asset they'll lose to the Philadelphia 76ers if it falls outside the top three. To be fair, Los Angeles was doing a fine job of piling up losses before the deadline. But removing its leading scorer is a clear signal this season isn't about competing.

    Neither will the next few.

    When he came aboard as an advisor at the beginning of February, Johnson told CBS This Morning (h/t the Los Angeles Times): "It's going to take three to five years to get them back rolling again."

    The Lakers probably already have more wins (19) than the Nets (nine) will finish with, so it's going to take some major blowout losses for them to fall any further in these rankings.

28. New York Knicks

3 of 30

    Elsa/Getty Images

    ←→ No Movement

    Carmelo Anthony is still a New York Knick, which isn't a shock considering his weeks-long refusal to waive that pesky no-trade clause.

    What's more surprising is that everyone else is still there, too.

    Nothing came of the Ricky Rubio-for-Derrick Rose chatter, probably because the Minnesota Timberwolves realized Rose is a a fringe starter who could walk away as an overpaid free agent this summer.

    So now New York will play out the string with the roster that got it here. Instead of selling off every veteran contract possible in hopes of adding picks, the Knicks will have to simply sit their best players down the stretch if they want to maximize draft position.

    "Hilarious that everyone talked about how they have to choose between going for it and tanking and they're just gonna do nothing," NBA analyst Jared Dubin tweeted.

    Or sad, depending on your feelings about schadenfreude.

27. Orlando Magic

4 of 30

    Jordan Johnson/Getty Images

    ←→ No Movement

    The Orlando Magic's move came last week with Serge Ibaka heading to the Toronto Raptors for Terrence Ross and a first-rounder. Since that big trade, the only notable exchange with Magic ties was the one between Aaron Gordon and a drone.

    Maybe it would have been nice to see Orlando try to move Nikola Vucevic for a pick, but one of the clearest signals this season's deadline transactions sent was that offense-only centers who don't stretch the floor are in historically low demand.

    So the Magic head into the season's final chunk hoping Gordon blossoms in more minutes at the 4, Ross proves worthy of major rotation minutes and a point guard worth playing falls from the sky somehow.

    For now, journeyman C.J. Watson has the starting gig, which is about as severe a condemnation of Elfrid Payton as possible.

    With this roster and this history of asset mismanagement, the Magic's biggest change will probably come in the form of a front-office overhaul during the offseason.

26. Sacramento Kings

5 of 30

    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    ↓ 3 Spots

    The Sacramento Kings have slipped, which seems only fair having just lost their best player.

    But just to get this on record here, don't be entirely shocked if they play better without DeMarcus Cousins.

    Anyone who saw them knock off the Boston Celtics on Feb. 8 could appreciate the superior defensive effort and ball movement, which perhaps wasn't coincidental with Boogie's suspension that night. It's possible that freed-up, egalitarian style (sometimes referred to as "team play") will become the norm now that Cousins is gone. Not necessarily probable—but possible.

    Note, too, that the Kings failed to move any of their other veterans via trade. Matt Barnes is gone via waiver, but Darren Collison, Arron Afflalo, Anthony Tolliver, Kosta Koufos and Ty Lawson are all still around. Those guys could keep Sacramento's floor higher than expected.

    Willie Cauley-Stein should see more court time, and the same goes for Ben McLemore. The Kings need to know if those two are rotation talents or not.

    Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway and Tyreke Evans join a backcourt rotation that will probably be thinned by a buyout or two.

    And if it seems like we haven't knocked the Kings down far enough without Cousins, don't forget how little incentive there is for Sacramento to tank. If the Kings' selection falls in the top 10, the Philadelphia 76ers own swap rights.

    This group, as always, is going to keep gunning for that eighth spot.

25. Phoenix Suns

6 of 30

    Michael Gonzales/Getty Images

    ↑ 1 Spot

    It says everything about Brandon Knight's cratering market value that the Phoenix Suns couldn't unload him for an expiring contract or even a second-rounder, per Sam Amick of USA Today.

    Remember, this is the guy Phoenix surrendered a first-rounder to get in the Great Point Guard Swap Meet of 2015.

    Jared Sullinger and two second-rounders won't make the Suns any better down the stretch than P.J. Tucker would have, and it's hard to see Mike Scottpurchased from the Atlanta Hawks—affecting much change.

    So, the Suns are still an odd mix of untested youth (Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss) and out-of-place vets (Eric Bledsoe, Jared Dudley and Tyson Chandler).

    Very little of significance has changed, and if the Kings surprise with some competitive play going forward, Phoenix could easily slip back into the bottom five.

24. Philadelphia 76ers

7 of 30

    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    ↓ 3 Spots

    Joel Embiid is now the longest-tenured member of the Philadelphia 76ers, which is a little difficult to digest. But with Nerlens Noel gone (more on that shortly), it's reality.

    Embiid hasn't played much lately, missing 11 of the last 12 before the break because of a knee contusion and partially torn meniscus. With a playoff berth increasingly unlikely and lottery position once again a priority, it's no surprise he may not be back until March 3.

    And while Embiid sitting out is no fun for viewers, at least the Sixers' turnover rate might stabilize.

    Chris Herring of FiveThirtyEight wrote: "The 7-footer has really been in a giving mood near the basket, where he's coughed the ball up on nearly 22 percent of his post-up looks, the highest turnover rate among NBA players with at least 100 plays, according to Synergy. And his turnover rate jumps up to a whopping 32 percent when teams aggressively send a second defender to double Embiid in the post."

    Philly is likely in for a downturn the rest of the way, which is fine considering its need for draft position.

23. Charlotte Hornets

8 of 30

    Brock Williams-Smith/Getty Images

    ↑ 2 Spots

    Viewed a certain way, the plummeting Charlotte Hornets' decision to do nothing (not counting the earlier acquisition of Miles Plumlee) at the deadline is admirable.

    This team, clearly dedicated to making the playoffs over the last few seasons, didn't make any ill-advised panic trades in hopes of salvaging a postseason trip. Instead, it'll lean on a still-excellent defense, an offense led by Kemba Walker and a low-mistake approach that had it looking like a top-four seed at one point.

    There's almost something honorable about sticking together during times like this. And rest assured, if Charlotte extricates itself from this tailspin (1-10) heading into the break, it'll be the mainstays who do it. Plumlee is set to miss at least a couple of weeks with a calf strain.

    If Cody Zeller gets right and the defense holds steady, the Hornets may not be finished.

    For now, though, we've got to keep Charlotte in the bottom 10 until this theoretical resurrection becomes real.

22. Portland Trail Blazers

9 of 30

    Cameron Browne/Getty Images

    ↑ 2 Spots

    The Portland Trail Blazers didn't follow up their acquisition of Jusuf Nurkic with another move, though it wasn't for lack of trying.

    Per ESPN's Marc Stein: "One league source told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne that the Portland Trail Blazers called to inquire about Drummond but quickly abandoned their interest when Detroit asked for Blazers guard C.J. McCollum in return. The Blazers, sources told Shelburne, regard McCollum as an untouchable."

    So, like the Hornets, Portland will have to rely on incumbents to turn this thing around.

    Damian Lillard seems cool with that, per Joe Freeman of The Oregonian"You've got two options: You can either run from it or ... man up," Lillard told Freeman, very much unconcerned with gender-neutral language. "I know, personally, I'm going to use this break and I'm going to go and relax and come back and I'm going to man up. Period. That's what has to happen."

    The Blazers are within easy striking distance of the West's No. 8 spot. Of the teams competing for it, they have the most recent experience in high-pressure situations.

    Rested and refocused after the break, the Blazers are still a threat.

21. Minnesota Timberwolves

10 of 30

    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    ↓ 3 Spots

    Not trading Rubio for Rose counts as a win, if only because it suggests there's a sufficient checks-and-balances system in place to keep coach-president Tom Thibodeau from bringing in the players he trusted back in Chicago.

    Also because Rose wouldn't have represented an upgrade at the position, and he would have hit free agency after the two-month rental.

    What this stasis does for Minnesota's outlook is hard to say, though it's clear the jumbled batch of competitors for the No. 8 seed out West haven't untangled themselves from one another yet.

    The Kings got worse, the Mavericks are better on paper but have more incentive to lose, the Pelicans improved, the Blazers are about to "man up" and the Nuggets look solid. All of those teams are within just a couple of games of one another in the standings. Which means, as ever, the race for eighth could go any number of ways.

    Since Jan. 1, Minnesota has posted a better net rating than Denver, Portland, New Orleans and Sacramento.

    If you're looking for reasons to buy a stretch-run surge for the Wolves, start there.

20. Dallas Mavericks

11 of 30

    Danny Bollinger/Getty Images

    ↓ 1 Spot

    It's long been best to assume you're getting the worst of any deal involving the Philadelphia 76ers—even when that doesn't appear to be the case at first.

    But Sam Hinkie's not in charge anymore, which means the Dallas Mavericks may have legitimately won the swap that netted them Nerlens Noel for Andrew Bogut, Justin Anderson and a protected 2017 first-rounder, as first reported by Wojnarowski.

    If Noel stays healthy, he profiles as an elite defensive center—one whose versatility and athleticism make him a great fit alongside Dirk Nowitzki in the shorter term and whose youth makes him a likely cornerstone for whenever Dallas fully undertakes a rebuild.

    Bogut had barely played for the Mavs this season, so it stands to reason that the 22-year-old Noel actually improves the team's current quality. However, don't bank on the Mavs making a sure push for the playoffs with their outgoing pick protected from 1-18, per Stein. That's an incentive to go the other way. The Deron Williams waiver, reported first by Stein and Tim McMahon of ESPN, makes that tack only more obvious.

    Dallas' long-term outlook is far rosier than it was before the deadline, and, if it wanted to, it could make some more noise this season. It just doesn't look like gunning for a postseason berth makes sense anymore, though.

19. Milwaukee Bucks

12 of 30

    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    ↑ 1 Spot

    Not much changed for the Milwaukee Bucks at the deadline, as their only move was redirecting Roy Hibbert to the Denver Nuggets a few weeks after getting him from the Hornets, per Wojnarowski.

    This salary dump also netted the Bucks a heavily protected second-round pick they'll likely never see.

    For the Bucks, the unofficial second half of the season is about capitalizing on opportunity.

    None of the three teams immediately ahead of them in the playoff race got better over the week off, and two—the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons—showed signs of fracturing.

    If the Bucks, who still have a positive net rating (something the Hawks, Pacers, Bulls and Pistons can't say), can build on the three-game winning streak they took into the All-Star break, they could climb as high as No. 6 in the East.

18. Chicago Bulls

13 of 30

    Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

    ↓ 1 Spot

    You can make the case that Cameron Paynewhom the Chicago Bulls acquired along with Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow from the Oklahoma City Thundermight one day become a viable starting point guard on a good team.

    But that vision's a long way off, and it's difficult to see how the Bulls got better in the short term with that trio of players replacing Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott (plus a 2018 second-round pick), which is what it took to add Payne, per Shams Charania of The Vertical.

    According to Micah Adams of ESPN Stats & Info, the Bulls now have three of the league's bottom-five PER producers (among those logging at least 300 minutes). Payne joins Paul Zipser and Denzel Valentine in that ignominious group.

    Maybe Morrow helps space the floor as well as McDermott did, and maybe Lauvergne adds a new offensive dimension, but you're really stretching if you see meaningful improvement here.

17. Detroit Pistons

14 of 30

    Chris Schwegler/Getty Images

    ↓ 1 Spot

    Remember those fractures we talked about in the Bucks slide?

    The Pistons at least considered moving both Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond, according to ESPN's Zach Lowe. And Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's name came up as another player Detroit took calls on, per Stein.

    That the Pistons would consider moving any of their three best players says something about the team's current standing in the East. As evidenced by their tenuous hold on the eighth spot, these guys aren't in a position to ignore possible avenues for improvement.

    But while it's refreshing to hear president and head coach Stan Van Gundy speak so honestly about how teams discuss moves involving virtually every player, it might not be a great thing to advertise those sentiments.

    Morale can only take so much.

    Watch for friction among the Pistons now that so many of their players saw their names come up in rumors and leaks...only to wind up staying put.

16. New Orleans Pelicans

15 of 30

    Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

    ↑ 6 Spots

    Price in all the risks you want.

    Cousins might leave as a free agent in 2018. He might spend every couple of games suspended. He might never stop poisoning his team with terrible body language and inconsistent effort.

    Even with all that in the equation, this was still a no-brainer for a Pelicans team that doesn't attract superstars via free agency and, outside of Davis, hasn't done very well in the draft either.

    Better still, the areas New Orleans must improve happen to be specialties of Boogie's. The Pelicans rank in or near the bottom five in offensive efficiency, rebound rate and free-throw rate. Last I checked, Cousins can score, rebound and draw fouls better than most.

    He definitely got his numbers during his Thursday debut, totaling 27 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, five steals and four blocks in a 129-99 blowout loss to the Rockets.

    If Cousins keeps his head and doesn't sabotage a very good defense with his customary transition malaise, he could make a major difference.

    All that said, the Pelicans remain an unknown quantity. This isn't fantasy basketball, and as safe as it seems to assume New Orleans is the favorite for that eighth spot in the West, we'll need to see a few games before buying in completely.

15. Indiana Pacers

16 of 30

    Ron Hoskins/Getty Images

    ↓ 1 Spot

    USA Today's Sam Amick offered us this before deadline day: "(Paul) George will be a free agent in the summer of 2018, and it's no secret that the 26-year-old Palmdale, Calif. native would love nothing more than to sign with his hometown Lakers if the future is bleak in Indiana."

    But it took him repeating that same sentiment with the catchier descriptor "hell-bent" for the anxious, trade-hungry masses to get excited.

    The Pacers didn't find George any title-contending help, which might mean Indy fans should drink in this relatively successful era while they can. If supporting talent isn't incoming via the draft or free agency, the Pacers will almost certainly have to trade George over the summer or early next year.

    The alternative is losing him for nothing, and leverage is dwindling by the day.

    More immediately, Indiana sits at sixth in the East and hit the break on a six-game slide. Combined with the potential for George to sour on a situation he already seems committed to ditching, it's tough to be optimistic about the Pacers right now.

14. Denver Nuggets

17 of 30

    Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

    ↑ 1 Spot

    It's fun to buy the Denver Nuggets as the No. 8 seed in the West because they have Nikola Jokic leading one of the league's best offenses. But it's also a little scary.

    That's mainly because Denver's defense is the NBA's worst, and it has actually been even less effective since Feb. 1 than it has overall. And no, Roy Hibbert will not help.

    "We can't pick our spots," head coach Mike Malone said of the Nuggets defense, per Nick Kosmider of the Denver Post. "We can't pick our quarters or our games. It has to be a lot more consistent. If we do that, we give ourselves a chance."

    The Nuggets absolutely have to be an elite scoring force to offset that atrocious defense. The slightest decline reduces an already slim margin for error.

    Which brings us to this comment from Jokic, who was asked if he got a chance to relax over the break, via Chris Dempsey of Altitude Sports: "No. I'm really tired. My body is tired. I'm trying to get as much rest as I can. Use all of the trainers to help me. But nobody is going to feel bad for me. I'm going to go out there and play."

    Jokic has been fantastic, but if he starts dragging at all, the Nuggets are in trouble.

13. Miami Heat

18 of 30

    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    ←→ No Movement

    Let's allow Miami Heat president Pat Riley to lay it out, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

    I'm glad we didn't do anything stupid. We weren't a buyer or seller. We said at the beginning of the year that we have a team that we like with a group of young players and wanted to see who would really emerge. I want to see how they will operate with real pressure. If making the playoffs is important, then there will be games that will have some pressure.

    Miami held firm at the deadline, and though Riley denied the team's 13-game winning streak affected his stance on trades, it's hard to believe the Heat would have been so absent from the rumor mill if they hadn't gone on such a run.

    Josh Richardson is cleared to return against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday, and if he can squeeze his way back into a crowded guard rotation, he'll add shooting and perimeter defense.

    The Heat have come this far, and their inaction suggests they're willing to ride out this unexpected season to its conclusion. They deserve to stick at last week's position.

12. Atlanta Hawks

19 of 30

    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    ←→ No Movement

    Someday, the truth will come out and we'll learn the real reason Ersan Ilyasova was traded five times in a year-and-a-half.

    Maybe he has unbearable foot odor. Maybe he's a hoarder. Maybe he's one of those people who says "supposably" instead of "supposedly." Until we get the truth, all we can do is note how he should help his new team, the Atlanta Hawks.

    Ilyasova comes to the Hawks from the Sixers for Tiago Splitter and a second-round pick, according to Wojnarowski, and he should see minutes behind Paul Millsap at the 4.

    A 35.5 percent shooter from deep this season, Ilyasova can stretch the floor on offense. On D, he'll take more charges than anyone else on Atlanta's roster for the rest of the season.

    You can mark that down in ink.

11. Memphis Grizzlies

20 of 30

    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    ↓ 2 Spots

    Sometimes, standing still is the same thing as moving backward.

    The Memphis Grizzlies should expect bigger contributions from Brandan Wright and Chandler Parsons from here on, but that's not enough to compete with some of the acquisitions made by their peers.

    Neither is locking up former 10-day signee Toney Douglas for the balance of the season.

    Still, there's something to be said for continuity, and Memphis, roster unchanged, has that.

    "It's about whether we can get home court and how connected can we be," head coach David Fizdale told reporters about the Grizzlies' stretch-run plans. "They understand that we have a veteran group. I just told them let's always give ourselves a chance to win the game."

    Memphis is in fine shape, and if Wright builds on the 17-point outing he had during his second-to-last game before the break, things could look even better. It's just that the bigger splashes made by others necessitate some shuffling, and the Grizzlies have to slide for now.

10. Oklahoma City Thunder

21 of 30

    Noah Graham/Getty Images

    ←→ No Movement

    The Oklahoma City Thunder brought in Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to add frontcourt toughness/defense and shooting, respectively. And all it cost them was Joffrey Lauvergne, Anthony Morrow, Cameron Payne and a second-rounder.

    This is a significant improvement.

    But wait a minute. Wasn't rookie Domantas Sabonis one of OKC's only floor-spacers up front? Didn't he get off to a promising start? And won't that spacing suffer with his role minimized behind Gibson?

    "One of many reasons this trade went down: Sabonis is shooting 35 percent from the field and 14 percent from 3 since Christmas," Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript tweeted.

    Oh. Good move, then.

    Even better, Enes Kanter will be ready to play Friday after missing time with a fractured forearm, per David Aldridge of NBA.com.

    This is unfair, but the team directly ahead of the Thunder took even bigger swings. And everyone else filling out the top 10 is so demonstrably better in terms of record and net rating that there's no statistical case for OKC moving up. The Thunder got better, but their failure to improve their ranking illustrates the gap between them and the next tier of teams. There's just no place to put them.

9. Toronto Raptors

22 of 30

    Michael Gonzales/Getty Images

    ↑ 2 Spots

    Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker make the Toronto Raptors a much more dangerous team, and that's why—pre-break mediocrity aside—they get a significant bounce.

    Toronto can now slot Ibaka in as a small-ball center and assure solid rim defense with a well-spaced offensive attack. Depending on matchups, the Raps can either assure full-time basket protection with Bebe Nogueira playing all the backup 5 minutes, or lean on Jonas Valanciunas' offense.

    Tucker can hit an open three and, in theory, gives Toronto a rugged option to throw at LeBron James when DeMarre Carroll inevitably fails to slow him down.

    Basically, the Raptors have options now. And even if we should still be concerned about the stagnant offense and overreliance on Kyle Lowry that contributed to their recent stumble, this is a club that geared up for a postseason run better than anyone else.

8. Utah Jazz

23 of 30

    Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

    ↓ 1 Spot

    The Utah Jazz hung tight at the trade deadline, but the story of their season (and the last few) has always been getting their own players on the floor.

    Head coach Quin Snyder is excited about seeing what his backcourt rotation looks like with Rodney Hood, Dante Exum and Alec Burks all healthy, per Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake Tribune.

    Derrick Favors (another injury-hit Utah player) also expressed optimism about Hood's return from the knee injury that has sidelined him for all of February: "We miss his scoring punch, being able to spread the floor and shoot the 3-point shot. We miss him a lot. When Hoodie gets back, we're going to be happy to have him."

    Hood is still day-to-day, but he practiced Wednesday. Call it a step in the right direction.

    Utah comes out of the break 13 games above .500 and boasting the fourth-best net rating in the NBA.

7. Los Angeles Clippers

24 of 30

    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    ↑ 1 Spot

    When your top tradeable assets are Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford, you're not going to do much wheeling and dealing.

    Even though the Los Angeles Clippers stood pat at the trade deadline, they still head into the second half with a major acquisition: the knowledge that Chris Paul is nearing a return.

    "He looked great. He went through the whole practice [on Tuesday]," Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said, via Andrew Han of ESPN.com. "You know, so it was good. Really good. He could play tomorrow. I mean, I can't tell you if he will or not, but he's been cleared medically."

    Paul didn't play Thursday against the Golden State Warriors, but his imminent comeback lifts L.A. a spot.

6. Boston Celtics

25 of 30

    Brian Babineau/Getty Images

    ↓ 2 Spots

    The Boston Celtics' draft assets are pure gold, and holding on to them has always seemed defensible to me.

    Cost-controlling a top-of-the-lottery rookie, even with all the performance uncertainty that comes with young players, is in many ways more valuable than whatever star trading that pick might return. Especially with the new CBA making it easier to keep those kinds of draftees.

    Still, Boston's refusal to dip into its war chest for Jimmy Butler, Paul George or whichever other rumored target was available means it risked falling behind teams that were more aggressive in the short term.

    Now, if Avery Bradley could ever get healthy and the Celtics continue to jell around Al Horford, it may turn out that none of this matters. There's every chance Boston will wind up being the East's second-best team at season's end anyway.

    They had a chance to get better this year, though, and they didn't take it.

5. Houston Rockets

26 of 30

    Bill Baptist/Getty Images

    ↑ 1 Spot

    Maybe you don't think Lou Williams moves the needle. Maybe his defense makes him unplayable in a postseason series against elite competition.

    And maybe swapping Tyler Ennis for Marcelo Huertas means nothing for the Houston Rockets' ultimate ceiling.

    But Houston added pieces that should help it improve during the regular season, and it did so at a key position. Both Williams and Huertas are primary ball-handlers who can generate their own shots or capably run an offense to set up others, and that's a big deal for a team that needed someone else to fill that role besides James Harden.

    If all this does is afford Harden an extra minute or two of rest per game, it's worth it. And if Williams, now in a perfect situation, winds up maximizing his chances in Mike D'Antoni's offense, we could see Houston challenge the Warriors' top points-per-possession figure.

    If the Rockets also add Andrew Bogut, whom Stein says they're targeting in the buyout market, their rim-defense issues suddenly have a solution as well.

4. Washington Wizards

27 of 30

    Ned Dishman/Getty Images

    ↓ 1 Spot

    The Washington Wizards needed bench help, and they got it in the form of Bojan Bogdanovic.

    Whether he's enough to make a meaningful difference remains to be seen.

    Per Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com: "Despite being a pretty efficient scorer as well (his .572 true shooting percentage is solidly better than league average), Bogdanovic still rates worse than replacement level by both ESPN's real plus-minus and Basketball-Reference.com's box plus-minus metrics because of his lack of measurable defensive contributions. Bogdanovic averages just 0.6 steals per 36 minutes and has blocked three shots all season."

    Not especially encouraging.

    But for a Wizards team whose bench is getting outscored by 5.8 points per 100 possessionsthe third-worst differential in the leaguehe can't hurt.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers

28 of 30

    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    ↑ 2 Spots

    This is admittedly the most speculative slide of the week, but there's not a lot of downside for us here. If the Cleveland Cavaliers' expected buyout-market additions don't wind up signing, all we've done is mistakenly elevated the Cavs to the No. 3 spot.

    And it's not like they're out of place there.

    But if Cleveland adds Deron Williams (most likely of the three, according to John Krawczynski of the Associated Press), Andrew Bogut or Terrence Joneswhen they clear waivers on Saturdaypreemptively bumping it up a couple of spots will have been prudent.

    The Cavs also chatted with Larry Sanders, and we shouldn't rule out any number of other free-agent options that could fortify the roster. The point is: Cleveland is going to add talent.

    Williams would be a terrific get. Put aside the disappointment tied to his long-gone All-Star status, and you've still got a point guard with plus size who also happens to lead the NBA in points created via the pass in pick-and-roll sets, per Synergy.

    I'd say that qualifies him as a playmaker.

2. San Antonio Spurs

29 of 30

    Fernando Medina/Getty Images

    ←→ No Movement

    You could get extra nit-picky and isolate a couple of tiny holes the Spurs might have filled at the trade deadline—maybe another wing defender who reliably hits threes or a stretch 4 in case Davis Bertans isn't ready for postseason minutes.

    But how critical can you really get with a team like this?

    The Spurs hit the break with a 6-2 mark in eight February games, and only two players on the roster—Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge—are averaging more than 27 minutes per game.

    "I think we're doing good right now," Leonard said, per Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express News, tapping into his typical effusiveness. "It's all about team chemistry. You've always got to figure out the best way for you and your team, but I think we're doing a good job right now."

    A 43-13 record and a plus-9.0 net rating counts as good around here. So Leonard's got it about right.

1. Golden State Warriors

30 of 30

    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    ←→ No Movement

    It was tempting to drop the Warriors a spot after Giannis Antetokounmpo turned in the highlight of All-Star Weekend by tip-dunking the living daylights out of Stephen Curry, but the two-time MVP handled it well, stopping to consult the replay himself before running back on defense.

    There's really not much you can do to save face in a situation like that, so we've decided not to penalize Golden State for the extreme posterization of its point guard.

    The Warriors, predictably, did nothing at the deadline. Their roster, which has produced the top record and net rating in the league to this point, is pretty much the best operating NBA embodiment of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

    David West and Zaza Pachulia should return to the rotation soon, as both practiced and played in full five-on-five scrimmages Wednesday, per Ron Kroichick of the San Francisco Chronicle. The NBA's best team is nearing full health for the stretch run.

    Golden State remains affixed at No. 1.

         

    Follow Grant on Facebook.

    Stats courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated and are accurate through games played through Thursday, Feb. 23.

slash iconYour sports. Delivered.

Enjoy our content? Join our newsletter to get the latest in sports news delivered straight to your inbox!