NBA Power Rankings: Where Every Team Stands Post-Trade Deadline

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 8, 2019

NBA Power Rankings: Where Every Team Stands Post-Trade Deadline

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    The dust has settled on the NBA trade deadline, and our latest edition of NBA Power Rankings reflects the upheaval felt across the league.

    Three of the East's best four teams got significantly better, while the fourth, the Boston Celtics, got a positive result of their own: Anthony Davis didn't end up with the Los Angeles Lakers.  

    These rankings consider record, advanced metrics, health and recent play, but this week's edition will also include a focus on how deadline moves altered teams' potency.

    Remember, we're measuring current strength—not how the acquisition of several draft picks might improve an organization's five-year outlook. The clubs that bettered themselves in the short term will get boosts, while those prioritizing the future by surrendering talent may lose ground.

    Buyers bought, sellers sold and the division between teams that care about winning games this year and those that don't got a whole lot clearer.

30-26

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    Last week's ranking in parentheses.

           

    30. Cleveland Cavaliers (28)

    The Cavaliers got Brandon Knight, Marquese Chriss and a lottery-protected 2019 first-rounder from the Rockets in exchange for sending out Alec Burks in a three-team deal. Rodney Hood is also gone, dealt to the Blazers earlier this week.

    Not that those two outgoing guards were major difference-makers, but it feels like the Cavs got a little worse overall. That's fine; they're piling up picks as part of a sensible rebuild and should have little problem retaining the NBA's worst net rating through April.

            

    29. New York Knicks (30)

    Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke are gone, replaced by DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews, Dennis Smith Jr. and a pair of first-round picks from the Dallas Mavericks.

    In theory, the move improved New York for the rest of the season by adding three new starters for one old one in Hardaway. But with draft position still the priority, the 10-43 Knicks seem unlikely to leverage their new talent in an effort to win games.

    Unsurprisingly, the Knicks waived Wesley Matthews and Enes Kanter.

            

    28. Phoenix Suns (27)

    Deandre Ayton is back after six games off nursing a sprained ankle, but Devin Booker's hamstring is flaring up again. Sometimes, you just can't win.

    The Suns acquired Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington (whom they promptly waived) from Miami for Ryan Anderson. Johnson can help as a combo guard, and he'll play hard whenever healthy. Unfortunately, he won't do nearly enough to improve a Suns team that has lost a dozen straight.

           

    27. Chicago Bulls (29)

    Chicago traded Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker for Otto Porter Jr. The move might marginally improve the Bulls this season, but it's hard to justify spending max-level money on a player like Porter, who'd been little more than a quality third banana on a middling Wizards team.

    Losing Portis in free agency and not picking up Parker's option next year might have been a better outcome than committing major money to Porter.

    Please also remember Robin Lopez is never not the absolute best. That he has to toil for a franchise this lame is proof there's no benevolent basketball God. His buyout can't come soon enough.

           

    26. Memphis Grizzlies (26)

    Marc Gasol, beloved Grizzlies icon and centerpiece of the franchise's most successful era, is gone—traded to the Raptors for Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, CJ Miles and a 2024 second-rounder.

    There's a case to be made that Valanciunas, who's just now returning from a thumb injury after two months off, is roughly as good as Gasol. But he's not the same focal point on both ends, and more than that, his arrival is part of a larger reset that also resulted in JaMychal Green and Garrett Temple, two valuable rotation players, heading to the Clippers for Avery Bradley, per Wojnarowski. 

    The Grizzlies sent Gasol off with their first multi-win week since December. For Mike Conley's sake, here's hoping the rest of the season features a few more successful stretches.

25-21

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    25. Orlando Magic (25)

    Jonathan Isaac has looked better lately, and Markelle Fultz is a perfect "why not?" flier at the deadline. Orlando's future just got a lot more interesting. Its present still stinks, of course, as Mo Bamba is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his left tibia.

    The Magic went 2-1 this week.

           

    24. New Orleans Pelicans (24)

    The Pels didn't trade Anthony Davis, and he's committed to playing out the string—even if New Orleans is obviously preparing for his departure. Nikola Mirotic would still be on the roster if that weren't true. And, in this age of misinformation and agent-fueled posturing, we should wait to see if Davis actually does play before believing anything.

    Nobody—not AD, not the Pelicans, not any team looking to acquire him—benefits by Davis playing once his finger injury is healed. 

    Markieff Morris, acquired from Washington, won't help. New Orleans is waiving him. Finally, it was surprising to see the Pels fail to get a first-rounder for sending Mirotic to the Bucks, but at least they'll get a chance to see if Stanley Johnson is salvageable.

           

    23. Detroit Pistons (23)

    It's been a busy week for the Pistons, who blew a 25-point lead in Saturday's 111-101 loss to the Clippers before thrashing the Nuggets by 26 on Monday. An easy 105-92 win over the recently reconstructed Knicks produced a 2-1 mark but, apparently, not enough confidence in the current roster to go forward without some tweaks.

    Detroit dealt Reggie Bullock to Lakers for Svi Mykhailiuk and a 2021 second-round pick. Then it added Thon Maker in a three-team swap. The moves depleted the Pistons' wing rotation and cost them their most reliable three-point shooter, but Maker and Mykhailiuk are intriguing prospects, and Bullock may have been too pricey to keep in free agency. Plus, the Pistons recouped a second-rounder, which may not sound like much until you remember they'd traded away all of their seconds between 2020 and 2023 in previous deals.

    On balance, Detroit is worse than it was before the deadline. That's not ideal for a team that is only 1.5 games back of the Heat for the eighth spot in the East.

            

    22. Atlanta Hawks (22)

    Believe it or not, Atlanta is closer to a playoff spot than it is to finishing with the league's worst record. That cannot have been the plan, but it's nonetheless encouraging that John Collins, Trae Young and Kevin Huerter are already capable of contributing to a respectable team.

    You're not alone in being shocked that Kent Bazemore, Dewayne Dedmon and Jeremy Lin all stayed in Atlanta through the deadline, but those three (if not bought out) will help the Hawks continue to hover around this level of the rankings.

       

    21. Dallas Mavericks (20)

    The idea of Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic teaming up for the next several years (or 20, if you're as optimistic as Mark Cuban, which you aren't) is a whole lot of fun, but the Mavericks lost three starters (and two first-rounders) in the deal that brought KP over from the Knicks.

    Then the Mavs gave up a fourth in Harrison Barnes, who was sent to the Kings in a cap-clearing move that'll lower their 2019-20 obligations by just under $22 million (assuming Barnes would have opted in to the last year of his deal).

    Dallas is markedly worse today than it was before all the dealing, but with a new star tandem and expanded cap space, the future is exciting.

20-16

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    20. Washington Wizards (15)

    The Wizards as we know them are finished. John Wall could miss most or all of next season following surgery to repair his Achilles tear, and Otto Porter Jr. is a member of the Bulls now. All Washington got for him was 2019-20 cap relief (Parker) and a restricted free agent (Portis).

    The deal was a reversal on owner Ted Leonsis' assertion the Wizards wouldn't trade Wall, Bradley Beal or Porter, but more importantly, it was a concession that this season and the Wizards as previously composed were lost. The way forward will stink, and Wall's overwhelming amount of dead salary (at least as far as next year's concerned, but probably longer) complicates any rebuilding effort.

    But at least the Wiz, who also sent Morris and a second-rounder to New Orleans to squeak under the luxury tax, are embracing realty.

           

    19. Miami Heat (19)

    Miami lost three straight before Hassan Whiteside's 28-point, 11-rebound night led to a 118-108 road win in Portland on Tuesday.

    "We heard his voice tonight talking to us on both ends of the floor, talking to us in the huddle. He was engaged," Dwyane Wade told reporters. "His presence was known and when he plays that way, when he is that active, we are a good team."

    If the moody, inconsistently engaged center dials in like this more often, the Heat's chances of retaining their playoff spot get a whole lot better—even with Ryan Anderson, who's done nothing this year, replacing Johnson and Ellington.

                  

    18. LA Clippers (14)

    The Clippers hauled in Landry Shamet, Mike Muscala, Wilson Chandler, Philly's protected 2020 first-rounder and Miami's unprotected 2021 first-rounder (jackpot!) for Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott.

    Harris had been L.A.'s most productive player this season, one of seven guys in the whole league with a scoring average above 20 points per game and an effective field-goal percentage of at least 56 percent, even if his on-off impact paled in comparison to Lou Williams'.

    Removing Harris from the rotation makes it far less likely the Clips will stick in the playoff picture, which has the added benefit of helping them retain their own lottery-protected 2019 first-rounder, which Boston would get in the now less likely event L.A. finishes in the West's top eight.

    The Clippers also landed Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green for Avery Bradley, and waived Marcin Gortat and Milos Teodosic. Ivica Zubac is another slick future-focused addition.

    L.A. took a few steps back but is now poised to leap forward with loads of picks, reasonably priced talent and cap space.

            

    17. Minnesota Timberwolves (16)

    The Wolves were one of the few teams that didn't get in on the deadline action, so I guess that means we have to talk about how they've lost five of their last six and look a whole lot less likely than the improved Kings and Lakers to overtake the Clips for that final playoff spot in the West.

    Oh well. At least Karl-Anthony Towns is now fourth on Minnesota's all-time list for made threes. So what if we had to get obscure to find a bright spot for the Wolves?

           

    16. Los Angeles Lakers (21)

    The Lakers didn't land Anthony Davis, but they got LeBron James back, and deals that returned Reggie Bullock and Mike Muscala improved the team's perimeter shooting. Will that matter if morale crumbles and the specter of a Davis trade this summer continues to distract the team's entire young core, like it did in a 42-point loss to Indiana this week?

    Sure, the vibes are better after Rajon Rondo's game-winner against the Celtics on Thursday, but what of Luke Walton's increasingly toasty seat?

    What if Carmelo Anthony comes aboard after being waived and undoes the marginal good L.A. did at the deadline?

    Only Klutch Sports and LeBron James can say.

    Lastly, the Muscala trade feels like a dramatic undervaluation of Ivica Zubac's potential. Dude was averaging 19.6 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per 36 minutes as a 21-year-old. Score that one for the Clippers.

15-11

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    15. Charlotte Hornets (18)

    No Marc Gasol. No salary dumps. No small-time swaps for second-round picks. Nothing.

    The Hornets will have to work the buyout market and continue to rely on Kemba Walker (who averaged 30.5 points in a 2-2 week) as they cling to their playoff hopes over the season's final 28 games.

    Charlotte moves up entirely because a handful of teams ahead of it made the wise move to look toward the future. Meanwhile, the Hornets are still jogging away on the mediocrity treadmill with no thought of dismounting.

           

    14. Brooklyn Nets (12)

    Brooklyn's offense went missing early this week, producing 89 points in a loss to the Magic, followed by 94 in another defeat against Milwaukee. Shabazz Napier, who has filled in admirably as a backup point guard with Spencer Dinwiddie out, was 0-of-10 from deep in that ugly Bucks loss.

    Without Dinwiddie, the Nets don't have a ball-handler to punish switches. That's part of the reason they're 2-4 over their last six games, though D'Angelo Russell's stat-stuffing has continued. He put up 27 points and 11 assists in Wednesday's skid-halting 135-130 home win against Denver.

    With no moves of consequence at the deadline, Brooklyn, a loser in three of its last four games, will have to view Caris LeVert's return on Friday as its big acquisition.

           

    13. Sacramento Kings (17)

    The Kings pulled off three separate trades that netted Harrison Barnes, Alec Burks, Caleb Swanigan and a 2020 second-rounder for Iman Shumpert, Zach Randolph, Justin Jackson and Skal Labissiere.

    They're now a much better team than they were before the deadline, particularly on the wing, where Barnes' size and 38.9 percent shooting from deep add a new dimension to the starting five.

    Marvin Bagley III's corkscrewing alley-oop finish was the highlight of Monday's impressive 127-112 win over the Spurs. He posted 24 points and 12 boards in that one, and Sacramento is 9-5 since he returned from injury.

    Earlier this week, Buddy Hield fired off 34 points to lead the charge in Saturday's 115-108 win over the Sixers.

    With 28 wins already, the Kings have surpassed last season's total. This is a team on the rise. 

            

    12. Indiana Pacers (13)

    Maybe the Pacers aren't cooked after all.

    Winners of four straightIndy has shaken off the four-game losing streak that immediately followed the loss of Victor Oladipo for the season. Bojan Bogdanovic has picked up most of the scoring slack, posting 31 points to beat Miami on Saturday and 24 more in Tuesday's 42-point demolition of a checked-out Lakers squad.

    The Pacers figure to add Wesley Matthews on the buyout market, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, and they also got a second-rounder for taking on (and then waiving) Nik Stauskas and Wade Baldwin IV. 

    The rest of Indiana's February schedule is a cakewalk, with just three of its eight games coming on the road and only one date against a powerhouse: Milwaukee on Feb. 13. Run up some wins in that stretch, and the Pacers could at least make the Sixers and Celtics sweat it out for a top-four spot in the East standings.

                   

    11. San Antonio Spurs (11)

    DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge both sat out (rest) Wednesday's loss to the Warriors, a wise precaution with San Antonio now in the midst of its annual rodeo road trip. The Spurs will play eight games away from home in all, not returning to the AT&T Center until Feb. 27 against Detroit.

    Derrick White could be out until after the All-Star break with plantar fasciitis, according to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express News, which puts a major strain on an already thin backcourt. The Spurs will have to continue to shoot the lights out, which seems possible considering they rank first in field-goal percentage from three-point range, first from mid-range and second at the rim since Dec. 1.

10. Portland Trail Blazers

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    Last Week: 10

    It seems fair to blame the rust of a five-day layoff for Tuesday's 118-108 home loss against Miami. If that doesn't do it, the Portland Trail Blazers could use their 132-105 thrashing of the Jazz on Jan. 30—the last game before that long hiatus—as an excuse. Classic recipe for a letdown, right?

    Rodney Hood, he of career-long moderate volume and substandard efficiency (he's been below the league average in effective field-goal percentage every year of his career), is aboard to juice Portland's bench units when Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum sit. While Hood's done little to suggest he can be an offensive focal point, he'll at least add shot-making to a second unit that needs it.

    That said, it's hard to argue Hood is a better solution than simply giving Jake Layman more minutes. Layman has been more efficient than Hood all year, and he's been wildly productive since getting regular rotation minutes last month.

    The Blazers also swapped Caleb Swanigan for Skal Labissiere in a non-needle-moving exchange of prospects.

9. Utah Jazz

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    Last Week: 9

    Wins over Atlanta and Phoenix underwhelm when sandwiched around an ugly 125-98 loss to the Rockets, and to top off a mildly disappointing week, the Utah Jazz didn't make a move at the deadline.

    Barring buyout action, Utah will hit the season's stretch run with the same roster that produced its 31-24 mark and No. 9 net rating.

    It's possible Ricky Rubio and Derrick Favors will perform better with trade chatter silenced, but Rubio's production hasn't been all that far off from last year's, and Favors has actually shot better and upped his rebound rate from a season ago. So if there's going to be any organic growth in Utah, it'll have to come from Donovan Mitchell or perhaps a late-season surge from Dante Exum.

    Most likely, the Jazz will be about as good as they've been to this point, which is still fine. They're a deserving top-10 outfit. It just would have been nice to see Mike Conley on this roster.

8. Houston Rockets

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    Last Week: 8

    James Harden's 30-point-game streak is at 28 and counting. If the length of this run has the effect of numbing you to his historical offensive greatness, try a new stat on for size: In Houston's 125-98 blowout win at Utah on Saturday, Harden was one block away from a 40-point, five-by-five stat line, which has never happened before. 

    Every couple of days, we need to collectively stop and appreciate what Harden's doing. If you're desensitized to a performance like this, I mean...do you even feel, bro?

    Houston acquired Nik Stauskas, Iman Shumpert and Wade Baldwin IV in a three-team swap involving the Cavs and Kings. Brandon Knight and Houston's 2019 first-rounder are now gone, as is James Ennis III, dealt to the Sixers for a second-round pick swap in 2021 and the resulting tax relief. The Rockets then flipped Stauskas and Baldwin to the Pacers to get all the way under the tax line, and they also have $3.3 million of their mid-level exception left to spend on a buyout candidate. 

    Chances are, more help will be on the way soon.

    Houston went 3-1 this week.

7. Denver Nuggets

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    Last Week: 6

    Nikola Jokic was named the West's Player of the Week for the third time this year, and his triple-double helped Denver barely hold on to beat Minnesota by a point Saturday. He had another, his 10th this season, in Wednesday's dispiriting 135-130 loss to Brooklyn. Throw in a ghastly 26-point loss to the Pistons earlier this week (in which three starters were out with injury, but still...), and it's starting to feel like cracks are showing in the Nuggets' facade.

    Malik Beasley, though, has been amazing with Gary Harris (right adductor) and Jamal Murray (sprained ankle) on the sideline. The 35 points he scored against Houston marked his best performance this year, but it wasn't an isolated incident. His season has been one long breakout.

    "I definitely think this is a statement performance to show the world who I am," he told ESPN's Tim MacMahon after his 35-point night. "I'm not just out there on the bench. I’m not just on this team with a lot of great players. I am a player."

    The Nugs were a sketchy 2-2 this week, and defense continues to be a weak point. They rank 24th on that end since Jan. 1.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Last Week: 7

    We are witnessing Paul George's absolute peak. He's scored at least 30 points in eight of his last 10 outings, leads the league with 2.3 steals per game and has unequivocally been the Oklahoma City Thunder's best player all year.

    His 10 threes against Miami on Friday set a franchise record, and his 43 points in that 118-102 win gave him four 40-plus scoring nights this year. He only had eight in his previous eight seasons combined.

    The Thunder (3-1 this week) have won nine of their last 10 games.

    OKC stood pat at the deadline but has two open roster spots it could fill on the buyout market.

5. Philadelphia 76ers

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    Last Week: 4

    It cost the Philadelphia 76ers a mint to get Tobias Harris, but the short-term benefits could be huge. His 43.4 percent shooting from deep makes him an ideal fit in Philadelphia's new starting five, and his deficiencies on defense won't matter as much with Jimmy Butler and Ben Simmons wrangling their opponents' most threatening scorers.

    Harris' arrival stripped the roster of what little depth it had, though Mike Scott and Boban Marjanovic will both likely see matchup-dependent minutes. James Ennis III, acquired from Houston for a second-round pick swap in 2021, made 36.7 percent of his treys as a Rocket. He can help, too.

    In the Harris trade, Philly sacrificed two first-rounders, promising rookie Landry Shamet and salary filler, all for a soon-to-be free agent who may command a max salary but won't be worth it. There's no getting around it: This is an all-in, win-now move (unless it was also a hedge against Butler leaving in free agency, which wouldn't be the worst idea for the Sixers).

    Finally, Jonathon Simmons, acquired from Orlando with a first- and second-round pick for Markelle Fultz, is an upgrade over a guy who may not return to play this season. This is a rough return for a top overall pick, but Fultz's situation became unique, and his future prospects are cloudy.

    In non-trade news, the Sixers went 0-2 this past week, but that was before the roster shuffle, so it's hard to give those defeats much weight.

    Philadelphia was already high in the rankings, and the Harris trade raises its playoff ceiling. If the Sixers can cobble together a bench in support of their first unit, they could be the East's best team down the stretch.

4. Toronto Raptors

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    Lat Week: 5

    Marc Gasol may not be a top-10 center anymore. His presence on Toronto's roster breaks up a second unit that worked extremely well with Jonas Valanciunas (who's healthy again), and complicates Serge Ibaka's role.

    But zoom out, and you're left with this: The Raps got Gasol for Valanciunas, Delon Wright, CJ Miles and a 2024 second-rounder. That's a "wow" move in an East arms race that accelerated to light speed just before the deadline, and even if Gasol's not what he used to be, he's an upgrade at the 5 for a team already stacked at that position and virtually every other one.

    If nothing else, Gasol is an ideal defender for Joel Embiid if the Raps and Sixers meet in a playoff series.

    Kawhi Leonard may be ticketed for the Clippers this summer, but his hypothetical exit from Toronto won't be because the Raps didn't demonstrate their seriousness about competing for titles. Toronto isn't messing around.

    In more mundane matters, the Raptors took down the Clippers, Sixers and Hawks this week, course-correcting after a rough stretch from Jan. 23 to 31 in which they lost three out of four. Toronto's overall profile remains impressive; its 40 wins are tied for the most in the NBA.

    It'll be interesting to see how rumored but unconsummated trades involving Kyle Lowry and several other Raptors affect morale and focus. Toronto hasn't dealt with a Lakers-level distraction, but it'd be understandable if Lowry or anyone else felt a little less committed to an organization that has shown little compunction about shopping (and trading) its key figures.

3. Boston Celtics

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    Last Week: 3

    It feels like the Boston Celtics have played several separate seasons, but you can really split the year into two meaningful chunks: before and after Marcus Smart cracked the first unit on Nov. 26.

    Before that date, the Celtics were 10-10 with a plus-1.8 net rating. Since the Smart insertion, they're 25-10 with the league's best net rating.

    Jaylen Brown has been far better over the last two months than he was in his frigid start and was particularly awesome in January, when he posted a 49.1/41.8/73.2 shooting split in 25.3 minutes per game. With a hip strain sidelining Kyrie Irving in four of Boston's last eight games, Brown's productivity has been vital.

    Thursday's last-second loss to the Lakers snapped a five-game run, but Boston has still won 10 of its last 12 and continues to rank third in net rating.

    Though it doesn't impact the Celtics' ranking, the fact that Anthony Davis didn't wind up with the Lakers is a win for Boston's long-term plans. The Celtics will get a shot to bid for him this summer.

2. Milwaukee Bucks

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    Last Week: 2

    The Milwaukee Bucks effectively committed to Giannis Antetokounmpo (and maybe D.J. Wilson) as their backup centers for the playoffs by sending Thon Maker to the Pistons for Stanley Johnson. Maker wanted out, which seemed like the driving force behind the move.

    It was hard to imagine Milwaukee was enamored with Johnson, whose poor shooting would make him a difficult player to slot alongside Antetokounmpo. If we've learned anything from Milwaukee's shot profile this season, it's that spacing around Giannis is paramount.

    This is why the Nikola Mirotic acquisition is so massive. Mirotic is a better defender than you think, but mostly he's a willing and dangerous catch-and-shoot threat at the 4. When ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the expanded three-team deal in which Mirotic went to Milwaukee, with Johnson and Jason Smith (plus four second-round picks) going to the Pels, everything fell into place.

    You'd be hard pressed to find a more meaningful trade at this year's deadline. This supercharges an already dominant Milwaukee team.

    The Bucks have won 11 of their last 12 contests, and it continues to be a disservice to regular-season greatness that we can't reward Milwaukee with the top spot in our rankings. But with the Warriors topping the Bucks in point differential and effective field-goal percentage for the last several weeks (since Jan. 1, to be specific), there's enough justification to keep Milwaukee here.

1. Golden State Warriors

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    Last Week: 1

    After last Thursday's home loss to the Sixers ended their 11-game winning streak, the Golden State Warriors went back about their business. They secured a 115-101 Saturday win over the Lakers, who rested LeBron James. Wednesday's 141-102 annihilation of the Spurs, who were without DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge and Derrick White, got Golden State to 38-15.

    There wasn't much to learn from two contests against depleted opponents this week. But for a Warriors team locked in a fight with Denver for the West's top seed, wins are wins.

    The Warriors are 7-1 in games DeMarcus Cousins has played, and Stephen Curry just finished a ridiculous January in which he averaged 31.3 points per contest with a 51.5/46.0/96.1 shooting split.

    If you're into the big picture, New York's salary-clearing trade sure made Kevin Durant's impending free-agent coast switch likelier, but that doesn't impact our rankings. Nor does Durant's tirade against the media —at least as long as his put-upon grousing comes after 39-point wins. If his dissatisfaction begins to manifest in the form of poor play, we'll have an issue. So far: not a problem.

    Golden State and its league-leading offense retains the top spot, despite a worthy ongoing challenge from Milwaukee.

                        

    Stats courtesy of NBA.com, Cleaning the Glass and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted. Accurate through games played Thursday, Feb. 7.