NBA Power Rankings: Where Every Team Stands After the Trade Deadline

Mo DakhilFeatured Columnist IMarch 29, 2021

NBA Power Rankings: Where Every Team Stands After the Trade Deadline

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    It was the busiest week of the year in the NBA, with 16 deals made in the last 24 hours of the trade deadline. The Orlando Magic charted a new path with a series of trades. The Chicago Bulls are going all-in with their moves. The Denver Nuggets added a big piece for a Finals run.

    But no trade swung the balance of power in either conference. Kyle Lowry could have done that, but he ended up staying in a Raptors jersey.

    The buyout market is in full swing, with LaMarcus Aldridge and Andre Drummond finding new homes. The recently traded Austin Rivers was waived and is rumored to be heading to a contender. Those are just a few names on the market, but a few more may end up getting bought out or waived before the April 9 deadline.

    The criteria for this week's Power Rankings are the same. How teams played last week, whom they beat and where their season is heading are all taken into consideration.

30. Orlando Magic

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 29th

    Orlando has stepped off the treadmill of mediocrity and committed to a total rebuild. Gone are Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Al-Farouq Aminu and Gary Clark. In are Wendell Carter Jr., R.J. Hampton, Gary Harris, Otto Porter Jr., two Chicago first-round draft picks (2021, 2023), a Denver first-round pick (2025) and two second-round picks from Boston.

    The Magic were not going to make the playoffs or the play-in tournament this year, and they had reached their ceiling with a few first-round exits. These trades set up a rebuild around Jonathan Isaac, Markelle Fultz and Carter with several draft picks incoming over the next few drafts.

    The rest of this season for the Magic is going to be devoted to giving the young players a ton of minutes to develop and figure out who fits where.

29. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 28th

    There were rumors that Minnesota was heavily interested in Aaron Gordon even as early as late January but nothing ever materialized, so the deadline came and went for the Wolves.

    Minnesota is not winning many games this year. One thing looking pretty clear is that Anthony Edwards can develop into the second star the Wolves have needed to pair with Karl-Anthony Towns. Over the last 10 games, the duo has averaged 51.6 points combined.

    The Wolves should focus the rest of this season on developing the chemistry between the pair. The playoffs and play-in tournament are out of the picture for them. Their draft pick this year is top-three protected, so winning should not be their priority.

28. Houston Rockets

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 30th

    The Rockets put an end to their 20-game losing streak with a win over the Raptors to start the week. It was their first win since February 4, and picking up a second win to end the week moved them out of the basement.

    Houston was 11-10 when the streak started and has now fallen to the bottom of the NBA standings. It is not entirely a bad thing with this year's draft pick being protected one through four.

    At the trade deadline, Houston sent Victor Oladipo to Miami for Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk and swap rights to a 2022 first-round pick. It was likely Oladipo was going to walk in free agency, so the Rockets scored a better pick swap option in 2022 than their option to switch picks with Brooklyn.

    The decision to trade Caris LeVert and a 2023 second-round pick for Oladipo will loom over the franchise for a long time.

27. Detroit Pistons

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Last Week’s Rankings: 27th

    The Pistons are on a four-game skid, and the road could get a little more difficult if Jerami Grant is going to miss some time. He left their game against the Wizards with a quad contusion. It has been a breakout year for Grant in a leading role. He is learning, though, that it is taxing being that player for the entire season.

    Since the All-Star break, Grant’s game has dropped off a bit. He went from shooting 43.3 percent from the field and 36.3 percent from three to 40.0 percent and 30.6 percent. Even his free-throw percentage fell eight points.

    It was always going to be tough to maintain the numbers for Grant, especially in the second half of the season as teams began to focus on him as a primary scorer.

26. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Last Week’s Rankings: 26th

    Cleveland started a four-game road trip last week. It began with a nice win over the Bulls, but it was followed with two losses, including a close one against the Kings. That was the Cavaliers’ second loss to Sacramento in a week as they went 1-3.

    Offensively it has been a real struggle for the Cavs. They were only able to muster up 98.0 points per game last week and shot 29.6 percent from three. Cleveland was without leading scorer Collin Sexton for two of the games, and there’s not enough offensive firepower up and down the roster to make up for that loss.

    The Cavs did join in the trade deadline festivities by moving JaVale McGee to Denver for Isaiah Hartenstein, a protected 2023 second-round pick and an unprotected 2027 second-rounder. They couldn’t find a trade for Andre Drummond and have since bought him out.

25. Washington Wizards

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 25th

    It has been all downhill for the Wizards since the All-Star break, having won just two of their last 10 games. Washington put an end to a three-game losing streak against Detroit to end the week. The Wizards did make a move at the trade deadline, but it did not involve Bradley Beal. It was a move around the margins, sending out Moritz Wagner and Troy Brown Jr. for Daniel Gafford and Chandler Hutchison.

    Gafford impressed in his first game, going 6-of-7 from the field for 13 points and five rebounds against the Pistons. Well, everyone but coach Scott Brooks was impressed, as he said in his postgame comments: "Yeah, I was a little disappointed that he missed a shot."

    It was a much-needed win for the Wizards after they blew a 17-point second-half lead to the Knicks.

24. Toronto Raptors

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 24th

    After weeks of speculation, the Raptors decided against moving Kyle Lowry. Norman Powell on the other hand was sent to Portland in exchange for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood. They also made a few moves around the margins, trading Terence Davis to Sacramento and Matt Thomas to Utah for a pair of 2021 second-round picks.

    Toronto did put an end to its nine-game losing streak with a blowout win over Denver. That was its first win in March. The offense has fallen off, scoring five points fewer than in February when it went 9-5. The Raptors' three-point percentage also dropped from 39.7 that month to 35.6 percent in this one.

    Despite this terrible month, sneaking into the play-in tournament is not out of the realm of possibility. The Raptors are only two games behind the Bulls for that final spot.

23. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Garett Fisbeck/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 21st

    As expected, the Thunder flipped another veteran for future draft picks. In a three-team trade, they acquired Austin Rivers and 2025 and 2026 second-round picks by sending George Hill to Philadelphia. This deal gives Oklahoma City 34 draft picks over the next seven years.

    The trade was not the only news to come from the Thunder. They announced that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will miss a significant amount of time with a foot injury. Although losing him will hurt their chances to stack wins, it will help improve their lottery odds in a talent-stacked draft.

    The Thunder also announced that Al Horford will no longer be active for games, as they are looking to get more minutes for their developing players. This does not mean Horford will be getting bought out of his contract.

    Going 1-2 last week should help the Thunder's tanking efforts.

22. New Orleans Pelicans

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    Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 22nd 

    Zion Williamson has been on an incredible offensive run. He has scored 20 or more points in 23 straight games on incredible efficiency. Williamson has shot 65.8 percent from the floor in that stretch and has just been a nightmare for defenses.

    There were a lot of trade rumors swirling around Lonzo Ball, but it was JJ Redick and Nicolo Melli who ended up being dealt. In return, the Pelicans got James Johnson's expiring deal, Wes Iwundu and a 2021 second-round pick from the Mavericks.

    Not moving Ball might have been the best decision for the Pelicans' playoff hopes. After a slow start to the season, Ball is now shooting 38.5 percent from three and leads the team in assists. With Ball entering restricted free agency in the offseason, New Orleans will have the opportunity to re-sign him, match any contract offer he receives or execute a sign-and-trade.

21. Sacramento Kings

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 23rd

    The Kings are on a hot streak, having gone undefeated last week. They bookended the week with wins over the Cavs, and they picked up a tight win over the Hawks and a blowout of the Warriors in between. This run has Sacramento just a game out of the play-in tournament.

    De'Aaron Fox put the Kings on his back. He dropped 30, 37, 44 and 36 points last week. Fox shot 64.0 percent from the field, and there was no denying him getting into the paint. Sacramento also got hot three-point shooting from Tyrese Halliburton, who connected on 61.9 percent of 5.3 attempts.

    The last time the Kings went on a four-game win streak, they followed it with a nine-game winless drought. Sacramento cannot afford to go through another long losing streak.

20. Chicago Bulls

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    Darren Abate/Associated Press

    Last Week’s Rankings: 20th

    Chicago made a big decision to go all-in on its playoff chances this year with its deadline acquisition of Nikola Vucevic. The cost was two lightly protected first-round picks, Otto Porter Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr. It may prove worth it, as the Bulls will now pair current All-Star Zach LaVine with another in Vucevic. The tandem will look to develop their chemistry and pick-and-pop game. 

    The Bulls also pulled off trades to bring in Daniel Theis and Troy Brown Jr. to help add more role players to their roster. 

    The first game of the new-look Bulls did not go according to plan, as the Spurs dropped them by 16. Vucevic put up 21 points and LaVine 18, but they did not get much help from the rest of the roster.

19. Indiana Pacers

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 18th

    The Pacers were looking for a third scorer to pair with Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis once T.J. Warren went down with a foot injury. In Caris LeVert, it appears Indiana found its man.

    Since LeVert's return, he has averaged 15.9 points over eight games and last week upped that scoring average to 19.0 points. Pairing that with Sabonis's 19.3 points and Brogdon's 19.0 points helped Indiana go 2-1.

    LeVert's help is much-needed, as the Pacers have ruled out Warren for the rest of the season. They will need every bit of offensive power as they pull together to hang in the play-in tournament.

18. Golden State Warriors

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 14th

    The Warriors are on a four-game losing streak and have gone 1-4 in the five games Stephen Curry has missed with a bruised tailbone. This run of losses has Golden State falling in the standings and rankings.

    In the seven games Curry has missed this season, Golden State has averaged just 106.0 points versus 113.8 points when he plays. The Warriors have not been able to generate enough offense without him to be competitive.

    In good news, barring a setback, Curry should be ready to return soon, as the Warriors are in danger of falling out of the play-in tournament with the Kings surging behind them.

17. Miami Heat

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    Carmen Mandato/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 12th

    The Heat were big players in the trade market. They were in talks with the Raptors for Kyle Lowry but the price was too high, so they turned to plan B. That was trading for Victor Oladipo from Houston. They sent out Avery Bradley, who barely played for them this season, Kelly Olynyk, who is a free agent this year, and swapped rights to their 2022 first-round pick. Miami also sent Maurice Harkless and Chris Silva to Sacramento for Nemanja Bjelica.

    To bring in Oladipo and Bjelica, it only cost the Heat one rotation player and potentially a draft swap. The new Heat players can come in immediately and help. Oladipo will add another playmaker and driver to put pressure on the defense. Bjelica is an upgrade over Olynyk. More importantly, this move keeps the powder dry on the Heat's 2021 cap space.

    Miami's six-game losing streak has it dropping in the rankings. The Heat have to hope Oladipo and Bjelica can put an end to this bad run.

16. Memphis Grizzlies

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    Isaac Hale/Associated Press

    Last Week’s Rankings: 16th

    Memphis’ three-game winning streak came to an end with two losses against Utah. The Grizzlies have a top-10 defensive rating, but their offense has kept them from taking off. They are shooting 34.8 percent from three this season.

    The 2-2 week ended on a sour note as Memphis lost by 16 points against Utah. The Grizzlies got big scoring games from Dillon Brooks and Ja Morant, who both averaged 21 points for the week.

    Grizzlies executive vice president Zach Kleiman gave an updated timeline for Jaren Jackson Jr.’s return to the lineup. He said he should be back on the court by late April. Hopefully, Memphis will still be in the playoff race once he returns.

15. San Antonio Spurs

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    Darren Abate/Associated Press

    Last Week’s Rankings: 11th

    San Antonio has struggled, losing four in a row before beating Chicago to close the week. The Spurs offense has fallen off a cliff during this run. They are averaging just 103.2 points in their last five games. They lost their miniseries with the Clippers by an average of 22 points and are falling in the standings.

    DeMar DeRozan did all he could last week, averaging 21.8 points and 4.3 assists, but he needs help. Dejounte Murray shot 41.8 percent from the field during this run, and Lonnie Walker IV missed the last three games with a wrist injury. Derrick White has struggled with his three-point shot, shooting 33.3 percent on the season.

    The schedule does not do the Spurs any favors. After having several games postponed, they will have to make up for it on the back end. Next week, they will have four games in six days.

14. Atlanta Hawks

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 13th

    It appears the honeymoon is over for the Hawks, going 1-3 in the last week. After their eight-game winning streak, the schedule stiffened up. In their game against the Clippers, they gave up a 22-point lead and got outscored 37-20 in the fourth quarter. To end the week, the Hawks got smashed by the Nuggets.

    The Hawks over the last week had several of their top guys go cold from deep. Trae Young shot 32.3 percent, Kevin Huerter shot 31.3 percent, and Danilo Gallinari brought up the rear shooting 25.0 percent from three. All well below their normal averages for the season.

    Atlanta was active at the deadline and moved Rajon Rondo to the Clippers for Lou Williams. This should add another scorer off the bench for Nate McMillan to turn to when Young goes to the bench. In more good news, the Hawks also got De'Andre Hunter back in the lineup.

    These reinforcements should go a long way as Atlanta finishes its eight-game road trip next week.

13. Boston Celtics

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    Garett Fisbeck/Associated Press

    Last Week’s Rankings: 17th

    The Celtics made a trade with the Magic, but it was not for Aaron Gordon. Boston sent Jeff Teague and two second-round picks for Evan Fournier.

    They also sent out Daniel Theis and Javonte Green in a three-team deal with the Wizards and Bulls that netted them Mortiz Wagner and Luke Kornet.

    Fournier will bring a scoring punch off the bench who has been averaging 19.7 points and shooting 38.8 percent from three. He also can help with playmaking, having averaged 3.7 assists for the Magic.

    Boston is hoping this trade can turn around its disappointing season. It will not take much with how bunched up the East is.

12. New York Knicks

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    Aaron Gash/Associated Press

    Last Week’s Rankings: 15th

    In the last rankings, New York’s lack of offense was brought up. Well, it must have struck a nerve. The Knicks averaged 113 points in their three games last week, including dropping 131 against Washington—a far cry from their 105.3 average.

    Besides Julius Randle continuing to play well, the Knicks got great play from Alec Burks and RJ Barrett last week. Burks averaged 22.7 points and shot 47.6 percent from three. Barrett put up 22.0 to go with his 7.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists.

    There was no major splash from the Knicks at the deadline, but that was expected. They were rumored to have a shot at Andre Drummond in the buyout market. With him off the board and the news of Mitchell Robinson’s fractured foot, the Knicks will be searching the market for a big to shore up their frontcourt depth.

11. Charlotte Hornets

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Last Week’s Rankings: 19th

    The Hornets are still dealing with the LaMelo Ball injury news. They did pick up Brad Wanamaker from Golden State to help shore up the loss, but Ball’s production will be tough to replace.

    The Hornets entered the week on a three-game losing streak, but they finished off their five-game road trip with two straight victories. They followed it up with a nice win over the Heat when they got home. The Hornets got a nice week from Malik Monk, who averaged 20.7 points, to go with Terry Rozier’s 24.3 points. Unfortunately Monk had to sit out their loss against the Suns to end the week.

    Charlotte finished the week going 3-1, which helped it shoot up the standings, but the schedule gets tougher from here. The Hornets’ next six games will be on the road, with four of them against potential playoff teams. With how tight the East is, this could help to give them some separation or put them back in the bunch.

10. Dallas Mavericks

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 10th

    It was a challenging week for the Mavericks. They went 1-2 and ended the week on a two-game losing streak. Luka Doncic missed the last two contests with an illness, and Kristaps Porzingis missed the last game, too. They hung tough against the Pelicans with big performances from Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jalen Brunson before losing.

    That game against the Pelicans is the start of a five-game road trip for Dallas. Next week's schedule has the Mavs playing four games in six days with some big stops in Boston and New York. They will need to get Doncic and Porzingis back quickly before they fall into a long losing streak.

    To help, Dallas added JJ Redick and Nicolo Melli from New Orleans to add more shooting. Redick has struggled this season, but a change of scenery and the open looks Doncic generates could get him going.

9. Portland Trail Blazers

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 9th

    It was a good week for the Blazers. First, they traded Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood for Norman Powell. Then they got Jusuf Nurkic back from his broken wrist.

    As good as Trent has been for the Blazers, Powell is a better shooter from three, and even though he is smaller, he defends bigger, which will help the Blazers.

    Powell impressed in his first game as a Blazer. He dropped 22 points while going 5-of-7 from three. Nurkic jumped right back into the starting lineup for Portland but was on a minutes restriction as he began working his way back into form.

    The Blazers could have gone undefeated this week but dropped a close one against the Nets. A 3-1 record is still good enough to move them up a spot in the rankings. More importantly, Portland is getting healthy just at the right time.

8. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Last Week’s Rankings: 7th

    The Lakers tried to get aggressive at the deadline, but their reported reluctance to include Talen-Horton Tucker prevented them from making any big moves. So they turned their sights to the buyout market and signed Andre Drummond to give them more frontcourt depth.

    We got more information on the LeBron James and Anthony Davis injuries. The Lakers announced that James is expected to be out four to six weeks with a high ankle sprain. Davis has been given the clearance to ramp up his basketball activities. Although no timetable was given for his return, that seems promising.

    With those guys out, the Lakers went on a four-game losing streak but were able to snap out of it at the end of the week with two wins against the Cavs and Magic. Los Angeles will need Drummond to come in and contribute immediately as the schedule gets much tougher with seven of its next eight games on the road.

7. Denver Nuggets

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    Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

    Last Week's Rankings: 6th

    The Nuggets were one of the big winners of the trade deadline with their move for Aaron Gordon. Denver had to give up some backcourt depth with Gary Harris included in the deal. Gordon brings a lot on both ends of the court for the Nuggets. He'll add another player to defend the likes of LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Offensively, Gordon will flourish as a cutter and secondary playmaker.

    It was very fitting that Gordon's first basket as a Nugget came off a Nikola Jokic pass for a dunk. In 21 minutes, he finished with 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting and flashed everything he will bring. He scored off cuts and as a roller, made the next pass and defended several different positions.

    This trade is going to move Denver into the contenders tier and will have it climbing even higher in the rankings.

6. Los Angeles Clippers

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    Darren Abate/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 8th

    L.A. is on a five-game winning streak and beginning to round into form.

    The Clippers are doing it on the defensive end. Their defensive rating during that stretch was 106.1, an improvement from the 111.0 rating they own for the season. Their improved play and win streak have them moving up in the rankings.

    The Clippers also made a big gamble at the trade deadline. They sent out beloved guard Lou Williams to Atlanta for Rajon Rondo. They are betting Rondo will turn back into "Playoff Rondo" like he did last season for the Lakers. They likely had their eyes set on bigger targets like Kyle Lowry and Lonzo Ball but simply didn't have the assets to get a deal done.

    The hope is that Rondo will be the table-setter they have needed since signing Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

5. Phoenix Suns

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Last Week’s Rankings: 4th

    Phoenix was on the road last week and went 3-1. Its only loss was at the buzzer against the Magic, though it blew a fourth-quarter lead against the Hornets before winning in overtime and dropped a spot in the rankings given how well some other teams are playing.

    The Suns have won with their defense because they have gone cold from three. Chris Paul and Mikal Bridges each shot below 30 percent from three, and Devin Booker hit just 31 percent of his threes last week.  Defensively, though, they held their opponents to 100 or fewer points in each of their wins.

    Deandre Ayton was a force, scoring 17.8 points, pulling down 12.0 rebounds and blocking 1.3 shots per game. Given all the weapons Phoenix has, its ceiling lies in Ayton’s growth, and more performances like last week’s will help him earn head coach Monty Williams’ trust and give the team a real shot come playoff time.

4. Philadelphia 76ers

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 3rd

    The wins were not pretty for Philly last week as they blew late leads before finishing the job. But the Sixers will take them however they can get them with Joel Embiid still out.

    Their four-game win streak came to an end against the Clippers as they just did not have enough firepower to hang in there. Despite the loss, they have been able to hold on to the top spot in the East since Embiid went down.

    They've gone 6-2 over their last eight games and are in the midst of a long road trip. Tobias Harris has stepped up as their closer down the stretch, and Ben Simmons has made his case for Defensive Player of the Year. Danny Green has also connected on 50.0 percent of his three-pointers, knocking down some big ones against the Lakers to seal the game.

    The Sixers were not able to get Kyle Lowry from Toronto at the deadline but did not come away empty-handed. They were able to acquire George Hill from Oklahoma City in a three-team trade. Hill is no Lowry, but he should be able to provide some more defense along the perimeter, as well as more shooting.

3. Utah Jazz

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    Last Week’s Rankings: 5th

    The Jazz have found their tune again. Utah is on a five-game win streak, and a lot of that is due to Donovan Mitchell. He has been straight ballin’, averaging 31.6 points on 55.7/51.3/96.8 shooting splits. Rudy Gobert has also carried a large load, posting 17.0 points, 12.0 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game.

    Following some slippage after the All-Star break, the Jazz’s defense has tightened up during this win streak. Over the last five games, their defensive rating was 104.0.

    It is looking more like the Jazz’s rough run just before and after the break was more of a blip than a trend, which is why they have climbed in the rankings.

2. Milwaukee Bucks

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    Aaron Gash/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 2nd

    Milwaukee was on a heater, having won eight straight before falling to Boston. The next outing was a scheduled rest game as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Donte DiVincenzo all sat out.

    During the 10 games prior to that schedule loss to the Knicks, the Bucks were rolling offensively and averaging 120.5 points. They were shooting 39 percent from three with four players shooting better than 40 percent on a minimum of three attempts per game.

    The "rest" game was preemptive as nine of Milwaukee's next 10 contests will be on the road, including a six-game West Coast trip.

1. Brooklyn Nets

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    Darren Abate/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 1st

    The Nets might have been the biggest winner of the trade deadline without making a trade. No team made a move that would change their status as the clear-cut favorite, and they secured LaMarcus Aldridge on the buyout market to shore up their depth.

    He might be a luxury, but Brooklyn is now loaded with a ton of experience.

    Last week on the court, Brooklyn went 2-1 on a short road trip. It was without Kyrie Irving as he was attending to a family matter, and Kevin Durant still has not played since mid-February.

    The Nets' one loss came at the hands of the Jazz, but even that was tainted by James Harden missing the game with a neck issue.