NBA Power Rankings: Calm Before The Trade Deadline/Playoff Push Storm

It’s a weird week in the NBA, where all but six teams don’t play a game that matters until Friday.

Making it weirder? The league’s trade deadline is Thursday which means the entire landscape of the league could look different the next time your favorite team takes the court.

In the small slate of games that took place last week, the Core Four (Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers) all went 2-0. They were joined by the Charlotte Hornets, (surging) Portland Trail Blazers and Milwaukee Bucks. The New Orleans Pelicans also went 2-1.

The Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers all went 0-2. Of the bunch, the Pistons likely have the best chance at a playoff berth. How many people would’ve laughed in September if you’d said the Pistons and Trail Blazers would make the playoffs over the Bulls and Rockets?

Without further ado, here are our Week 16 NBA Power Rankings:

1. Golden State Warriors (48-4): 25-5. That’s the record the Warriors need for the rest of the season to pass the 1995-96 Bulls’ win record. Last week: 1

2. San Antonio Spurs (45-8): The Spurs hope  Kobe Bryant will help mentor Kawhi Leonard. How terrifying can “The Claw” become? Last week: 2

3. Oklahoma City Thunder (40-14): Russell Westbrook doesn’t want to be a Laker (or a Clipper) — at least not right now. It also might go without saying that he could change his mind should Kevin Durant leave. Last week: 3

4. Cleveland Cavaliers (38-14):  Poor Kevin Love. It doesn’t necessarily have to be Boston, but for the love of basketball, get him out of Cleveland. Last week: 4

5. Toronto Raptors (35-17):  The Raptors never get mentioned among the elite teams and, while we get it, you could certainly make the case for them winning the Eastern Conference. Last week: 5

6. Los Angeles Clippers (35-18):  Doc Rivers doesn’t appear willing to trade Blake Griffin (and a seemingly fragile Clippers locker room might not like it if he did), but it could potentially make them a much better team — at least this season. Last week: 6

7. Boston Celtics (32-23): It feels like a big trade could mess up Boston’s outstanding chemistry, which arguably is its greatest strength right now. But Isaiah Thomas is recruiting hard at All-Star weekend and you never know what Trader Danny has up his sleeve. Last week: 8

8. Atlanta Hawks (31-24): It’s understandable why ownership wants to blow up this group of players, but will a marquee free agent go to Atlanta? Last week: 9

9. Miami Heat (29-24):  Don’t count out Pat Riley in the Mike Conley sweepstakes. The Heat have to hope Chris Bosh’s injury doesn’t sideline him very long. Last week: 10

10. Dallas Mavericks (29-26): Dwight Powell’s been a nice find, but Dallas sure could use Jae Crowder’s defense and intensity right now. Last week: 11

11. Memphis Grizzlies (31-22): Marc Gasol probably is out for this season, and the the Internet thinks Mike Conley is getting traded. But Memphis ownership apparently thinks it can make a playoff push and will go after Kevin Durant. Acquiring Pau Gasol from the Bulls wouldn’t be a terrible idea. Last week: 7

12. Indiana Pacers (28-25): Monta Ellis just isn’t a good enough No. 2 option. Myles Turner, though, suddenly looks like a Rookie of the Year candidate. Last week: 13

13. Chicago Bulls (27-25): There are only two things we know about the Bulls: Firing Tom Thibodeau was stupid and they desperately need Jimmy Butler in order to compete. Last week: 12

14. Detroit Pistons (27-27):  The Pistons badly need a 3-point shooter to help Stan Van Gundy’s pace-and-space offense. Last week: 14

15. Portland Trail Blazers (27-27): See Jazz, Utah. Though they might have a better shot at a big-name player than the former. Last week: 18

16. Utah Jazz (26-26): The Jazz should be buyers, but why bother when you have to play the Warriors, Spurs or Thunder in the first round? Last week: 16

17. Charlotte Hornets (27-26): A first-round matchup with the Celtics could be interesting. Last week: 17

18. Houston Rockets (27-28): Doesn’t it feel like they’d be better without Dwight Howard, especially if the return is decent? Last week: 15

19. Washington Wizards (23-28):  Why does Randy Wittman have a job? Last week: 19

20. Orlando Magic (23-29): Aaron Gordon probably should have won the dunk contest. Last week: 20

21. New York Knicks (23-32): Carmelo Anthony being “committed” to New York and reportedly passing up the chance to play with LeBron James seems really stupid, but that probably means Anthony thinks the Knicks will land a prized free agent. Or his wife, La La, just loves New York and doesn’t want to leave. Toss up. Last week: 21

22. Sacramento Kings (22-31): Live look at the Kings:

dumpster fire

Last week: 22

23. Denver Nuggets (22-32): For a team 10 games under .500, they sure seem to have a lot of players other teams “covet” approaching the trade deadline. Last week: 23

24. Milwaukee Bucks (22-32): Is Jason Kidd a good coach? Last week: 24

25. New Orleans Pelicans (20-33): If the basketball gods are real, they won’t let Anthony Davis waste his 20s on a crappy team. Last week: 25

26. Minnesota Timberwolves (17-37): This almost feels like those first few years of Durant, Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka in OKC. Last week: 26

27. Phoenix Suns (14-40): There are too many bad things to say about the Suns. But, um, Devin Booker finished third in the 3-point shootout. So that’s, um … forget it. Last week: 27

28. Brooklyn Nets (14-40): Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Dragan Bender is shooting up draft boards and would be a nice fit in Brooklyn. If only they had a first-round pick. Last week: 28

29. Los Angeles Lakers (11-44): Brandon Ingram looked really good in Duke’s upset win over Virginia. Last week: 29

30. Philadelphia 76ers (8-45): If LSU’s Ben Simmons ever gets a consistent jump shot, he’ll be terrifyingly good … which could be great news for the Sixers. Last week: 30

Thumbnail photo via Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports Images

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