Play time’s over, kids.
The parties are all cleaned up and paid for, The Roots are back on the “Tonight Show,” and the games return this week. It’s the playoff push. It’s the trade deadline. It’s crunch time for the NBA season.
The DeMarcus Cousins trade rocked the league. Multiple executives have communicated the same thing to CBS Sports that they have to other outlets in the aftermath: “Seriously, what are the Kings doing?” There’s just no way to understand it, but it happened. And the aftermath could have major impacts on the West for years to come, with two top-five big men sharing the floor.
There’s still three days until the deadline and teams all considering making big moves. Meanwhile, the serious teams know they need to get rest and tighten the bolts. The Celtics have to figure out just how good they are, the Raptors have to right the ship, the Wizards need to keep the good times rolling.
The Warriors are on cruise control, the Spurs are grinding like always, and the Rockets seem to have come out of their slump.
This is the time when the bad teams have to face reality and start playing for the future, and the good teams have to stop messing around and get themselves right. The All-Star Break was a lot of fun.
But this isn’t about fun. This is about business.
The NBA playoffs begin in two month’s time.
|Uh, sure? Truth be told, there's not a clear-cut No. 1 this week, so I'm bumping the Warriors for the Nuggets loss and pushing Cleveland to the top. The Cavs have two priorities from here on out: 1) getting LeBron James rest, and 2) finding defensive answers.||1||46-28|
|Under any other circumstances, I'd dock Golden State more for the loss to Denver. They got smoked by a sub-.500 team. But the Oklahoma City game was such an emotional outlier, I'm giving them a pass. Being in the building, talking to people around the team, you could just tell they didn't have it. The Warriors aren't invulnerable, that's nothing new. But the Nuggets loss was just one of those nights.||1||37-36|
|I almost put them No.1. Hand to God, I almost had them No.1. They're 9-1 in their last 10, with the second-best winning percentage since January 1. To compare? The Warriors have four losses since the turn of the year. The Wizards have five.||--||32-40|
|Isaiah Thomas was an under-the-radar star of All-Star Weekend. Celebrated by teammates, constantly found in the spotlight, he really emerged as not just a star player but a star personality in New Orleans.||--||50-23|
|One executive described them this way over All-Star Weekend: the scariest team no one's actually scared of. They keep cranking out wins but what they look like come May is the serious debate.||1||19-53|
|Want to know something crazy? The Rockets' defense is better with James Harden and Eric Gordon on the floor together than Harden and Beverley. Eric Gordon needs more recognition for how he's played this season.||1||18-54|
|Interesting context with their offense. They are 21st in spot-up points per possession, but their top-five shooters in volume are all above the 70th percentile? Basically, the shooters that take most of their shots are really good. Imagine if they get anything, anything, anything at all from Chandler Parsons.||1||44-27|
|They hit a slide going into the break, but they've won five of eight and have great advanced metrics. They need to make a run now because A) this is their best chance to get a lead on the Clippers for the 4th seed before Chris Paul comes back and B) their closing schedule is a rainstorm of hammers.||1||35-36|
|They lost back-to-back games to the Sixers and Magic, so of course they threw in a win over the Rockets, their second this season, to go into the All-Star Break. I'm putting Houston over them only on account of it being the last game before the All-Star break and that game is always a little wonky because guys are distracted.||2||39-34|
|They need one piece to be able to make a real playoff run. Without an offensive upgrade they're going home early, but they also have to keep their eye on the long-term. It's a sticky wicket.||--||36-36|
|The Bulls have won or lost four in a row once, back in November when they won four in a row. That's it. They lost to the Suns and Wolves, then beat the Raptors and Celtics. This team is like a mad science experiment gone horribly wrong.||9||34-37|
|Hey, other than the fact that they're reportedly considering trading both of their key franchise players, and the fact that they're not discernibly great in any one key area, things are swell.||1||16-57|
|Will the Clippers make a blockbuster trade before the deadline, bringing in another star player to eventually be wrapped in mystified disappointment when the Clippers are bounced in the playoffs? The anticipation is nerve-wracking!||2||38-35|
|That's right. I jumped them nine spots because they traded for Cousins. So what are we going with? Boogie and the Brow? AD/BC? Wildcats Inc.? I'm partial to a New Orleans themed nickname: The Tall Boys.||9||35-37|
|Paul George's public comments about this team are like that friend who is still with their significant other because they have really great stuff and are fun at parties.||1||32-40|
|Milwaukee won three in a row going into the break. Is it over? Is the storm over? Can I come out of the shelter now? Are the Bucks back?||5||51-20|
|Paul Millsap is not getting traded. Probably. Almost definitely. Maybe. For sure. We think. Right?||5||36-36|
|Starting to cool off. How they handle the deadline this week will be interesting. They need to generate a future core, somehow.||7||36-36|
|We need Doc Brown to go back and get last year's Wolves to save this year's team like "Back to the Future Part II" It's your sophomore year, Karl-Anthony! Something's got to be done about your sophomore year!||5||36-37|
|The Warriors win was amazing, so they naturally followed up with a bummer loss to Minnesota. Nikola Jokic, however, is the truth.||2||48-24|
|Serge Ibaka could give them a boost, but given how they've played the past three weeks, they need an energy drink and not "splashing water on their face."||4||35-37|
|Ben Simmons is coming! Ben Simmons coming! (No one say anything about the fact that coach Brett Brown isn't positive when Embiid will return. Just keep the good vibes up, Sixers fans can't really handle bad news at this point).||--||48-23|
|Sometimes I wonder if James Dolan is just a monster for Knicks fans to scare them at night, like he's in "Monsters, Inc." Are we all just part of an elaborate torture device for Knicks fans?||3||42-31|
|It seemed like the Blazers were playing a little better. Then you look and they're 1-5 in February. They're in that golden honeymoon phase with Jusuf Nurkic, though, which should give them some good vibes for another 10, 12 hours at least.||5||31-40|
|OK, haha, funny joke, Charlotte. We all laughed. Now you can stop your Lakers impression and play like the actual team your talent and stats indicate you are. Seriously, stop losing. This performance is drifting into method acting and it's uncomfortable for everyone.||2||23-50|
|The Magic would go to the swapmeet with gold coins and leave with a teddy bear missing one eyeball and a box of expired Twinkies.||2||30-43|
|The Suns are going to do something wacky at the trade deadline. I say that because, well, that's what happens every year at the deadline. Also their roster at this point is three different jigsaw puzzles that fell in a pile together.||2||38-33|
|Brooklyn watched the Kings mortgage their future for limited assets and got all nostalgic. In related news, they're still screwed.||2||39-33|
|Magic Johnson is going to fix everything! OK, are the Lakers fans gone? Yeah, he's not going to fix anything.||4||35-37|
|That's how bad the trade was. I dropped them 14 spots in the Power Rankings, just to prove a point. Never conduct trade negotiations on Bourbon Street, kids.||14||43-29|