NBA Power Rankings: Proposed trade deadline moves for every team, including the top-ranked Warriors
Even the elite teams, including the Warriors, could use a move of some sort before the Feb. 7 trade deadline
Welcome to NBA Power Rankings: The Trade Deadline Edition. Between now and 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, there's certain to be a bunch of trades that will shake up the NBA as much as -- or more than! -- the Kristaps Porzingis trade did last week. Or maybe not! Maybe there will be a handful of second-round picks swapped for salary dumps or role players who will improve teams around the margins. The beautiful thing about today's NBA is that you never know what's going to happen next (except that the Golden State Warriors are going to win another title, duh).
This week's power rankings are going to do something different. Think of it as a Fantasy basketball exercise. We're going to propose one potential move that'll make each team better -- either for the remainder of this season, or for the next couple seasons. Or, in the case of a select few very, very bad teams, for far into the future, when draft picks can help transform a franchise's fortunes. Sometimes it's a specific trade suggestion. Sometimes it's a bit more general. Are these trades all realistic? Absolutely not! Do they all work under the salary cap? No! Are they fun to consider? I certainly hope so.
Here are the latest Power Rankings:
|1||Warriors||The Warriors certainly shouldn't do much, obviously, since they look close to unbeatable when healthy. But depth could be a (slight, slight) issue, especially at center. You never know how Boogie Cousins' health will hold up over the rest of the season. Jordan Bell is barely in the rotation. Kevon Looney is a fine but limited player. Robin Lopez would be a great buyout candidate -- if only the Chicago Bulls would acquiesce.||--||15-50|
|2||Bucks||The Bucks continue to roll, having won nine of 10 and still sporting the NBA's top net rating (by nearly three points per 100 possessions). There's not much this team really needs. But as D.J. Wilson has moved into a more prominent role, Thon Maker has been rendered close to useless for the Bucks. He's still got potential; the Bucks should try to get whatever they can get for him, whether that's a second-round pick or a veteran rim protector. They'd have to give up more than Maker for Willie Cauley-Stein, but that would be an interesting swap.||--||53-12|
|3||Raptors||Just watch Masai Ujiri get incredibly crazy at the deadline and swing a deal for Anthony Davis (which would make the Raptors the only team in the NBA with a chance to upset a healthy Warriors team). It feels far-fetched, as do most trades for Davis. This team's championship window may only last through this season, depending on what Kawhi Leonard does in free agency, so Ujiri is incentivized to go for it with a big move. But it's hard to see a move that really makes much sense for one of the most complete teams in the NBA, other than flipping, say, Pascal Siakam, O.G. Anunoby and Jonas Valanciunas for Davis. Trading a first-rounder to add depth could work, but for a team that isn't sure of its direction if Leonard leaves in free agency, that would also bring some risk.||--||46-18|
|4||Nuggets||This team came through my city on Saturday night after having arrived to their hotel at 4 a.m. After a grueling game the night before, the Nuggets beat the Minnesota Timberwolves in a back-and-forth game despite missing their second- and third-leading scorers (Jamal Murray and Gary Harris). I'm a believer in this team. This team would right now be my pick to face the Warriors in the Western Conference finals. As far as any trades: Short of making the biggest dark-horse trade in NBA history and putting together a monster deal for Anthony Davis (A.D. and Jokic together?!), why would there be any reason the Nuggets -- the second-youngest team in the NBA, with the best record in the West -- would want to deal? Maybe in the offseason, they could deal a wing to make room for Michael Porter Jr. But for now, this team should roll with what they got.||--||43-22|
|5||Celtics||The Celtics are rolling, winners of 10 of their past 11 during a soft stretch in their schedule. (The only teams above .500 they've beaten during that stretch are the Raptors, Thunder and Nets.) The Celtics won't -- or can't -- do much during this trade deadline. Their real deadline is July, when they'll be able to re-sign Kyrie Irving and deal for Anthony Davis -- or do neither. No team will have more intrigue around it over the next several months than this Celtics team. It will be fascinating to see if they end up including Jayson Tatum in a potential trade.||3||43-21|
|6||76ers||I might need to re-evaluate my position that the 76ers are a very good team that's just short of the top tier in the East (a tier that includes the Raptors and the Bucks and right now nobody else -- sorry, Celtics). Look at the incredible resume of wins this team has banked since Christmas: Warriors on the road, Spurs at home, Rockets at home, Clippers on the road, Jazz on the road. This is a top-tier team that could win the East. They clearly need some reinforcements for the playoffs, though, namely a backup big man and a shooter. What about Markelle Fultz and a protected first-rounder (or a couple of second-rounders) to New Orleans for Nikola Mirotic? A stretch-4 like that would do wonders to open things up for Philly.||--||39-26|
|7||Thunder||The Thunder could use another 3-point shooter. Could Wayne Ellington be had from the Miami Heat, helping with the Thunder's biggest weakness while helping with the Heat's salary cap situation? The Thunder already dealt Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who was out of the rotation anyway. It'll be interesting to see if they can also shed Alex Abrines and Patrick Patterson.||2||40-24|
|8||Rockets||Will the Rockets be able to get out of Brandon Knight's contract? It might cost them a first-round pick. The Rockets don't have much flexibility now but could sign a player or two on the buyout market. They could use more depth. Wesley Matthews?||1||40-24|
|9||Trail Blazers||The Blazers are in the midst of a stretch where they play one game in nine days -- and then go on a sprint to the All-Star break, when they'll play five games in eight days. Anyway, the Blazers appear to be one of the biggest potential buyers (non-Anthony Davis category) this trade deadline. They could really use another scoring option, especially on the wing. Taurean Prince or Otto Porter Jr. (who the Wizards have said is unavailable) would do wonders for the Blazers. So would Nikola Mirotic or Rodney Hood. What would the cost be? A first-round pick and a young player -- like Nik Stauskas or Anfernee Simons -- would be intriguing. (Update! On Sunday afternoon, after I wrote this, the Blazers dealt Stauskas, Wade Baldwin and two future second-round picks to Cleveland for Rodney Hood. Solid move.)||1||29-37|
|10||Jazz||What other Western Conference teams are better positioned than the Utah Jazz to make a run to meet the Warriors in the conference finals -- especially if the Jazz add one more big scoring option? Mike Conley would do wonders for the Jazz, and Nikola Mirotic could, too. Conley's price would be steep, and the salary is huge, but Dante Exum (who'd fit well into Memphis' defensive mentality) plus a first-rounder could get it done.||1||41-23|
|11||Spurs||I'm still stunned at these anachronistic Spurs and how they completely flipped the script on what looked like a lost season after the first month or two. They're now winners of five in a row, and look like a team that's got a legit shot to make the Western Conference finals. As far as trades: Um, they're the Spurs. They don't do midseason trades. Ever.||--||27-36|
|12||Lakers||Stop it with these underwhelming lowball offers and just go for it. How did this lowball type of thinking work out for the Lakers with Kawhi Leonard or Paul George? And so: Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and two future first-round picks for Davis. Make it happen.||3||49-14|
|13||Pacers||The Pacers have a boatload of expiring contracts, but they're all players who are solidly in the rotation. The guess here is that they'll sit tight; this became a lost season the moment Victor Oladipo went down with a season-ending injury. Even a big play to get Mike Conley wouldn't propel this team into the top tier in the East -- although a healthy Oladipo paired with Conley would be fascinating next season.||1||39-26|
|14||Nets||Will Sean Marks attempt to trade one of his expiring contracts (DeMarre Carroll, Jared Dudley or Ed Davis) for draft picks or for another of his patented reclamation projects? Marks' management of this franchise during a tough time has been remarkable.||--||30-34|
|15||Clippers||The Clippers, hanging on to a playoff spot in the West, have so much depth. There's really not much that this team needs, other than landing a Kawhi Leonard-esque superstar in the offseason.||2||44-20|
|16||Kings||It's truly amazing that this Kings team has continued to be in the playoff race. What a turnaround, and what a pleasant surprise. As the trade deadline approaches, the Kings could be a vital trade partner, since they are the only team with significant cap room. That cap space could help the Kings land a rotation-worthy player from a team deep in the tax. Otto Porter, anyone?||--||28-36|
|17||Timberwolves||Trade Anthony Tolliver for a second-round pick. Get what you can get for him. He's a pro and a vet, a valuable two-way player who hasn't gotten many minutes for the Wolves and will get even fewer once Robert Covington returns from injury. The Wolves are in an uncertain spot on whether they should buy or sell. They should probably sell as aggressively as they can, but general manager Scott Layden is being judged by the team's performance, so he's going all-out for a playoff appearance.||--||19-45|
|18||Hornets||Big contracts for middling players (Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller) means it'll be incredibly tough for the Hornets to be buyers at the trade deadline. And this team needs to be a buyer to add talent around Kemba Walker. Maybe Frank Kaminsky, who has completely fallen out of the rotation, can be flipped for a second-rounder. Not the type of Earth-shattering trade that will inspire Kemba to stick with Charlotte in free agency.||3||23-42|
|19||Heat||It makes way too much sense, given Wayne Ellington's $6.3 million salary and the Heat being $6.3 million above the tax threshold, for an Ellington trade not to happen. There are plenty of teams who could use a 3-point shooter of his caliber. Ellington to Philly for a second-round pick?||1||41-24|
|20||Mavericks||The Mavericks made the deal of the year (non-Anthony Davis edition) last week, going all in on a pairing of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. In theory, and presuming Porzingis gets back to full health (and remains fully healthy, always a big question mark for him), this is an ideal fit for the Mavericks. But this team gave up a ton. If it works, this is a genius move. If it doesn't -- if Porzingis isn't the player he was pre-injury -- then the Mavericks could be forfeiting the value years of Doncic being on a rookie contract.||1||40-27|
|21||Pelicans||The lottery-bound Pelicans are the key that unlocks everything in the NBA over the next six months. It starts with Anthony Davis, but it does not end there. Will the Pelicans submit to the Lakers as-yet-underwhelming trade offers, or will they wait around until summer, when the Celtics can be part of the conversation? In the meantime, though, expect the Pelicans to be active over the next few days as they transition to asset-acquisition mode for a post-Davis rebuild. If Nikola Mirotic isn't shipped off for a young player and/or a pick, I'd be shocked. Philly sounds like an ideal spot for him. Julius Randle could net the Pelicans a valuable pick as well.||1||28-36|
|22||Wizards||Amazingly, the Wizards still have a shot at the playoffs in the East. Even as Ted Leonsis has pledged not to trade their core of John Wall/Bradley Beal/Otto Porter, you'd have to imagine that a solid trade offer could get him to change his tune for a Wizards team that's well over the salary cap. Maybe it's flipping one or more of the Wizards' eight expiring contracts into a pick. Maybe it's a monster deal for Beal. The most likely: Trade Porter to, say, the Utah Jazz. Get a pick.||--||24-40|
|23||Pistons||Reggie Bullock is an absolute gunner from 3-point range, and he's on an expiring $2.5 million. A team like the Sixers has draft assets and a need for someone like Bullock. One interesting idea that's been rumored is the point guard-deficient Pistons being in play for Mike Conley. Would a first-rounder plus, say, Stanley Johnson get it done?||--||20-46|
|24||Magic||If you can get a first-round pick for Nikola Vucevic -- any first-round pick, no matter where it lands -- do it immediately. The Magic need to clear the way for the development of Mo Bamba, despite Bamba being pretty bad during his rookie season. Vucevic's recent All-Star selection only increases his value.||--||30-35|
|25||Grizzlies||It's complicated, because Mike Conley and Marc Gasol mean so much to this franchise and this city. That's one reason why the Grizzlies waited too long to trade those two in the first place, and that was a mistake. Now, it's time -- past time. Conley is the more valuable asset. What about sending him to the Utah Jazz for a first-rounder and Dante Exum? Suddenly, the Jazz could make an argument that they're the second-best team in the West, and the Grizzlies would add assets. If they pass the trade deadline without dealing either of these players, it will be an abject failure on behalf of this front office.||--||32-33|
|26||Hawks||The Hawks are the secret winner of the Porzingis trade. With the Mavericks losing important pieces for this year, and with reports that Porzingis won't play for the Mavericks this season, the (top-five protected ) pick that the Hawks acquired in the Luka Doncic trade will only become more valuable as the Mavericks lose more games. This team has said their goal is to "stay young" -- so they should trade every possible piece. The worst thing that could happen would be a repeat of last year, when the Hawks didn't make any deadline moves and were forced to buyout Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli. Jeremy Lin could net some assets for a team in need of a backup point guard in the stretch run. So could Dewayne Dedmon. Getting a second-round draft type of guy for either of those players, or a protected first-rounder, would be smart.||--||20-47|
|27||Bulls||Robin Lopez wants to go to Golden State. Why not make his dream a reality? It's not like the Bulls are heading anywhere but the lottery this season. Flip him for a second-round pick and consider that a win.||1||22-43|
|28||Suns||The Suns, obviously, are in the asset acquisition game. Can they get a protected first-rounder for TJ Warren? Warren to the Rockets is a move that I'd like.||1||26-39|
|29||Cavaliers||The Cavaliers made a nice deal in shipping Rodney Hood to Portland. J.R. Smith is a guy who ought to net something in return. The big question, though, is what the Cavs can get for Kevin Love, if anything? One executive told me Love's massive contract is seen league-wide as a negative-value contract. What I want (and a trade that absolutely won't happen): Kevin Love for Markelle Fultz and a pick. This would certainly complicate Philly's books for the future, but it would also make the Sixers the Eastern Conference favorite this season. And the Cavs are a bottom-of-the-barrel team that needs to swing big -- and Fultz would be a huge swing, and a huge gamble.||1||19-46|
|30||Knicks||The Knicks went bold last week, trading their franchise cornerstone, Kristaps Porzingis, in a deal that people around the league read as an attempt to clear the decks for major moves in 2019 free agency. That was the biggest possible move the Knicks could have made. In the meantime, they'll try to trade Enes Kanter, though that'll be tough. And buyouts are possible for DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews.||1||21-45|
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