NBA Power Rankings: Revamped Raptors rolling; new-look Pelicans can't take flight
Toronto is rolling since making its latest additions. New Orleans is 0-3 since pairing Boogie with the Brow
Well, the trade deadline is over. This is the team you’ve got, for better or worse. It’s time to either put the pedal to the floor or start tanking to high heaven.
Something that often gets lost when we talk about the trade deadline is that there are only seven weeks left in the season, less than 30 games. You don’t have a lot of time to figure out how these new additions fit. The Pelicans didn’t have a stable structure to begin with, and now they just threw in DeMarcus Cousins into the mix. There’s a lot to figure out with no practice time, whatsoever.
Rosters are built over NBA summers with long-term goals and plans in mind. When the Warriors added Kevin Durant, it affected the rest of their depth decisions. These trades are more haphazard, opportunistic or duct-taped solutions. So the pressure is on the coaches to find out how to make them work to the best of their abilities, now, and in the long-term.
It’s not easy, and while over half the league makes the postseason, each team has different expectations. There’s a lot of pressure, and it starts ramping up now.
Here are this week’s power rankings.
|1||Warriors||Golden State clinched a playoff spot on Saturday, the earliest any team in NBA history has secured a postseason berth. Most of that has to do with how trash the back half of the West is this year, but the point remains: The Warriors are every bit the juggernaut they were advertised as before the season. And JaVale McGee has legitimately helped them get there, by the way.||1||12-45|
|2||Spurs||Do you realize they're barreling down on their 20th straight 50-win season, and 25th out of 28 seasons? What is that? Who does that? Don't bring me the Patriots. Keep the Patriots. The Spurs have put together an unparalleled streak of success.||3||24-32|
|3||Cavaliers||The Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut additions are meaningful. These guys aren't past their expiration date, and they're not just guys to practice with. The Cavs actively got better this week without having to surrender Iman Shumpert or anything else. That's pretty incredible work from David Griffin.||2||16-41|
|4||Celtics||Every time I point out the Celtics' outrageous 26-6 record against teams under .500, it seems like I'm insulting them on the basis of their having built such a strong record on bad teams. But the reality is the opposite. If you want to be a really good team, you need to be consistent. You need to play the same level, night in and night out. Boston has done that.||--||39-17|
|5||Wizards||An auspicious start for the Wizards have them sliding. Did they peak too soon, or is this just a two-game blip? That's the big question going forward. PS they face the Warriors and then Raptors twice this week so things could get worse before they get better.||2||20-36|
|6||Rockets||Sometimes, you make an experimental album, and it's a self-indulgent mess. Sometimes you make an experimental album, and it's a tour de force. This Rockets season, in which they're trying to average 50 3-point attempts per game, is a tour de force.||--||37-20|
|7||Jazz||The Jazz rebounded from a three-game slip by rattling off three of their own, including an impressive win Sunday vs. Washington. The scary part is that their metrics indicate they should have an even better record, and when you think about their injury problems, you nod your head. Just how good IS this team?||1||36-21|
|8||Heat||Well, I guess the Heat's really doing this. They're now one game back of the 8th seed in the loss column with the sixth-best defense in the NBA. Starting next weekend they play the Cavs in back-to-back games and if they win one or both of those, all hell's going to break loose about a possible 1-8 matchup.||1||36-21|
|9||Thunder||On the one hand, OKC's great defensively and closes games hard. On the other, their offense is still pedestrian. But if Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott give them a boost in any capacity, they might have some pyro to bring to the show come April.||1||35-22|
|10||Grizzlies||They swing a big sledgehammer, but the problem is if that's your only tool and you miss, you're vulnerable and slow. They're also notably pretty much the same team they were to start the year, there's been little evolution for Memphis. That's good in some ways, bad in others.||3||28-29|
|11||Bulls||There's only one team in the top eight of the East with a sub-.500 record vs. teams under .500. It's Chicago. There are only three teams in the East top eight with plus-.500 records vs. teams over .500. One of them is Chicago.||--||20-38|
|12||Pistons||When you find yourself asking "Should they just play Ish Smith more?" then some things have not gone the way you would expect this season.||--||19-40|
|13||Raptors||Back from the dead, the Raptors look like a different animal with Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker. It's a good thing, too, considering that they gave up ... almost nothing. They gave up almost nothing besides Terrence Ross for two major upgrades. When Masai Ujiri calls, throw your phone out the window if you're a GM.||8||42-16|
|14||Clippers||Blake Griffin's back. Chris Paul's back. The band's back together for one more tour. Question is, are they going to put out a new album or just play the same hits? Because we've heard how those songs end.||1||38-19|
|15||Bucks||The Bucks have a rough four-game week ahead of them, including matchups against the Cavs, Raptors and Clippers. That good team they have sporadically looked like this season might want to make an appearance, and be on time to the party.||1||50-8|
|16||Hawks||Ah, the Hawks. The NBA team version of the smiling shrug emoji.||1||17-42|
|17||Mavericks||Nerlens Noel has Dallas fans very excited. Is Harrison Barnes, Noel, Yogi Ferrell and zombie Dirk Nowitzki enough for a run at the 8th?||1||35-23|
|18||Nuggets||It's been a month since the nuggets have won two games in a row. They've had ample opportunities to build a stable lead for the 8th seed, but squandered too many easy games without being able to steal any either. Their hold on the last playoff spot in the West feels more like a temporary holding pattern.||2||39-18|
|19||Pacers||You know how sometimes when you're on a plane and the turbulence lasts just a little too long and you start to get nervous? The Pacers are at that moment right now.||4||34-24|
|20||Trail Blazers||Even if they make the playoffs, it's safe to say this team has taken a big step backward from last year. The more important questions about Portland aren't "Will they make the playoffs?" but "What next?"||4||26-32|
|21||Knicks||The Knicks blowing a big lead and then having Carmelo Anthony lift them to a win over the Sixers without Joel Embiid is kind of perfect. It feels like a nice moment until you step back and look at the big picture.||2||17-40|
|22||Timberwolves||They opted to stand pat at the deadline, and that was the right move. Be patience, see the whole board, and get going this summer. That Derrick Rose trade they didn't pull off was a gigantic dodged bullet.||3||16-40|
|23||Kings||Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein are fun to watch and none of it comes with the weight of the DeMarcus Cousins discussions. The Kings are just a normal bad team now.||7||23-33|
|24||Pelicans||Well, OK, all that optimism about Fire and Ice faded quickly. They're 0-3 with Boogie and the Brow. They just need time to figure this out ... and they don't have any.||10||25-32|
|25||Hornets||What's different about this year's team vs. last year's squad that finished sixth in the East? The bench didn't get that much worse. Sometimes teams just go bad and it doesn't make any sense.||--||19-38|
|26||76ers||Usually if a team loses both its top picks in a rebuilding year, you feel awful for them and their fans. With the Sixers you're left just feeling like this is the status quo, forever.||4||36-22|
|27||Magic||Coach Frank Vogel this week said Aaron Gordon looks a lot better at power forward. It's really great that Vogel has been able to finally watch his team for the first time this season.||1||25-32|
|28||Suns||In the madness of the trade deadline, I literally thought the Suns traded Tyler Ulis to the Lakers instead of the Rockets trading Tyler Ennis because I am so used to Phoenix trading point guards at the deadline. Good for Phoenix for not making a bad trade this time around.||1||24-34|
|29||Lakers||Week One for the Magic Johnson regime was a win, if for no other reason than they were patient and deliberate before the deadline. The absence of bad moves is a good thing, that's how far the Lakers have fallen.||--||43-12|
|30||Nets||Hope you enjoyed this season of "The Nets never trade Brook Lopez." Join us next season for more adventures in wasted opportunities.||2||26-30|
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