NBA Power Rankings: Rockets tunnel their way to the top, 76ers climb over the fallen
The Cavaliers, you might have heard, are slipping
This was a rough week for the top class of the NBA. Contenders everywhere fell, leaving others a chance to climb over them to the top. That's just the kind of season it's been. Even among the elite, if they slip up for even a second, someone in the middle is going to use that opportunity to climb.
Across the rest of the NBA, trade rumors are beginning to surface. Teams looking to cash in on assets, improve themselves, or maybe even click the reset button are all starting to make calls. With the trade deadline on Feb. 8 there isn't much time left for teams to make their final adjustments to the season.
One team that could be in dire need of a change: the Cavaliers. They've been possibilities, with a desire to improve their defense and shake up a roster that is clearly not working. The Hornets to move Kemba Walker. The Jazz are moving Rodney Hood. It will be interesting to see how this all fits in during a deadline that is expected to be fairly quiet. Not many teams have the cap room or assets to make big moves, but all it takes is one big move to get the rest of the NBA rolling.
|1||Rockets||Houston is 17-0 in games when it has James Harden, Clint Capela, and Chris Paul playing. They've beaten the Warriors twice this season. Everything is different in the playoffs, but this team feels like the most serious non-LeBron contender yet.||4||25-19|
|2||Warriors||Draymond Green sneakily has been not as good as he usually is this season. His turnovers are up and in very brief moments he'll have defensive lapses. Does this mean anything? Probably not, but it's something interesting.||--||31-14|
|3||76ers||This feels amazingly high, but the 76ers are rolling right now. Joel Embiid earned his first career All-Star Game start in what will likely be the first of many. It's fitting because ever since his return from injury, Philly looks like they can make a serious run at good playoff seeding. If it hadn't been for an apparently bent rim in London, they might be undefeated in 2018.||8||29-16|
|4||Timberwolves||They did something against the Raptors they haven't been able to do all season: win a game without Jimmy Butler. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins were both incredible and proved that they can be relied on when called upon. That wasn't always the case this season.||1||21-23|
|5||Thunder||Oklahoma City might have just changed the very future of this NBA season, LeBron James, and the Cavaliers in its 148-point rout of Cleveland. Thunder fans probably don't have to worry too much about Paul George picking the Cavs over them anymore.||8||26-17|
|6||Raptors||DeMar DeRozan was deservedly named an All-Star starter this week, one of many award races he should be involved in. Next up, Most Improved Player and even MVP. He probably won't win them, but he deserves to be in the conversation.||2||33-13|
|7||Celtics||Who is more important to the Celtics success, Al Horford or Kyrie Irving? They're a team built on defense and execution, Horford's calling cards. However, their last two games without Irving (a blowout by the Bulls and recently against the 76ers) might be a trend.||6||26-18|
|8||Heat||When their offense falls apart, they rely heavily on Wayne Ellington shooting a crazy 3-pointer to save them. That can be a dangerous way to play, even if it's been working lately.||2||21-21|
|9||Pacers||It's weird that Nate McMillan has absolutely no Coach Of The Year hype for what he's doing this season. The Pacers are the biggest surprise team. Victor Oladipo is probably going to win Most Improved Player. Domantas Sabonis has been awesome. Yet, no praise for McMillan.||1||29-14|
|10||Spurs||Kawhi Leonard is out indefinitely. I'd give Spurs fans some more hopeful news, but the sounds of panic buttons being pushed across all of San Antonio would merely drown that out. If there's any consolation, Dejounte Murray appears ready to be the new starting point guard in San Antonio. Perhaps the beginning of a new era?||3||26-20|
|11||Clippers||The Clippers got under the Rockets' skin so much that Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green went through a "secret tunnel" to go fight them about it. If I had less shame I would put them No. 1 in these rankings on that fact alone.||4||24-20|
|12||Pelicans||Losing to the Hawks amid a hot streak was the most Pelicans thing they could possibly do, but they avoided the double disappointment and knocked off a surprisingly pesky Grizzlies team. Winners of four of their last five, New Orleans doesn't look too bad right now.||2||21-24|
|13||Wizards||The blowout loss to Charlotte followed by a good comeback win over the Pistons is such a perfect example of what this Wizards season has been like. The first half of their season was actually a pretty easy schedule in comparison to the rest of the NBA. For most teams, that would be a benefit. For this one, it was somehow a hindrance.||5||18-26|
|14||Trail Blazers||Portland feels kind of stuck right now with the Feb. 8 trade deadline coming up. They could use some cap relief to make moves in the future, but teams are running out of the money needed to make that happen. It will be interesting to see if they make a move.||2||27-19|
|15||Bucks||The Bucks have lost seven of their last 10 and Jason Kidd's seat has to be feeling a little warm right now. There isn't much a mid-season coaching firing would do for them, though, so don't expect anything on that front to change for awhile.||2||32-12|
|16||Cavaliers||This defense cannot be fixed by effort. This defense cannot be fixed with simple tweaks. This defense can not be fixed by Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and the 2018 Brooklyn pick. Cleveland has the worst defense in the NBA since Christmas. Changes need to happen, and they need to happen soon.||7||9-36|
|17||Bulls||Trade rumor season is picking up, and Nikola Mirotic's name has mostly stayed out of it. With the deadline quickly approaching, it wouldn't be a surprise to hear his name come up a lot more soon. The real question is, do the Bulls make a trade for wins or the future?||3||10-34|
|18||Hornets||Charlotte is actually playing some decent basketball right now. They've won five of their last eight and probably should have won six. Yet, Kemba Walker is reportedly on the table in trade offers as Charlotte tries to dump a bad contract or two. If true, Walker is someone that could make a lot of teams better.||3||20-23|
|19||Nuggets||Denver has fallen all the way to .500, and the recent surges from the Pelicans and Clippers have pushed them out of the playoff picture. Paul Millsap can't come back soon enough.||1||29-14|
|20||Pistons||They should be a dark horse candidate in the Kemba Walker sweepstakes. Ish Smith is fine at what he does, but Detroit could really use a Walker type point guard with Reggie Jackson still out injured. Tobias Harris does what he can, but the margin of error is already so thin on this roster.||4||19-24|
|21||Grizzlies||Memphis, uhh ... you're going the wrong way. They've won five of their last seven games and and proven that, no matter how hard they try, tanking just isn't in their nature -- despite still being seven games out of the playoffs.||5||19-25|
|22||Lakers||The Lakers had been 0-8 without Lonzo Ball before blowing out the Pacers and Knicks this weekend.||3||24-21|
|23||Jazz||Rudy Gobert is back, and that has to be a wonderful feeling for the Jazz. The damage is done from their brutal early schedule, but they can at least try to salvage something of their season. Rumors involving Rodney Hood suggest the front office might try to do that with a trade.||1||25-21|
|24||Magic||There is a semblance of a good team somewhere inside the Magic. They're losing games tight, but they just can't finish off wins. There is talent on this roster that might work elsewhere though. If they can clear up the logjam at center, it would allow them to play Khem Birch more.||6||19-25|
|25||Nets||The Nets are always fun to pay attention to around trade rumor season. They've been willing to take on just about anybody as long as it gives them talent and maybe a draft pick or two. They're an ideal third team in a big trade.||--||23-23|
|26||Hawks||Atlanta somehow managed to beat the Spurs and Pelicans this week only to let Chicago kick them around for 48 minutes. This team makes no sense sometimes.||2||14-30|
|27||Knicks||The Knicks' offense just doesn't fit their personnel, and it hurts them on a nightly basis. It'll be interesting to see if they try to get involved in the Kemba Walker sweepstakes.||4||10-33|
|28||Suns||Chaos Team, also known as the Suns, scared the living daylights out of Houston and then got the doors blown off of them by Indiana. Then they kicked around Denver simply because they could. Fear Chaos Team.||1||11-34|
|29||Mavericks||Dennis Smith Jr. is slowly but surely turning the corner as a rookie. It can take guards a while to get their careers going, but when they do everything just kind of clicks at once. Smith Jr. is still raw, but his flashes show the potential.||7||20-24|
|30||Kings||Cleveland gave up 148 points in a game and the Kings are still ranked last in defense. In good news, Bogdan Bogdanovic is blossoming into a really good rookie for Sacramento.||1||23-21|
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