Welcome back to NBA Star Power Index: A weekly gauge of the players getting the most buzz around the league. Inclusion on this list isn't necessarily a good thing -- it simply means you're capturing the NBA world's attention. This is also not a ranking. The players listed are in no particular order. This column will run every week throughout the regular season. 

This might actually be happening! The Sixers and Nets, per ESPN's Brian Windhorst, are "in the deal zone" for a Simmons-James Harden swap. It would obviously involve other players/picks, but we could be about to dance for what would be an unbelievable trade as we tick down to Thursday's 3 p.m. ET deadline. 

If Daryl Morey pulls this off, he was obviously right to hold off on trading Simmons with his eyes on a mega star in return. It feels like he has pulled it off, actually. The only question is whether it gets done now or in the offseason. But we still need to see what else is in the deal. If Morey has to include Tyrese Maxey and Seth Curry, that lessens the impact of this deal. 

Long term, if I were Philly, I'd obviously rather have Maxey, but short term I'm not sure. Curry is a knockdown shooter and has proven he can be a really good secondary creator next to a guy like Harden. Spacing will be of premium importance with a Harden-Joel Embiid duo. 

Getcha popcorn ready. 

Russell Westbrook
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The Lakers are imploding in real time and Westbrook is taking grenades from every angle. LeBron won't make Russ the scapegoat for the Lakers' struggles, but there's no denying he's the very definition of the elephant in the room. 

It's no longer a matter of whether Westbrook can change his game when he's on the floor with LeBron and Anthony Davis, it's if the Lakers can afford to have him on the floor at all. Lately, Frank Vogel has decided the answer to the latter question is no. 

On Tuesday, Vogel benched Westbrook with three minutes and change remaining in the third quarter of L.A.'s loss to Milwaukee, and he never went back in. On Saturday, he benched Westbrook for the overtime period against the Knicks, a game the Lakers pulled out in large part because of the way they played without Westbrook. A few weeks back, Vogel sat Westbrook for the closing stretch in a loss to the Pacers. 

Westbrook, as stubborn a former superstar as you'll ever see, clearly doesn't agree with Vogel's decision. After the loss on Tuesday, be could be seen huddled around LeBron and Davis talking into their ear. Afterward, Russ revealed what he was saying. 

"I told them I wished I could help them," Westbrook said of the exchange. "Unfortunately, I wasn't in the game to be able to help them, and that's why I came here: To help them out. So unfortunately, I haven't been able to do that for them, but that's not my call." 

He's right. It's not his call. It's Vogel's. The job of a coach is to put the players on the floor that give the team the best chance of winning, and more and more it's not looking like Westbrook can be one of those guys on a consistent basis. Can the Lakers trade him before Thursday' deadline? Not likely. Though I think everyone can agree they gladly would. 

Damian Lillard
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Lillard's future in Portland hangs heavy over what has been a wild week of trading for the Blazers. First they traded Norman Powell and Robert Covington to the Clippers, then they sent CJ McCollum, Tony Snell and Larry Nance Jr. to the Pelicans. The best player they got in return out of all that maneuvering is Josh Hart. 

Now don't get me wrong, Hart is a solid player. He's a strong defender and puts a lot of pressure on the rim as a finisher. But Hart's obviously not what all these deals are about. 

The Blazers now own real draft capital in the form of New Orleans' 2022 first-round pick (protected 5-14) and their own 2022 first-round pick, which is looking like it could land in the mid-to-high lottery range. 

Portland also created an avenue, potentially, to significant cap space. The number $60M in space was being thrown around, but that's likely an inflated figure. It would require renouncing their free agents, including Jusuf Nurkic. It also doesn't include the $11M cap hold for Anfernee Simons, who will likely get a hefty extension, or the cap hold of Portland's own lottery pick, let alone whatever the New Orleans pick might become. 

Of course, those picks might get shipped out five minutes after this article publishes. 

Portland created the possibility of more cap space by flipping Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who came back in the McCollum deal, to Utah and Tomas Satoransky (also from McCollum deal) to San Antonio for Joe Ingles and Elijah Hughes, both of whom will likely never play for Portland as expiring contracts this summer. 

Oh by the way, the Blazers also have a $21M trade exception from the McCollum deal. It just so happens to be the perfect amount to absorb, say, Jerami Grant if Detroit wanted to party for Portland's draft capital. They could also become the team that facilitates a Harden-to-Philly deal this summer by having the space to absorb Simmons' contract, which would then give the Sixers the space to sign Harden as a free agent. 

Important note: You can't use a TPE and operate as an under-the-cap team. It's one of the other. What the Blazers could do it use the TPE now, before the deadline, as an over-cap team, then flip to under-cap operation in the offseason. But in that case the TPE player would be on their books, reducing their cap space by up to $21M. 

Yes, it complicated. But however this shakes out, Portland is getting wild. And it's all in an attempt to put a contender around Lillard. I was dubious at first, but the Blazers might actually be close to pulling off something pretty awesome. Or at least putting themselves in better position to do so than they've ever been during Lillard's tenure.  

Luka Doncic
DAL • PG • #77
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Doncic put up 33-11-7 in a win over Detroit on Tuesday. He has scored at least 30 points in five of his last six games. Over that span he's averaging 31.3 points, 11.6 assists and nine rebounds. This seems like pretty good company:

The Mavericks have won 14 of their last 19 and are holding down the West's No. 5 seed. 

Tyrese Haliburton
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Domantas Sabonis is the All-Star, but Haliburton is the guy everyone is talking about in the Kings-Pacers swap. People love Haliburton. Like, almost in a weird way. And these people want to know: Even if Sabonis is the better player at this moment, why would the Kings, a 20-35 team, give up a franchise building block for a guy who probably still doesn't even make them a playoff team? 

It's a fair question. All I can say is the Kings decided they couldn't roll with Haliburton and De'Aaron Fox. We've seen that blueprint of two guards who aren't great defenders fail numerous times. So Sacramento either likes Fox better -- which I wouldn't agree with, but isn't an absolutely ridiculous stance -- or they simply couldn't extract as much value for Fox on the trade market. So they dealt the guy who could get them a player like Sabonis and they're going to take their chances moving forward by shaking things up. 

I don't think it's a terrible strategy. But like I said, people love Haliburton. So this is getting a lot of buzz as the latest Kings blunder. It doesn't help that they gave up Buddy Hield as well, who's an infinitely more valuable player than the constant trade discourse around him would suggest. 

LaMelo Ball
CHA • PG • #1
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Ball is an All-Star in just his second season. He was named as the East's injury replacement for Kevin Durant, and it's fine. Ball has been quite good this season. But I just can't see how he got the nod over Jarrett Allen, who is the centerpiece of the league's No. 3 defense and arguably the most valuable player on a Cavs team that is just one loss back of the East's No. 1 seed. 

Quietly, Ball is just 16 for his last 56 from 3 (28 percent) and the Hornets have lost five straight.