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Perkins trade will shake things up at the top

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted Feb 28 2011 10:29AM

The three best players traded last week were Deron Williams, Carmelo Anthony and Gerald Wallace. But no deal will have more of an effect on the title contenders at the top of the Power Rankings than the trade that sent Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic.

Perkins was the guy assigned to defend Dwight Howard one-on-one so that the other Celtics could stay attached to the Orlando Magic's perimeter shooters. And, along with Kevin Garnett, Perkins helped neutralize the size advantage that the Los Angeles Lakers had over every other team in the league. Now, he'll be doing that for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Only three teams (Cleveland, Charlotte and Utah) have regressed more defensively than the Thunder this season. Oklahoma City has become a pretty potent offensive team, but the Thunder haven't been able to get consistent stops. And they were better defensively when Green and Krstic were on the bench than when they were on the floor.

Perkins will obviously help them there. And the numbers indicate that he'll help them match up against the Lakers as well. Since 2007-08 (21 games including postseason), L.A. has scored just 98.4 points per 100 possessions against the Celtics with Perkins on the floor, and 103.1 with him off.

The Celtics will miss him, of course. But when he returned from knee surgery on Jan. 25, they were already the second-best defensive team in the league and were already 5-2 against Chicago, Miami and Orlando. Green and Krstic give them more offense and more versatility. They just have to hope that Shaquille O'Neal stays healthy and that they haven't irreparably damaged the team's "ubuntu" by breaking up its core.

How will it all play out? Who the heck knows? But we have Danny Ainge and Sam Presti to thank for making the rest of the season just that much more interesting.

• Last week: Heat begin the stretch run on top
• This time last year: Center-less Cavs reclaim No. 1 spot - Shaquille O'Neal (thumb surgery) was lost for the rest of the regular season, Jason Kidd ran into Mike Woodson on his way to a triple-double, the 36-20 Celtics lost to the 5-52 Nets, and Manu Ginobili did this to Kevin Durant.

Hero Team of the Week: L.A. Lakers (4-0) - From zero to hero, the Lakers may have flipped the switch at the break. Two of their four wins came on the road against West playoff teams, Portland and Oklahoma City.
Zero Team of the Week: Golden State (0-3) - The Warriors got crushed by the Celtics and Hawks before giving up 126 points in Minnesota.

Plus-minus Stud: Derek Fisher (LAL) was a plus-60 in four games last week.
Plus-minus Dud: DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) was a minus-74 in four games last week.

High jumps of the week: Dallas (+3), Houston (+3), L.A. Lakers (+2), Philadelphia (+2)
Free falls of the week: Miami (-5), Golden State (-3), Washington (-3)

East vs. West: The West is 200-147 (.576) against the East in inter-conference games this season, and was 13-9 last week.

Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (league rank)
Off: Points scored per 100 possessions (league rank)
Def: Points allowed per 100 possessions (league rank)
The league averages 94.7 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 104.3 points scored per 100 possessions.

NBA.com's Power Rankings are just one man's opinion and are released every Monday during the season. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail. You can also follow him on twitter.

1 San Antonio (49-10)
Pace: 94.8 (15), Off: 109.0 (2), Def: 100.7 (7)
The Spurs' starting five has played in every single game this season, a streak that may come to an end on Tuesday in Memphis, because Tony Parker suffered a calf contusion in Sunday's win over the Grizz. With Parker going down early, Manu Ginobili dropped 35 in the Spurs' 21st straight home victory.
Previous: 2

2 Dallas (43-16)
Pace: 92.9 (23), Off: 107.6 (7), Def: 102.8 (12)
The Mavs' offense has been off the charts (113.5 points per 100 possessions) as they've won 16 of their last 17 games. Dirk Nowitzki's scoring has actually been down slightly in that stretch, but he's had plenty of help. The Mavs have had at least five guys in double-figures in 15 of the 17.
Previous: 5

3 Chicago (40-17)
Pace: 93.8 (19), Off: 104.0 (17), Def: 97.6 (2)
The Bulls opened their post-break schedule with one of their worst defensive games of the season (losing their No. 1 ranking in the process) in Toronto, but responded with their second win over the Heat, thanks to a huge shot from Luol Deng. Joakim Noah grabbed 41 rebounds in his first three games back.
Previous: 4

4 Boston (42-15)
Pace: 93.0 (22), Off: 104.8 (13), Def: 97.3 (1)
It isn't quite the fall-off that they had last year, but the Celtics are now 19-11 since Christmas (tied for eighth best in the league). With a relatively easy March schedule and a two-game edge in the loss column over both Chicago and Miami, they may just hold on to that No. 1 spot in the East.
Previous: 3

5 L.A. Lakers (42-19)
Pace: 93.8 (18), Off: 108.8 (3), Def: 102.0 (8)
The Lakers have six lineups that have played at least 100 minutes together, and each has outscored its opponents by more than 10 points per 100 possessions (which is really good). Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, each a part of five of the six lineups (Kobe Bryant's a part of four), are critical.
Previous: 7

6 Miami (43-17)
Pace: 93.7 (21), Off: 108.5 (4), Def: 99.7 (4)
The Heat are just 1-7 against the league's top six and 14-15 against teams with winning records. They can improve those marks in the next three weeks, when they complete a stretch (which began Sunday against the Knicks) of 10 straight games against playoff teams. They get the Magic, Spurs and Bulls this week.
Previous: 1

7 Orlando (38-22)
Pace: 94.1 (16), Off: 106.2 (10), Def: 99.3 (3)
Dwight Howard not only has 18 straight double-doubles (including two more monster games last week), but he has yet to shoot below 50 percent in 2011 (27 games). And only twice has he attempted fewer than 10 shots in that span. Howard's 13.8 field-goal attempts per game are a career high.
Previous: 8

8 Oklahoma City (36-22)
Pace: 95.5 (12), Off: 107.7 (6), Def: 105.0 (16)
The Thunder could really have used their new center in their two games over the weekend. In Friday's loss to the Magic, they got destroyed by Dwight Howard (40 points, 15 rebounds, six blocks). And in Sunday's loss to L.A., Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum combined for 34 points and 21 boards (eight offensive).
Previous: 6

9 Memphis (33-28)
Pace: 95.0 (13), Off: 103.3 (20), Def: 102.3 (10)
The Grizzlies' defense didn't return from vacation until their second game after the break. They gave up 120 points in Denver before holding down the Wolves and Kings. Shane Battier was very Battier-esque in his return to Memphis, scoring just two points, but registering a plus-23 in the win over Sacramento.
Previous: 9

10 Portland (33-26)
Pace: 91.2 (28), Off: 104.5 (14), Def: 104.2 (15)
Friday's thrilling OT victory over Denver, highlighted by Brandon Roy's game-tying three, was sandwiched by a late collapse against the Lakers and an awful offensive performance against the Hawks. The Blazers' schedule gets tougher later in the month, but they have the Rockets, Kings and Bobcats this week.
Previous: 10

11 Philadelphia (30-29)
Pace: 93.8 (17), Off: 104.4 (15), Def: 102.2 (9)
The Sixers are over .500 for the first time since they started last season 3-2. Statistically, they're the second-most improved team in the league from last year, behind only Chicago (and, yes, more improved than Miami). Clearly, Doug Collins deserves a lot of consideration for Coach of the Year.
Previous: 13

12 Denver (34-26)
Pace: 98.1 (3), Off: 109.4 (1), Def: 106.7 (21)
The Nuggets were a Danilo Gallinari free throw from beginning the post-Melo era with three straight wins. It's a small sample size, but they've assisted on 64 percent of their field goals in their first three games without Anthony, compared to 46 percent in their last three games with him.
Previous: 12

13 Atlanta (36-23)
Pace: 92.1 (27), Off: 104.1 (16), Def: 103.3 (13)
Kirk Hinrich is a minus-14 in two games with the Hawks, but his arrival has coincided with some much-improved defense. Atlanta's five-game, seven-night trip ends Monday in Denver, but their schedule doesn't get easier when they return home. They host the Bulls, Thunder and Knicks later this week.
Previous: 11

14 Phoenix (30-27)
Pace: 96.8 (8), Off: 107.8 (5), Def: 107.0 (22)
Not only did Grant Hill score 34 points in Sunday's win in Indiana, but he did it after some advice from his dad, making us wonder if we've traveled back to 1997. Marcin Gortat has recorded 11 double-doubles in his last 18 games, three more off the bench than anyone else in the league this season.
Previous: 14

15 New York (30-27)
Pace: 98.9 (2), Off: 107.4 (9), Def: 105.9 (17)
It was certainly a crazy week in Knicksland, with the 'Melo trade, an awful loss in Cleveland and, finally, Sunday's huge win in Miami. It was just the Knicks' fourth win under Mike D'Antoni in which they shot less than 40 percent, but two of the four have come against the Heat this season.
Previous: 16

16 New Orleans (35-26)
Pace: 91.1 (29), Off: 103.5 (18), Def: 100.5 (6)
The Hornets beat the Clippers without Emeka Okafor and the Wolves without David West. But with both of them back (and Chris Paul shooting 2-for-12), New Orleans lost to the Rockets on Sunday. The Hornets' defense, which was terrible before the break, has returned to form, but they begin a tough five-game trip on Tuesday.
Previous: 15

17 Utah (32-28)
Pace: 93.8 (20), Off: 105.3 (12), Def: 106.3 (19)
Al Jefferson averaged 26.7 points on 61 percent shooting in his first three games without Deron Williams. But the Jazz are just 1-5 under Tyrone Corbin and somehow managed to lose a game (Saturday in Detroit) in which they shot 59 percent, easily the highest percentage by a losing team this season.
Previous: 17

18 Houston (30-31)
Pace: 96.9 (7), Off: 107.6 (8), Def: 107.5 (25)
The Rockets' deadline moves were meant to sacrifice the present for the future, but they've won four straight to keep themselves in the playoff picture. Chase Budinger can't replace Shane Battier's defense, but he blew up for 57 points in wins over the Cavs and Nets last week.
Previous: 21

19 Indiana (26-32)
Pace: 97.1 (5), Off: 102.0 (23), Def: 102.5 (11)
The Pacers' chances at holding on to the eight seed increased when the Bobcats traded Gerald Wallace, but before they book their ticket to the playoffs, they need to survive a March in which they play 11 of their 18 games on the road. The good news is that they've won four of their last six away from Conseco.
Previous: 19

20 Charlotte (26-33)
Pace: 92.5 (24), Off: 101.4 (25), Def: 103.6 (14)
It's hard to see the Bobcats challenging for a playoff spot without Wallace, especially with a tough March schedule. Well, maybe if Stephen Jackson averages 32.5 points like he has in the last two games. He cracked the 30-point mark four times in February after doing it just three times prior.
Previous: 20

21 Golden State (26-32)
Pace: 97.1 (4), Off: 105.3 (11), Def: 108.4 (28)
From anemic offense (79 points scored on 94 possessions) against Atlanta to atrocious defense (126 points allowed on 105 possessions) in Minnesota, the Warriors lost in polar opposite ways over the weekend. Monta Ellis shot just 20-for-58 (34 percent) in their three losses last week.
Previous: 18

22 Detroit (22-39)
Pace: 91.0 (30), Off: 103.4 (19), Def: 108.3 (27)
It's unclear how much longer John Kuester will last on the Pistons' bench, but it is clear that their next coach should be Elisabeth Shue, due to her babysitting experience. Rookie Greg Monroe has somehow managed to record four straight double-doubles amidst the veterans' childish behavior.
Previous: 22

23 Milwaukee (22-36)
Pace: 92.3 (25), Off: 98.4 (30), Def: 100.2 (5)
Give Andrew Bogut a ton of credit for playing through continued pain and discomfort in his right elbow, which he expects to have surgery on in the offseason. But with him shooting 35 percent over the last seven games, you wonder if it might soon be time to shut him down for the season.
Previous: 23

24 L.A. Clippers (21-39)
Pace: 94.9 (14), Off: 102.1 (22), Def: 107.4 (24)
The Clippers' post-break schedule began with three tough road games and a home game against the Celtics. Despite the four losses, it was a good week, as they freed themselves of Baron Davis' contract. In Davis' absence, Randy Foye scored 56 points combined against the Lakers and Celtics.
Previous: 24

25 New Jersey (17-42)
Pace: 92.1 (26), Off: 99.5 (28), Def: 106.3 (20)
The Nets got Deron Williams, but they might have to wait until next season to get the real Deron Williams. He dished out 29 assists, but bothered by a strained tendon in his right wrist, Williams shot just 8-for-25, including 0-for-7 from 3-point range in his first two games with New Jersey.
Previous: 25

26 Sacramento (14-43)
Pace: 96.9 (6), Off: 100.1 (26), Def: 106.2 (18)
With Tyreke Evans (plantar fasciitis) out at least another two weeks, the Kings are going to increase their lottery chances. They're 4-17 (.190) in games that Evans has missed over the last two years. Of course, that's not much worse than they are with him healthy (35-83, .297).
Previous: 27

27 Toronto (16-44)
Pace: 95.8 (11), Off: 102.9 (21), Def: 109.6 (29)
Well, Andrea Bargnani didn't play, and the Raptors' defense was still terrible against the Mavs on Sunday. So there goes that theory. Speaking of defense, the Raptors shot 52 percent last week but won just one of their four games, which was actually a pretty impressive victory over the Bulls.
Previous: 28

28 Minnesota (14-46)
Pace: 99.5 (1), Off: 101.5 (24), Def: 108.1 (26)
Kevin Love said this after tying Moses Malone's 44-game double-double streak on Wednesday (he's now at 46): "In a lot of ways I was like, 'I just wish this thing would end so I could go out there and just start playing again.'" Question for Kevin: Start playing what, exactly?
Previous: 29

29 Washington (15-43)
Pace: 96.2 (10), Off: 99.5 (27), Def: 107.1 (23)
John Wall has picked up his scoring, averaging 22.2 points over the last five games. But his 26/5 shot-to-assist ratio in Saturday's loss to Dallas was clearly too high. And the Wizards' free throw numbers (6-for-16) were obviously too low. They've won just two of their last 16 games.
Previous: 26

30 Cleveland (11-48)
Pace: 96.4 (9), Off: 99.0 (29), Def: 109.9 (30)
The losing streak is long over, but trading for Baron Davis should make the Cavs a fascinating watch once again. After an awful game against the Rockets on Wednesday, J.J. Hickson recovered to the tune of 24 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks in Friday's win over the Knicks, the Cavs' sixth against the Atlantic.
Previous: 30
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