One of the best All-Star weekends we've ever had has come and gone, and it's time to get back to business.
But before teams get back on the court, they have to decide if they like their current roster or want to make some changes at the trade deadline, which hits Thursday at 3 p.m. ET.
Of course, it takes two (or more) sides to get a deal done and we've had less smoke than we usually do by the Monday morning before the deadline. The parity between teams 3-9 in the East and teams 5-9 in the West would seemingly create a seller's market, but the dominance of the league's two best teams could scare some teams out of going for a championship right now. Is there really a deal out there that's going to make your team better than the one that's 48-4, or the one that has outscored its opponents by 13.3 points per game?
Time will tell how things shake out, but it would take something out of left field to shake up the top four in the rankings. As things stand, we have two historically good teams, two more title contenders, and everyone else.
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• Last week: Celtics, Jazz rolling into the break
• This time last year: More moves to be made? -- Evan Turner hitting a running game-winner against the Hawks, the Kings hired George Karl, a Warrior guard won the Three-Point Contest, Zach LaVine won the dunk contest, and Russell Westbrook was the All-Star Game MVP.
• Plus-minus stud: Enes Kanter (OKC) was a plus-50 in two games last week.
• Plus-minus dud: Doug McDermott (CHI) was a minus-43 in two games last week.
• Hero team of the week: Portland (2-0) -- The Blazers got an overtime win in Memphis and then moved into playoff position with Wednesday's win over the Rockets.
• Zero team of the week: Chicago (0-2) -- The Bulls' season is going downhill fast.
• Team to watch this week: L.A. Clippers -- The Clips should be active at the deadline, and should seriously think about trading Blake Griffin if they can get multiple contributors in return. On the court, they host two of the best teams in NBA history, against whom they're 0-3 so far.
• East vs. West: The West is 169-145 (.538) against the East in interconference games after going 7-5 last week.
• Toughest schedules through Feb. 11: 1. Milwaukee, 2. Washington, 3. Denver
• Easiest schedules through Feb. 11: 1. Oklahoma City, 2. San Antonio, 3. Golden State
Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
• High jumps of the week: Utah (+5), Charlotte (+4), Denver (+4)
• Free falls of the week: Sacramento (-6), Chicago (-4), New Orleans (-4)
* * *
Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)
The league has averaged 97.9 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 103.1 points scored per 100 possessions this season.
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NBA.com's Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man's opinion. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail or contact him via Twitter.
(48-4) Pace: 102.1 (2) OffRtg: 113.1 (1) DefRtg: 99.2 (2) NetRtg: +13.9 (2)
Though the Warriors' 11-game winning streak includes a close call in Philadelphia, the offense has been stronger (118 points scored per 100 possessions
) than it was in the 24-game streak to start the season (114). We'll soon find out if they can win 73 games
, because their post-break schedule begins with a six-game trip (including two back-to-backs) and seven of their first eight games agains teams that are .500 or better. This week:
@ POR, @ LAC
(45-8) Pace: 96.3 (24) OffRtg: 109.3 (3) DefRtg: 95.2 (1) NetRtg: +14.1 (1)
Kawhi Leonard actually emoted after hitting his game-winner
in Orlando on Wednesday. The Spurs continue to roll despite injuries and have the best NetRtg we've ever seen, but it all may be for naught if they can't beat the Warriors four times in seven games in May. Their next meeting with the champs is more than a month away and Thursday's game against the Clippers is the toughest game of the Rodeo Trip
. This week:
@ LAC, @ LAL, @ PHX
(40-14) Pace: 99.3 (9) OffRtg: 110.2 (2) DefRtg: 101.6 (10) NetRtg: +8.6 (3
After Russell Westbrook's second straight All-Star Game MVP award, Oklahoma City players rank first and third in All-Star points per game (minimum five games)
. The Thunder have played the league's easiest schedule thus far, but have the toughest one going forward, with 17 of their 28 remaining games on the road and 10 against the other five teams over .600. The first of those is Sunday's visit from the Cavs. This week:
vs. IND, vs. CLE
(38-14) Pace: 95.2 (28) OffRtg: 106.9 (4) DefRtg: 101.1 (7) NetRtg: +5.8 (4
Coach Tyronn Lue will be the first to admit that the Cavs' defense has regressed since he took over for David Blatt. And it's hard to run more (the Cavs have averaged just 8.8 fast break points over their last four games
) if you're getting fewer stops. But the defense won't be tested too often between now and the playoffs. Sunday's visit to Oklahoma City is one of just two games against top-5 offenses remaining on the Cavs' schedule. This week:
vs. CHI, @ OKC
Pace: 95.7 (26) OffRtg: 105.8 (6) DefRtg: 101.5 (9) NetRtg: +4.4 (6)
The Raptors' biggest strength is their depth, but would they sacrifice some of that depth to upgrade the power forward position? DeMar DeRozan is having his best season and Kyle Lowry turns 30 next month, so there may be no time like the present to really go for it when the only team ahead of them in the Eastern Conference is far from invincible. GM Masai Ujiri doesn't seem like one to hesitate when he sees an opening.
This week: @ CHI, vs. MEM
(35-18) Pace: 98.2 (13) OffRtg: 106.2 (5) DefRtg: 101.1 (8) NetRtg: +5.2 (5
The Clippers have a league-high eight games left against the top four teams, starting with visits from the Spurs and Warriors this week. Chris Paul went into the break playing a total of 88 minutes in overtime games in Philadelphia and Boston
and could use some (playing time and/or usage rate) relief down the stretch. But that won't happen until Blake Griffin gets back ... unless Griffin is traded for additional depth. This week:
vs. SAS, vs. GSW
(32-23) Pace: 101.3 (3) OffRtg: 103.5 (9) DefRtg: 99.6 (3) NetRtg: +3.9 (7
The Celitcs are playing the best basketball of their season (10-2 over the last 3 1/2 weeks) and looking like the favorite to grab the 3 seed in the East, whether they make a move or not. Incredibly, one of the three best offensive lineups over the last month has been a Boston lineup that doesn't include Isaiah Thomas
. Coach Brad Stevens has found his rotation, but Danny Ainge could shake it up again this week. This week:
@ UTA, @ DEN
(31-22) Pace: 95.2 (27) OffRtg: 102.1 (21) DefRtg: 102.9 (15) NetRtg: -0.8 (16
The loss of Marc Gasol
(for the season?) is devastating blow for the Grizz. They've been good offensively in limited minutes with Zach Randolph playing center, but it's now much more important that they get something out of Brandan Wright this season. They're the only team that doesn't have a single remaining game against a team on the second night of a back-to-back and their schedule gets really tough after the first week of March. This week:
vs. MIN, @ TOR
(29-24) Pace: 94.7 (29) OffRtg: 101.4 (24) DefRtg: 100.6 (6) NetRtg: +0.8 (12
Hassan Whiteside could be on the move in the next few days, but didn't help his trade value by elbowing Boban Marjanovic in the head on Tuesday and getting suspended for his first game after the break. The Heat could use some shooting, even if they use Chris Bosh at center more often. They've shot a brutal 28 percent from 3-point range over their last 10 games
. Dwyane Wade hasn't hit a three in two months. This week:
@ ATL, vs. WAS
Pace: 99.2 (10) OffRtg: 103.1 (15) DefRtg: 99.8 (5) NetRtg: +3.3 (8)
The Hawks could do a lot worse than standing pat at the trade deadline. They don't have to make a decision on Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder for another year, Al Horford is still a huge part of what they do on both ends of the floor, and they're very much in the mix for the 3 seed in the East. Their five-game homestand coming out of the break includes bigs games against the Heat, Bulls and Hornets.
This week: vs. MIA, vs. MIL
Pace: 99.4 (8) OffRtg: 102.0 (22) DefRtg: 99.6 (4) NetRtg: +2.4 (9)
With a point differential that's better than their record and a relatively easy remaining schedule, the Pacers wouldn't be a bad pick to move up a spot or two in the East. But they play nine of their first 13 post-break games on the road, where they're 5-13 since early December. They could certainly use a boost to their offense at the deadline, but will still depend on a rookie (Myles Turner) more than any other good team down the stretch.
This week: @ OKC, @ ORL
Pace: 97.4 (18) OffRtg: 104.4 (7) DefRtg: 104.3 (18) NetRtg: +0.1 (13)
The Blazers have the toughest schedule among the four teams fighting for the last three playoff spots in the West and will have to hope that they can carry some of their pre-break momentum through the long layoff. If they do that and reach the postseason, Terry Stotts has to be a favorite for the Coach of the Year award. Their four-game homestand that starts on Friday includes huge games against Utah and Houston.
This week: vs. GSW, vs. UTA
Pace: 92.9 (30) OffRtg: 103.3 (11) DefRtg: 102.5 (14) NetRtg: +0.8 (11)
The returns of Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors obviously improved the Jazz's defense. But they also played just one of their final 15 pre-break games against teams that currently rank in the top 10 offensively. After Thursday's visit to Washington, they'll play six of their next seven games against top-10 offenses, a stretch which will test their ability to reach the postseason for the first time in four years.
This week: @ WAS, BOS, @ POR
(27-26) Pace: 97.7 (16) OffRtg: 103.2 (14) DefRtg: 101.8 (12) NetRtg: +1.4 (10
The Hornets went 5-2 (with a top-3 defense
) with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to climb back into eighth place in the East. But MKG suffered another torn labrum in his right shoulder in Wednesday's win in Indiana and is likely done for the season. Though it's a little road-heavy, the Hornets have the league's easiest remaining schedule in regard to cumulative strength of opponents. So don't count them out just yet. This week:
@ MIL, @ BKN
Pace: 97.8 (15) OffRtg: 102.3 (18) DefRtg: 102.2 (13) NetRtg: +0.0 (14)
If the Pistons are going to get back into playoff position, they need to get back to defending like they were through early January. One issue has been 3-point defense, but SportVU says that their opponents have been shooting better (and above the league average) on uncontested 3-pointers, not that the Pistons are contesting them less. Friday's opponent is a game in the loss column behind them and a top-5 3-point shooting team.
This week: @ WAS, vs. NOP
(29-26) Pace: 96.3 (22) OffRtg: 103.3 (10) DefRtg: 103.3 (17) NetRtg: -0.0 (15
The Mavs went into the break losing four of their last five games, playing some pretty porous defense, and with Dirk Nowitzki shooting 4-for-18 from 3-point range over his last seven games
. They needed the break and they have a home-heavy schedule over the next month, as well as a league-low three back-to-backs left on their schedule. They have a shot at the 4-5 section of the bracket, away from the West's big three. This week:
@ ORL, vs. PHI
(27-25) Pace: 98.6 (11) OffRtg: 100.6 (26) DefRtg: 101.6 (11) NetRtg: -1.0 (17
If the Bulls continue to play like they have over the last five weeks (5-13, bottom-5 offense
, bottom-10 defense
), they're going to miss the playoffs. And Jimmy Butler's absence for the next 3-4 weeks certainly doesn't help in that regard. Chicago has been outscored by 11.3 points per 100 possessions with Butler off the floor over those 18 games
, and the next month of their schedule is tougher than the final month. This week:
@ CLE, vs. TOR, vs. LAL
(27-28) Pace: 99.6 (7) OffRtg: 104.2 (8) DefRtg: 106.4 (26) NetRtg: -2.2 (19
Do the Rockets want to trade Dwight Howard? Would he make much of an impact on a new team? The second question is more interesting than the first. Howard ranks 33rd in rim protection
and 34th in the number of ball screens set this season. If he is traded, the Rockets could still make some noise in the West is Donatas Motiejunas is ready to play after the break. His role in Howard-less games last season was huge. This week:
Pace: 97.6 (17) OffRtg: 102.2 (19) DefRtg: 105.5 (22) NetRtg: -3.3 (25)
The Nuggets have played above .500 over the last six weeks and have the easiest remaining schedule in the West. But they're six games behind the eighth-place Jazz in the loss column and will have the opportunity to sell off a piece or two this week. Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic are all 21 years old or younger, so their in-their-prime forwards could be considered expendable.
This week: @ SAC, vs. BOS
Pace: 100.2 (4) OffRtg: 102.6 (17) DefRtg: 105.1 (21) NetRtg: -2.5 (20)
Thursday's loss in Milwaukee could have been doubly painful, but John Wall's knee looked OK in Toronto. The Wizards have some work to do (and/or trades to make) if they want to make their third straight trip to the playoffs. The postponement of last month's game against the Jazz has given them a back-to-back-to-back to start their post-break schedule, which includes a league-low five games against top-10 offenses.
This week: vs. UTA, vs. DET, @ MIA
(20-33) Pace: 98.2 (14) OffRtg: 103.3 (12) DefRtg: 106.6 (27) NetRtg: -3.3 (24
Eric Gordon could be back in a couple of weeks, but because the Pelicans can never be healthy, Tyreke Evans had season-ending knee surgery on Thursday
. The season is pretty much lost, but coach Alvin Gentry can use the last two months to climb out of the bottom five in defensive efficiency and build something for next year. Avoiding a fourth straight bottom-10 finish may be an impossible task. This week:
vs. PHI, @ DET
(22-31) Pace: 102.2 (1) OffRtg: 103.2 (13) DefRtg: 106.2 (25) NetRtg: -2.9 (22
Apparently, George Karl is still the coach of the Kings, who pulled out a real gutty win
in Philadelphia on Wednesday after allowing the league's worst offense to put up two 30-point quarters in the first half. The front office wants to see better defense, which should mean more time for a frontline of Willie Cauley-Stein and DeMarcus Cousins, though the numbers haven't been great in the minutes they've shared the floor so far
. This week:
Pace: 96.9 (19) OffRtg: 103.0 (16) DefRtg: 106.1 (24) NetRtg: -3.1 (23)
The baby Wolves put on a show on Saturday night, and it should be clear now that Karl-Anthony Towns is the next superstar in this league. Thanks to some much-improved offense, Minnesota has won its last three games against teams over .500 and will have more opportunities to play spoiler over the next two months, though having another top-5 pick to team with Towns and Andrew Wiggins could be fun.
This week: @ MEM, vs. NYK
New York (23-32)
Pace: 96.0 (25) OffRtg: 102.1 (20) DefRtg: 104.7 (20) NetRtg: -2.5 (21)
A six-game losing streak, along with a coaching change that signals another step backward, only makes a Carmelo Anthony trade more plausible. His current team is going to miss the playoffs for a third straight season and he turns 32 in May. The Knicks could use the deadline to get a head start on the work they'll need to do in the summer, when they'll be competing with several teams for both a point guard and a coach.
This week: @ BKN, @ MIN
Pace: 96.3 (23) OffRtg: 101.6 (23) DefRtg: 106.0 (23) NetRtg: -4.4 (26)
The Bucks went into the break with a pair of wins (with Greg Monroe coming off the bench) and could come out of it a little healthier. They have the most home games (18), as well as the most games against teams on the second night of a back-to-back (11), remaining. But there are five teams between the Bucks and eighth place in the East. The first of six remaining games against those five teams is Friday against the Hornets.
This week: vs. CHA, @ ATL
(23-29) Pace: 96.6 (21) OffRtg: 101.0 (25) DefRtg: 103.1 (16) NetRtg: -2.1 (18
We know that Aaron Gordon can jump really, really high
. We don't know if he's one of the guys that will eventually take the Magic from mediocre to good. They have six former first round picks under the age of 24, and five of them are wings or small-ball fours. Their patience with the group should last through the deadline. They had a brutal January, but are still one of nine teams that has improved (from last season) on both ends of the floor. This week:
vs. DAL, vs. IND
(8-45) Pace: 99.9 (6) OffRtg: 94.5 (30) DefRtg: 104.6 (19) NetRtg: -10.1 (29
As good as Ish Smith has been for the Sixers, he's a far cry from being the answer at point guard. You only had to watch the fourth quarter and overtime of Monday's loss to the Clippers
, when he was 0-for-8 from outside the restricted area, to realize that he can't shoot. A permanent solution at point might not come in the Draft, so this week could be the time for Philly to cash in some of its assets. This week:
@ NOP, @ DAL
(14-40) Pace: 96.7 (20) OffRtg: 99.3 (28) DefRtg: 106.7 (28) NetRtg: -7.4 (28
If Joe Johnson gets traded (good luck finding a deal that works) or bought out (more likely), at least he gave them one more game-winner
to remember him by. More important than a decision about Johnson is a decision about the next decision-maker in Brooklyn, as well as Mikhail Prokhorov's (and Dmitry Razumov's) willingness to let his new general manager call the shots and do what's best long-term. This week:
vs. NYK, vs. CHA
(11-44) Pace: 98.4 (12) OffRtg: 97.5 (29) DefRtg: 108.2 (30) NetRtg: -10.8 (30
Kobe Bryant came one basket short of retiring as the all-time leading scorer in All-Star Game history
, but now he gets a few days to rest up for the final 27 games (or fewer) of his career. Coach Byron Scott has bemoaned D'Angelo Russell's lack of maturity
, but Russell has done a remarkable job of staying quiet in the face of constant criticism from his coach, who he'll surely outlast in L.A. This week:
vs. SAS, @ CHI
(14-40) Pace: 100.1 (5) OffRtg: 99.7 (27) DefRtg: 107.0 (29) NetRtg: -7.3 (27
The Suns have to trade Markieff Morris this week, right? The latest drama surrounding the forward (who ranks as one of the league's worst shooters this season
) was a timeout scuffle with Archie Goodwin
on Wednesday. P.J. Tucker or Mirza Teletovic could also get something at the deadline and the Suns should only be unwilling to trade Devin Booker, Alex Len, and their collection of first round picks. This week:
vs. HOU, vs. SAS