Skip to main content

Main content


Power Rankings: Deadline doesn't alter the landscape

Blazers, Pacers reach Top 10; Cavs, Thunder swap spots

POSTED: Feb 22, 2016 10:50 AM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann


The trade deadline did nothing to alter the hierarchy in our rankings or the league at large.

The 2016 trade deadline has passed and the NBA landscape still looks the same.

A couple of title contenders -- Cleveland and Oklahoma City -- made changes to the fringe of their rotation, but didn't do anything to scare the 49-5 Golden State Warriors. The Los Angeles Clippers swapped their most frustrating player for the Memphis Grizzlies' most frustrating player and no other team within shouting distance of the best teams in the league made an upgrade.

So, with seven-plus weeks to go, there's still a clear top four teams. And within that, there's still a clear No. 1 and a clear No. 2. The Cavs beat the Thunder on Sunday (because LeBron James is the mayor of Oklahoma City) to give us a little movement in the top five, but one of those teams would really have to turn things up to unseat the Warriors or Spurs.

* * *

• Last week: Is a quiet trade deadline coming?
• This time last year: Health is the key as the season hits the final stretch -- Lots of point guards (including the reigning Rookie of the Year) got traded, the Jazz got better by sending Enes Kanter to Oklahoma City, and Kevin Garnett went back to 'Sota. Carmelo Anthony shut it down after the All-Star Game, Chris Bosh was lost for the season with a blood clot, and Kevin Durant played his last game of '14-15 (though that wasn't known at the time).

• Plus-minus stud: C.J. McCollum (POR) was a plus-47 in two games last week.
• Plus-minus dud: Jerami Grant (PHI) was a minus-47 in two games last week.

• Hero team of the week: Cleveland (2-0) -- The Cavs won in Oklahoma City on Sunday, and their Thursday win over the Bulls looked better after Chicago beat Toronto the next night.
• Zero team of the week: Denver (0-2) -- The Nuggets gave up 237 points in losses to the Kings and Celtics.

• Team to watch this week: Houston -- Two guys - Dwight Howard and Ty Lawson - know they were shopped at the deadline and two more - Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton - could come back after actually being traded. They're teetering in eighth place, and they play road games against ninth-place Jazz and seventh-place Blazers this week.

• East vs. West: The West is 173-153 (.531) against the East in interconference games after the East went 8-4 (2-0 against Oklahoma City) last week.

• Toughest schedules so far: 1. L.A. Lakers, 2. Milwaukee, 3. Denver
• Easiest schedules so far: 1. Oklahoma City, 2. San Antonio, 3. Atlanta
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: Charlotte, Chicago, Indiana, Milwaukee, Portland (+2)
• Free falls of the week: Atlanta, Denver, Memphis, Minnesota (-3)

* * *

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 98.0 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 103.2 points scored per 100 possessions this season.

* * *'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.


Last week: 1

Golden State (49-5)
Pace: 102.3 (2) OffRtg: 112.8 (1) DefRtg: 99.9 (4) NetRtg: +12.9 (2)
Damian Lillard gave the Warriors a little taste of what it's like to defend Stephen Curry on Friday. They happily sat out the trade deadline, but hope they can get something out of Anderson Varejao with both Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli dealing with injuries. They've outscored their opponents by 29 points per 100 possessions with Draymond Green at center, but have used that look for less than eight minutes per game.
This week: @ ATL, @ MIA, @ ORL, @ OKC


Last week: 2

San Antonio (47-9)
Pace: 96.4 (23) OffRtg: 109.3 (3) DefRtg: 96.0 (1) NetRtg: +13.3 (1)
Tim Duncan is back, but Kawhi Leonard (tightness in his left calf) is out. The Spurs are 4-1 without the reigning Kia Defensive Player of the Year, but the four wins are against the Sixers (x 2), Lakers and Suns, and three of the four have been by single digits. They rank 24th defensively since the All-Star break and could use Leonard as they finish the rodeo trip against Gordon Hayward and James Harden.
This week: @ SAC, @ UTA, @ HOU


Last week: 4

Cleveland (40-14)
Pace: 95.2 (28) OffRtg: 107.2 (4) DefRtg: 100.9 (7) NetRtg: +6.3 (4)
Kyrie Irving's absence for most of Sunday's win in Oklahoma City just opened things up for Kevin Love, who has registered 10 of his 14 games of more than 20 points with Irving out and has gotten more looks in the paint and more free throws with Irving off the floor. The Cavs are done with the three best teams in the West (they went 3-3), but face seeds Nos. 2 and 3 in the East in the next two weeks.
This week: vs. DET, vs. CHA, @ TOR, @ WAS


Last week: 3

Oklahoma City (40-16)
Pace: 99.3 (10) OffRtg: 109.7 (2) DefRtg: 102.0 (11) NetRtg: +7.7 (3)
If the Thunder somehow managed to get through the league's two best teams in the Western Conference playoffs, they'd likely face a guy -- LeBron James -- who has beat them 10 of the last 11 times they've faced him, going back to Game 2 of the 2012 Finals. Defense was the bigger issue in Sunday's loss to the Cavs, but Dion Waiters has shot 26 percent (4-for-20 from 3-point range) in February.
This week: @ DAL, @ NOP, vs. GSW


Last week: 6

L.A. Clippers (36-19)
Pace: 98.3 (13) OffRtg: 106.3 (5) DefRtg: 101.0 (8) NetRtg: +5.3 (5)
Jeff Green would seemingly be an important addition, especially with his ability to play the four until Blake Griffin returns. But Green was seemingly a good addition in Boston and Memphis too, and never moved the needle in either place. Speaking of not moving the needle, the other Clippers starters have nearly identical numbers with Paul Pierce at the four as they did with Blake Griffin at the four.
This week: vs. PHX, vs. DEN, @ SAC


Last week: 5

Toronto (36-18)
Pace: 95.8 (26) OffRtg: 105.7 (6) DefRtg: 101.6 (9) NetRtg: +4.1 (6)
The Raptors are still comfortably in second place in the East, but probably don't want to see the Bulls in seventh. They're 0-3 against Chicago after Friday's loss, having allowed 114 points per 100 possessions in the three games. Their defense has been slipping in general. They rank 19th on that end in February, after ranking in the top 10 in each of the previous two months. Friday is their last game against the Cavs.
This week: @ NYK, vs. MIN, vs. CLE, @ DET


Last week: 7

Boston (33-24)
Pace: 101.3 (3) OffRtg: 103.6 (11) DefRtg: 99.8 (3) NetRtg: +3.8 (7)
Another deadline has passed without Danny Ainge cashing in his chips, but the upside is that coach Brad Stevens has some in-season continuity, which has been a factor in the Celtics' offensive improvement over the last six weeks. Of course, Kelly Olynyk's shoulder injury is a blow to the bench and the defense had taken a step backward before holding the Nuggets under a point per possession in Sunday's win in Denver.
This week: @ MIN, vs. MIL, vs. MIA


Last week: 9

Miami (31-24)
Pace: 95.0 (29) OffRtg: 101.8 (23) DefRtg: 100.5 (6) NetRtg: +1.3 (11)
With Chris Bosh going through another blood clot scare, Dwyane Wade dealing with a sore knee, and teams behind them making upgrades to their rotations, the Heat's playoff position appears to be fragile. But they got two important wins without their stars to start the pre-break schedule, pushing the pace (in Wade's absence, not coincidentally) and registering two of their four highest scoring games of the season.
This week: vs. IND, vs. GSW, @ BOS, @ NYK


Last week: 11

Indiana (30-25)
Pace: 99.6 (8) OffRtg: 101.9 (22) DefRtg: 99.4 (2) NetRtg: +2.5 (9)
There was a time when the Pacers were neither a good road team or a good team in close games. But they've begun the post-break schedule by coming back from seven down with less than three minutes to go in Oklahoma City on Friday (shooting 4-for-4 from 3-point range) and escaping with narrow win in Orlando on Sunday. Their new starting lineup has allowed just 84 points per 100 possessions in 125 minutes.
This week: @ MIA, vs. NYK, vs. CHA, vs. POR


Last week: 12

Portland (29-27)
Pace: 97.6 (18) OffRtg: 105.0 (7) DefRtg: 104.3 (18) NetRtg: +0.7 (13)
Damian Lillard dropped 51 on the champs on Friday, Lillard and C.J. McCollom each went for 30-plus in Sunday's huge win over the Jazz, and the Blazers have averaged 120 points over their last four games. But they also have the league's third best defense over the last month, and only two of the 11 games in that stretch were against bottom-10 offenses. They play three this week, but also have another big game against the Rockets.
This week: vs. BKN, vs. HOU, @ CHI, @ IND


Last week: 8

Memphis (32-23)
Pace: 95.3 (27) OffRtg: 102.1 (19) DefRtg: 102.9 (16) NetRtg: -0.7 (17)
Dave Joerger didn't have a consistent rotation when his roster was generally healthy and stable. Now, he's got injuries, guys coming back from injury, and three new faces. P.J. Hairston started his second game with the team, Lance Stephenson's debut was an adventure, and Brandan Wright didn't make much of an impact upon returning from a three-month absence. This week's schedule makes things a little bit easier.
This week: vs. LAL, @ LAL, @ PHX


Last week: 14

Charlotte (29-26)
Pace: 97.8 (17) OffRtg: 103.1 (14) DefRtg: 101.6 (10) NetRtg: +1.5 (10)
The Hornets added Courtney Lee, have Al Jefferson back (he scored 18 points in 24 minutes in Brooklyn on Sunday), and have won five straight games, holding their opponents under a point per possession in each of the last four. They've climbed from 12th place to seventh in the last month and could keep climbing with games against the fifth-place Pacers and sixth-place Hawks this week.
This week: @ CLE, @ IND, @ ATL


Last week: 10

Atlanta (31-26)
Pace: 99.3 (9) OffRtg: 102.9 (16) DefRtg: 99.9 (5) NetRtg: +3.0 (8)
The Hawks did nothing (apologies to Kirk Hinrich) at the deadline and then lost at home to the star-less Heat and Bucks. They're 5-9 over the last month, but are a plus-30 over that stretch. While they've had some comfortable wins, they've lost eight of their last nine games that were within five points in the last five minutes, with Paul Millsap shooting 3-for-20 on clutch shots (0-for-5 against Milwaukee on Saturday).
This week: vs. GSW, vs. CHI, vs. CHA


Last week: 13

Utah (27-28)
Pace: 93.2 (30) OffRtg: 103.5 (12) DefRtg: 102.6 (14) NetRtg: +0.9 (12)
The Jazz lost one of the most important games of the season in Portland on Sunday, but may have found their new point guard in the process. Shelvin Mack (acquired Thursday for a second round pick) had 16 points and six assists (and was a plus-14) in 24 minutes against the Blazers. He certainly won't do that every game, but he'll give them a lot more offense than Raul Neto and more stability than Trey Burke.
This week: vs. HOU, vs. SAS, vs. BKN


Last week: 17

Chicago (29-26)
Pace: 98.6 (11) OffRtg: 101.4 (24) DefRtg: 102.1 (12) NetRtg: -0.7 (16)
Just when it looked like it was time to write off the Bulls, Derrick Rose came out of the break averaging 26.0 points on 57 percent shooting in their first three games. Doug McDermott scored a career-high 30 points in Friday's big win over Toronto and six different Bulls scored at least 16 points in Sunday's victory over the Lakers. It's their best offensive stretch (116 points scored per 100 possessions) since early January.
This week: vs. WAS, @ ATL, vs. POR


Last week: 16

Dallas (30-27)
Pace: 96.4 (24) OffRtg: 103.7 (9) DefRtg: 103.3 (17) NetRtg: +0.3 (14)
Though Deron Williams was generally a disappointment in Brookyln, he played more like an All-Star after the All-Star break over the last few years. That trend looks like it might continue, with Williams totaling 40 points on 13-for-26 shooting in his first two games after the break. It will be interesting to see if Rick Carlisle plays David Lee and Dirk Nowitzki together and, if he does, how bad the Mavs' defense is in those minutes.
This week: vs. OKC, vs. DEN, vs. MIN


Last week: 15

Detroit (27-29)
Pace: 97.8 (16) OffRtg: 102.0 (20) DefRtg: 102.4 (13) NetRtg: -0.4 (15)
Stan Van Gundy was aggressive at the deadline, adding Tobias Harris and (if his back checks out) Donatas Motiejunas. But the Pistons have a five-game losing streak and are three games in the loss column out of a playoff spot. With Anthony Tolliver hurt, Harris could get his first start on Monday in Cleveland. But what would be the new starting lineup allowed the Wizards and Pelicans to score 58 points in 23 minutes.
This week: @ CLE, vs. PHI, @ MIL, vs. TOR


Last week: 18

Houston (28-28)
Pace: 99.8 (7) OffRtg: 104.2 (8) DefRtg: 106.1 (25) NetRtg: -1.9 (18)
We're not sure about Donatas Motiejunas, but Dwight Howard is still on the Rockets, so he and James Harden will have to work together for at least another 26 games. You don't get an easier start to the post-break schedule than a game against the Suns and three days off, but the next two are huge in regard to Houston's playoff hopes and the fragility of their locker room. Then they play a team that smoked 'em a month ago.
This week: @ UTA, @ POR, vs. SAS


Last week: 20

Washington (25-29)
Pace: 100.1 (5) OffRtg: 102.4 (17) DefRtg: 104.7 (19) NetRtg: -2.3 (20)
Trading for Markieff Morris was a risk, he has yet to make an impact, and the Wizards lost an important game against a shorthanded Heat team on Saturday. But it's hard to complain about a 2-1 mark in the league's only (weather-forced) back-to-back-to-back set this season. Bradley Beal is still coming off the bench, though the other starters have been much better with him than with Garrett Temple at the two.
This week: vs. NOP, @ CHI, @ PHI, vs. CLE


Last week: 21

New Orleans (22-33)
Pace: 98.4 (12) OffRtg: 103.6 (10) DefRtg: 106.6 (27) NetRtg: -3.0 (23)
Anthony Davis has had a disappointing season in regard to both individual development and team success. But he had the performance of the year in Detroit on Sunday, the first 50-20 game since 2001. The Pelicans have won four of their last five, with Jrue Holiday averaging 23 points and nine assists. The 28 minutes he and Davis played together on Sunday was the most they've shared the floor since Christmas.
This week: @ WAS, vs. OKC, vs. MIN


Last week: 22

Sacramento (23-31)
Pace: 102.4 (1) OffRtg: 103.3 (13) DefRtg: 106.1 (24) NetRtg: -2.8 (22)
It's not a good sign when it's considered a positive that you didn't make any changes to a 22-31 team at the trade deadline. DeMarcus Cousins is only 25 and has two years left on his contract, but unless the Kings make a big run over the next seven weeks, their playoff drought will hit 10 seasons and there will be serious pressure on their front office to get its act together (in regard to the coach and the roster) this summer.
This week: @ DEN, vs. SAS, vs. LAC


Last week: 19

Denver (22-34)
Pace: 98.0 (15) OffRtg: 102.0 (21) DefRtg: 105.6 (23) NetRtg: -3.6 (25)
Seven different Nuggets averaged double-figures in their two games last week, they've scored at least 100 points in 15 of their last 16, and you can see the pieces of the puzzle coming together in a year or two. But we're not getting coach Mike Malone defense yet. They allowed the Kings and Celtics to score a combined 134 points before halftime and have the league's second worst first-half defense for the season.
This week: vs. SAC, @ LAC, @ DAL


Last week: 25

Milwaukee (23-33)
Pace: 96.4 (22) OffRtg: 101.4 (25) DefRtg: 105.4 (22) NetRtg: -4.1 (26)
The Bucks are 3-1 with their new starting lineup (Giannis Antetokounmpo at point guard, Miles Plumlee at center), which scored 20 points in less than six minutes of Saturday's double-overtime win in Atlanta. Jabari Parker has averaged 19.5 points on 52 percent shooting in the four games (totaling 51 points and 24 boards in two games since the break), with 24 of his 33 baskets coming within five feet of the hoop.
This week: vs. LAL, @ BOS, vs. DET


Last week: 24

New York (24-33)
Pace: 96.0 (25) OffRtg: 102.2 (18) DefRtg: 104.8 (20) NetRtg: -2.6 (21)
The Knicks stopped the bleeding in Minnesota on Saturday (thanks to a big game from Robin Lopez), but not before they began the break by allowing a bottom-five offense (Brooklyn) to score 109 points in a slow-paced game. They were 22-22 exactly a month ago, but have the league's second worst 3-point defense since then. Monday's opponent has been the league's fourth best 3-point shooting team.
This week: vs. TOR, @ IND, vs. ORL, vs. MIA


Last week: 26

Orlando (24-30)
Pace: 96.8 (20) OffRtg: 100.9 (26) DefRtg: 102.9 (15) NetRtg: -2.0 (19)
The Magic gave up on Tobias Harris (the highest paid player of their young core) and you have to wonder if that core will undergo some more changes this summer, because coach Scott Skiles is already using Brandon Jennings over Elfrid Payton down the stretch of close games. Each of the Magic's last five games has gone down to the wire and they've had the league's third worst clutch offense.
This week: @ PHI, vs. GSW, @ NYK, vs. PHI


Last week: 23

Minnesota (17-39)
Pace: 96.9 (19) OffRtg: 103.0 (15) DefRtg: 106.3 (26) NetRtg: -3.3 (24)
The Wolves' bad defense carried over through the break, but their improved offense did not. There was talk of a Ricky Rubio trade at the deadline and he's shot just 2-for-11 since, but the Wolves desperately need him running the offense, because they've been terrible with Zach LaVine at point guard. The Minnesota offense has been at its best (112 points scored per 100 possessions) with Rubio and LaVine on the floor together.
This week: vs. BOS, @ TOR, @ NOP, @ DAL


Last week: 28

Brooklyn (15-41)
Pace: 96.7 (21) OffRtg: 99.6 (28) DefRtg: 106.6 (28) NetRtg: -7.1 (27)
The first move of Sean Marks' tenure as Nets general manager was waiving Andrea Bargnani, so he's off to a fantastic start. The summer will provide him another opportunity to sell off Brook Lopez and/or Thaddeus Young if that's the direction he wants to go. The circus is coming to town, the Nets are on the road (where they've lost six straight) for the next 19 days, and they have a league-low eight home games remaining.
This week: @ POR, @ PHX, @ UTA


Last week: 27

Philadelphia (8-47)
Pace: 99.9 (6) OffRtg: 95.0 (30) DefRtg: 105.3 (21) NetRtg: -10.3 (29)
Nerlens Noel (24 points in New Orleans) and Jahlil Okafor (31 in Dallas) each had big games last week and the Sixers' offense has scored 103.6 points per 100 possessions over their last five games, their best offensive stretch in the last two seasons. (Amazingly, they never scored a point per possession in any five-game stretch last season.) But they've allowed at least 63 points in four of the last five halves they've played.
This week: vs. ORL, @ DET, vs. WAS, @ ORL


Last week: 29

L.A. Lakers (11-46)
Pace: 98.2 (14) OffRtg: 98.1 (29) DefRtg: 109.0 (30) NetRtg: -10.9 (30)
D'Angelo Russell got his first start in almost two months in Chicago on Sunday. He had six assists, but the Lakers had just 13 total on 43 buckets. They also allowed 65 points in less than 23 minutes with Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle on the floor together, but it's not like their veterans play better defense. After Sunday's cool Pau Gasol moment, there are only nine more arenas left on the Kobe Farewell Tour.
This week: @ MIL, @ MEM, vs. MEM


Last week: 30

Phoenix (14-42)
Pace: 100.3 (4) OffRtg: 99.7 (27) DefRtg: 107.2 (29) NetRtg: -7.5 (28)
The Suns' 11-game losing streak has taken them into the top three in regard to Lottery odds and they got another first round pick for a guy (Markieff Morris) who's wanted out for seven months and who tried to choke his teammate in the huddle eight days before the deadline. They could have three first rounders this year, while also bringing over 2014 first round pick Bogdan Bogdanovic.
This week: @ LAC, vs. BKN, vs. MEM