The Cleveland Cavaliers needed a shake-up and they got one.
In a pretty stunning series of trades, the Cavs sent out six players and brought in four, getting younger and, more importantly, bigger. Time will tell if Thursday's moves help keep LeBron James in Cleveland beyond this season, and until Kevin Love gets back, we won't know what this roster can really do.
But improvement, especially on the defensive end of the floor, needs to start now. The East remains wide open, not only because the Cavs have been so bad, but because the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors are both better than they were last season.
The Celtics have the league's best defense and Kyrie Irving late in games. The Raptors remain the only team that ranks in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency, have the league's best bench, and now hold the No. 1 spot in the standings.
Maybe LeBron James is still the ultimate trump card in the East. Maybe not. The playoffs are two months away and there's still work to do between now and then.
- Last week: Cavs desperate for a shake-up at trade deadline
- This time last year: Warriors' offense keeps rolling as trade season heats up -- The trade deadline was still 10 days away, but both Plumlees had already been traded, with Jusuf Nurkic landing in Portland. The Sixers ended the Heat's 13-game winning streak and the Cavs ended the Wizards' 17-game home winning streak (in overtime) after LeBron James hit a miraculous shot off a full-court pass from Kevin Love. Jabari Parker tore his ACL, Kevin Durant scored 34 points in his return to Oklahoma City, C.J. McCollum hit three shots to take the lead in the final minute in Dallas, and Willie Cauley-Stein submitted an entry for Dunk of the Year.
- Plus-minus stud: Derrick Favors (UTA) was a plus-76 in four games last week.
- Plus-minus dud: Marquese Chriss (PHX) was a minus-63 in three games last week.
- Hero team of the week: Toronto (3-0) -- The Raptors moved into first place in the East by thumping the Celtics in an anticipated head-to-head matchup and riding their bench to easy wins over the Knicks and Hornets.
- Zero team of the week: Memphis (0-3) -- The Grizzlies failed to trade the guy (Tyreke Evans) they sent home because he was going to be traded. Before that, they lost by 26 points to the Hawks.
- East vs. West: The West is 172-159 (.520) against the East in interconference games after going 8-6 last week.
- Toughest schedules so far: 1. Philadelphia, 2. Dallas, 3. Chicago
- Easiest schedules so far: 1. Houston, 2. San Antonio, 3. Washington
- 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 (+7), Atlanta (+2), Orlando (+2)
- Free falls of the week: Miami (-3), Phoenix (-3), Washington (-3)
- Team to watch in Week 18: Miami -- The Heat put an end to a five-game losing streak with a win over the Bucks in Dwyane Wade's return on Friday, but have a tough back-to-back this week, visiting Toronto (where the Raptors are 23-4) on Tuesday and Philadelphia (where the Sixers have won nine straight) on Wednesday.
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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 99.3 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 105.9 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.
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