The trade season has begun, just not in the way most of us expected.
The Atlanta Hawks, the fourth place team in the East, traded Kyle Korver, the eighth-best 3-point shooter in NBA history, to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the first place team in the East.
The Hawks had their reasons for making the deal. Considering that they lost Al Horford in free agency last summer, you can understand why they would want to get something (and maybe nobody else was sending them a first round pick) for their pending free agents before it’s too late. But three things make the trade a little confusing …
The timing. The Hawks have won six straight games and have a pretty favorable schedule over the next few weeks.
The team Korver was sent to. The Cavs, who already rank second in 3-point percentage, eliminated the Hawks each of the last two years.
The fact that the Hawks signed Dwight Howard to a three-year, $71 million contract last summer.
The Hawks aren’t about to turn into the 2013-14 Philadelphia 76ers, but they’re clearly taking a step backward in a season in which they have a decent shot to win a playoff series. The Sacramento Kings haven’t won a playoff series in 13 years and would probably have loved to be in the position the Hawks were in a few days ago.
But this is the first sign that all but a few other teams are resigned to the fact that there’s no getting past the Cavs or Golden State Warriors this season or, probably, next season.
Come April and May, that will probably be the case. This week, two teams jumped over the defending conference champs in the Power Rankings.
Last week: Rockets rolling after hot December
This time last year: Cavs hit their stride as big games loom — The Nets fired both Billy King and Lionel Hollins, the Spurs remained unbeaten at home when Jose Calderon missed a game-winner, and Damian Lillard went nuts (hitting five threes in less than two minutes) against the Thunder. Draymond Green had twice as many triple-doubles (eight) as anyone else, DeMarre Carroll had knee surgery, and Kristaps Porzingis was tip-dunking again and again.
Plus-minus stud: Kawhi Leonard (SAS) was a plus-66 in three games last week.
Plus-minus dud: Wayne Ellington (MIA) was a minus-52 in four games last week.
Hero team of the week: Chicago (3-0) — The Bulls beat three of the East’s top six teams (Charlotte, Cleveland and Toronto), making it 10 straight wins against the Raptors.
Zero team of the week: Denver (0-4) — The Nuggets hung around with the Warriors, but then lost an important game to the Kings and weren’t as competitive against San Antonio or Oklahoma City, running their losing streak to five games.
East vs. West: The West is 113-98 (.536) against the East in interconference games after the East went 13-11 (3-0 vs. New Orleans) last week.
Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. Dallas, 2. Brooklyn, 3. Toronto
Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Indiana, 2. Golden State, 3. Chicago
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: L.A. Lakers (+6), Chicago (+5), Detroit (+3), LA Clippers (+3)
Free falls of the week: Charlotte (-4), Minnesota (-4), Oklahoma City (-4)
Team to watch this week: Memphis — After picking up big wins against the Warriors and Jazz over the weekend, the Grizzlies play two more West playoff teams, visiting the Thunder and Rockets and Wednesday and Friday, before returning home to host the Bulls on Sunday.
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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 98.6 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 105.4 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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