Week 17 Power Rankings: Cleveland Cavaliers desperate for a shake-up at trade deadline
The trade deadline — Thursday at 3 p.m. ET — is almost here.
Many teams are primed for a trade. Some need a shake-up, some need an upgrade, some need to unload salary, and almost every team would love to get their hands on more draft picks.
But finding deals that work for both teams is easier said than done. And if you want a first round pick for a player you don’t need, you may have to also take on some salary you don’t want, like the Chicago Bulls did when they acquired Omer Asik in the deal that sent Nikola Mirotic to New Orleans.
There are a lot of contracts out there that teams would love to unload and few teams with the flexibility to absorb those contracts. There are even fewer teams that can realistically have their eyes on winning a championship four months from now.
The Golden State Warriors are too good. Some teams may want to add a piece to increase their chances of making the playoffs and becoming somewhat relevant (success in this league doesn’t have to be defined by championships). Others may see an opportunity to supplant the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference. But there is probably only one team that can approach the deadline with this season being its No. 1 priority and with realistic thoughts about beating the Warriors in a playoff series.
And that team has bumped the champs out of the No. 1 spot in this week’s Power Rankings.
- Last week: Season-ending injuries shake up West
- This time last year: Mavs, Heat continue unexpected runs into playoff contention — After going 11-30 in their first 41 games, the Heat were 10 games into a 13-game winning streak. Yogi Ferrell made an immediate impact upon signing a 10-day contract with the Mavs, Zach LaVine tore his ACL, and LeBron James clapped back at Charles Barkley. Paul Pierce played his final game in Boston, Kyle Lowry beat the Pelicans with a step-back jumper in overtime, and Blake Griffin threw a between-the-legs dime.
- Plus-minus stud: Ricky Rubio (UTA) was a plus-85 in three games last week.
- Plus-minus dud: Taurean Prince (ATL) was a minus-45 in four games last week.
- Hero team of the week: Utah (3-0) — The Jazz handed the Warriors their worst loss (30 points) in almost two years, and followed that up with a win in San Antonio later in the week.
- Zero team of the week: Cleveland (1-2) — The Cavs actually beat a good team (Miami) on the second night of a back-to-back last week. But that game was sandwiched by a double-digit loss in Detroit (while the Pistons were without both the guys they traded and the guys they traded for) and an embarrassing showing against Houston on ABC.
- East vs. West: The West is 164-153 (.517) against the East in interconference games the East went 12-6 last week.
- Toughest schedules so far: 1. Philadelphia, 2. Utah, 3. Chicago
- Easiest schedules so far: 1. Washington, 2. San Antonio, 3. Houston
- 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: Indiana (+6), Portland (+5), Washington (+5)
- Free falls of the week: Miami (-5), New Orleans (-5), Oklahoma City (-5)
- Team to watch in Week 17: Cleveland — It’s not about the games they’ll be playing over the next seven days, although those include matchups with the Wolves and Celtics. It’s about whether or not a trade can do anything to fix their issues or help keep LeBron James in Cleveland beyond this season.
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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 99.4 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 105.8 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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Last Week: 2 ↑
Pace: 100.8 (8) OffRtg: 112.5 (2) DefRtg: 104.5 (8) NetRtg: +8.0 (2)
The Rockets are the only good team that isn't struggling through the pre-break grind. They're 11-2, with top five marks on both offense and defense and the league's best NetRtg by a wide margin, over the last four weeks, even though Ryan Anderson, Clint Capela and P.J. Tucker are the only Rockets who haven't missed a game over that stretch. On Tuesday, James Harden carried an eight-man rotation against Orlando with the first 60-point triple-double in NBA history. And on Saturday, Chris Paul took advantage of the Cavs' lethargy, registering 22 points, 11 assists, zero turnovers and a plus-47. Among 31 players who have averaged at least two isolation possessions per game, Harden (1.24 on 9.1 per game) and Paul (1.21 on 5.0 per game) rank first and second in points per possession, both head and shoulders above anybody else.
Week 17: @ BKN, @ MIA, vs. DEN, vs. DAL
Last Week: 1 ↓
Pace: 102.5 (2) OffRtg: 113.3 (1) DefRtg: 103.8 (6) NetRtg: +9.6 (1)
With the Warriors' lead in the loss column over the Rockets down to just one game, Steve Kerr said his team is "mentally fried" and "dying to get to the All-Star break." They still have the highest marks in NBA history for effective field goal percentage (57.8 percent) and offensive efficiency (113.3 points scored per 100 possessions), but the exhaustion continues to show on defense, where the champs rank 26th since Dec. 30. They rank 29th in opponent 3-point percentage (39.4 percent) over that stretch, with their last four opponents having shot 50-for-110 (46 percent) from beyond the arc. Eleven of their 17 games over the stretch have been on the road (where they allowed the Jazz to shoot 58 percent and Joe Ingles to hit six threes on Tuesday), but they'll be home for their next four games before visiting Portland for their last game before the break.
Week 17: vs. OKC, vs. DAL, vs. SAS
Last Week: 4 ↑
Pace: 100.5 (11) OffRtg: 110.1 (4) DefRtg: 103.1 (3) NetRtg: +7.0 (3)
Though the Raptors have been a little inconsistent themselves over the last few weeks, the Warriors' defensive slippage has left Toronto as the only team that ranks in the top five on both ends of the floor. The offense (118 points scored per 100 possessions) has been better than the defense as they've won four of their last five games. The only game in that stretch that they lost in the one (at Washington on Thursday) that they played without Fred VanVleet, who has averaged 16 points off the bench in the other four. With the Cavs continuing to flounder, the two best teams in the East will meet (for the first time since early November) in Toronto on Tuesday, though it's not clear if Kyrie Irving (bruised quad) will be available for the Celtics.
Week 17: vs. BOS, vs. NYK, @ CHA
Last Week: 6 ↑
Pace: 98.2 (22) OffRtg: 104.8 (17) DefRtg: 99.9 (1) NetRtg: +5.0 (4)
Al Horford assisted on Jaylen Brown's game winner in Denver on Monday and hit the game-winner himself as the Celtics pulled off another comeback from a double-digit deficit on Sunday. But the middle of the week belonged to Terry Rozier. In his first two career starts, Rozier recorded a triple-double against New York on Wednesday and dropped a career-high 31 points on the Hawks on Friday, helping the Celtics enjoy some rare offensive success without Kyrie Irving. Daniel Theis has given them some good minutes as they've won five of their last six games (with the only loss coming by four points at Golden State), but may be replaced in the rotation by Greg Monroe.
Week 17: @ TOR, @ WAS, vs. IND, vs. CLE
Last Week: 3 ↓
Pace: 97.8 (23) OffRtg: 110.8 (3) DefRtg: 107.5 (24) NetRtg: +3.3 (5)
After getting just 15 total shots (and only five free throws) in losses in Atlanta and Toronto last week, Karl-Anthony Towns was 18-for-29 in wins over the Bucks and Pelicans on Thursday and Saturday, running his league-leading double-double count to 47. He has seen a jump in the percentage of his shots that have come from 3-point range this season, but at the expense more of mid-range shots than shots in the paint. The Wolves need all the threes they can get (they've been outscored by 510 points from 3-point range this season), Towns ranks 25th in the league in 3-point percentage, and as the team has won 12 straight at home, Towns and Jimmy Butler have shot a combined 43-for-75 (57 percent) from beyond the arc over those 12 games.
Week 17: @ CLE, @ CHI, vs. SAC
Last Week: 11 ↑
Pace: 98.7 (17) OffRtg: 105.4 (13) DefRtg: 104.8 (10) NetRtg: +0.6 (15)
The Blazers have taken care of business against lesser competition. They improved to 17-5 against the 13 teams that are currently under .500 when C.J. McCollum dropped 50 in just three quarters in Chicago on Wednesday. But they're 3-13 against the top nine teams in the league after allowing the Raptors to score 130 points on Friday and blowing a 16-point lead in Boston on Sunday. Defensive slippage (they rank 26th on that end of the floor since Christmas) has come on the perimeter, where they allowed the Bulls, Raptors and Celtics to make a combined 47 threes last week. This week's four opponents are all under .500, though Detroit, Charlotte and Utah are all playing better right now.
Week 17: @ DET, vs. CHA, @ SAC, vs. UTA
Last Week: 13 ↑
Pace: 98.5 (20) OffRtg: 108.4 (6) DefRtg: 106.4 (18) NetRtg: +1.9 (9)
The Pacers' top-10 offense has scored 113 points per 100 possessions over its last seven games, as they've seen an increase in their ability to get to and finish at the rim. The six Pacers who have taken the most shots in the restricted area over that stretch have all made at least 2/3 of those attempts. They're 8-1 at home in 2018, but will be on the road for most of the next month and had some defensive issues (allowing the Hornets to score 49 points in the first quarter) in Charlotte on Friday. Myles Turner had a good stretch of three games (moving back into the starting lineup last week), but is dealing with knee soreness, shot 0-for-5 against Philly on Saturday, and is listed as questionable for Monday's game against Washington.
Week 17: vs. WAS, @ NOP, @ BOS, vs. NYK
Last Week: 8
Pace: 96.4 (29) OffRtg: 104.7 (18) DefRtg: 101.6 (2) NetRtg: +3.1 (7)
The Spurs are the first team to lose as many games as they lost last season and they have a bottom-five offense as they've gone 9-10 since Dec. 30. Only the Kings have been worse offensively on the road, where the Spurs have shot much worse from outside the paint than they have at home. Bryn Forbes (60 percent vs. 45 percent) and Dejounte Murray (49 percent vs. 38 percent) have two of the 10 biggest differentials between home and road effective field goal percentage among players who have attempted at least 150 shots both at home and on the road. And the rodeo trip (six road games spanning the All-Star break) begins Wednesday in Phoenix.
Week 17: @ PHX, @ GSW
Last Week: 14 ↑
Pace: 99.6 (14) OffRtg: 107.2 (9) DefRtg: 105.2 (14) NetRtg: +1.9 (8)
The Wizards are 4-0 and have scored 117 points per 100 possessions since losing John Wall to knee surgery. Bradley Beal wasn't wrong when he said that "Everybody eats" without Wall. The Wiz have assisted on more than 76 percent of their buckets and averaged 3.3 passes per possession (numbers much higher than their season averages) over the four games. New starting point guard Tomas Satoransky had the game winning steal and free throws against Oklahoma City on Tuesday and a career-high 19 points in Orlando on Saturday. Beal hasn't needed to take over offensively, as Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and Mike Scott have all done well with extra opportunities, shooting a combined 56 percent over the winning streak that has included two wins over top-five defenses. They'll face two more this week.
Week 17: @ IND, @ PHI, vs. BOS, @ CHI
Last Week: 5 ↓
Pace: 98.6 (18) OffRtg: 106.8 (11) DefRtg: 103.6 (5) NetRtg: +3.3 (6)
The Thunder have gone from eight straight wins to four straight losses, perhaps falling victim to a schedule that had them playing six games in nine days, with two road-home back-to-backs. The losing streak has mostly been about bad offense, with players not named Paul George shooting 22 percent from 3-point range and Terrance Ferguson scoring a total of two points in his five starts since Andre Roberson's injury. But there was also some brutal final-minute execution in Washington on Monday and some bad defensive stretches on Thursday in Denver and over the weekend against the Pelicans and Lakers.
Week 17: @ GSW, @ LAL, vs. MEM
Last Week: 7 ↓
Pace: 101.7 (4) OffRtg: 105.2 (16) DefRtg: 103.5 (4) NetRtg: +1.7 (10)
Saturday's game in Indiana was unique in that it marked the first time in his career that Joel Embiid played both games of a back-to-back. But it wasn't unique in that the Sixers committed too many turnovers (18, including seven from Embiid) and fell apart late in the game. They've lost the fourth quarter in 11 of their last 12 games and have lost four straight games on the road. The fourth-quarter issues start with the turnovers, but continue with the shooting of Robert Covington, T.J. McConnell and Dario Saric, who have a combined effective field goal percentage of 56 percent in quarters 1-3 and just 45 percent in the fourth. The Blake-Griffin Pistons are just a half game behind the Sixers for eighth place in the East and the two teams have two of the easiest remaining schedules in the league, with one remaining head-to-head matchup (in Philly, with the Sixers having already won the season series).
Week 17: vs. WAS, vs. NOP, vs. LAC
Last Week: 15 ↑
Pace: 97.6 (24) OffRtg: 107.5 (8) DefRtg: 106.4 (17) NetRtg: +1.1 (11)
Before the Bucks got Jabari Parker back on Friday, they lost Malcolm Brogdon for 6-8 weeks with a partially torn left quad. They have backcourt depth and their best lineup has had Tony Snell playing alongside Eric Bledsoe, but Bledsoe and Matthew Dellavedova were both dealing with ankle injuries last week and Giannis Antetokounmpo turned his ankle in the fourth quarter of their win in Brooklyn on Sunday. They're 6-1 under Joe Prunty, with the league's second best defense (99 points allowed per 100 possessions) over that stretch, but that mark is schedule-aided and the one top-10 offense they faced (Minnesota) shot 54 percent on Thursday.
Week 17: @ NYK, @ MIA, @ ORL
Last Week: 10 ↓
Pace: 100.0 (13) OffRtg: 109.0 (5) DefRtg: 109.4 (28) NetRtg: -0.4 (18)
The Cavs' transition defense was good enough on one possession at the end of their game against Miami on Wednesday to stop James Johnson and hold onto third place in the East. But the energy has been otherwise appalling and general manager Koby Altman is supposed to make personnel decisions this week when he doesn't know...
1. How good his team could be if it consistently tried to play defense and ...
2. If he'll have LeBron James beyond this season.
He does know that he won't have Kevin Love (broken left hand) until the final few weeks of the season and that if the standings were based on point differential, the Cavs (minus-0.4 per game) would not be in playoff position. With the win over Miami, they're 20-10 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes and with their loss to Houston on Saturday, they have six defeats by 20 or more (two more than any LeBron James team in the last 12 years). James himself has a negative plus-minus for the first time since his rookie season.
Week 17: @ ORL, vs. MIN, @ ATL, @ BOS
Last Week: 9 ↓
Pace: 96.9 (27) OffRtg: 102.9 (25) DefRtg: 104.1 (7) NetRtg: -1.2 (20)
The Heat had a chance to move into third place in the East with a win over the Cavs on Wednesday. But James Johnson couldn't get a shot off to tie the game in the final seconds and a three-game losing streak has dropped them to seventh. Late-game luck has been going the other way and offense remains a a struggle. The Heat rank last offensively over the last two weeks, because the team that has taken the fifth highest percentage of shots from 3-point range has shot 31 percent on those threes over those seven games. And in weekend losses in Philly and Detroit, they allowed 120 points in the paint. But after playing 11 of their last 14 games on the road, they'll now play 10 of their next 14 at home.
Week 17: vs. ORL, vs. HOU, vs. MIL
Last Week: 17 ↑
Pace: 98.7 (16) OffRtg: 107.1 (10) DefRtg: 107.1 (23) NetRtg: +0.0 (16)
The Nuggets have a tough February schedule, but are off to a good start, beating the Thunder and Warriors on Thursday and Saturday. After Will Barton missed threes at the buzzer against Boston and San Antonio earlier in the week, Gary Harris got the game-winner against the Thunder and Barton came back to have a big fourth quarter against the champs. Wilson Chandler has had a down year, but with Mason Plumlee hurt and Chandler back in the starting lineup, the starters scored 106 points in 37 total minutes against OKC and Golden State. And Emmanuel Mudiay's minutes haven't been so terrible since he returned to the rotation a few weeks ago.
Week 17: vs. CHA, @ HOU, @ PHX
Last Week: 16
Pace: 100.7 (9) OffRtg: 106.8 (12) DefRtg: 106.1 (16) NetRtg: +0.7 (14)
The Blake Griffin era came to a sudden end on Monday, and now we wait to see if the Clippers make any more moves before the deadline. They obviously have to take the contract statuses of DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams into account this week, but it would be interesting to see how things play out if they keep the current group together, with a little more space around Jordan's rolls to the basket, with Danilo Gallinari healthy (he shot 14-for-26 in his first two games back), and with Austin Rivers possibly returning by the time the Clips visit Griffin and the Pistons on Friday. Tobias Harris scored 24 points in his Clippers debut on Saturday and his new team has allowed less than a point per possession as it's won three of its last four to get back over .500.
Week 17: vs. DAL, @ DET, @ PHI
Last Week: 12 ↓
Pace: 101.7 (5) OffRtg: 107.9 (7) DefRtg: 106.8 (21) NetRtg: +1.1 (12)
The Pelicans' trade for Nikola Mirotic (along with their inability to sign Greg Monroe) means that Anthony Davis is probably a full-time center for the final 10 weeks of the season. Davis averaged 32.3 points in the first four games since DeMarcus Cousins' injury and the Pels were a plus-13 in 24 minutes with Davis and Mirotic on the floor together in Minnesota on Saturday. But they're 1-3 since losing Cousins, having allowed 13.0 offensive rebounds and 19.0 second chance points per game (both league-high opponent marks over that stretch). They've now grabbed just 73.4 percent of available defensive rebounds (a rate that would rank last in the league) with Cousins off the floor.
Week 17: vs. UTA, vs. IND, @ PHI, @ BKN
Last Week: 22 ↑
Pace: 97.3 (25) OffRtg: 105.3 (14) DefRtg: 104.6 (9) NetRtg: +0.7 (13)
DeMarcus Cousins' injury and Blake Griffin's move to the Eastern Conference (along with the Nuggets' tough February schedule) have provided the Jazz with an opportunity, and a five-game winning streak has them within 3 1/2 games of a playoff spot. The streak includes wins over Toronto, Golden State and San Antonio, and though it began with great defense, the offense had three of its seven most efficient games of the season last week. Shooting 57 percent against the Spurs' second-ranked defense on the second game of a back-to-back on Saturday was particularly impressive. Ricky Rubio had 34 points in that one and has combined with Joe Ingles and Donovan Mitchell to shoot 42-for-74 (57 percent) over the course of the streak.
Week 17: @ NOP, @ MEM, vs. CHA, @ POR
Last Week: 18 ↓
Pace: 103.1 (1) OffRtg: 102.0 (28) DefRtg: 105.1 (12) NetRtg: -3.1 (23)
Bad news for the Celtics and Sixers (the teams who could get the Lakers' pick in this year's Draft): Only the Rockets (11-3) have a better record than the Lakers (10-4) over the last 30 days. L.A. ranks fourth defensively over that stretch, which includes wins over the Spurs, Celtics and Thunder. Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle (39 combined points per game on 53 percent shooting as they've won six of their last eight) have been providing pretty consistent offense and new starting point guard Josh Hart is somehow their best rebounder, grabbing 25 total boards in weekend wins in Brooklyn and Oklahoma City. The Lakers have won six straight at home, but are back at Staples Center for only two games before All-Star prep gets underway and they have to head out on another three-game trip going into the break.
Week 17: vs. PHX, vs. OKC, @ DAL
Last Week: 19 ↓
Pace: 100.6 (10) OffRtg: 105.2 (15) DefRtg: 105.2 (13) NetRtg: +0.0 (17)
Cody Zeller is finally back from a knee injury that had him out for almost two months and Nicolas Batum is playing his best basketball of the season, recording a triple-double in the Hornets' win in Atlanta on Wednesday and scoring a season-high 31 points against the Pacers two nights later. The Hornets have won three straight games for the first time since before Thanksgiving, scoring 122 points per 100 possessions over the streak and even getting some good minutes from their league-worst bench (for which Zeller provides a big boost). They're not out of the playoff race just yet and do have four remaining games against the eighth-place Sixers, but their schedule is otherwise tougher than those of Philly and Detroit (with 18 of the Hornets' final 30 games on the road) and they may be forced to sell off a rotation piece at the deadline.
Week 17: @ DEN, @ POR, @ UTA, vs. TOR
Last Week: 23 ↑
Pace: 98.2 (21) OffRtg: 104.4 (19) DefRtg: 105.0 (11) NetRtg: -0.6 (19)
Time will tell if Blake Griffin can stay healthy enough over the next four years for his contract not to be a burden. But for now, the Pistons have a talent upgrade, a three-game winning streak and a chance to make the playoffs. They closed with Anthony Tolliver on the floor instead of Andre Drummond against Memphis (with Griffin assisting Tolliver on the go-ahead three) on Thursday, but Griffin and Drummond were a plus-29 in their first two games together and hooked up for a big transition bucket down the stretch of their win over the Heat on Saturday. Reggie Bullock continues to shoot well (league-best 49.6 percent from 3-point range since mid-December) and the Pistons' schedule remains friendly through the All-Star break.
Week 17: vs. POR, vs. BKN, vs. LAC, @ ATL
Last Week: 21 ↓
Pace: 98.6 (19) OffRtg: 104.4 (20) DefRtg: 106.1 (15) NetRtg: -1.7 (21)
Tim Hardaway Jr. gave the Knicks' offense a lift upon his initial return from injury, but he's had a pretty brutal last five days, shooting 5-for-33 (1-for-15 from 3-point range) as New York has lost three straight games for the fourth time in 2018. The struggles haven't been limited to Hardaway's shots from the field, as he missed two free throws for the lead in the final minutes in Milwaukee on Friday before missing a three for the win at the buzzer and then missing a three for the tie against the Hawks on Sunday. A home-heavy schedule helped the Knicks get off to a strong start, but they've lost five of their last six games at Madison Square Garden, scoring less than a point per possession in four of the five losses.
Week 17: vs. MIL, @ TOR, @ IND
Last Week: 20 ↓
Pace: 100.1 (12) OffRtg: 101.6 (29) DefRtg: 108.0 (25) NetRtg: -6.4 (28)
With Nikola Mirotic out over the first 7 1/2 weeks of the season, the Bulls had an aggregate bench NetRtg of minus-16.8, the worst mark in the league. With Mirotic (mostly) healthy over the next 7 1/2 weeks, the Bulls had an aggregate bench NetRtg of plus-3.5, the seventh best mark in the league. The Bulls not only got an additional first round pick (likely in the 14-20 range) by dealing Mirotic to New Orleans, but they also increased the value of their own first round pick. They've lost six straight, even though eight different guys have averaged double-figures over that stretch. They've allowed both L.A. teams to register 33 fast break points during the streak.
Week 17: @ SAC, vs. MIN, vs. WAS
Last Week: 24
Pace: 101.2 (6) OffRtg: 102.8 (26) DefRtg: 107.1 (22) NetRtg: -4.3 (25)
Rookie Jarrett Allen is the Nets' new starting center, a position he may hold for a very long time. Allen has shot a league-best 70 percent over the last month and 26-for-34 (76 percent) in his four games as a starter, quickly developing his skills around the basket. On the other end of the floor, (though he got put on an Giannis Antetokounmpo poster on Sunday) Allen ranks as one of the league's best rim protectors, but hasn't been able to make much of an impact on his team's numbers. The Nets have grabbed 81 percent of available defensive rebounds (a rate which would ranked third in the league) with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Tyler Zeller on the floor together, but have been killed on the glass with Zeller out of the rotation and Hollis-Jefferson missing the last five games with a groin injury. Their opponents have averaged 20 second chance points over those five games and their inability to grab a defensive rebound cost them in the closing seconds against the Lakers on Friday.
Week 17: vs. HOU, @ DET, vs. NOP
Last Week: 25
Pace: 96.1 (30) OffRtg: 103.3 (24) DefRtg: 106.5 (19) NetRtg: -3.2 (24)
If Tyreke Evans is traded this week, he'll leave Memphis having won five of the last six games he played with the Grizzlies and knowing that he was holding the offense together. The Grizz are 0-6 without Evans this season, have scored just 96 points per 100 possessions in the five games he has missed in the last two weeks, and are now holding him out until he's traded. Wayne Selden had a couple of solid games early last week, but struggled (5-for-21 shooting, seven turnovers) against better defenses (those of the Pistons and Raptors) on Thursday and Sunday. After the Grizzlies visit the Hawks on Tuesday, they'll close their pre-break schedule with games against the Jazz and Thunder (x 2), so those offensive numbers may remain ugly.
Week 17: @ ATL, vs. UTA, @ OKC
Last Week: 28 ↑
Pace: 99.6 (15) OffRtg: 103.9 (23) DefRtg: 108.4 (26) NetRtg: -4.5 (26)
If a playoff team is desperate for shooting off the bench (Milwaukee and Minnesota might qualify), the Hawks should be one of the first teams they call. Luke Babbitt, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova are all vets on expiring deals that can help a team space the floor and have little value to the Hawks at this point. The Hawks remain a top-10 team from 3-point range, with Kent Bazemore shooting a career-high 39 percent from beyond the arc. He hit go-ahead threes in the closing moments of wins against Minnesota on Monday (right before making an incredible block on former backcourt-mate Jeff Teague) and in New York on Sunday.
Week 17: vs. MEM, @ ORL, vs. CLE, vs. DET
Last Week: 27
Pace: 102.0 (3) OffRtg: 102.4 (27) DefRtg: 109.9 (30) NetRtg: -7.4 (29)
Josh Jackson's offense is coming along. The rookie has scored 18 or more points in six of his last seven games, benefiting from the playmaking of Devin Booker, but also doing some of the work himself off the dribble. If you throw away his 0-for-13 clunker in Houston, he has shot 51 percent over that stretch. But, though the Suns are now starting a super-sized backcourt (Booker and Jackson), they've have fallen to last in defensive efficiency, having allowed 114 points per 100 possessions over their last 12 games. Yes, there's a defense out there worse than that of the Cavs.
Week 17: @ LAL, vs. SAS, vs. DEN
Last Week: 26 ↓
Pace: 96.9 (28) OffRtg: 104.2 (22) DefRtg: 106.6 (20) NetRtg: -2.4 (22)
Rick Carlisle finally broke up the starting lineup that has been the league's worst high-usage lineup this season, starting Dwight Powell instead of Maxi Kleber in two games last week. The initial result was ugly starts to both the first and third quarters in Phoenix on Wednesday in a game in which Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews combined to shoot 7-for-34. The Mavs have a lot of flexibility at the deadline, with the ability to get assets by taking on another team's burdensome contract. But the contracts of their own two vets remain somewhat burdensome themselves.
Week 17: @ LAC, @ GSW, vs. LAL, @ HOU
Last Week: 29
Pace: 97.3 (26) OffRtg: 100.5 (30) DefRtg: 109.9 (29) NetRtg: -9.4 (30)
The trade deadline is three days away and George Hill is still in Sacramento. So for now, though the Kings rank 28th in the percentage of their shots that have come from 3-point range, they're one of two teams (Boston is the other) that have two guys - Hill and Buddy Hield - who rank in the top 10 in 3-point percentage. Both Hill and Hield are coming off the bench, with the Kings now start starting their three healthy rookies (De'Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Justin Jackson). The vets still did the heavy lifting (Zach Randolph and Kosta Koufos combined for 43 points and 29 rebounds) as they played spoiler in New Orleans on Tuesday.
Week 17: vs. CHI, vs. POR, @ MIN
Last Week: 30
Pace: 101.0 (7) OffRtg: 104.3 (21) DefRtg: 109.1 (27) NetRtg: -4.7 (27)
In the sixth year of a failed rebuild and with no clear path out of it, the Magic are in a weird and unenviable position. Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton have each showed improvement this season, but are both in the final year of their rookie contracts, set to hit restricted free agency on July 1. Gordon seems like an ideally versatile forward, but hasn't helped a defense that ranks 27th, while Payton remains a guard that doesn't shoot very often from the outside. In fact, among 125 guards with at least 200 field goal attempts, only Ben Simmons (12 percent) has taken a lower percentage of his shots from outside the paint than Payton (26 percent). The Magic could choose to punt on one or both of those guys at the deadline, or they could wait until the summer before pushing the reset button (once again).
Week 17: @ MIA, vs. CLE, vs. ATL, vs. MIL