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.
- 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.
- 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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Pace: 100.5 (9) OffRtg: 113.1 (2) DefRtg: 104.7 (9) NetRtg: +8.4 (2)
The Rockets probably let the Nets and Mavs hang around too long in games last week, but the bottom line is that they've won eight straight games (and 12 of their last 13) to draw even with the Warriors in the loss column. You would think that a lineup with Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker would be about defense, but the starting group with those two has scored 132 points in 51 minutes over the last three games. After Ryan Anderson missed the win in Miami on Wednesday, Mike D'Antoni kept the Tucker-Luc group together and brought Anderson off the bench over the weekend. The rotation is 10 players deep when healthy, but the Rockets will still reportedly sign both Joe Johnson and Brandan Wright on the buyout market.
Week 18: @ MIN, vs. SAC
Pace: 102.5 (2) OffRtg: 113.6 (1) DefRtg: 103.9 (6) NetRtg: +9.7 (1)
From mid-January through their loss to Oklahoma City on Tuesday, the Warriors' bench was not very good, ranking 24th in the league over that stretch. Andre Iguodala has been banged up and as much as their All-Stars might be fatigued, the offense was terrible (92 points scored per 100 possessions) with Stephen Curry off the floor, and the defense was terrible (113 allowed) with Draymond Green off the floor. But the bench was big in wins over the Mavs and Spurs, outscoring them by 39 points in 57 minutes with Curry and/or Green on the bench on Thursday and Saturday. Steve Kerr has staggered the minutes of Curry and Green this season more than he has in the past. This is the first season under Kerr when Curry and Green aren't the team's most-used two-man combination, even if you only include the games in which they've both played.
Week 18: vs. PHX, @ POR
Pace: 100.5 (10) OffRtg: 110.5 (4) DefRtg: 102.6 (3) NetRtg: +7.9 (3)
A five-game winning streak, featuring an easy win over the Celtics, has pushed the Raptors past Boston into the East's top seed. Noted 3-point gunners DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas have shot a combined 19-for-42 (45 percent) from beyond the arc during the streak, but Toronto's five-man bench unit is a ridiculous plus-83 in 56 minutes over last four games (C.J. Miles missed the first game of the winning streak). As much attention has been paid to the changes on offense, the Toronto defense has been more improved this season, having allowed 2.3 fewer points per 100 possessions than it did last season. Improvement has come both on the perimeter (the Raps have seen the league's biggest decrease - by a wide margin - in the percentage of their opponent shots that have come from 3-point range) and inside (only the Blazers have allowed a lower field goal percentage in the restricted area).
Week 18: vs. MIA, @ CHI
Pace: 98.2 (22) OffRtg: 104.2 (21) DefRtg: 100.5 (1) NetRtg: +3.8 (4)
If Markieff Morris didn't foul Kyrie Irving on a 3-point shot in the final seconds of regulation (and again in overtime) in Washington on Thursday, the Celtics would probably be on a four-game losing streak. The defense has taken a step backward (ranking 16th) in February and the offense is struggling again (scoring just 96 points per 100 possessions in their four games last week). Jayson Tatum's 3-point percentage was bound to regress - he has shot just 31 percent from beyond the arc over the last seven weeks after shooting a league-best 50 percent through Christmas - but his attempts are also down. After taking at least 30 percent of his shots from 3-point range in each of the previous four months, he has taken only 16 percent of his shots from deep in February.
Week 18: vs. LAC
Pace: 97.9 (23) OffRtg: 111.2 (3) DefRtg: 107.9 (24) NetRtg: +3.2 (6)
The Wolves have won 13 straight games at home, having allowed 104 points per 100 possessions in those 13 games. On the road, they're 1-10 in 2018, having allowed more than 115 points per 100 possessions in those games. Jimmy Butler totaled 73 points in Cleveland and Chicago on Wednesday and Friday, but Karl-Anthony Towns didn't get a lot of shots again, and getting stops down the stretch of those two games proved to be a problem, with Butler fouling Zach LaVine for the game-winning free throws in his return to Chicago and LeBron James beating them at the buzzer in Cleveland. The Wolves have lost their last four games that have been within five points in the last five minutes (all of them were on the road) and now rank 28th in clutch defense.
Week 18: vs. HOU, vs. LAL
Pace: 98.5 (20) OffRtg: 108.4 (6) DefRtg: 106.4 (19) NetRtg: +1.9 (9)
The Pacers, a bottom-five team in someone's preseason Power Rankings, have a chance at a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference. In fact, the might already be there if Victor Oladipo didn't miss their game against the fourth-place Wizards on Monday. Even with that game included, the Pacers have ranked in the top 10 both offensively (sixth) and defensively (10th) as they've gone 13-6 since Oladipo came back from a four-game absence after Christmas. Cory Joseph has shot 3-for-16 in three starts with Darren Collison out, but Bojan Bogdanovic has found his stroke after some January struggles, shooting 18-for-36 from 3-point range over his last six games. The Pacers' win over the Knicks on Sunday began a five-game stretch against opponents with a cumulative winning percentage of .337.
Week 18: @ BKN
Pace: 98.6 (19) OffRtg: 105.2 (15) DefRtg: 104.9 (10) NetRtg: +0.3 (15)
The Blazers' offense ranked third in January and Damian Lillard dropped 50 in Sacramento on Friday, but the offense has otherwise struggled over the last five games, even though Maurice Harkless has shot well (58 percent, 8-for-16 from 3-point range) with more playing time over that stretch. Portland remains the only team that has recorded assists on less than half its buckets, last in field goal percentage in the restricted area, and last in fast break points per game. They sit in sixth place in the West, but teams 6-9 are all tied with 26 losses and with the Jazz having ended their nine-game home winning streak on Sunday, the champs are coming to town for the final game before the break.
Week 18: vs. GSW
Pace: 96.6 (29) OffRtg: 105.1 (16) DefRtg: 101.6 (2) NetRtg: +3.5 (5)
As we continue to wonder if/when Kawhi Leonard might return, the Spurs have turned over another starting job to a second-year player. The team's offense has been at its best (112 points scored per 100 possessions) with LaMarcus Aldridge on the floor with Davis Bertans, who has replaced Pau Gasol in the lineup for the last three games. Aldridge had some fun (getting all 10 of his buckets in the paint) in Phoenix on Wednesday and he and Bertans were a plus-1 together at Golden State on Saturday. But against the champs, the Spurs were without both the old point guard (Tony Parker) and the new one (Dejounte Murray), shot 5-for-27 from 3-point range, and were outscored 29-13 in Gasol's 11 minutes on the floor.
Week 18: @ UTA, @ DEN
Pace: 98.7 (18) OffRtg: 106.5 (12) DefRtg: 103.3 (5) NetRtg: +3.2 (7)
The Thunder are 3-0 against the Rockets and Warriors after beating the champs in Oakland on Tuesday in a game in which Paul George (38 points, six steals, 11-for-23 shooting) was the best player on the floor. George has shot 48 percent from 3-point range over the last nine games, but the OKC offense came up empty (shooting 36 percent) without Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony in L.A. on Thursday. Alex Abrines is the latest wing to get a shot at taking Andre Roberson's starting job and had four threes as the offense did enough work early (74 points before halftime) to survive their second straight ugly second half to beat Memphis without Westbrook and Anthony on Sunday. Abrines' shooting numbers are almost identical to what they were last season, but he has shot better with George on the floor.
Week 18: vs. CLE, @ MEM
Pace: 101.7 (5) OffRtg: 105.3 (14) DefRtg: 102.8 (4) NetRtg: +2.5 (8)
The Sixers continue to get off to strong starts. They've won the first quarter in 18 of their last 20 games and rank as the league's second best first quarter team, having outscored their opponents by 13.1 points per 100 possessions in the opening 12 minutes. Robert Covington has been their most effective first quarter shooter for the season (and is a league-best plus-211 in the first), but the other four starters have all shot better than 50 percent (and a combined 32-for-64 from 3-point range) in the first quarter over these last 20 games. By winning the first by a cumulative score of 106-62 against the Wizards, Pelicans and Clippers last week, the Sixers were able to hold onto all three leads and improve to 9-0 at the Wells Fargo Center in 2018. They will have a rest advantage in both of their home games this week, with both the Knicks and Heat playing the night before and with Wednesday's game against Miami possibly for seventh place in the East.
Week 18: vs. NYK, vs. MIA
Pace: 97.4 (25) OffRtg: 105.9 (13) DefRtg: 104.1 (7) NetRtg: +1.8 (10)
It's difficult to throw any kind of shade toward the Jazz's nine-game winning streak. It includes wins over three of the top five teams in the league, seven of the nine games have been on the road (where the Jazz were previously 4-17), and they rank in the top three both offensively and defensively over the streak. A few weeks ago, Derrick Favors appeared to be a clear candidate to be traded, but the Favors-Rudy Gobert frontline is working again, they've played at least 20 minutes together in each of the last five games (something they hadn't done since Nov. 10), and the Jazz have outscored their opponents by almost 30 points per 100 possessions in 153 minutes with the bigs on the floor together during the winning streak.
Week 18: vs. SAS, vs. PHX
Pace: 99.4 (15) OffRtg: 107.0 (10) DefRtg: 105.2 (13) NetRtg: +1.8 (11)
The Wizards still have the league's highest assist percentage (having assisted on 73 percent of their buckets) over the eight games since they lost John Wall, but their winning streak came to an end as their offense struggled against two top-five defenses (Philly and Boston) last week. Wizards not named Bradley Beal shot 2-for-15 from 3-point range on Wednesday and 22 turnovers came back to bite them on Friday, though a late comeback from 10 down gave them a chance before they ran out of gas (shooting 2-for-12) in overtime. Tomas Satoransky remains near the top of the league in assist-turnover ratio and has picked up his scoring a bit in Wall's absence, but, after registering a career-high 25 points, took a nasty fall by way of a Bobby Portis flagrant foul in the fourth quarter in Chicago on Friday.
Week 18: @ NYK
Pace: 99.9 (13) OffRtg: 109.8 (5) DefRtg: 109.7 (28) NetRtg: +0.1 (16)
One game is just one game, the ultimate measure of what Koby Altman did on Thursday will come when LeBron James decides what team he's going to play for next season, and we're still a long way from finding out if the added length of George Hill, Rodney Hood and Larry Nance Jr. (along with the added energy of a happier James) can make a real impact defensively. But the Cavs shot 54 percent (including 16-for-30 from 3-point range) against the league's No. 1 defense in their one game with their four new players. James assisted on four of the eight threes that Hill, Hood and Jordan Clarkson made and J.R. Smith seems to have found his mojo, launching crazy shots without hesitation and even attacking the rim when run off the line. Smith has shot better from 3-point range than he did last season, but volume matters and his attempts per 36 minutes are down from 8.2 to 6.3.
Week 18: @ OKC
Pace: 97.7 (24) OffRtg: 107.2 (9) DefRtg: 105.8 (14) NetRtg: +1.4 (12)
The Bucks added frontcourt depth (Tyler Zeller) last week, but nothing in the backcourt (where Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova are out with injuries) and nothing to help their shooting from beyond the arc. They remain one of three teams (the Lakers and the Knicks are the others) that rank in the bottom 10 in both 3-point percentage (25th) and the percentage of their shots that have been 3-pointers (25th), and one of the designated shooters in their starting lineup (Tony Snell) is 3-for-16 on threes in February. Their 3-point defense has looked improved as they've gone 8-2 under Joe Prunty, having allowed their opponents to shoot just 28 percent from beyond the arc, but only one of those 10 games has been against an above-average 3-point shooting team. The Hawks (seventh in 3-point percentage) on Tuesday will actually be their toughest test in that regard since Jason Kidd was fired, but it's OK if you just want to focus on the fact that Giannis Antetokounmpo jumped over a man.
Week 18: vs. ATL, vs. DEN
Pace: 98.7 (17) OffRtg: 107.6 (7) DefRtg: 107.7 (22) NetRtg: -0.0 (17)
In a three-team deal at the deadline, the Nuggets exchanged a guy with one of the league's worst on-on-court NetRtg differentials (they were 12.7 points per 100 possessions worse with Emmanuel Mudiay on the floor than they were with him off the floor) for a guy with one of the best (the Mavs were 13.5 points per 100 possessions better with Devin Harris on the floor than they were with him off the floor). Harris is now playing behind a much better starting group than he was in Dallas, but was still a game-high plus-17 in the Nuggets' win in Phoenix on Saturday. They got pummeled in Houston on Friday, but are 4-1 in February, with Will Barton, Gary Harris, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray all averaging 19 or more points (and shooting a combined 52 percent from 3-point range) in the four wins.
Week 18: vs. SAS, @ MIL
Pace: 100.7 (8) OffRtg: 106.6 (11) DefRtg: 105.9 (15) NetRtg: +0.8 (13)
The Clippers got Lou Williams signed to a reasonable contract extension, held onto DeAndre Jordan at the deadline, and should remain competitive for the final two months of the season. They're still very much in the West playoff race, having broke Lawler's Law (by coming back from a 101-91 deficit with less than five minutes to go against Dallas) on Monday and getting a win over Blake Griffin on Friday. Danilo Gallinari has averaged 21 points on 52 percent shooting in his five games back from injury (also the five games since the Griffin trade), but Austin Rivers had a poor shooting night (in Philly on Saturday) in his second game back from a six-week absence. He still has the highest pull-up 3-point percentage (41 percent) among 32 players who have attempted at least two pull-up threes per game (and Milos Teodosic has the lowest).
Week 18: @ BKN, @ BOS
Pace: 96.9 (28) OffRtg: 102.9 (25) DefRtg: 104.2 (8) NetRtg: -1.3 (20)
Dwyane Wade is back in Miami, perhaps as the Heat's new back-up point guard. Wade should fit well alongside 3-point gunner Wayne Ellington, who was on the floor for most of Wade's 22 minutes as the Heat ended a six-game losing streak with a win over Milwaukee on Friday. He won't give the Heat efficient offense (he hasn't had a true shooting percentage better than the league average since 2013-14), but Wade has the highest assist ratio of his career (having recorded assists on 22 percent of his possessions) and can come up with a big play (like his block on Eric Bledsoe in the final minute on Friday) at a big moment. The Heat held the Bucks' top-10 offense to less than 90 points per 100 possessions after allowing 115 over the last four games of their losing streak.
Week 18: @ TOR, @ PHI
Pace: 101.8 (4) OffRtg: 107.3 (8) DefRtg: 107.0 (20) NetRtg: +0.3 (14)
The Pelicans have been at their best with Jrue Holiday at point guard, but when he started at the point in Philadelphia on Friday (with Rajon Rondo coming off the bench for the first time since his first game of the season), the Pels were down 23-4 after six minutes. Rondo was back in the starting lineup and registered a triple-double as they stopped the bleeding and moved back into eighth place with a win in Brooklyn on Saturday. The postponement (because of a leaky roof) of their Wednesday game against Indiana may have kept them from being too fatigued as the Brooklyn game went to double-overtime. Having Anthony Davis (44 points, 17 rebounds, six steals and three blocks) is also a nice benefit. They rank 25th offensively, having scored just a tick over a point per possession, since losing DeMarcus Cousins.
Week 18: @ DET, vs. LAL
Pace: 102.9 (1) OffRtg: 102.7 (26) DefRtg: 105.0 (11) NetRtg: -2.3 (21)
The Lakers don't need Isaiah Thomas as much as Isaiah Thomas needs the Lakers, who acquired him in their deal with the Cavs because he has an expiring contract. With that contract status, he needs to make the most of these last 28 games, because the Brink's truck won't be carrying much cargo if he continues to play the way he played in Cleveland. It will be fascinating to see how the rest of the league sees him come July 1. As an All-Star, a solid starting point guard, or as a sixth man who should be paid the same as Lou Williams? Thomas did get 31 minutes off the bench in Dallas on Saturday, scoring an efficient 22 points and dishing out six assists.
Week 18: @ NOP, @ MIN
Pace: 98.3 (21) OffRtg: 104.8 (18) DefRtg: 105.1 (12) NetRtg: -0.2 (18)
With Blake Griffin, the Pistons are 4-0 when their opponent was playing the second game of a back-to-back and 0-2 otherwise. The defense looked strong in those first four games (allowing less than a point per possession), but they were all against below-average offensive teams, and they allowed 115 points per 100 possessions in weekend losses to the Clippers and Hawks. Offense was only an issue on Friday, but Griffin has shot just 40 percent with his new team, including 5-for-26 from 3-point range with Andre Drummond on the floor. The Pistons will have another rest advantage game on Wednesday when they host the Hawks (who play in Milwaukee the night before).
Week 18: vs. NOP, vs. ATL
Pace: 100.3 (11) OffRtg: 104.9 (17) DefRtg: 105.9 (16) NetRtg: -1.0 (19)
The Hornets didn't make a major move at the deadline and actually added future salary by trading for Willy Hernangomez, who might not get much playing time (in the immediate future, at least) behind Dwight Howard and Cody Zeller. A four-game losing streak has basically booked Charlotte's second straight trip to the Lottery (they're eight games in the loss column behind the eighth-place Sixers), with last year's No. 11 pick (Malik Monk) having played a total of 65 minutes since Christmas. Kemba Walker made it in as the East's 15th All-Star and has shot 16-for-31 from 3-point range during the losing streak, but the Hornets have allowed 118 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and scored 95 with him off the floor over the four games.
Week 18: @ ORL
Pace: 98.8 (16) OffRtg: 103.8 (23) DefRtg: 106.4 (18) NetRtg: -2.5 (22)
Before Tuesday, the Knicks' 2017-18 season wasn't really going anywhere. Now, the Knicks' '18-19 season isn't going anywhere either. Kristaps Porzingis tore his ACL in the second quarter of their loss to Milwaukee and the long road back to being competitive team got even longer. Player development is definitely priority No. 1 now and they got another player to develop by trading for Emmanuel Mudiay on Thursday. Mudiay was having a pretty terrible season in Denver, but like Frank Ntilikina, he's a big point guard, and size matters in this league. Jeff Hornacek played Mudiay and Ntilikina together for almost 28 minutes on Sunday, and they were a plus-9 in the loss in Indiana.
Week 18: @ PHI, vs. WAS
Pace: 100.0 (12) OffRtg: 101.8 (29) DefRtg: 108.0 (25) NetRtg: -6.2 (28)
Zach LaVine had his best post-ACL-surgery dunk against the Kings on Monday, but the Bulls had to wait four more days to end a seven-game losing streak (in which they allowed 111 points per 100 possessions) by playing spoiler against Zach LaVine's former team, with LaVine scoring 35 points and hitting the game-winning free throws. LaVine's 3-pointer that tied the game was a catch-and-shoot look off a nice play design by Fred Hoiberg, but only 17 percent of LaVine's jumpers with the Bulls have been off the catch (down from 35 percent in his three seasons in Minnesota). It's unclear if Kris Dunn will return before the break, but the Bulls' current starting lineup has allowed less than a point per possession in its 81 minutes.
Week 18: vs. ORL, vs. TOR
Pace: 99.7 (14) OffRtg: 104.1 (22) DefRtg: 108.1 (26) NetRtg: -4.0 (25)
Even with the departure of Marco Belinelli (waived on Friday and expected to sign with Philadelphia), Mike Budenholzer has been playing 11 or 12 guys pretty consistently, with no Hawks player averaging 30 minutes over the last three weeks. The biggest beneficiary of the Belinelli move seems to be rookie Tyler Dorsey, who has scored in double-figures in four straight games. Dewayne Dedmon was back in the starting lineup on Sunday and had a big game (20 points, 13 rebounds and a last minute three) as the Hawks played spoiler against the Pistons. The Hawks have been good (plus-10.4 points per 100 possessions) in 204 minutes with Dedmon and starting power forward Ersan Ilyasova on the floor together.
Week 18: @ MIL, @ DET
Pace: 101.1 (6) OffRtg: 103.1 (24) DefRtg: 107.7 (23) NetRtg: -4.6 (27)
The Nets managed to get a second round pick for Tyler Zeller, who was out of the rotation at the start of the season and again once Jarrett Allen became the starting center two weeks ago. One deal that wasn't looking so good last week was the trade that brought Allen Crabbe and the $56 million left on his contract from Portland last summer. Crabbe has still seen the fourth biggest drop in 3-point percentage among 153 players with at least 100 attempts both last season and this season (in part because he ranked second in the league last season), but has scored 62 points (making 14 of his 32 threes) in the Nets' last two games. The team set franchise records for 3-point attempts in both games (51 at Detroit on Wednesday and 59 against New Orleans on Saturday), but have now missed on five chances to match their win total from last season.
Week 18: vs. LAC, vs. IND
Pace: 96.2 (30) OffRtg: 102.3 (27) DefRtg: 106.3 (17) NetRtg: -4.0 (24)
Tyreke Evans is still in Memphis after one of the most bizarre non-moves in recent deadline history. And he was back in uniform on Sunday, starting at point guard in Oklahoma City. But he shot 3-for-11 and the Grizzlies' losing streak (now at six games) rolled on. With or without Evans, they've scored less than a point per possession in seven of their last nine games, ranking last in the league offensively over that stretch. This will be the 10th time in the last 11 seasons that the Grizz have been a below-average offensive team (and they were just a hair above average in 2014-15), but they've ranked in the bottom five offensively just once ('08-09) in the last 15 years.
Week 18: vs. OKC
Pace: 97.1 (27) OffRtg: 104.3 (20) DefRtg: 107.2 (21) NetRtg: -2.8 (23)
Dirk Nowitzki has shot 25-for-50 from 3-point range over his last 11 games and dunked (!) on his way to a season-high 22 points in the Mavs' win over the Lakers on Saturday. But he wasn't on the floor as the Mavs blew a 10-point lead with less than five minutes to go in L.A. on Monday (with Dennis Smith Jr. shooting 0-for-3 and committing two turnovers in the final 4:30), and he missed his first game of the season when he didn't travel to Houston for the second game of a back-to-back on Sunday. Long live the Mavs' Dirk-plus-bench lineup that included Devin Harris (traded to Denver on Thursday) and outscored its opponents by 19.4 points per 100 possessions, the third best mark among lineups that have played at least 200 minutes together.
Week 18: vs. SAC
Pace: 100.8 (7) OffRtg: 104.7 (19) DefRtg: 108.7 (27) NetRtg: -4.0 (26)
D.J. Augustin played well (18 points, nine assists, zero turnovers) in the Magic's first game after trading Elfrid Payton, which was probably the right move given Payton's limitations on both offense and defense. But waiting on Payton turned out to be quite a sunk cost and the Magic are back to searching for a future at the most important position on the floor. They do rank as a top-10 offensive team over a 6-6 stretch, getting more consistency from Jonathon Simmons. He took advantage of a close-out to give them the lead for good in Miami on Monday and then was one of the last beneficiaries of the Cavs' pre-deadline animus, scoring a career-high 34 points (with nine of his 12 buckets coming in the paint) against Cleveland on Tuesday.
Week 18: @ CHI, vs. CHA
Pace: 97.3 (26) OffRtg: 100.7 (30) DefRtg: 110.0 (29) NetRtg: -9.3 (30)
The Kings were able to erase the George Hill mistake, but also gave up on another Lottery pick, waiving Georgios Papagiannis (the No. 13 pick in the 2016 Draft) on Thursday. Of the eight players they picked in the Lottery between 2007 and 2014, only Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins remained in Sacramento beyond their rookie contracts, and Papagiannis is the fourth of their six Lottery picks between 2011 and 2016 to be gone before the end of his third season. The good news (if there is any) is that the only of those four to flourish elsewhere is Jimmer Fredette, who is the Knicks' all-time leader in effective field goal percentage (150 percent).
Week 18: @ DAL, @ HOU
Pace: 102.0 (3) OffRtg: 102.0 (28) DefRtg: 110.4 (30) NetRtg: -8.4 (29)
The Suns' trade for Elfrid Payton probably puts an end to the Devin-Booker-at-point-guard experiment, though Booker is still out (he's missed the last three games) with a hip pointer. With Tyson Chandler also missing the last two games, we've seen more minutes of Dragan Bender at center, a configuration which was a disaster defensively against the Spurs on Wednesday (in a game the Suns trailed by 53), but has generally been good for the offense. Payton doesn't help the lack of 3-point shooting in the standard starting lineup (with Chandler and T.J. Warren on the frontline), but did have 19 points (on 8-for-13, no 3-point attempts) and nine assists in his Suns debut on Saturday.
Week 18: @ GSW, @ UTA