Power Rankings, Week 17: Bucks rise up as trade deadline looms
Sometimes, we don’t have to wait until trade deadline day for the big fireworks.
Last year,the LA Clippers sent the face of their franchise (whom they had just signed to a five-year, max contract) to Detroit 10 days before the deadline. This year, the New York Knicks traded the face of their franchise to Dallas with six days to go before the deadline.
We’ll be talking about the Kristaps Porzingis trade for a long time. It appears to be another gamble by the Knicks that they can bring established stars to New York. And Kyrie Irving added fuel to the fire by saying (in Madison Square Garden) that we’ll all have to wait until July 1 to see what he’ll do in free agency.
We don’t have to wait nearly as long for Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline. But the two biggest names on the market — Anthony Davis and Mike Conley — are under contract beyond this season, so getting a deal done in the next three days isn’t imperative for the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies.
While speculation runs hot, actual basketball games, some of import, continue to be played. And the Milwaukee Bucks are back at No. 1 in the Power Rankings, having won the most important game (on the road and rather handily) of the last seven days.
- Last week: Davis helps push trade season into full gear
- This time last year: Cavs desperate for a shake-up at trade deadline — The Pistons traded for Blake Griffin 10 days before the deadline, the Pelicans acquired Nikola Mirotic, and the Jazz were still 3 1/2 games out of a playoff spot. James Harden messed around and got the first 60-point triple-double in NBA history, and C.J. McCollum dropped 50 (in just three quarters) on the Bulls. Kevin Love broke his hand, Joel Embiid played in both games of a back-to-back for the first time in his career, and Tyreke Evans was waiting for a trade that never came. Manu Ginobili threw a ridiculous, behind-the-back pass, Al Horford beat the Blazers at the buzzer, and Gary Harris hit a run-off, game-winning three against the Thunder.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
- Mr. Plus: Khris Middleton (MIL) was a plus-61 in three games last week.
- Mr. Minus: Damyean Dotson (NYK) was a minus-53 in four games last week.
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Denver (4-0) — The Nuggets ran their winning streak to six games and earned Mike Malone a trip to the All-Star game with three road wins and a victory at home over the Rockets.
- Something Just Ain’t Right: Miami (0-3) — The Heat are not in a good place right now. They lost to the Bulls … by 16 … at home and with a rest advantage on Wednesday.
East vs. West
- The West is 165-121 (.577) against the East in interconference games after going 11-8 last week.
Schedule strength through Week 16
- Toughest: 1. New York, 2. Phoenix, 3. Utah
- Easiest: 1. Miami, 2. Indiana, 3. Boston
- Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
Movement in the Rankings
- High jumps of the week: Sacramento (+3), Charlotte (+2), Portland (+2)
- Free falls of the week: Miami (-4), Houston (-2), New York (-2), Oklahoma City (-2)
Week 17 Team to Watch
- San Antonio — Other teams are more important in regard to the trade deadline and the NBA landscape. But on the floor, the Spurs take a five-game winning streak on the road, and the rodeo trip begins with four games against teams with winning records. They visit the Kings on Monday, the Warriors on Wednesday, the Blazers on Thursday, and the Jazz on Saturday.
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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 100.6 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 109.0 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: 103.1 (6) OffRtg: 113.3 (4) DefRtg: 103.7 (1) NetRtg: +9.6 (1)
The Bucks are the clear best team in the Eastern Conference, with the league's best point differential by a wide margin and a 5-2 record against the Raptors, Celtics and Sixers. And it shouldn't be a surprise that the difference in Toronto on Thursday was a 19-6 run to start the second quarter with Giannis Antetokounmpo playing against a Toronto lineup that (for the most part) didn't include Kyle Lowry or Kawhi Leonard. Antetokounmpo has been starting second quarters consistently since Thanksgiving, one reason why the Bucks have been better in the second (plus-17.0 points per 100 possessions) than any other team has been in any other period. Over their four games with Toronto, the Bucks were a plus-21 in the second quarter and a plus-5 otherwise.
Week 17: @ BKN, vs. WAS, @ DAL, vs. ORL
Last Week: 1 ↓
Pace: 101.8 (10) OffRtg: 115.6 (1) DefRtg: 108.8 (15) NetRtg: +6.9 (2)
The Warriors remain undefeated (5-0) with all five of their stars in the lineup and have outscored their opponents by more than 27 points per 100 possessions in 54 minutes with all five on the floor. But they clearly missed Klay Thompson in a loss to the Sixers on Thursday, when Warriors not named Stephen Curry shot 1-for-20 from 3-point range and when they got outscored, 42-26, in the third quarter. They continue to sit in the middle of the pack defensively, in part because each of their last four opponents have registered at least 17 second-chance points. Despite the added size, they rank 24th in defensive rebounding percentage (71.5 percent) since DeMarcus Cousins made his season debut (after ranking eighth -- 73.6 percent -- previously), and they've been even worse on the defensive glass (grabbing just 70.2 percent of available boards) with Cousins on the floor.
Week 17: vs. SAS, @ PHX, vs. MIA
Last Week: 4 ↑
Pace: 97.9 (28) OffRtg: 113.8 (3) DefRtg: 108.0 (11) NetRtg: +5.8 (4)
The Nuggets have been without Jamal Murray for the last five games and without Gary Harris for the last two. But a six-game winning streak has coach Mike Malone and his staff going to Charlotte for the All-Star Game with a share of the West's best record (and a half-game edge over the Warriors in conference record). They've scored 119.4 points per 100 possessions over the winning streak (their win over the Rockets on Friday was the most efficient game -- 136 points on 93 possessions - for any team this season) with back-up guards Malik Beasley and Monte Morris averaging a combined 36.8 points per game on an effective field goal percentage of 69.7 percent. Beasley leads 2019 in effective field goal percentage (70.4 percent) and has seen the third-biggest jump in points per game (from 3.2 to 11.4) among 258 players who played in at least 40 games last season and in at least 25 this season.
Week 17: @ DET, @ BKN, @ PHI
Last Week: 5 ↑
Pace: 100.2 (17) OffRtg: 111.7 (9) DefRtg: 104.9 (3) NetRtg: +6.8 (3)
The Celtics have won nine of their last 10 games, with top-five marks on both ends of the floor over that stretch and with the only loss having been to the Warriors (in a game that went down to the wire). But before dropping 30 points on the Thunder on Sunday, scoring or assisting on each of the Celtics' last six field goals, and forcing Russell Westbrook's game-deciding turnover, Kyrie Irving planted a seed of doubt regarding his free-agency decision and made this trade deadline even more interesting than it already was. The Celtics have climbed into third place with this 9-1 stretch, but have the toughest remaining schedule (in regard to opponent strength, home/away and rest advantage games) of the East's top four.
Week 17: @ CLE, vs. LAL, vs. LAC
Last Week: 3 ↓
Pace: 103.9 (3) OffRtg: 109.9 (13) DefRtg: 105.0 (4) NetRtg: +4.9 (5)
Russell Westbrook has a streak of six straight triple-doubles (one short of the two longest streaks of his career), but the Thunder's seven-game winning streak came to an end when Westbrook turned the ball over in the closing seconds in Boston on Sunday. The Thunder still rank fourth offensively (117.3 points scored per 100 possessions) over the last four weeks, with Paul George averaging 30.8 points per game and shooting an amazing 30-for-60 on pull-up 3-pointers over those 13 games. George already has more pull-up 3-pointers (77) than he had all of last season (62) and has now shot almost as well (41.4 percent vs. 43.8 percent) on almost as many pull-up 3-point attempts (186 vs. 192) as Stephen Curry. He is registering career highs in effective field goal percentage (54.2 percent), true shooting percentage (59.2 percent) and assist-turnover ratio (1.57), and the Thunder have been almost 21 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor (plus-10.2) than they've been with him off the floor (minus-10.5).
Week 17: vs. ORL, vs. MEM, @ HOU
Last Week: 7 ↑
Pace: 99.1 (21) OffRtg: 112.7 (5) DefRtg: 110.2 (21) NetRtg: +2.5 (10)
DeMar DeRozan continues to struggle through knee soreness. He's missed four games in the last 2 1/2 weeks and has an effective field goal percentage of just 40.3 percent (the fifth-worst mark among 187 players with at least 100 field goal attempts) since Jan. 1. But All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge has picked up the slack, averaging 26.4 points on 57 percent shooting (and 94 percent at the free throw line) over the Spurs' five-game winning streak. Aldridge remains Mr. Mid-Range (only DeRozan has taken more mid-range shots this season), but has also taken 33 percent of his shots in the restricted area. That's is highest rate of the last eight seasons and he has shot a career-high 72 percent (the sixth-best mark among 62 players with at least 200 attempts) on those restricted area shots. He had four clutch buckets as the Spurs won three close games last week, and all four were layups or dunks. The rodeo trip (five games before the All-Star break, three games after) begins Monday in Sacramento, with the Spurs having scored 119 points per 100 possessions over their last four road games.
Week 17: @ SAC, @ GSW, @ POR, @ UTA
Last Week: 6 ↓
Pace: 102.7 (7) OffRtg: 111.3 (10) DefRtg: 108.0 (10) NetRtg: +3.3 (8)
The Sixers went 2-2 on their trip out West, but are 5-3 on this run of 12 straight games against teams with winning records, with the last four games at home. They've lost Wilson Chandler (quad strain) for 2-3 weeks, but have won nine of the last 11 games in which they've had their other four starters, with the only two losses (Christmas in Boston and Jan. 19 vs. Oklahoma City) both having come down to a final shot in regulation. One of the nine wins was at home against the Raptors, who are in Philadelphia for the final head-to-head meeting on Tuesday. With or without Chandler, there's a need for more depth, with three rookies and a guy on a 10-day contract (Corey Brewer) having seen rotation minutes at points on the road trip.
Week 17: vs. TOR, vs. DEN, vs. LAL
Last Week: 10 ↑
Pace: 100.2 (18) OffRtg: 112.0 (8) DefRtg: 109.0 (16) NetRtg: +3.0 (9)
Since Christmas, the Blazers have the league's fourth-best record (13-5), with wins over the Warriors, Sixers, Kings and Rockets, as well as two wins in 10 days over the Jazz, who are otherwise 10-1 since Jan. 9. The Blazers' win on Wednesday was, statistically, Utah's worst defensive game of the season and came with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum each scoring 30 or more points on the same night for the second time in their last three games together (and just the 10th time ever). Not only are Lillard and McCollum playing more minutes together this season (only James Harden and P.J. Tucker have played together more), but those Lillard-plus-McCollum minutes have been better (plus-5.8 points per 100 possessions) than they've been in any of the previous three seasons in which the two started together. The acquisition of Rodney Hood is, of course, an attempt to make the Blazers' no-Lillard-or-McCollum minutes better. They've have played a league-low three rest-advantage games thus far, but will have a rest advantage against the Spurs (who play at Golden State the night before) in an important game on Thursday.
Week 17: vs. MIA, vs. SAS, @ DAL
Last Week: 9
Pace: 100.4 (16) OffRtg: 112.1 (7) DefRtg: 107.3 (9) NetRtg: +4.8 (6)
On Thursday, the Raptors became the second team to outscore the Bucks in the paint (54-36) this season. But that was the only positive thing to take out of the game that gave Milwaukee the season series and a three-game edge in the loss column atop the Eastern Conference. The bench has been more of a concern this season, but the Toronto starting lineup was outscored 30-13 in its 10.1 minutes on Thursday and has been outscored by 9.4 points per 100 possessions in 156 total minutes over the last two months. Lineups with Fred VanVleet in place of either Kyle Lowry or Kawhi Leonard have been much better and continuity remains an issue (with Lowry missing the Raps' win over the Clippers on Sunday, the Raptors' two All-Stars have played just seven games together since Dec. 9). But that Milwaukee loss (the Raptors' worst offensive performance in a game that both All-Stars played) has to have GM Masai Ujiri thinking about a tweak to the roster. Another big pre-deadline game (in Philadelphia on Tuesday) will provide another data point.
Week 17: @ PHI, @ ATL, @ NYK
Last Week: 8 ↓
Pace: 98.0 (27) OffRtg: 113.9 (2) DefRtg: 112.2 (27) NetRtg: +1.7 (12)
The Rockets ranked 27th defensively in January (114.6 points allowed per 100 possessions) and began February by allowing the Nuggets (playing without their starting backcourt) to have the most efficient game in the league this season. But they held on to sixth place in the West with what was, statistically, their best defensive game since early November, holding the Jazz to 98 points on 109 possessions on Saturday. One game is just one game and there has been no real sign that they've made progress defensively, but only one of their 10 remaining February games is against a top-10 offense. GM Daryl Morey will surely be one of the most active executives in the next few days, looking to both add depth (and defense and shooting) and shed the contract of Brandon Knight. He has shot 23 percent with the Rockets, hasn't played since Jan. 11 and has another year (at $15.6 million) on his deal.
Week 17: @ PHX, @ SAC, vs. OKC
Last Week: 11
Pace: 100.7 (13) OffRtg: 107.9 (20) DefRtg: 105.5 (5) NetRtg: +2.4 (11)
Losses to the Blazers and Rockets (by a total of 54 points) last week kept the Jazz from moving up from seventh place in the West or clinching the tiebreaker against either. They're just a game in the loss column ahead of the ninth-place Kings (who they play once more) and just two ahead of the 10th-place Lakers (who they play twice more). But the Jazz are still tied for the league's third-best record (12-4) over the last month. They still have a favorable schedule going forward, and would arguably be the second-or third-best team in the West with the right upgrade at point guard (Mike Conley?) or power forward in the next few days. The current backcourt -- Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell -- has combined to shoot 38 percent (including 12-for-49 from 3-point range) over the last five games and another tiebreaker is on the line when they host the fifth-place Spurs on Saturday.
Week 17: vs. PHX, vs. SAS
Last Week: 15 ↑
Pace: 104.2 (2) OffRtg: 108.7 (18) DefRtg: 110.1 (20) NetRtg: -1.3 (21)
The Kings are very much still in the Western Conference playoff race, having begun their six-game homestand by destroying Atlanta in the paint (behind 37 points off the bench from Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles) on Wednesday and holding Philadelphia down on the perimeter (Buddy Hield made as many 3-pointers as the Sixers) on Saturday. They've won six straight at home and host the Spurs and Rockets (both just three games ahead of them in the loss column) this week. They're the only team with a winning record and a negative point differential, but the win over Philly (with Hield hitting two huge 3-pointers off the dribble and Bagley adding two big buckets inside) has them 18-10 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes. Hield leads the league in catch-and-shoot 3-point percentage (49.6 percent) and ranks fifth (behind four All-Stars) in pull-up 3-point percentage (39.3 percent).
Week 17: vs. SAS, vs. HOU, vs. MIA, vs. PHX
Last Week: 12 ↓
Pace: 98.8 (25) OffRtg: 108.8 (16) DefRtg: 104.7 (2) NetRtg: +4.1 (7)
The Pacers already have as many losses (they're 1-4) in five games since Victor Oladipo was lost for the season as they had in Oladipo's first injury absence (when they were 7-4), and they've already slipped from third place to fifth place in the East. In regard to point differential per 100 possessions, it's been their worst five-game stretch of the season (minus-11.3). The fall-off was on both ends of the floor before they won an ugly game (the two teams each scored 11 points in the fourth quarter) in Miami on Saturday. Amazingly, they've scored less than a point per possession over the five games, even though their four healthy starters have combined to shoot better than 50 percent. The rest of the roster has shot 33 percent (including 15-for-65 from 3-point range) and they've scored a brutal 85 points per 100 possessions in 97 minutes with Thaddeus Young off the floor.
Week 17: @ NOP, vs. LAL, vs. LAC, vs. CLE
Last Week: 13 ↓
Pace: 100.6 (14) OffRtg: 109.3 (15) DefRtg: 109.2 (17) NetRtg: +0.1 (18)
As good as the Nets have been over the last two months (they rank third defensively since Jan. 1) and as bad as the nine teams behind them in the East have been, their position in the playoff picture remains tenuous. They're banged up, they've lost three of their last four games (barely scoring a point per possession with non-point guards shooting 26 percent from 3-point range over that stretch), and 13 of their final 28 games (including three of their next four) are against the top 10 teams in the league. They're 5-11 (and have lost six of their last seven) against that group, having seen their run of late-game success (six straight wins in games that were within five points in the last five minutes) come to an end in San Antonio on Thursday.
Week 17: vs. MIL, vs. DEN, vs. CHI
Last Week: 14 ↓
Pace: 102.1 (8) OffRtg: 110.7 (11) DefRtg: 110.0 (19) NetRtg: +0.7 (14)
It's possible that we've seen the last of Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley and Marcin Gortat starting NBA games together. As you might expect given the skill sets of that trio, the Clippers have not been very good offensively (they've scored just 96.4 points per 100 possessions) in their 244 minutes on the floor together. But (with Danilo Gallinari having missed the last nine games) they were starting together until Saturday, when coach Doc Rivers seemingly pulled the plug with his team down 15-4 at the 8:18 mark of the first quarter in Detroit. Gortat hasn't seen the floor since, the Clippers came back from 25 points down to beat the Pistons, and Montrezl Harrell got the start in Toronto on Sunday. That comeback in Detroit has the Clippers hanging on to eighth place with four more games left on their current road trip and two more games remaining against the 10th-place Lakers.
Week 17: @ CHA, @ IND, @ BOS
Last Week: 17 ↑
Pace: 100.8 (11) OffRtg: 109.7 (14) DefRtg: 109.7 (18) NetRtg: +0.0 (19)
The Wolves are doing just enough to hang around, so that they still have a chance at the playoffs if they can get healthy one of these days. With Karl-Anthony Towns' game-winner against Memphis on Wednesday, they're 7-1 since Jan. 1 against teams currently out of playoff position, having allowed just 100.1 points per 100 possessions over those eight games. But with the Wolves not looking for Towns (who had 31 points on 12-for-19 shooting) on the final possession against Denver on Saturday, they're 1-6 since Jan. 1 against teams currently in playoff position, having allowed 120.7 points per 100 possessions over those seven games. Their next three games are against the former group, but they'll need some wins against the latter and they're on the road (where they're 8-17) for most of the next seven weeks.
Week 17: @ MEM, @ ORL, @ NOP
Last Week: 18 ↑
Pace: 103.7 (4) OffRtg: 107.3 (21) DefRtg: 107.1 (8) NetRtg: +0.2 (17)
LeBron James returned for the Lakers' most important game of the season to date and hit the shot that put them ahead for good in an overtime win over the eighth-place Clippers on Thursday. But after playing 156 straight regular season and playoff games and then suffering the worst injury of his career, it's apparently time for James (who has played 11,403 more minutes than any other player over the last 16 seasons) to play it safe. After playing more than 40 minutes (for the fourth time this season) against the Clips, he sat out the Lakers' loss to the Warriors, which dropped them to 6-12 without their star. Adding another star to the Lakers' roster in the next three days would help with James' load management. And, some parties have been trying to turn up the heat on the Pelicans (and on coach Luke Walton, apparently). But L.A. may need to close the season with what they've got. Appropriately, the Lakers will be playing in Boston five hours after the trade deadline.
Week 17: @ IND, @ BOS, @ PHI
Last Week: 20 ↑
Pace: 99.8 (20) OffRtg: 110.5 (12) DefRtg: 110.3 (22) NetRtg: +0.2 (16)
A 7-3 stretch has the Hornets back at .500 and tied with sixth-place Brooklyn in the loss column (with two head-to-head matchups in the first nine days after the All-Star break). The overall numbers over the 10 games (plus-1.9 points per 100 possessions) don't look great, because the three losses (including one in Boston on Wednesday) have been by a total of 66 points. But the offense has had some efficient nights without crazy numbers from Kemba Walker. Malik Monk has had his ups and downs, but the Charlotte offense has been at its best over those 10 games with him on the floor, and he averaged 17 points in just 23.5 minutes in their four games last week. The Hornets have won nine of their last 10 at home, but, after hosting the Clippers on Tuesday, will finish their pre-break schedule with a four-game trip.
Week 17: vs. LAC, @ DAL, @ ATL
Last Week: 19
Pace: 103.1 (5) OffRtg: 112.7 (6) DefRtg: 111.5 (25) NetRtg: +1.2 (13)
If their best player hadn't told them that he doesn't want to be there anymore (and if they weren't so banged up), it wouldn't be crazy to think that the Pelicans could make one last push for the playoffs. They're done with their road-heavy January schedule and will play 17 of their final 29 games at home. Only two of their final six pre-break games are against teams with winning records and one of them (on Monday) is against the Pacers, who have struggled since Victor Oladipo's injury (and who the Pelicans play again in their first game after the break). They're 23-30, but the Pelicans' point differential (the eighth-best in the Western Conference) is that of a team that's 29-24. It was around this point last season when Davis took his game to a new level and led this team to a 20-8 finish to the season (that took it from ninth place to a four-way tie for fourth). Given his contract status and the need for shooting across the league, Nikola Mirotic would appear to be the player (on the Pelicans or any other team) most likely to be traded between now and Thursday's deadline.
Week 17: vs. IND, @ CHI, vs. MIN, @ MEM
Last Week: 16 ↓
Pace: 98.9 (24) OffRtg: 106.0 (22) DefRtg: 106.5 (7) NetRtg: -0.6 (20)
The Heat are this week's "They're still in playoff position because they're still in the Eastern Conference" team, still two games ahead of the ninth-place Pistons despite a three-game losing streak in which they've scored an anemic 97 points per 100 possessions. All three games were at home and two of them were against the Bulls and Pacers (who were previously 0-4 since Victor Oladipo's injury). Coach Erik Spoelstra is searching for answers with his rotation; Rodney McGruder and Wayne Ellington have both gone from starter to out of the rotation and more consistent playing time hasn't helped Dion Waiters (who has shot 7-for-32 over the last four games). And the Heat now conclude their pre-break schedule with a five-game trip through the West, with four of the five opponents having winning records.
Week 17: @ POR, @ SAC, @ GSW
Last Week: 22 ↑
Pace: 100.1 (19) OffRtg: 108.7 (19) DefRtg: 108.3 (13) NetRtg: +0.4 (15)
The Porzingis trade represents some risk on the Mavs' part, with Porzingis' health, with the lost Draft picks, and with the contracts they had to take on. But a long-time pairing of 19-year-old Luka Doncic and 23-year-old Porzingis could be the envy of the league for years to come. Playing alongside Doncic means that Porzingis' biggest weakness (he had the league's lowest assist rate last season) isn't nearly as much of an issue as it would be with him as the fulcrum of a team's offense. Of course, we won't see the pairing until next season. The Mavs won't have the flexibility to build the right supporting cast until a year after that and getting Porzingis signed to a long-term deal that works for both parties remains an obstacle.
Week 17: vs. CHA, vs. MIL, vs. POR
Last Week: 21 ↓
Pace: 102.1 (9) OffRtg: 108.8 (17) DefRtg: 111.4 (24) NetRtg: -2.7 (22)
The Wizards had the league's fifth-ranked defense in January, but began the new month by allowing the Bucks (who they play again this week) to score 131 points on Saturday. They play four of their next five games against fellow East teams with losing records, but are just 10-8 within that group (4-3 since John Wall last played), having lost in Cleveland on Tuesday. A wild comeback (that ultimately fell short) in that game has led to more playing time for Jordan McRae, who shot 5-for-6 from 3-point range (and was a plus-23 in 48 minutes) last week. Neither Tomas Satoransky nor Thomas Bryant were supposed to be starters, but Satoransky has 45 assists and just six turnovers over the last six games and Bryant ranks third in effective field goal percentage (68.2 percent) since Jan. 1.
Week 17: vs. ATL, @ MIL, vs. CLE, @ CHI
Last Week: 24 ↑
Pace: 98.4 (26) OffRtg: 105.3 (24) DefRtg: 108.5 (14) NetRtg: -3.2 (25)
As the Magic approach the trade deadline, a couple of wins over teams ahead of them in the standings (Indiana and Brooklyn) might have them thinking that there's still a chance to reach the postseason. But they play 11 of their next 16 games on the road, where they've lost 10 of their last 12 (with the only wins coming in Chicago and Atlanta). At some point, there's a decision to be made between All-Star Nikola Vucevic (who's on an expiring contract) and last year's No. 6 pick, Mo Bamba. The Magic have remained solid (outscoring their opponents by 5.5 points per 100 possessions) in 906 total minutes with their four veteran starters playing together and they've been outscored by 15.2 points per 100 possessions with Bamba on the floor (the worst on-court NetRtg among non-Cavs that have averaged at least 15 minutes in 25 games or more). Maybe they just need a point guard upgrade to take them where they want to go or maybe it's time to move on from the core largely responsible for the longest playoff drought in the Eastern Conference (six years).
Week 17: @ OKC, vs. MIN, @ MIL, @ ATL
Last Week: 23 ↓
Pace: 99.0 (23) OffRtg: 105.3 (25) DefRtg: 108.2 (12) NetRtg: -2.9 (24)
Reggie Jackson hasn't missed a game all season and the last five have been his highest-scoring stretch (100 total points) of the year. But in Jackson's 66 minutes off the floor over those five games, the Pistons have been outscored by 58 points, with Ish Smith's return from a six-game absence on Saturday not helping the bench issues. If this team wants to reach the postseason, it needs to be taking advantage of a home-heavy stretch of schedule and some weaker opponents. But, the Pistons are 5-10 at home over the last couple of months, they barely beat a depleted Mavs team on Thursday, and blew a 25-point lead against the Clippers on Saturday (turning the ball over 10 times in a 36-point second half). After they complete a four-game homestand with a visit from the Nuggets on Monday, they won't have another homestand of more than two games left on the schedule.
Week 17: vs. DEN, @ NYK, vs. NYK
Last Week: 25
Pace: 105.0 (1) OffRtg: 105.2 (26) DefRtg: 111.9 (26) NetRtg: -6.8 (26)
The Hawks have already picked up three wins on a seven-game trip that ends in Washington on Monday and they rank ninth offensively over the last 3 1/2 weeks. Over those 11 games, Trae Young and John Collins have averaged a combined 43.9 points on an effective field goal percentage of 59.4 percent and the Hawks have scored 120.6 points per 100 possessions in 288 minutes with the franchise cornerstones on the floor together. But as the Hawks' offense has improved, their defense has taken a step backward. With their opponents having averaged 58.8 points in the paint, their last five games have been their worst defensive stretch of the season (119 points allowed per 100 possessions) and they've joined the Knicks and Suns as teams that rank in the bottom five on both ends of the floor.
Week 17: @ WAS, vs. TOR, vs. CHA, vs. ORL
Last Week: 26
Pace: 95.9 (30) OffRtg: 103.7 (29) DefRtg: 106.5 (6) NetRtg: -2.8 (23)
Despite some injuries (Kyle Anderson has missed 10 of the last 12 games and Garrett Temple has missed the last five), the Grizzlies continue to play top-10 defense and are just one win from matching their total from last season. They've allowed just 100.7 points per 100 possessions over their last six games, picking up an ugly win in New York on Sunday. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are still here, but young guys are already getting a chance to play. Bruno Caboclo has already played more minutes in a week and a half with the Grizzlies (132) than he played in 3 1/2 seasons with Toronto (113) and Ivan Rabb totaled 25 points and 15 rebounds in Minnesota and Charlotte last week.
Week 17: vs. MIN, @ OKC, vs. NOP
Last Week: 27
Pace: 100.8 (12) OffRtg: 104.2 (28) DefRtg: 113.5 (29) NetRtg: -9.2 (28)
The Suns have their second 10-game losing streak of the season. The offense has been better over this streak, because Devin Booker (who has scored 30 or more points five times over the streak) has played in all 10 games. But the defense has been worse, even though Deandre Ayton missed six games before returning for their loss to the Hawks on Saturday. On Tuesday in San Antonio (with Rudy Gay's game-winner), they became the first team in more than five years to lose a game in which it shot 60 percent. Josh Jackson has averaged 16.8 points over the last six games (starting the last five), but hasn't seen much improvement from his rookie year. In fact, his effective field goal percentage (44.8 percent) and true shooting percentage (48.0 percent) are identical to what they were last season.
Week 17: vs. HOU, @ UTA, vs. GSW, @ SAC
Last Week: 29 ↑
Pace: 99.1 (22) OffRtg: 101.9 (30) DefRtg: 111.2 (23) NetRtg: -9.4 (29)
The league's worst offense had its most efficient game of the season on Saturday, scoring 118 points on 94 possessions in Charlotte, with Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis combining for 63 points on 21-for-36 shooting. But the loss was also the Hornets' second-most efficient game of the season, with Kemba Walker scoring 25 of their 74 second-half points. The Portis-Markkanen frontline has been better offensively than the Bulls' frontline of the future (Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr.), but the defensive numbers have been much worse. Portis (a restricted free agent this summer) is seemingly the most trade-able Bull as the deadline approaches, but Robin Lopez (who has started seven of the last eight games) and Jabari Parker (who played alongside Markkanen down the stretch of their loss in Brooklyn on Tuesday) would be buyout candidates if they aren't dealt by Thursday afternoon. Speaking of trades, Wayne Selden scored 20 points in the Bulls' win in Miami on Wednesday and has shot much better in Chicago (effective field goal percentage of 53.2 percent) than Justin Holiday has shot in Memphis (37.2 percent) since the Jan. 4 deal between the two teams.
Week 17: vs. NOP, @ BKN, vs. WAS
Last Week: 30 ↑
Pace: 97.1 (29) OffRtg: 105.4 (23) DefRtg: 116.8 (30) NetRtg: -11.4 (30)
The Cavs solid off another player on Sunday, sending Rodney Hood to Portland for a pair of second-round picks. Other vets (those of Kevin Love, J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson) will be tougher to trade in the next few days (because of Love's health and money owed to the other guys beyond this season), but Alec Burks could yield another asset or two between now and Thursday. Burks has always been an attacker (more than half of his career field goal attempts have come in the paint), but has shot 26-for-58 (45 percent) on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers since coming to the Cavs in late November. He would have more catch-and-shoot opportunities on a team that ... well ... passes the ball more often. Cedi Osman has shown some playmaking skills of late, had seven assists (one shy of his career high) in the Cavs' win over Washington on Tuesday, and averaged 24.3 points over a four-game stretch before turning his ankle in a loss to Dallas on Saturday.
Week 17: vs. BOS, @ WAS, @ IND
Last Week: 28 ↓
Pace: 100.4 (15) OffRtg: 104.5 (27) DefRtg: 113.0 (28) NetRtg: -8.5 (27)
Time will tell if Friday's trade was more about the star (Kristaps Porzingis) that left New York and the need to get something for him on his way out or about the stars that are coming to New York and the need to create cap space for their max contracts. But it's amazing that the Knicks gave up early on the two players -- Jeremy Lin and Porzingis -- that brought the most unbridled joy to their fan base over the last several years, leaving the MSG faithful to cheer for players on other teams (like Kyrie Irving) or players getting DNP'd (like Enes Kanter). It seems doubtful that Kanter will be on this roster a week from now and the two vets that came in the Porzingis trade -- DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews -- could be buyout candidates as well. With a 13-game losing streak (the league's longest streak of any kind this season), the Knicks now have sole ownership of the league's worst record, though that no longer brings sole ownership of the best chance at the No. 1 pick in the Draft.
Week 17: vs. DET, @ DET, vs. TOR
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John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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