HomeBasketball TodayTrade Deadline Shakes Up Championship Dreams for Warriors and Lakers

Trade Deadline Shakes Up Championship Dreams for Warriors and Lakers

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The trade deadline could cause a seismic shift in the NBA Power Rankings.

What will the Los Angeles Lakers do ahead of the NBA trade deadline? Should the Golden State Warriors feel a sense of urgency to make a big move? Are there any All-Star-quality players left on the trade market that could influence the playoff picture as it is? These are all very valid questions many around the league are pondering, as each one of them pertaining to the trade deadline will directly influence the NBA Power Rankings.

The NBA trade deadline is set for 3 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, February 8. Teams like the New York Knicks, the Indiana Pacers, and the Miami Heat have already made substantial moves for players like OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, and Terry Rozier, respectively. Yet almost every other team in the league still finds themselves in a position to contend for a playoff spot and possibly a deep postseason run. After all, nobody thought the Lakers had a chance to make the Western Conference Finals last season after having to earn the 7-seed via the play-in tournament.

So much of what has happened during trade season over the course of the last few seasons has been directly impacted by the play-in tournament. While the Lakers currently hold the 9-seed in the Western Conference at 26-25, and the Warriors find themselves in 12th place at 21-25, anything can still happen over the final two months of games. All it takes is one move to be made at the trade deadline, and things can play out a lot differently than the path to the postseason currently looks.

Overall, the Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Los Angeles Clippers have cemented their status as the most complete teams at the top of the rankings. This is not to say there are not other teams who can still work their way up and become real championship threats. The influence this upcoming week has on the NBA season as a whole is extremely vast. How teams in both conferences approach the trade deadline will help dictate this year’s championship.

While unpredictable, there is one constant that still remains this season: There is still a lot of basketball yet to be played.

With this said, it’s time to dive into this week’s special trade deadline edition of the NBA Power Rankings, featuring quick notes on where each team finds themselves pertaining to potential moves that could be made ahead of Thursday afternoon.

Previous 2023-24 NBA Power Rankings: Week 15 | Week 14 | Week 13 | Week 12 | Week 11 | Week 10 | Week 9 | Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2Week 1

1. Boston Celtics (-)

Joe Mazzulla, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown

2023-24 Record: 38-12, Upcoming schedule: vs. ATL (2/7), vs. WAS (2/9), at MIA (2/11)

Another week has gone by with the Boston Celtics sitting at the top of the NBA Power Rankings. Although their loss to the Los Angeles Lakers stings, especially with LeBron James and Anthony Davis out, the Celtics still have a leg up on the rest of the league. Jayson Tatum has been on a tear for the Celtics, averaging 27.0 points and 8.5 rebounds per game while shooting 44.0 percent from three-point range since being named an All-Star starter. What was interesting about the Celtics this past week were the comments from Joe Mazzulla following the team’s dreadful loss to the Lakers.

“I think telling another human to be embarrassed is disrespectful,” Mazzulla simply stated when a reporter commented on the team’s “embarrassing” loss. “I think to say, ‘You should be embarrassed,” that’s disrespectful.”

Well, this was certainly an embarrassing loss for Boston, and it was a reminder that even the Celtics still have a lot of work to do between now and the end of the season. Although they may have the best starting group in the league, there are flaws that lie on this roster before their stars. Ahead of the trade deadline, Boston is looking for ways to bring in one more impactful talent, preferably a secondary talent in their frontcourt.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder (-)

2023-24 Record: 35-15, Upcoming schedule: at UTA (2/6), at DAL (2/10), vs. SAC (2/11)

Very few probably caught it, but the Oklahoma City Thunder played a thriller against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night in Paycom Center. The Thunder, who own the best record in the Western Conference, were without Jalen Williams against a scrappy Raptors team. Toronto had lost 10 of their last 12 games entering this matchup with Oklahoma City, yet they gave everything they had in this one. They even led by as many as 23 points in the second half.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chet Holmgren, and the Thunder refused to give up, slowly chipping away at this lead and hanging around. A 16-point halftime lead for the Raptors was cut to just six points at the end of the third, and this young Thunder team gained all the momentum. It took two overtime periods to determine a winner in this one, but it was Oklahoma City that came out on top.

While Gilgeous-Alexander’s nine-game streak with at least 30 points was snapped, the Thunder got the win. This is all that matters to the young MVP candidate. At 35-15 through 50 games, this organization is well on their way to claiming a playoff spot and home-court advantage in at least their first-round series. Do not sleep on the Thunder despite their inexperience, especially since they have one of the best offensive weapons in the league.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers (+5)

2023-24 Record: 31-16, Upcoming schedule: vs. SAC (2/5), at WAS (2/7), at BKN (2/8), at TOR (2/10)

It has been remarkable to see the Cleveland Cavaliers and All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell rise to the top of the NBA Power Rankings despite being without Darius Garland and Evan Mobley for a prolonged period of time. With both players back out on the court, the Cavs have a real chance to win at least 50 games for the first time since LeBron James helped them do so during the 2017-18 season. This was the last time the Cavaliers were in the NBA Finals.

The Cavs have been the hottest team in the league over the last few weeks. Cleveland has won 13 of it last 14 games, including five straight. Their only loss during this stretch was on the road against the Milwaukee Bucks on January 24. Two days later, in the same building, the Cavs avenged this 10-point loss with a 12-point victory over Milwaukee.

Cleveland has really left its imprint on the defensive side of the ball. Teams do not get a whole lot of shots up against this Cavs team, which is why they can really suffocate their opponents. Also, when Mitchell is making his shots from anywhere on the court, it is all over for the Cavs’ opponents. It is truly not hard to call the Cavaliers the second-best team in the East right now, and they have a very favorable schedule heading into the All-Star break.

4. Los Angeles Clippers (-1)

2023-24 Record: 33-15, Upcoming schedule: at ATL (2/5), vs. NOP (2/7), vs. DET (2/10)

Starting last week with a loss on the road against the Cavaliers, the Los Angeles Clippers have begun yet another win streak. The Washington Wizards and Detroit Pistons were no match for the Clippers, and Kawhi Leonard was able to lead his team to a hard-fought victory in South Beach on Sunday against the Miami Heat. Los Angeles has only dropped five games since the start of December.

Leonard has been red-hot recently, averaging 25.0 points and 7.2 rebounds while shooting 51.9 percent from three-point range over his last 12 games. The Clippers have gone 10-2 in this span. Over his last two games, Leonard has shot 9-14 (64.2 percent) from long range. He may not be known for being a three-point specialist, but a healthy Kawhi is perhaps one of the most dangerous players in the entire league.

The Clippers are real title threats this season, much like they have been since Leonard and Paul George teamed up with one another. The only problem through the years is that this team has not been healthy. With everyone on the floor together and James Harden proving to be the ultimate facilitator this team did not have last season, the Clippers are well on their way to one of the top spots in the Western Conference playoff race.

5. Denver Nuggets (-1)

2023-24 Record: 35-16, Upcoming schedule: at LAL (2/8), at SAC (2/9)

The Denver Nuggets are the defending champions and just one win away from being 20 games above .500 on the season. Once again, they find themselves right at the top of the NBA Power Rankings. However, this year’s Nuggets team doesn’t seem to have the same flare and spark that last year’s group did. As good as Nikola Jokic is, who is now the favorite for the MVP award with Joel Embiid falling out of the race due to his injury absences, Denver’s secondary production is slightly alarming.

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Michael Porter Jr. has been inconsistent, Aaron Gordon is not a natural scorer, and the Nuggets do not really have a reliable option to turn to on their bench. Just this past week, the Nuggets lost to the Thunder for the third time this season. Even though they scored 117 points in one of those losses, they scored just 93 points in the third meeting and only 100 points this past Wednesday. Against some of the better teams in this league, the Nuggets’ lack of secondary scoring has been a glaring weakness.

As long as Jokic plays and has the ball in his hands, good things will happen. In regards to this team’s pursuit of winning another title, they are certainly not the best team in the Western Conference anymore.

6. New York Knicks (-1)

Jalen Brunson saying " I got you" to Julius Randle

2023-24 Record: 32-18, Upcoming schedule: vs. MEM (2/6), vs. DAL (2/8), vs. IND (2/10)

No Julius Randle, no problem for the New York Knicks. Since Randle went down with his dislocated shoulder, the Knicks have won three of their last four games, not including the win they added over the Heat in the game Randle suffered his shoulder injury. The only reason New York dropped a spot in the NBA Power Rankings was due to the rise of the Cavs and the fact that the Knicks lost at home on Saturday to the Lakers.

Jalen Brunson continues to silently have an MVP-like season, and Donte DiVincenzo seems to be the main beneficiary of Randle’s absence in terms of opportunities coming his way. In the four games without Randle, DiVincenzo has averaged 26.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game while shooting 42.4 percent from the floor and 38.7 percent from deep. In terms of his usage, the 27-year-old swingman has been the perfect No. 2 option for this team alongside Brunson, given his natural abilities to score in the paint and out on the perimeter.

It is going to be very interesting to evaluate the Knicks heading into the trade deadline and past the All-Star break with all the uncertainty that surrounds their injured All-Star forward. New York has the ability to add more talent, such as Bruce Brown, Malcolm Brogdon, Jordan Clarkson, or someone else, via trade if they wish to do so.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves (+2)

2023-24 Record: 35-15, Upcoming schedule: at CHI (2/6), at MIL (2/8)

The Minnesota Timberwolves looked impressive this past week, their only loss being by two points in a come-from-behind victory for the Orlando Magic. Still remaining at the top of the Western Conference, it’s clear to see why the Timberwolves have moved back up in the NBA Power Rankings. However, it is still hard to look at this team and think they have what it takes to go on a deep playoff run.

Despite being elite on defense, the Timberwolves are highly unpredictable offensively since everything flows through Anthony Edwards. The best teams in this league are going to throw everything they have at Edwards come playoff time. Sure, he may be able to still get his numbers every night given how great of a player Edwards is, but it’s hard to trust the idea of Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert scoring at will in the paint. Minnesota has also seemed to struggle down the stretch of some games recently, losing four of their last nine.

Before the All-Star break, the Timberwolves will play five straight games on the road. They will get a little bit of extra rest this week with only two games on Tuesday and Thursday night.

8. Phoenix Suns (+4)

2023-24 Record: 29-21, Upcoming schedule: vs. MIL (2/6), vs. UTA (2/8), at GSW (2/10)

Welcome back home Bradley Beal! In his return game against the Wizards, Beal scored a season-high 43 points while looking like the Dark Knight with his broken nose mask. As much as this game was about Beal, Jusuf Nurkic also had arguably his best game of the season, registering 18 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 assists against Washington.

The Phoenix Suns are really beginning to look like the complete championship team many thought of them being when the season first began. Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Beal are all healthy, which is obviously why the Suns are beginning to find success. This team has won 10 of their last 13 games, scoring over 120 points in eight games during this span.

Some tougher games are heading their way this upcoming week. The Bucks, who have struggled in recent games, are no pushover for a team like Phoenix that lacks defensive awareness. The same can be said about the Utah Jazz and Golden State Warriors, two teams that have been among the better offensive teams in the league in recent weeks.

9. Milwaukee Bucks (-3)

2023-24 Record: 33-17, Upcoming schedule: at PHX (2/6), vs. MIN (2/8), vs. CHA (2/9)

Doc Rivers has gone 1-3 as the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks since taking over for Adrian Griffin. After leading by as many as 19 points against the Jazz on Sunday night, the Bucks blew a 14-point fourth quarter lead and got outscored 40-13 in the final quarter of play to lose 123-108 on the road. This game is going to end up being a turning point for Giannis Antetokounmpo and Co.

It is definitely believable that the Bucks will take this loss, learn from it, and correct their mistakes in order to make a real championship push. However, it is clear that there is some sort of morale problem with this group. They do not have the same energy they once did a few years back during their championship run, and frustrations are beginning to mount for the Bucks.

A trade is on the horizon for Milwaukee, and it would be surprising if they did not make a move at the trade deadline. Pat Connaughton and Bobby Portis are both candidates to be moved in the coming days.

10. Orlando Magic (+1)

2023-24 Record: 27-23, Upcoming schedule: at MIA (2/6), vs. SAS (2/8), vs. CHI (2/10)

The Orlando Magic once again find themselves inside the Top 10 of the NBA Power Rankings and riding a three-game win streak. One of those wins was a come-from-behind victory on the road against the Timberwolves. More recently, the Magic defeated the Detroit Pistons on Sunday, a game in which Franz Wagner scored a career-high 38 points without shooting a single free throw. The tandem of Wagner and All-Star Paolo Banchero continues to grow with every game, as does the Magic’s defensive prowess.

Offensively, the Magic can be challenged at times, especially when one of their stars is not hitting his shots. However, Orlando ranks as one of the best overall defensive teams because of their length. Opponents are turning the ball over 15.2 times per game against the Magic, the second-best in the league from a defensive perspective, and this team can be absolutely suffocating in the lane.

Overall, it still seems like Orlando is missing something. If they are to add a veteran or two at the trade deadline for some key secondary scoring alongside Wagner and Banchero, the Magic will be well on their way to the playoffs.

11. Sacramento Kings (+2)

2023-24 Record: 29-19, Upcoming schedule: at CLE (2/5), vs. DET (2/7), vs. DEN (2/9), at OKC (2/11)

Just about two weeks ago, the Sacramento Kings had lost four straight games and began to dip back down the NBA Power Rankings. Now, they have won six of their last seven games, scoring at least 120 points in six games during this span. The best part about this recent run for Sacramento is that they are getting production from Keegan Murray and Harrison Barnes, two key secondary talents that needed to step up next to De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, who both somehow ended up as All-Star snubs this year.

The Kings will conclude their seven-game road trip against the Cavs on Monday night, a game in which a win could really go a long way in re-establishing belief and confidence in Mike Brown’s group. Nothing will be easy for this team heading into the All-Star break, especially with matchups against the Nuggets, Thunder, and Suns staring them down.

With the trade deadline days away, the question for the Kings is if they will look to pull off a big move with the likes of Barnes, Kevin Huerter, Davion Mitchell, and/or draft assets. Monte McNair and this front office are remaining aggressive in their pursuit of more difference-makers, especially on the wing.

12. New Orleans Pelicans (+2)

Zion Williamson, CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram

2023-24 Record: 28-21, Upcoming schedule: vs. TOR (2/5), at LAC (2/7), at LAL (2/9), at POR (2/10)

It is quite disappointing to see the New Orleans Pelicans outside of the Top 10 in the NBA Power Rankings because, on paper, they have one of the best rosters in the league. However, consistency has been a problem for this group, as they have yet to find their footing on either side of the court. A perfect example of this is what happened recently in a three-game span against the Jazz, Thunder, and Bucks.

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After scoring 153 points against the Jazz, the Pelicans scored just 83 points against the Thunder. Then, they surrendered 141 points to the Bucks despite scoring 117 total points in that game. When the Pelicans play good defense, their offense ends up struggling. When they play well on offense, the Pelicans’ defense winds up struggling.

There is absolutely no consistency with this roster right now, and this is due to the lack of leadership that exists in their locker room. It truly doesn’t seem like anyone holds each other accountable, and that is apparent with the way the Pelicans just walk off the court following losses. New Orleans must find a way to regain the fire they were playing with earlier in the year if they are to be taken seriously and make the playoffs in a crowded Western Conference.

13. Indiana Pacers (-3)

2023-24 Record: 28-23, Upcoming schedule: vs. HOU (2/6), vs. GSW (2/8), at NYK (2/10)

The Indiana Pacers were able to escape what would have been a disastrous 0-4 week by defeating the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday. Nonetheless, the Pacers have dropped six of their last 10 games since adding Pascal Siakam to their lineup. A lot of the Pacers’ problems stem from Tyrese Haliburton still working his way back to full speed from his hamstring injury. Haliburton has yet to see more than 22 minutes in a game since January 19.

A big week approaches for the Pacers, one that could ultimately make or break their season with the way the Eastern Conference is positioning itself right now. The Celtics, Bucks, Cavs, and Knicks all seem like locks to earn an actual playoff spot, meaning there are two spots up for grabs outside of the play-in tournament. If the Pacers are to avoid having to fight for their postseason lives, they are going to need to prove something against teams such as the Houston Rockets, Warriors, and Knicks, the three teams they will run into this upcoming week.

If the Pacers can win two out of three of these games, they will be on the right path heading into the All-Star break. However, a 1-2 or 0-3 week could result in Indiana falling into the play-in tournament region of the standings.

14. Philadelphia 76ers (-7)

2023-24 Record: 30-18, Upcoming schedule: vs DAL (2/5), vs. GSW (2/7), vs. ATL (2/9), at WAS (2/10)

With Joel Embiid out indefinitely due to his meniscus injury, the Philadelphia 76ers are in trouble. This is the main reason why they have fallen seven spots, the most in the league this week, in the NBA Power Rankings.

Tyrese Maxey is fantastic and deserves all the praise he has been getting for making his first All-Star Game. If anything, we should expect even better performances out of Maxey with Embiid sidelined. However, the 76ers have no way of replicating Embiid’s production, and they are going to have to quickly shift their identity to becoming a great defensive team if they are to have any shot of avoiding the play-in tournament at this rate.

The Sixers have surrendered at least 119 points in four straight games.

15. Los Angeles Lakers (-)

2023-24 Record: 26-25, Upcoming schedule: at CHA (2/5), vs. DEN (2/8), vs. NOP (2/9)

Jarred Vanderbilt could miss the remainder of the 2023-24 season due to his foot injury. This is a massive blow to the Lakers because it seemed like they were really starting to find their groove on defense. Back above .500 on the season after winning two straight road games over the Celtics and Knicks, the Lakers find themselves at a critical point, not just in the season but for the immediate future of their franchise.

LeBron James is frustrated, and it is understandable why these frustrations exist. Los Angeles doesn’t have time to wait around with the clock ticking on James’ career. Now is the time for this franchise to win and devote all of their assets to doing so, yet Rob Pelinka and this front office have been reluctant to do so.

Dejounte Murray is still an option at the trade deadline, although the chances of him going to Los Angeles are fading away every day. This leaves Bruce Brown, Malcolm Brogdon, DeMar DeRozan, and a few veterans from the Brooklyn Nets as options to try and fix the team’s short-term problems.

How the trade deadline impacts the Western Conference will be decided by what the Lakers ultimately do over the next 72 hours.

16. Utah Jazz (+1)

2023-24 Record: 25-26, Upcoming schedule: vs. OKC (2/6), at PHX (2/8)

The Utah Jazz continue to quietly lurk in the NBA Power Rankings. While they’re a team that struggles at times defensively, the Jazz have been one of the better offensive teams in the league as of late, averaging second in the league in offensive rating since the start of January. Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, and Jordan Clarkson have played a big part in helping the Jazz become a great offensive team.

However, Clarkson and Sexton are on the trade block right now, along with Talen Horton-Tucker, Kelly Olynyk, and others. The Jazz are open for business this week, as they look to act as both buyers and sellers to try and surround Markkanen with the talents needed to get back to the playoffs.

As things stand, the Jazz are only three games back of the 7-seeded Pelicans and 3.5 games behind the 6-seeded Suns. Anything can happen over the final several weeks of the regular season, and it’s not hard to believe that this Jazz team, as constructed, can compete for an actual playoff spot.

17. Dallas Mavericks (-1)

2023-24 Record: 26-23, Upcoming schedule: at PHI (2/5), at BKN (2/6), at NYK (2/8), vs. OKC (2/10)

Kyrie Irving is expected to return to the lineup for the Dallas Mavericks on Monday against the 76ers after missing the team’s last six games with a thumb injury. However, Luka Doncic’s status always seems to remain up in the air due to his insanely high usage rate. The Mavs are one of those teams that has the potential to be a force offensively, yet their production outside of Doncic and Irving is so dependent on the creation their two stars create. This is why it is hard to trust the Mavs right now.

At the trade deadline, Dallas has options. P.J. Washington and Kyle Kuzma are obtainable if the Mavs are willing to empty some of their future assets to win right now. Both Washington and Kuzma would be perfect additions as adaptable forwards who can fill the gaps this secondary unit has.

18. Miami Heat (-)

2023-24 Record: 26-24, Upcoming schedule: vs. ORL (2/6), vs. SAS (2/7), vs. BOS (2/11)

A win over the Clippers would have really paid dividends for the Miami Heat. Erik Spoelstra’s group has now dropped eight of their last 10 games and finds itself in the middle of the play-in region of the Eastern Conference standings. As it pertains to the NBA Power Rankings, the Heat are still teeter-tottering between a team that can make the playoffs and one that will have to hit the offseason drawing boards early.

The problem with the Heat right now is their offense. Tyler Herro has not scored 20 points in over two weeks, Bam Adebayo has been passive on offense, and Terry Rozier is still adapting to his new team’s system. This has left Jimmy Butler as the team’s only source of consistent scoring, as he has gone for at least 20 points in five straight games.

All three games Miami has this upcoming week are in South Beach before they begin a grueling six-game road trip that starts before the All-Star break.

19. Atlanta Hawks (+5)

Hawks guard Dejounte Murray, head coach Quin Snyder

2023-24 Record: 22-27, Upcoming schedule: vs. LAC (2/5), at BOS (2/7), at PHI (2/9), vs. HOU (2/10)

When the Atlanta Hawks lost four straight games a couple of weeks ago and began to fall down the NBA Power Rankings, it seemed inevitable that they were going to empty the ship at the trade deadline. While this team still remains in a seller’s mindset, the likelihood of Dejounte Murray being traded has declined since the Hawks have rattled off four straight wins, defeating the likes of the Lakers, Suns, and Warriors in the process.

So, what will the Hawks do over the next few days? Murray being traded seems to be 50-50 right now, as the front office does appear to want to deal the former All-Star. However, head coach Quin Snyder and his staff are fond of Murray’s production in recent weeks. This has created a headache for the rest of the league because if the Hawks don’t trade Murray, then what will they decide to do with guys like Clint Capela, De’Andre Hunter, and Bogdan Bogdanovic?

The Hawks truly find themselves in one of the more fascinating positions this week, especially since they are back in the mix for a play-in tournament spot.

20. Houston Rockets (+1)

2023-24 Record: 23-26, Upcoming schedule: at IND (2/6), at TOR (2/9), at ATL (2/10)

The Houston Rockets have not won three or more straight games since the middle of December. Over their last six games, the Rockets are 3-3 with a key win over the Lakers. The interesting thing about this six-game span is that they have scored over 130 points in all three wins. On the flip side, the Rockets have failed to eclipse more than 104 points in these three losses.

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What you will get from Houston’s offense is like rolling the dice at the craps table right now. The good news for the Rockets is that Jalen Green has seemed to find his stride on offense, averaging 20.7 points per game over the team’s last six games. Unfortunately, he has scored just a total of 22 points over their last two games. Until this team proves that they can sustain offensive success, they will be nothing more than an underachieving group that could find their way into the play-in mix.

21. Golden State Warriors (-2)

2023-24 Record: 21-25, Upcoming schedule: at BKN (2/5), at PHI (2/7), at IND (2/8), vs. PHX (2/10)

The Golden State Warriors are back in the bottom 10 of the NBA Power Rankings due to their inability to close games. At some point, enough has to be enough for the Warriors, and they need to make significant changes. Andrew Wiggins has been a liability all year, and Klay Thompson is not the same player he used to be, especially when it comes to his defensive impact.

The NBA is all about surviving and adapting to how successful teams are playing. For the Warriors, they are so used to having the league mimic them that they have seemed to overlook the fact that they are four games below .500 on the year. Golden State is now 1-4 in overtime games this season after losing to the Hawks this past Saturday, and they are 3-11 in games decided by one possession or overtime.

Saturday night’s loss to the Hawks should tell the Warriors everything they need to know. Stephen Curry scored 60 points, and they were still unable to get past a lackluster Hawks team because Golden State has turned into one of the worst defensive teams in the league.

22. Brooklyn Nets (+1)

2023-24 Record: 20-28, Upcoming schedule: vs. GSW (2/5), vs. DAL (2/6), vs. CLE (2/8), vs. SAS (2/10)

This past week saw the return of Ben Simmons to the rotation for the Brooklyn Nets. Say what you want about Simmons, but he looked good in his return for the Nets regarding his playmaking and defensive abilities. Still, the Nets have rotational problems to fix, especially with the trade deadline right around the corner.

Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Royce O’Neale are all candidates to be moved. Mikal Bridges is not going anywhere, and it is unlikely the team will give up Nic Claxton unless Brooklyn is to receive a player of notable value in return. Cam Thomas is the future of this organization alongside Bridges, as Thomas has recorded at least 25 points in five straight games.

23. Chicago Bulls (-3)

Bulls, Kings, Billy Donovan, Zach LaVine, Zach LaVine injury, Zach LaVine in Bulls uni with Bulls arena in the background

2023-24 Record: 23-27, Upcoming schedule: vs. MIN (2/6), at MEM (2/8), at ORL (2/10)

Zach LaVine is done for the season after electing to undergo foot surgery, leading to questions about if he has played his final game with the Chicago Bulls. Whether or not the Bulls gut their roster is yet to be seen, although their fans would probably prefer to see players such as DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso on the move this week in order to begin a long-awaited rebuild.

The Bulls simply don’t have enough talent that plays well together in order to win in the Eastern Conference right now. Patrick Williams doesn’t seem to fit in with all the stars who constantly have the ball for the Bulls, and Caruso is a defensive force on a very average defensive team. At some point, change needs to happen for this franchise.

24. Toronto Raptors (+1)

2023-24 Record: 17-32, Upcoming schedule: at NOP (2/5), at CHA (2/7), vs. HOU (2/9), vs. CLE (2/10)

Once they are able to figure things out defensively, the Toronto Raptors will be a decent team in the Eastern Conference. This is especially true since they have proven offensive weapons with Scottie Barnes, RJ Barrett, and Immanuel Quickley. The problem with Toronto’s defense is that they have allowed at least 126 points in five of their last seven games.

Bruce Brown continues to be talked about on the trade market and is continually linked to the Knicks and Lakers, no matter who you talk to. That is no coincidence, as the Raptors are very much looking to move him again for assets before Thursday’s trade deadline.

25. Portland Trail Blazers (+2)

2023-24 Record: 15-35, Upcoming schedule: vs .DET (2/8), vs. NOP (2/10)

One of the best images of the last week in the NBA was on Sunday night when the Portland Trail Blazers took on the Nuggets. Nikola Jokic hit Blazers center Deandre Ayton with the pump fake of all pump fakes, causing Ayton to turn and point to the air looking for the ball while Jokic drove right past him.

This basically sums up the Blazers season, one that has been filled with facepalms and a sense of “Oh well, at least we are rebuilding.” The good news for Portland is that they spoiled Damian Lillard’s return this past week, taking down the Bucks 119-116.

Would you look at that. The Blazers moved up two spots in the NBA Power Rankings because of this.

26. Memphis Grizzlies (-4)

2023-24 Record: 18-32, Upcoming schedule: at NYK (2/6), vs. CHI (2/8), at CHA (2/10)

The Memphis Grizzlies had basically their entire organization on the injury report this past week. From Ja Morant to Jaren Jackson Jr. to Taylor Jenkins to the team mascot, nobody was available to play. So, they brought up a bunch of two-way players and G League players, gave them contracts, and put on a show for the Memphis faithful.

Did anyone have Trey Jemison and Tosan Evbuomwan playing for the Grizzlies on their NBA bingo card entering the year? I didn’t think so.

The Grizzlies are preparing themselves to be aggressive in the offseason despite their low point in the NBA Power Rankings. General Zach Kleiman knows what he is doing and will be back with vengeance once his entire roster can come off the injury report.

27. San Antonio Spurs (-1)

Victor Wembanyama with smoke coming out of his ears next to a Spurs logo at Frost Bank Center

2023-24 Record: 10-40, Upcoming schedule: at MIA (2/7), at ORL (2/8), at BKN (2/10)

Victor Wembanyama is heading to All-Star Weekend. Unfortunately for the rookie, this is for the Rising Stars Challenge and not an actual All-Star spot. The Spurs went 0-4 this past week coming oh so close to defeating the Pelicans before Zion Williamson hit a game-winner.

The trending video from San Antonio is still of their mascot catching a bat that got loose in the arena last weekend. How many times are we going to see a bat get into the Spurs’ arena? You would think someone would have solved this problem by now after Manu Ginobili had to get a rabies shot after capturing a bat there in 2009.

28. Washington Wizards (+2)

2023-24 Record: 9-40, Upcoming schedule: vs. CLE (2/7), at BOS (2/9), vs. PHI (2/10)

The Washington Wizards moved up two spots in the NBA Power Rankings. That is all the good news pertaining to them.

At the trade deadline, the Wizards could really make another team’s day by giving up Kyle Kuzma or Tyus Jones at a discounted rate. However, that is not going to happen. The Wizards want future draft picks, and they know the worth of their players. Any team that wants to trade for Kuzma or Jones is going to have to put together a real package with real, talented players.

29. Charlotte Hornets (-1)

2023-24 Record: 10-38, Upcoming schedule: vs. LAL (2/5), vs. TOR (2/7), at MIL (2/9), vs. MEM (2/10)

Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford did not hold back recently when talking about the team’s problems: “Our problems aren’t their effort, their work, how much they wanna win. Our problem is that we’re undertalented.”

Yikes, that is not a good look for the Hornets at all. Although Clifford is not wrong, you can’t just go out and say your team is bad because your players aren’t talented!

Inching closer to the bottom spot in the NBA Power Rankings, the Hornets are looking to move P.J. Washington and Miles Bridges before the trade deadline. To this point, they have been unsuccessful in finding suitors for Kyle Lowry and Gordon Hayward.

30. Detroit Pistons (-1)

2023-24 Record: 6-43, Upcoming schedule: at SAC (2/7), at POR (2/8), at LAC (2/10)

Once again, the Detroit Pistons take the No. 30 spot in the NBA Power Rankings. But it is worth noting, as always, that they are not the worst team in the NBA.

The Pistons are just young, they are inexperienced, and they are looking to find their identity. Things will begin to clear up for this group once the trade deadline passes.

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