30) Orlando Magic: The Orlando Magic look to be (huge) sellers come this week's Trade Deadline. Lots of changes on the way for Orlando.
Overall Record: 15-36
Previous Rank: 29th
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 111.9 (8th) Defensive Rating: 114.4 (29th) Net Rating: -2.5 (20th)
29) Atlanta Hawks: The Atlanta Hawks are a team that is in transition. They could either be active or non-active come this week's NBA Trade Deadline. I expect this rebuild to last 3 to 5-years. The positive, Atlanta's front-office and coaching staff seem to all be on the same page.
Overall Record: 16-37
Previous Rank: 30th
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 108 (15th) Defensive Rating: 119.1 (30th) Net Rating: -11.1 (28th)
28) Sacramento Kings: The Kings have a talented point-guard in De'Aaron Fox. While they did hit on their Lottery-Level pick, I believe they will regret trading the 10th overall pick for picks 15 and 20. Harry Giles and Justin Jackson might be role players one day, but had Sacramento kept their 10th overall pick, they could have drafted Rookie of the Year candidate, Donovan Mitchell. This is what makes being a Kings fan so hard.
Overall Record: 16-36
Previous Rank: 28th
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 102.8 (23rd) Defensive Rating: 107.9 (13th) Net Rating: -5.1 (21st)
27) Chicago Bulls: The Bulls traded away Nikola Mirotic for New Orleans 1st overall pick, Jameer Nelson, Tony Allen and Amir Osik. The Bulls are completely focused on their "youth movement" so dealing Mirotic was best for everyone involved. Chicago has elected to waive Tony Allen but they will keep Jameer Nelson. Nelson is a terrific professional, and his experience will be helpful for the young players on this team (specifically, Kris Dunn).
Overall Record: 18-34
Previous Rank: 24th
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 99.5 (27th) Defensive Rating: 113.0 (27th) Net Rating: -13.6 (29th)
26) Dallas Mavericks: Many Mavericks fans have accepted that their season is all but over, and many are embracing 'tank mode'. I have to agree with these Mavericks fans. While Dallas still has solid talent, they are multiple years away from being anything special. The first move was drafting Dennis Smith Jr. The next move, will once again have to come in this year's draft.
Overall Record: 17-36
Previous Rank: 27th
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 98.4 (29th) Defensive Rating: 104.8 (10th) Net Rating: -6.4 (23rd)
25) Phoenix Suns: Aside Devin Booker, this Suns team is a mess. Marquese Chriss allegedly got into a verbal altercation with a Suns' assistant coach. Chris Haynes from ESPN reported that Chriss would be serving a one-game suspension. A team of dysfunction and problems stems from the top, down. This front office in Phoenix has been awful in decision making, despite their one lucky move of drafting Devin Booker. A complete overhaul from management, to coaching staff to players is a must, if Phoenix wants to be taken seriously, ever again.
Overall Record: 18-35
Previous Rank: 26th
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 97.3 (30th) Defensive Rating: 112.1 (24th) Net Rating: -14.8 (30th)
24) Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies have a roster full of unknown guys. They're in a weird situation right now, but I expect them to be active during this week's trade deadline, this off-season and during the NBA Draft. With too much money tied up in Marc Gasol, Mike Conley Jr. and Chandler Parsons, they will have to make big decisions on the direction this franchise wants to go.
Overall Record: 18-34
Previous Rank: 23rd
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 102.7 (24th) Defensive Rating: 110.2 (21st) Net Rating: -7.5 (25th)
23) Brooklyn Nets: With no intentions to tank, the Nets have been playing a brand of basketball that is fun to watch. Kenny Atkinson continues to impress, as his team is growing in all areas of their game. While they still don't have 'the guy' in Brooklyn, they have some nice pieces to go around their future face of the franchise. This is the last season we will have to hear about Brooklyn not having their number one overall pick. Nets' fans have to be ecstatic for the future.
Overall Record: 19-34
Previous Rank: 25th
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 101.9 (25th) Defensive Rating: 112.5 (25th) Net Rating: -10.7 (27th)
22) New York Knicks: The Zen-Master really screwed the New York Knicks when he signed free-agent center Joakim Noah to a 4-years/$72M contract in the summer of 2016. With Noah not set to come off the books till 2020, this contract is all but unmovable. The Knicks have asked Noah to take a leave of absence after his "lengthy disconnect" with head coach, Jeff Hornacek and his staff. The only way that I can see New York ridding themselves of this problem is by pairing Noah with their 2018 draft pick. This would not be a popular move, but this is the price you will have to pay to unload the problem.
Overall Record: 23-31
Previous Rank: 22
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 100 (26th) Defensive Rating: 101.7 (6th) Net Rating: -1.7 (19th)
21) Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers are expected to make some big changes heading into the off-season. With Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. all placed on the trade-block, I expect them to be extremely active before the trade-deadline. Los Angeles is still hoping to lure a big-time free agent to sign with this franchise.
Overall Record: 21-31
Previous Rank: 18th
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 104.2 (20th) Defensive Rating: 109.6 (17th) Net Rating: -5.5 (22nd)
20) Charlotte Hornets: There are so many questions to be answered regarding the future of this team. Kemba Walker is reportedly available for an All-Star level talent in return. Marvin Williams is OUT with an ankle injury. Nicolas Batum has been underwhelming since signing his 5-year/$120M contract in 2016. This means that the Hornets have a lot of money invested in role players, preventing them for cap flexibility to strengthen their roster. It is apparent that the Hornets will make a move at some point in the next 6-months.
Overall Record: 22-29
Previous Rank: 21st
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 114.1 (4th) Defensive Rating: 111 (23rd) Net Rating: 3.1 (10th)
19) Los Angeles Clippers: It was the shot heard round the NBA world Monday evening. After promising the highly coveted free agent a career of bliss as the face of the Clippers franchise, the front office in Los Angeles traded their star Blake Griffin. Blake Griffin was dealt to the Detroit Pistons for: a 1st and 2nd round draft pick, Boban Marjanovic, Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley. While many praised the Clippers for moving this lengthy and loaded contract, I think this move will come back to hurt the Clippers in the future. With trade talks of DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams, you are now embracing a complete rebuild. If you were wanting to rebuild this team, why did you invest $64M/3-years for Danilo Gallinari? I get that Jerry West rebuilt the Warriors and they are the best team in the NBA, but Stephen Curry is a once in a lifetime player. The Clippers will have a lot to prove to their franchise going forward, but I am worried that this move will bite Los Angeles in the butt.
Overall Record: 26-25
Previous Rank: 17th
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 103.4 (21st) Defensive Rating: 100.9 (5th) Net Rating: 2.5 (11th)
18) Philadelphia 76ers: The 76ers are sitting at .500 with a 25-25 record. With a half game lead over the Detroit Pistons, the 76ers will have to take care of business for the remaining 32-games. With that said, Philadelphia only faces 13 opponents with a record of .500 or better. Embiid played his first back-to-back game on Saturday against the Pacers. The 76ers are a much better team with Embiid on the court, so if playing him every night is an option, I think Philly should do that. However, monitoring his minutes will be key, since Embiid is injury-prone.
Overall Record: 25-25
Previous Rank: 7th
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 106.7 (17th) Defensive Rating: 113.7 (28th) Net Rating: -7.0 (24th)
17) Detroit Pistons: The Pistons made a blockbuster deal on Monday evening, acquiring 5-time NBA All-Star Blake Griffin. Hoping to make some noise in the Eastern Conference, the Pistons threw all their cards on the table and acquired a perfect piece to play alongside Andre Drummond. In the deal, Detroit also acquired Brice Johnson and Willy Reed. They parted ways with a 1st round pick, a 2nd round pick, Boban Marjanovic, Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley. The weakness for Detroit is their bench and their back court. While I applaud the efforts of Stan Van Gundy and the Pistons' front office for making a deal to improve, I am hesitant to love this trade. Detroit will have to hit on a trade or two, to solidify the back court and make this team a contender in the East. Regardless, this deal gives Pistons' fans something to cheer about.
Overall Record: 25-26
Previous Rank: 20th
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 110.3 (10th) Defensive Rating: 110.8 (22nd) Net Rating: -0.5 (15th)
16) Miami Heat: Earlier this week, the Miami Heat had a chance to surpass Cleveland as the 3rd best team in the Eastern Conference. 3-games later, they find themselves as the 7th best team in the Eastern Conference with losses to Cleveland, Detroit and Philadelphia. While Miami might be hitting a bad stretch right now, they should be ecstatic to hear that point guard, Goran Dragic is going to Los Angeles to represent the Heat in the 2018 All-Star Game. This honor should've been given to Dragic prior to the 3, Team LeBron injuries, but it is what it is. Miami could be a bit of a wild card here before the trade deadline. This is one team I would keep my eyes on.
Overall Record: 29-24
Previous Rank: 10th
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 99.2 (28th) Defensive Rating: 100.0 (4th) Net Rating: -0.7 (16th)
15) Utah Jazz: The Jazz have won 5-straight games. This is the longest, current winning-streak in the NBA. With rumors looming all season long on Rodney Hood, Joe Johnson and Derrick Favors, the Jazz could make a move any day now. It would be smart for Utah to play it safe and not rush to make a deal, but if the right deal comes along, they will pounce on it. This 5-game stretch has been impressive thanks to the play of Ricky Rubio. During this stretch, Rubio is averaging 19.2 points per game on 56% shooting and 8.0 assists per game. The Jazz might still be able to squeeze into the 8th seed of the Western Conference, but it will be a long journey the remainder of the season.
Overall Record: 24-28
Previous Rank: 19th
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 112.8 (7th) Defensive Rating: 96.7 (1st) Net Rating: 16.2 (1st)
14) Denver Nuggets: Denver desperately needs a backup point-guard. Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Nikola Jokic have been really fun to watch all season long, but they are in need of some bench help to solidify a late-season playoff push. I am anxious to see how Millsap's return effects this team down the stretch. His return from injury could be equivalent to acquiring a player via trade before the trade deadline.
Overall Record: 28-25
Previous Rank: 13th
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 109.6 (14th) Defensive Rating: 109.9 (19th) Net Rating: -0.3 (14th)
13) New Orleans Pelicans: I applaud the Pelicans for making a move to complement Anthony Davis. I also applaud the Pelicans for finally being able to rid themselves of the horrible Amir Osik contract. Losing Tony Allen and Jameer Nelson won't be a back breaker, especially since you're adding in a power forward that has been terrific this season stretching the floor. I think New Orleans will still look to make another move before the deadline, but they don't have much cap flexibility to do that easily. It would have been a much more productive season had Solomon Hill not went out with an injury. Hill is a solid wing-stretch four that can provide the Pelicans with defense and shooting. The friendliest contract on New Orleans is E'Twaun Moore's. It would be hard for New Orleans to deal Moore because he has been a big part of their rotation, but it might be the only contract viable to unload for a player of equal or greater value.
Overall Record: 28-24
Previous Rank: 6th
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 105.2 (19th) Defensive Rating: 106.2 (11th) Net Rating: -1.0 (17th)
12) Portland Trailblazers: Portland is one of the most interesting teams of the NBA the last few seasons. They've got an All-Star point guard, a star at shooting guard and a head coach that the team leaders have endorsed. There are a lot of holes on this roster and they are a few moves away from being able to compete with the upper echelon teams of the Western Conference.
Overall Record: 29-24
Previous Rank: 12th
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 109.5 (13th) Defensive Rating: 107.3 (14th) Net Rating: 2.2 (12th)
11) Cleveland Cavaliers: Kevin Love was unfortunately injured this week with a broken hand. Love is expected to miss 6-8 weeks of action. This injury comes at the worst time possible for the struggling Cavaliers. The Cavaliers are 0-8 in their last 8-games on national television. I am tired of seeing the Cavaliers on my television screen every night there is a "big game" on. The constant talk of what the Cavaliers should do, is getting extremely old. I am ready for the NBA trade deadline to get here so we can see what moves Cleveland makes.
Overall Record: 30-21
Previous Rank: 15th
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 103.1 (23rd) Defensive Rating: 104.4 (8th) Net Rating: -1.3 (19th)
10) Oklahoma City Thunder: Oklahoma City is going to miss the defensive presence of shooting guard, Andre Roberson. Terrance Ferguson and Alex Abrines will fill the role for the remainder of the season, unless the Thunder make a trade before Thursday. This is a team that feels like they'll make a deal before the trade deadline. With Paul George's free agency looming, the Thunder will want to show Paul that they are all in. Oklahoma City is going through a bit of a rough stretch, but once they come back from the All-Star Break, I expect them to be a top-4 team in the West.
Overall Record: 30-24
Previous Rank: 3rd
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 110.1 (11th) Defensive Rating: 109.5 (18th) Net Rating: 0.6 (13th)
9) Indiana Pacers: The Pacers have been playing some terrific basketball as of late. Winners of 6 of their last 8, the Pacers currently sit as the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference (.002 % behind 5th seed Milwaukee). Indiana has the 4th most home wins in the Eastern Conference and the 6th most road wins in the Eastern Conference. I don't anticipate the Pacers being players come the trade deadline, but Kevin Pritchard might catch us by surprise, just like he did when he acquired Sabonis and Oladipo.
Overall Record: 30-24
Previous Rank: 11th
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 114.1 (4th) Defensive Rating: 109.9 (20th) Net Rating: 4.2 (8th)
8) Milwaukee Bucks: Since Jason Kidd was fired, the Bucks have went 6-1. Jabari Parker made his return to the roster Friday night against the New York Knicks. The return of Parker is as good as a trade acquisition at this point in the season. Milwaukee still needs a center to solidify the middle, but they will be a tough out in the East with their current roster.
Overall Record: 29-23
Previous Rank: 16th
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 108.5 (15th) Defensive Rating: 99.6 (3rd) Net Rating: 8.9 (4th)
7) Washington Wizards: After John Wall suffered an injury that would keep him out 6-8 weeks, the Wizards went on (and are still on) a 4-game winning streak. Not only is Bradley Beal playing terrific in Wall's absence, Otto Porter is stepping up too. During the last 5-games, the Wizards are number one in the league in assists (31.4). How is it that the Wizards lose their leading assist man, but jump up in team assists. I know people love John Wall, but he is a ball dominant point guard who hurts the efficiency of the offense. I will be eager to see how the rest of the season goes for Washington without John Wall. If they are significantly better, would it be smart to consider moving John Wall? Not saying they should, but it would be worth pondering.
Overall Record: 30-22
Previous Rank: 14th
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 115.0 (2nd) Defensive Rating: 107.0 (12th) Net Rating: 8.0 (6th)
6) San Antonio Spurs: Although the Spurs have been winning games and proving to us why their system is magic, I don't feel as confident in them as I have in years' past. This Kawhi Leonard injury seems to be worse than they are letting us believe, but that is just the way the Spurs are. They keep things in-house. Despite my gut feeling about this team, I still am a huge believer in Gregg Popovich. This is a team that could play spoiler to a handful of teams in the Western Conference.
Overall Record: 34-21
Previous Rank: 9th
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 105.3 (18th) Defensive Rating: 113.0 (25th) Net Rating: -7.7 (27th)
5) Minnesota Timberwolves: Minnesota will have to unload Shabazz Muhammad sooner rather than later. According to Adrian Wojnarowski, Muhammad is seeking a trade or release. Since Muhammad has been taken out of the rotation for Minnesota, he has grown increasingly frustrated with how he has been handled this season. The Timberwolves have made the right move in not playing him though, as their defense and offense has improved.
Overall Record: 34-22
Previous Rank: 8th
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 110.2 (10th) Defensive Rating: 104.6 (9th) Net Rating: 5.6 (7th)
4) Toronto Raptors: Toronto's DeMar DeRozan was named Player of the Month for the month of January. DeRozan has been impressive all season long and continues to prove why he is a go-to-guy. Kyle Lowry has been playing much better as well. It would be easy for Toronto to look to make a move before the deadline, but I would stay pat if I were them. This team is deep and has developed terrific chemistry. I am more optimistic about this Raptors team then the last two seasons.
Overall Record: 36-16
Previous Rank: 5th
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 117.0 (1st) Defensive Rating: 107.3 (13th) Net Rating: 9.8 (3rd)
3) Boston Celtics: Al Horford just drained a game-winning shot against the Portland Trailblazers to give them a much needed victory. Terry Rozier has been a huge surprise for this team as well. In recent rumors, we heard that Boston was looking to acquire Lou Williams and/or Tyreke Evans. I think the Celtics are ahead of schedule when it comes to being a title contender, but if Boston really believes they can make it to the NBA Finals, then by all means necessary, make the moves you need to make to get there.
Overall Record: 39-15
Previous Rank: 4th
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 109.2 (14th) Defensive Rating: 100.6 (5th) Net Rating: 8.6 (5th)
2) Houston Rockets: The Rockets have won 4-games in a row, and are winners of 8 of their last 10. They are currently just 2.0 games behind the number one seed, Golden State Warriors. Houston shouldn't look to make any moves this week unless they can somehow trade Ryan Anderson for a better player. I don't see that happening, but stranger things have happened. This team is incredibly deep and I expect them to challenge Golden State for the #1 overall seed.
Overall Record: 38-13
Previous Rank: 2nd
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 113.6 (5th) Defensive Rating: 101.9 (7th) Net Rating: 11.7 (2nd)
1) Golden State Warriors: After a 30-point loss to the Utah Jazz and a 7-point loss to the Denver Nuggets, Steve Kerr stated that "...it's painfully obvious that our guys are mentally fried right now". The Warriors are not playing their best brand of basketball lately, but it would be dumb to assume that there is a team that is better than them. Yes, Houston has made a very good case to be a threat, but the playoff resume' of James Harden and Chris Paul isn't the best arguing point. The Warriors are going to be locked and loaded once they return from the All-Star Break.
Overall Record: 41-12
Previous Rank: 1st
Last 5-Games Stats: Offensive Rating: 111.0 (8th) Defensive Rating: 108.6 (17th) Net Rating: 2.4 (11th)
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