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NBA Power Rankings: Revived Cavaliers Surge After Trade Deadline

In this week’s NBA Power Rankings, the Cavaliers' makeover has them surging, the Rockets somehow got better and the Jazz continue to their surprising streak.

Welcome back to The Crossover’s Power Rankings! It’s our first edition of the rankings post-trade deadline, so expect even more wild overreactions than usual. There’s a lot going on in the Association these days, from the streaking Rockets and Jazz to the revived Cavaliers, not to mention the first-place the Toronto Raptors. But let’s not waste time speaking in generalities so it looks like there’s a normal-sized paragraph at the top of this article, let’s get to these rankings, huh?

(All stats and records through Feb. 12)

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30. Memphis Grizzlies (18–37)
It hurts me to put the Grizzlies this low, but this team is aimless right now. Not trading Tyreke Evans for anything at the deadline was a bad decision, and Marc Gasol probably should have been moved as well. Management is really going down with the ship here. I don’t want to be all negative, though, so go ahead and make these ribs courtesy of Lang Whitaker.

29. New York Knicks (23–34)
Losers of six in a row, KristapsPorzingis tore his ACL, and Joakim Noah is still hanging around. I swear, the Knicks were actually really fun for the first few weeks of the season. We’re one J.D. and the Straight Shot ballad about the fickle nature of the NBA beast from moving this team to No. 30.

28. Phoenix Suns (18–39)
I’m only half-surprised the Suns didn’t trade back for Isaiah Thomas at the deadline. There is nothing this team could do that I wouldn’t believe. The Suns have lost five in a row, and I don’t know how they can win one in their next five, either.

27. Brooklyn Nets (19–38)
Brooklyn didn’t do anything splashy at the deadline, even though they had a couple somewhat-coveted players in Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris. Still, Sean Marks has had a deft hand in restocking the cupboard here, and the process is going to take a long time. For now, Brooklyn has lost five in a row, reminding its fans just how long the process to respectability could take.

26. Sacramento Kings (17–38)
Twenty-six somehow feels extremely high for the Kings. Don’t be fooled. This team is still mostly a mess.

25. Atlanta Hawks (18–39)
This may be my favorite random stat of the season: Miles Plumlee is making roughly 76% of the salary the Warriors are paying Draymond Green. Get rid of salary caps!

24. Dallas Mavericks (18–39)
I swear every time I’m watching the Mavericks on League Pass they’re about to upset a good team but somehow they’re still really bad. I wish the end of Dirk’s career could be spent on a better team.

23. Orlando Magic (18–37)
The Magic are up here on the strength of Frank Vogel’s beard and their incredibly dope City Edition jerseys.

22. Chicago Bulls (19–36)
Chicago’s win over Minnesota had to be satisfying for a front office that was dragged for the deal that sent Jimmy Butler to the Wolves. The Bulls still aren’t quite good, but they’re fun to watch.

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21. Los Angeles Lakers (23–32)
It feels like it’s only a matter of days before Lavar Ball and Isaiah Thomas are sniping at each other in the media over some kind of slight, perceived or otherwise. Still, L.A. did good at the deadline, scooping up a draft pick and clearing cap space for the summer.

20. Charlotte Hornets (23–33)
This team really deserves better. The Hornets would be fighting for a playoff spot if they weren’t so terrible in close games. Losing Kemba Walker as a sweetener to get rid of bad contracts at the deadline would have been devastating, but management still has their work cut out for them here.

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19. Detroit Pistons (27–28)
I’ve really liked the Pistons with Blake Griffin, who’s busting his ass for that team right now. ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz wrote a great piece about Griffin’s role in Detroit late last week. But the Pistons are still facing an uphill climb for a playoff spot, and right now, the top eight in the East seem to be rounding into form.

18. Los Angeles Clippers (28–26)
Keeping DeAndre Jordan at the trade deadline actually made a lot of sense—L.A. can now let him opt out this summer and hoard cap space instead of taking on any future salary. The Clippers have been frisky all season, and that’s partly in credit to Doc Rivers. Are they sure they want to make the playoffs, though? Maybe the eighth seed should get better lottery odds than the ninth-place team in the conference.

17. New Orleans Pelicans (29–26)
I’m not sure how long this team can hold on without Boogie Cousins, but the Pelicans have a manageable schedule headed into mid-March. They should still hang around in the playoff race.


16. Miami Heat (30–26)
Dwyane Wade is back, Luke Babbit is a Spoelstra favorite, and the Heat are back in the win column after a five-game losing streak. Miami still needs to figure out its frontcourt, where James Johnson has struggled and Hassan Whiteside has infuriated. A full return to health for Kelly Olynyk and Wayne Ellington will be key for the homestretch.

15. Philadelphia 76ers (28–25)
Winners of three in a row, the Sixers really are the cliché “Nobody wants to see them in the playoffs” team this season. And Joel Embiid’s All-Star Weekend promises to be the stuff of legends.

14. Denver Nuggets (30–26)
The internet’s once-favorite team has won four of its last five, and is hanging around in the middle of the pack until Paul Millsap’s return. Denver picked up Devin Harris at the deadline, but the team could still use a little more depth. Torrey Craig has been one of the season’s underrated stories, though.

13. Indiana Pacers (32–25)
The Pacers have won three of four, including wins over the Sixers and Celtics. And Victor Oladipo has been good for one LeBron-in-barbershop gif highlight for most of the season. The impact he’s had on this team is just insane. Oh, and the better Indy plays, the more Lance Stephenson starts to feel himself.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder (32–25)
The Thunder have either won two of their last three or lost five of their last seven, depending on how you want to judge them. A win over the Warriors is kind of negated when it’s sandwiched between losses to the Lakers. Sam Presti needs to be working the buyout market for help on the perimeter to make up for the loss of Andre Roberson.

11. Portland Trail Blazers (31–26)
The Blazers are 2–4 in February, and they play the Warriors in their last game before the All-Star break.

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10. Milwaukee Bucks (31–24)
The coaching switch in Milwaukee has appeared to turn things around. If the Bucks play the kind of defense their length suggests their capable of, they become a top-four team in the East. It’s also great to see Jabari Parker back on the court.

9. Washington Wizards (32–24)
The OT loss to the Celtics was a bummer, and the bickering needs to stop, but the Wizards are looking frisky even in the wake of John Wall’s injury. It would be nice if Washington could become a player in the buyout market.

8. San Antonio Spurs (35–22)
The Spurs have lost three of four this month. Pop still has this team in third place, but it’s hard to get excited about anything they do without Kawhi, whose injury situation has zapped most of the joy to be felt around San Antonio.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves (35–24)
Please don’t sign Derrick Rose! Tyus Jones and Jeff Teague have been more than serviceable at point guard, and Jamal Crawford is already giving you no-defense minutes off the bench. If Thibs is looking to get the Chicago band back together, Marco Belinelli would make more sense here.  

6. Boston Celtics (40–18)
The Celtics enter this week as the only team in the top-eight of the East on a losing streak, having dropped two in a row. This team could use a jolt of energy, and I’m not sure if Greg Monroe is the guy to provide it.

5. Utah Jazz (28–28)
Break up the Jazz! Utah has won nine straight, including wins over the Spurs, Warriors, Raptors and Blazers. Losing Rodney Hood is tough, but it’s possible Jae Crowder finds new life here. The Jazz would perhaps be better off in the lottery, but their super streak has them in the thick of the hunt for the final playoff spot out west.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers (33–22)
Oh, you thought putting the Jazz at five was an overreaction? Here come the Cavs! Cleveland spanked Boston on what was supposed to be Paul Pierce’s day, according to Paul Pierce. One game with LeBron and Jordan Clarkson already looks like a young Scottie Pippen.

Okay, fine, in all seriousness, the trade deadline seemed to rejuvenate the Cavs, particularly LeBron, who seems to be putting in his most consistent effort over the last week of the season. Will it last? Can this team actually play defense? There are still lots of questions here, and Cleveland isn’t out of the woods yet. But for the last week? Yeah, sure, the Cavs deserve a leap for remaking themselves for the final two months of the season. If they start playing the way they were pre-deadline, they’ll shoot right back down.

3. Golden State Warriors (43–13)
The most notable moment for the Warriors at the deadline was Bob Myers telling his players to stop complaining so much. They still don’t really care about the regular season, and frankly, they don’t need to.

2. Toronto Raptors (39–16)
The Raptors are No. 1 in the East, and their bench lineup has been one of the most fun units to watch across the league this season. OG Anunoby isn’t in the Rookie of the Year conversation, but he’s had an incredible impact on a team with Finals aspirations. If the Raptors make the Finals this year, their end-of-season documentary will spend a good eight minutes on how silly Sports Illustrated looked disrespecting DeMarDeRozan.

1. Houston Rockets (42–13)
The Rockets are winners of eight straight and haven’t received any stern talking-tos from their general manager. They’re adding Joe Johnson and Brandan Wright for the stretch run, two players who can have a decent impact on the roster. And Mike D’Antoni deserves a ton of credit for handling Chris Paul’s and James Harden’s minutes really well, even amid a swirl of injuries. If you squint hard enough, you can see this team reaaallly pushing the Warriors in a playoff series.