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NBA Power Rankings: Trade deadline edition

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The trade deadline shook the league last week, and the ripple impacts our NBA Power Rankings. But at the top it is all Texas.

1. Spurs (49-10, Last Week #2). No deadline moves for this group, nor should there have been. They are 6 games up on the Mavericks and Celtics for best record in the league, and they will not be caught. They are going to have home court for as long as they last in the playoffs.

2. Mavericks (43-16, LW #3). Winners of six in a row and nine of 10, led by a powerful offense. Yes, Dirk Nowtizki is playing well, but Jason Kidd has been quietly excellent of late. Roddy Buckets is still trying to find his way.

3. Celtics (42-15, LW #1). They made one of the more surprising trades at the deadline, sending Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City. That may come back to haunt them in the playoffs, but it wasn’t the reason they lost to Denver this week.

4. Lakers (42-19, LW #7). No moves at the trade deadline. Four wins in row after the break. Maybe we shouldn’t read too much into losses by older teams at the end of longer road trips.

5. Bulls (40-17, LW #5). They did not mortgage the future to get a second-tier wing at the trade deadline. Because they are smart. But Bulls fans, do not think Rasual Butler is the answer — his PER this season is worse than Keith Bogans’. The bigger key is Joakim Noah is starting to beast again.

6. Heat (43-17, LW #4). They drop games to the Bulls and Knicks where their end-of-game execution can be called into question. Their schedule now gets tough — Orlando, San Antonio twice, the Lakers, Chicago, Portland, Atlanta and Oklahoma City are on the books in the next few weeks.

7. Magic (38-22, LW #6). Dwight Howard is averaging 27 and 15 the last 10 games, but the really impressive part is he is shooting 67.8 percent in that stretch. He’s even hitting free throws. But is that enough to lift this team up?

8. Thunder (36-22, LW #8). They are the trade deadline winners because Kendrick Perkins brings exactly the toughness and rebounding they need out of a center. But we won’t see that for a few weeks as he is still injured.

9. Blazers (33-26, LW #9). We love the Gerald Wallace move on paper, but it’s going to take a little while to come together. The loss to the Lakers, that happens (well, not that much at the Rose Garden, but still). The ugly loss to the Hawks, that is something else entirely.

10. Hornets (35-26, LW #12). We like the Carl Landry trade, especially since they’ve struggled through with injuries to Emeka Okafor and David West. They now head out on a five-game road trip where we will get a real sense of how good they are. Or are not.

11. Grizzlies (33-28, LW #10). Zach Randolph is playing like a guy who wants a fat new deal, averaging 20 and 13 over his last 10 games.

12. Hawks (36-23, LW #11). The Hawks defense looked a lot better Sunday with Kirk Hinrich at the point. If that continues they will move up the rankings (but they are still not going to be elite).

13. Sixers (30-29, LW #13). We said this in the game recap but it bears repeating — the Sixers are over .500 for the first time since they were 2-1 under Eddie Jordan. Doug Collins should get some coach of the year consideration.

14. Nuggets (34-26, LW #14). Their two games without Carmelo Anthony have been their two best defensive games in recent memory. Keep defending like that and hey will make the playoffs. Easily.

15. Knicks (30-27, LW #16). They got their man. The loss to the Cavaliers followed by the win over Miami may be what we get out of a talented but still pretty thin lineup the rest of this season. Chauncey Billups has fit in well, he does not fear the big stage or end of game shots.

16. Suns (30-27, LW #18). Three wins in a row. The guy that really makes a difference for this team has been Marcin Gortat coming off the bench. He fits this system well for a big man.

17. Jazz (32-28, LW #15). No Deron Williams, and they are 1-5 since Jerry Sloan walked away. It’s just hard to be optimistic in the short term.

18. Rockets (30-31, LW #21). Goodbye Shane Battier. Goodbye Aaron Brooks. Hello Hasheem Thabeet. Clearly the Rockets are looking to rebuild… then they go win four in a row. They remain a scrappy team that is just hard to play against.

19. Pacers (26-32, LW #17). They learn that while the NBA’s salary cap may be soft, the trade deadline is hard and fast. No roster changes, and if they are going to hang on to the eighth seed in the East they will have to do it largely on the road.

20. Bobcats (26-33, LW #20). Our own Matt Moore said it well, Charlotte did well at the trade deadline because it looked long term over short for the first time in a long time.

21. Warriors (26-32, LW #19). Monta Ellis has gone cold from the floor (he shot 34 percent last week) and this team can’t win much unless he is hot.

22. Bucks (22-36, LW #22). Just a disappointing season because of the offense… which has too much talent to be this bad. More Brandon Jennings and a healthy Andrew Bogut would help, but it may be next season before we get those things.

23. Pistons (22-39, LW #23). The ownership change cannot go through soon enough because this franchise needs a strong hand at the helm fast. The John Kuester situation with rebellious players is just an embarrassment.

24. Clippers (21-39, LW #24). They got rid of Baron Davis’ contract and that was a trade deadline win. It’s the only win they had last week, however.

25. Timberwolves (14-46, LW #26). I like the idea of taking a shot on Anthony Randolph at the trade deadline. Kevin Love is up to 46 consecutive double-double games.

26. Nets (17-42, LW #27). They move up one spot because they went out and made the bold move  and got Deron Williams at the deadline. I like the trade, I like the long term potential. Doesn’t mean they won on the court last week.

27. Raptors (16-44, LW #28). They looked good beating the Bulls last week, and just terrible in their other three games.

28. Kings (14-43, LW #29). If this team moves to Anaheim it will be a sad statement on the league. The Honda Center in Anaheim is 18 years old and the NHL’s Ducks are not drawing big there (near the bottom of that league in attendance). But it has luxury boxes and a big television market. That is what it is all about now.

29. Wizards (15-43, LW #25). Nick Young and John Wall are making this team pretty entertaining of late. Not really good in any way, but entertaining.

30. Cavaliers (11-48, LW #30). If Baron Davis really has turned a corner and plays motivated, he will help a young team. I’m just not sold that Baron Davis will be around long. But at least they got a pick out of the deal, down draft or not.

Watch Amar’e Stoudemire’s top 10 career plays (video)

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When Amar’e Stoudemire retired, I said history will treat him better than present-day analysis — maybe even to the point he gets legitimate Hall of Fame consideration.

Get past Stoudemire’s injury-caused decline with the Knicks and his wayward years with the Mavericks and Heat, and Stoudemire was a heck of a player with the Suns (and in his first year in New York).

Thanks to the NBA, the process of remembering Stoudemire for his peak can begin immediately. I was blown away by the first few highlights before realizing they were just the introduction for the top 10.

Kings GM Vlade Divac: DeMarcus Cousins is ‘most dominant player in the whole world’

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 26:  DeMarcus Cousins #12 of the United States Men's National Team dribbles the ball up court against the China Men's National Team during the first half of a USA Basketball showcase exhibition game at ORACLE Arena on July 26, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Vlade Divac isn’t calling Rudy Gay with trade-talk updates.

So, how is the Kings general manager spending his time?

Watching DeMarcus Cousins with Team USA.

James Ham of CSN California on Cousins:

He’s primed to show the world what both he and plenty of others around the basketball world already believe — that he is the best big man in the world.

“It’s a no-brainer,” Kings general manager Vlade Divac said from his courtside seat. “He’s the most dominant player in the whole world. And being from Serbia, I have to root for Serbia, but I feel bad for them. He’s going to kill them.”

If we take Divac’s statement — “He’s the most dominant player in the whole world” — at face value, nope. LeBron James is. Other players like Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are also better than Cousins, but big men can dominate in a way perimeter players can’t

If Divac meant just among big men, there’s a case. When Cousins is fully engaged, it’s one I’d definitely buy. He’s a load to handle inside, and his defense can be top-notch.

There are just too many times Cousins checks out. It’s a fine line, because Cousins’ emotions carries him to his highs. But he hasn’t yet found an ideal equilibrium point. His lows are still too low and too frequent.

That said, no center nears Cousins’ peak dominance. DeAndre Jordan and Draymond Green, when he plays the position, need too much help from teammates to be considered truly dominant. Andre Drummond isn’t polished enough. Even with his flaws, Cousins is probably already the NBA’s most dominant center.

Most dominant player, though? No. That’s a step too far.

 

NBA’s 2017 London game to feature Pacers and Nuggets

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 10:  Paul George #24 of the Indiana Pacers shoots the ball during the game against the Denver Nuggets at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on February 10, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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The NBA has held regular-season games in London the last four years.

The league isn’t exiting England now.

Pacers release:

Indiana Pacers will travel to London, England to face the Denver Nuggets for a regular season game to be played at The O2 on January 12, 2017.

 

The game will be designated as a home game for the Nuggets.

This could be a solid matchup.

The Pacers had a highly touted offseason, trading for Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young. Both players should fit better with the up-tempo style Larry Bird wants to play. And, of course, Paul George will be the best player on the floor.

The Nuggets had a quieter summer, but they nailed the draft with Jamal Murray, Juancho Hernangomez, Malik Beasley and Petr Cornelie. Add that to a young core that already includes Nikola JokicEmmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris and Jusuf Nurkic, and Denver is cooking. Veterans Danilo Gallinari,Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler and Will Barton allow the possibility of a quick rise. With Michael Malone coaching, it seems like only a matter of time.

Both teams should be intriguing in January — gaining chemistry and still in the playoff hunt.

 

Report: Celtics to pay second-round pick Demetrius Jackson more than 10 first-rounders next year

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 25:  Demetrius Jackson #11 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers with a score of 56 to 61 during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional at Wells Fargo Center on March 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Celtics became the first team to pay a second-round pick more the season immediately following the draft than some first-rounders received. Last year, No. 37 pick Jordan Mickey had a higher salary than four 2015 first-rounders.

Now, Boston is pushing the envelope even further.

No. 45 pick Demetrius Jackson will make more than the last 10 (!) 2016 first-rounders can earn in the NBA next season.*

*At least two players picked in that range, No. 23 pick Ante Zizic and No. 26 pick Furkan Korkmaz, will play overseas next season. Their salaries with their foreign teams might be higher than they could’ve gotten in the NBA.

Jackson’s salary will be $1,450,000, according to Yahoo Sports. No. 21 pick DeAndre’ Bembry will get $1,499,760 from the Hawks next year, and following first-rounders will fall in line behind him.

The issue is the antiquated rookie scale, which was set well before new national TV contracts pushed the salary cap north of $94 million. With all this new money flooding the system, everyone can grab a share — except first-round picks, who are tied to the scale.

That leaves even more money for second-rounders, and Jackson is the second to cash in in this major way. No. 31 pick Deyonta Davis will get $1,275,917  next season — more than the last six first-rounders. But the Grizzlies also guaranteed Davis’ first three years.

Jackson’s contract becomes much more team-friendly after this season. His salary the following three years is slated to be lower than this year’s: $1,319,500, $1,384,750 and $1,319,500. Yahoo’s wording is ambiguous, but it appears none of those seasons have any guaranteed compensation.

So, the Celtics are getting something in exchange for paying Jackson more now — flexibility in later years. The bargain works for them, because with the salary cap suddenly so high, they had little other use for that 2016-17 money. They essentially bought a better deal later by spending more when they were overrun with cap room.

And Jackson gets a bigger payday as he enters the pros. If he plays well, he’s stuck with a lower salary — though, for the next couple years, it’s still higher than a few first-rounders. If he doesn’t play well, he can be waived at no more cost. This is the opposite of betting on yourself, but that’s totally fine. Jackson will earn a lot of money this year in exchange. He got something significant with his bargaining power.

Projected by some to be a first-round pick, Jackson fell to the middle of the second round. Predictably, that probably turned out better for him.