NBA Power Rankings: Trade deadline edition

3 Comments

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.

Clippers, Jazz prepare for Game 7 in Los Angeles

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LOS ANGELES  (AP) – Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul was adamant the sun would not set on Paul Pierce‘s NBA run in Salt Lake City on Friday night.

“I looked over at ‘Truth’ during one of (those) timeouts and I said ‘You’re not ending your career in Utah,’ ” said Paul, referring to Pierce’s popular nickname. “We told him that. We just said we want to keep this thing going for him. Paul was big tonight. Like the 3 he hit over there on the wing, and stuff like that. Just his energy and his voice in those different timeouts I think was huge for us.”

With a crucial 98-93 victory over the Utah Jazz in Game 6, the Clippers will attempt to extend the career of the 39-year-old Pierce, who is retiring at season’s end, and capture the series Sunday in Game 7 at Staples Center.

The winner advances to the second round to meet the Golden State Warriors in a best-of-seven affair beginning Tuesday at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif.

Paul, whose two late free throws sealed the win against the Jazz, led the charge by scoring 29 points, dishing eight assists and allowing the Clippers to avoid elimination in the opening round for the second straight season. The Portland Trail Blazers bounced them last season in six games, aided by injuries to Paul and Blake Griffin.

And as Paul loathes to hear, the point guard has never guided a team past the second round.

“This is what we talked about before (Game 6),” said Paul, who has become the Clippers’ main force offensively with Griffin out of the playoffs again, this time with an injury to his big toe. “Doc (Rivers) said to go out there and give yourself a chance. We knew we couldn’t win both games (Friday), and we wanted to give ourselves a chance.”

Utah will have another opportunity to end Pierce’s career on Sunday despite missing a chance on its home court. After the Jazz won Game 5 on Tuesday at Staples, All-Star forward Gordon Hayward made it clear he didn’t want to return for a Game 7.

Hayward, though, is humming a different tune now.

“We’ve come a long way from where we were three years ago,” Hayward told the Salt Lake Tribune. “If you had told me at the beginning of the year you’d be in a Game 7 against the Clippers in L.A., I’d have been like, ‘Bring it on.’ ”

The Jazz will be forced to bring their best with center Rudy Gobert hobbling again. Gobert, who sustained a hyperextended left knee in Game 1 that kept him out of the lineup for two games, sprained his ankle in the second half of Game 6 and was forced to the bench because of it during critical stretches.

Gobert said the ankle wouldn’t hinder him Sunday.

“I sprained it on somebody’s foot,” said Gobert, who finished with 15 points, nine boards and three blocks, according to the Tribune. “I tried to run through it, but that didn’t work out. I’ve had a lot of sprained ankles before. I will be good.”

PBT Extra: Can Toronto threaten Cleveland, LeBron James in second round?

Leave a comment

There are a few reasons to think the Toronto Raptors can push and maybe even upset the Cleveland Cavaliers in their second round playoff series that starts Monday. For one, they went six games last playoffs and this is a deeper, more versatile Raptors team with Serge Ibaka as the power forward/center, P.J. Tucker coming off the bench, and the emergence of guys like Norman Powell. The Raptors have a great backcourt in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. And, the Cavaliers were not a focused or good defensive team in the first round.

On the other side of the ledger, the Cavaliers have LeBron James.

I break down this series in the latest PBT Extra.

Three things to watch: Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Leave a comment

1. How much will these teams’ disdain for each other color the series?

Back in January, the Wizards wore all black for a figurative funeral while arriving for a game against the Celtics then buried Boston in a 123-108 win.

But the Celtics are still alive and ready for the next stage in a rivalry that has included:

Both teams appear primed for more hijinks. The Wizards taunted the Hawks throughout their first-round series, and Boston crossed the line with the Bulls.

2. Which team is actually better?

The Wizards outpaced the Celtics in my adjusted-for-playoff-rotation rankings before the postseason began. But getting a clear picture of who’s in the teams’ playoff rotations and counting the first round turns the tables.

Here’s both teams’ offensive, defensive and net ratings from the regular season to counting only lineups (regular season and first round) comprised of five players projected to be in the teams’ rotation this series:

1. Boston Celtics

  • Offensive rating: 112.4 to 116.2
  • Defensive rating: 109.8 to 110.4
  • Net rating: +2.6 to +5.8

4. Washington Wizards

  • Offensive rating: 111.7 to 115.6
  • Defensive rating:  110.0 to 110.5
  • Net rating: +1.7 to +5.1

Even with the flaws in these numbers – small sample sizes and no control for competition – the question of which team will put a better team on the floor in this series isn’t everything. Boston has home-court advantage, and that matters.

The complete updated playoff-rotation-adjusted ratings will be released Monday, after the first round ends.

3. How will the MVP-vote-getting point guards match up?

Both the Celtics and Wizards are reasonably deep, but good luck keeping your eyes off their star point guards. Isaiah Thomas and John Wall both received fifth-place MVP votes, tributes to their importance to their teams.

Thomas is Boston’s lone reliable scorer, and that brings a heavy fourth-quarter burden – which he has answered all year. Even when opponents know he’ll get the ball, they haven’t stopped him. Wall also drives Washington’s offense, though he does it with a more balanced passing and scoring attack throughout the game.

But Wall’s primary argument for superiority over other big-name point guards – including Thomas – is his defense. The 6-foot-4 Wall will have an opportunity to show that against the 5-foot-9 Thomas. Likewise, Thomas has a chance to pester Wall enough to show the defensive gap isn’t too wide.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

Leave a comment

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.