Last Thursday, some of the NBA's top talent shifted teams following the league's trade deadline. Though there wasn't as much movement as some would've liked, the standings really start to flesh themselves out after the biggest names have moved cities. Now, it's fair to dig into the standings and see where everyone sits.
16. Brooklyn Nets
The seventh-seeded Brooklyn Nets have an incredible theoretical roster, and the only thing keeping them from rising in the standings is injuries. Unfortunately, those injuries are either repetitive or season-consuming. All-Star PG Kyrie Irving has missed large chunks of the season, and Kevin Durant will not play at all. On the other hand, the excellent play of Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie and Jarrett Allen has the Nets still in the playoff hunt. These young players will have time to develop with the stars out, but this isn't the Nets' year.
15. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers have a young and talented squad, being led by first time All-Star Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon. With other solid young role players in Myles Turner and Aaron Holiday, the future is bright for the Pacers squad. However, it isn't their time yet, with the Bucks and Raptors still leading the East.
14. Memphis Grizzlies
As the season has progressed, Ja Morant has gotten better and better. His stats have improved, and so has the team. With the Grizzlies surprisingly holding the eighth seed in the Western Conference, Morant and Co. could do some damage to teams who underestimate the grit over the Grizzlies, like last year's Clippers squad.
13. Portland Trail Blazers
While last year's Trail Blazers would be a top team on this list, Portland has been a disappointment, to say the least, this season. The sudden dominance of Lillard has thrust Portland back into the playoff conversation, but it isn't enough to place them ahead of many teams yet. If the Trail Blazers keep winning, they should be able to crack the top 10 in our power rankings in no time.
12. Dallas Mavericks
As a 20-year-old, Luka Doncic may be a top five player in the league already. However, he has already hurt his ankles twice this season. Kristaps Porzingis is also quite injury prone. The way to unlock the Mavs' true potential is to make sure their players can stay healthy over the course of the season.
11. Philadelphia 76ers
There are two stories to the Philadelphia 76ers' season: Home and Road. At home, the 76ers are balling out, winning 90% of their games. However, on the road, they win 33% of their matchups. If the 76ers expect to be the team to win the Eastern Conference (or, at least, be a top four seed), then they need to play much better on the road.
10. Utah Jazz
The fourth-seeded Jazz are led by their two first-time All-Stars: Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. With an incredible shooting and scoring-minded team, the team is hardly a two-player affair. Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Ingles are absolute snipers, and Royce O'Neal and Mike Conley are dogs on defense. This team is full of great players, and there is no surprise they are playing as well as they are.
9. Oklahoma City Thunder
The OKC Thunder were projected to be towards the bottom of the West entirely; with the trio of guards stepping up, the Thunder are sixth in the West. Chris Paul, an older veteran whose best days are behind him, has suddenly lost a few years off his game and is playing impressively well. His style of play is complemented by big men Steven Adams and Danilo Gallinari. While the team is surprisingly doing well, the Thunder are not a genuine threat for the championship.
8. Houston Rockets
With the dedication to full-time small ball, we are seeing an extreme version of the 2015-2016 Warriors' "Death Lineup". These Rockets will frequently get out-rebounded and will get demolished inside, but their shooting and spacing for human wrecking ball Russell Westbrook should be more than enough to help them win games. The worry is, though, whether the smaller players for the Rockets can keep on taking the banging from opposing big men? Yes, that's right, we've got more banging issues in Houston, and it's not the Astros.
7. Miami Heat
The Heat were an excellent defensive team before the trade deadline. After acquiring Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala, they have somehow gotten even better. Their defensive intensity matched with their ball movement (five players averaging 3.5+ assists per game) have helped them become the fourth seed in the East. However, with the dominant teams in the East, this may be as far as they go.
6. Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers are one of the best basketball teams in the NBA. For some reason, once in a while, they are prone to playing just awful basketball, as was just put on full display against the Minnesota Timberwolves (who had lost 13 in a row). However, when they play well, they are quite possibly the best team in the league, handing the West-leading Lakers two of their 12 total losses.
5. Denver Nuggets
Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris and Jamal Murray are the top three players for the second seed in the West. However, the Nuggets have many weapons; if one player goes down, another can generally step up without issue. With Michael Porter Jr., Will Barton and Paul Millsap as secondary options, the team has a plethora of scoring potential. The Nuggets can score on just about anyone.
4. Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics' young players are the main reason the team has done so well this year. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are both averaging around 20 points, six rebounds and two assists per game, which are incredible numbers. With the additions of All-Star Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter, the Celtics are a tough team to beat.
3. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have the second best record in the entire NBA, holding a comfortable three-game margin over the second-place team in the West. While the team has had some struggles recently, the Lakers have the right pieces and personnel to guide a turnaround to make sure they are on the right track to success. And with the team being led by LeBron James (league-leading 10.7 APG), the team always has a chance at success.
2. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors have three starter-worthy bigs in Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. They have an excellent defensive guard duo in Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry. Their bench is full of multifaceted players who can take on any role. And most importantly, they are riding a 15-game win streak. I wouldn't want to have to face this team anytime soon.
1. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks are an incredibly gifted team. They sport a freak of nature in Giannis, they have magnificent shooters in Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and Kyle Korver, and their length and versatility make them a scary matchup on defense. They are still the only team under 12 losses, and they have registered only seven. Need I say more?