This week’s Power Rankings come with the suggestion that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
20. Sacramento Kings (Up 2)
(19-31) Last week: 2-1
What will Kings GM Vlade Divac do about his compatriot Bogdan Bogdanovic. The 27 year old is a restricted free agent at seasons end, and expects a big pay day, considering the $13 million per season deal he turned down less than a year ago.
Trade demand is high, with seemingly half the NBA, including contenders like the Bucks, Sixers and Lakers all keen on acquiring the versatile shooting guard. He won’t come cheap, however. A middling 1st round pick is the minimum Sacramento will expect.
The Kings have, of course, expressed an interest in holding onto the Serb, and resigning him. That would make their back court rotation of Bogdanovic, De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield very expensive, before we even consider the on court fit. Coach Luke Walton may have found a solution to the latter issue. Since moving Bogdanovic to the 1st unit, Hield has thrived off the bench, to the tune of 22.2 points per game on marvellous 48.4% shooting from beyond the arc.
19. Orlando Magic (Down 2)
(22-29) Last week: 1-2
Orlando are similar to Brooklyn in that they've played distinctly average basketball through the season, yet are in little danger of missing the playoffs. Where they differ to the Nets, however, is that the Nets have a four time scoring champion in shining armour coming to rescue them next season. The Magic have no such saviour.
Aaron Gordon has been in trade rumours all season, despite a career worst stretch of play. Fortunately for Orlando, AG has pepped up of late, averaging 15.8 points, 8.5 rebounds. Most importantly, he's been shooting 42.1% from deep over that span. When Gordon is shooting well, it opens up all the other facets of his versatile game. He appears to have ridden out the slump. Perhaps the time for Orlando to move him is now.
18. Brooklyn Nets (Up 2)
(23-27) Last week: 3-1
The Nets have been on a relative tear, winning 4 of their past 5 and doing it without Kyrie Irving for part of the run. After hanging a brilliant 54 on the Bulls, he tweaked his knee against the Wizards and is expected to miss about a week.
Don't expect any trade deadline fireworks from Sean Marks and his team. They're in a strange, no-mans land of sorts. They made their big moves over the summer in acquiring Irving, Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan. They're safely ensconced in a playoff spot, despite playing middling basketball for most of the season. They don't need to make any moves.
17. San Antonio Spurs (Down 1)
(22-28) Last week: 1-2
Me: Siri, show me a practical example of the relative strength of the NBA Western conference, over the East?
Siri: DeMar DeRozan.
Me: Siri, explain.
Siri: DeMar DeRozan was an All Star on four occasions when playing in the Eastern conference. Statistically speaking, his two best seasons have occurred since he moved to the West – he has been an All Star on neither occasion, nor has he been considered a legitimate All Star snub.
16. Damian Lillard (Up 2)
(23-28) Last week: 2-1
A wasted season is suddenly a whirlwind playoff push, thanks to one Damian Lamonte Ollie Lillard.
In his last game – a thumping 28 point loss to the Nuggets – Lillard posted a positively mortal line on 21 points and 9 assists. In the six game prior? 48.8 points, 10.2 assists, 8.2 three pointers per game at 57%. That’s….there really isn’t an adjective strong enough to describe that sort of form, is there.
Importantly, the struggling Blazers won 5 of those 6 games, so Dame’s efforts were not in vain. Does the hot streak spark the team in general? Does it change how the front office view the trade deadline? They were previously thought to be content sitting out after shedding payroll in the Ariza trade, but if the playoffs are suddenly on the table, do the Blazers go after Kevin Love or Danilo Gallinari?
15. New Orleans Pelicans (Steady)
(20-31) Last week: 1-2
In his 7 game NBA career, the #1 pick has come pretty much as advertised. He’s putting up a very good nightly average of 19.6 points and 8 rebounds on 54.6% shooting. In his last game against Milwaukee he started to show some of his vaunted play making chops, with 5 assists.
The defensive impact isn’t there as yet, with only 4 steals and 2 blocks recorded. However, even those are highlight worthy.
Zion RIPPED the ball away from Giannis 🤯 pic.twitter.com/6g2WxRExwl— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 5, 2020
With the team healthy and on the up, it’s unlikely that GM David Griffin will look to trade either Jrue Holiday or JJ Redick unless he gets absolutely bowled over by an offer.
14. Memphis Grizzlies (Steady)
(26-25) Last week: 2-1
Action aplenty in Memphis over the past few days.
Firstly, the young Grizz foundation, led by Dillon Brooks, made their feelings about the absent Andre Iguodala perfectly clear. Memphis reportedly made their Iggy trade. Surprisingly, he didn't head West to either of the LA teams – he went to Miami with Justice Winslow going the other way. The trade hasn't been finalised, as it appears the Heat are trying to pry Danilo Gallinari away from the Thunder.
Everything Dillon Brooks said about Andre Iguodala tonight. pic.twitter.com/1rDw0P2wp2— Mark Giannotto (@mgiannotto) February 4, 2020
Assuming he can ever get his body right, obtaining the play making Winslow is a great get for Memphis. At age 23, he fits in with the Grizzlies timeline. Sure, he's not a great jump shooter, but he's no worse than Jae Crowder. Winslow can play the 4 in a smaller lineup, or can run the point, unlocking Ja Morant as an off ball weapon.
13. Indiana Pacers (Down 2)
(31-20) Last week: 0-3
The Pacers have lost three straight since their emotional win on the return of talisman Victor Oladipo, including a shocker at home to the Knicks. That's not entirely unexpected. Twelve months out of the game lets a whole lot of rust set in. However, I'm not sure even the most pessimistic Pacer fan would have expected Dipo to be shooting 14.3% from deep, on seven attempts per game. It will fall into place for Oladipo, and the Pacers. It's just a matter of how long they can tread water until it happens.
12. Dallas Mavericks (Up 1)
(31-20) Last week: 2-2
Speaking of treading water, that's what Dallas are doing with young megastar Luka Doncic sidelined after re-spraining his ankle. They've slipped to 7th in the conference, but are still a safe five games ahead of 8th place Grizzlies, and importantly a full eight games in front of the 9th placed Blazers. So the Mavericks can afford to be conservative with their Slovenian wunderkid, keeping him fresh for the playoffs.
In his stead, Jalen Brunson has stepped up admirably. He took it to Trae Young, finishing with 27 points and 8 assists against the Hawks, in a game where Kristaps Porzingis also sat. Either side of that Atlanta game, KP put up 35 and 12 against the Rockets, and 38 (including six 3's) and 12 versus the Pacers.
11. Philadelphia 76ers (Down 2)
(31-20) Last week: 0-3
It must be maddening to support the 76ers. After the wildly impressive victory over the Lakers in LA, they go and lose to Atlanta. In the Hawks loss, the much vaunted Philadelphia front line of Joel Embiid, Al Horford and Tobias Harris combined for just 30 points. Embiid was particularly poor, shooting 1-11 from the field with 4 turnovers (and they say Atlanta needs a defensive centre!).
Do the Sixers attempt to smooth out their rough edges at the trade deadline? David Bertans would be ideal, but unlikely. Derrick Rose could allow Ben Simmons thrive as the roll man when Embiid is off the floor. Alas, Robert Covington would have be an upgrade on defense, whilst providing additional shooting.
Did Ben Simmons take a 3 this week? Yes!