Whilst no All Star was traded, the Trade Deadline was a hive of activity.
20. Washinton Wizards (Up 3)
(20-33) Last week: 3-1
Like an average late night telemovie, the Wizards do just enough to keep you interested.
After losing at home to the Warriors, they take down Dallas with a wonderfully drawn up buzzer beating play, including a brick wall of a screen from Mo Wagner.
Beal and Davis Bertans have been hot for Washington. Beal has scored over 25 points in every contest since Toronto held him to 14 back on January 17. Bertans, over his past 5 matches, is scoring 16 points a game off the bench.
19. Orlando Magic (Steady)
(24-31) Last week: 2-2
The Magic continue to do what they do. In their last 11 contests, they’re 3-1 against teams with a sub .500 record, and 0-7 versus winning teams. Their solid defense takes care of the NBA lesser lights, but they can’t score enough (29th in the NBA) to beat any half decent side they come up against.
To that end, surely Orlando have to understand that whilst Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon are good offensive players, they’re complimentary – at best – on a good team. Why the front office decided not to trade either of them is perplexing. Yes, they’re great for the culture and both are effectively home grown, but that loyalty won’t win you games. The Magic need to be far more ruthless.
18. San Antonio Spurs (Down 1)
(23-31) Last week: 1-3
The annual Rodeo Road Trip hasn’t been kind to San Antonio this season. In losing their first 5 games of the trip – finally breaking the streak in taking down the Thunder – they’ve slipped 4.5 games behind Memphis for the final playoff spot. They still have another OKC visit and a game in Utah to negotiate before heading home to play Dallas. Lose those 3 games, and the monumental 22 year playoff run is likely all but over.
17. Brooklyn Nets (Up 1)
(25-28) Last week: 2-1
I know it’s been a regular theme in this seasons Power Rankings, but the Ewing Theory is rearing up it’s head again. Since Kyrie Irving went out with a knee sprain, the Nets have rattled off 4 wins in 5, with the loss a heartbreaking 1 point defeat to Toronto.
In their past 5 games, the back court of Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert have been superb. Dinwiddie is giving the Nets 16.2 points and 9.8 assists, while the 3rd year youngster LeVert has been good for 24 points and 5.1 assists per night.
16. Damian Lillard (Steady)
(25-31) Last week: 2-3
Damian Lillard has once again become a mere mortal, averaging 28.4 points and 8.8 assists, with 3.6 three pointers thrown in over his past 5 games. Most players would literally kill to be able to do that. For Lillard, after the weeks he enjoyed prior, that's a come down. And as Lillard has regressed to his own admittedly sensational mean, so have the Blazers fallen back to their own, rather less impressive mean. A tough stretch of games this week, with losses to Jazz, Grizzlies and Pelicans offset by a hard fought victory over the Spurs and a win over the suddenly struggling Heat. The Blazers are still 9th in the conference, but trail Memphis by 4 games, making that loss to them so important. Combined with getting stone cold robbed in Utah, it hasn't been a good week for Portland.
15. Indiana Pacers (Down 2)
(32-23) Last week: 1-3
Patience is a virtue, Pacers fans.
It was always going to take time for Victor Oladipo to get his game back in order after so long out injured. Yes, he’s struggling to the tune of 11.1 points in sub 30% shooting, but he’ll improve. Encouragingly, he's scored in double figures in his last 4 games.
An underrated challenge of Oladipo's reintegration has been the changes in team hierarchy with Dipo sidelined. Off season addition Malcolm Brogdon has thrived as the lead guard. He’s proven in his time alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo that he is effective as an off ball target, but you’re taking so much off the table playing Brogdon in that way.
Domantas Sabonis has become the fulcrum of the team over the past 12 months. Oladipo is an excellent cutter so he should develop some chemistry with a more ball dominant Sabonis over time.
Still, if the Pacers are going to be a more egalitarian team, it’s another wrinkle for Oladipo to have to iron out.
14. New Orleans Pelicans (Up 1)
(23-31) Last week: 3-0
New Orleans made the wise decision at the trade deadline, in remaining patient and seeing what they have now that Zion Williamson is up and about. A core of Zion, Jrue Holiday and Brandon Ingram, with the complimentary pieces that the Pellies possess, could make some real noise next season. For his part, the rookie phenomenon is living up to the hype, averaging 21 points and 7.7 rebounds.
13. Memphis Grizzlies (Up 1)
(28-26) Last week: 2-1
A big week in Memphis, who are 8-2 over their last 10 games.
First, they pick up a potentially perfect fit at small forward in Justice Winslow, then they move above .500 for the first time this season, then last but not least they take care of business at home, turning the Blazers away and opening up their lead for the final playoff berth in the West to 4 games. The rebuild is so far ahead of schedule it's incredible.
Grit'n'Grind is dead. Long live Grit'n'Grind.
12. Dallas Mavericks (Steady)
(33-22) Last week: 2-2
The Mavs were able to tread water without Luka Doncic, going 3-4 with the Slovenian star out injured. Doncic returned for his team's configurable win over Sacramento, picking up where he left off with a 33 point, 12 rebound, 8 assists performance.
Whilst Doncic sat, Kristaps Porzingis stepped up (despite missing a pair of games himself through that stretch), averaging 28.8 points, 10 boards and 3.7 three pointers per game. Tim Hardaway Jr was also quite impressive, giving his side 25.4 points and a surprising 5.2 assists with Doncic out.
11. Oklahoma City Thunder (Down 1)
(33-22) Last week: 2-2
The Thunder kept their team together at the trade deadline – just. That means that the team can continue it’s surprising surge into the playoffs. They’ll surely be a nightmare 1st round match up for whoever is unlucky enough to catch them. Rookie guard Luguentz Dort has been a pleasant surprise for OKC. The 2-way player is nearing the end of his 45 day service allotment, so the Thunder are having to hold him out of practices to extend the number of games he can appear in. As successful as it’s been, we’ll surely see some wholesale changes to the 2-way system at the next CBA negotiations.