No big, flowery introductions to our Power Rankings this week.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder (Steady)
(29-20) Last week: 3-1
This Thunder team continue to defy pre-season expectations, and they're doing it in weird and wonderful ways.
From their insistence in starting a complete non-entity on the wing, with Terrance Ferguson and Darius Bazley following in the footsteps of Andre Roberson; to their weird yet utterly dominant three point guard lineups, the Thunder have far outperformed the most positive of prognostications.
So what to do at the deadline? Yes, this team is nice story and they'll almost certainly make the playoffs, but they are sitting on ticking time bombs in the health of Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari. Steven Adams is a prime candidate to age early given the beatings he's taken through his career. The notoriously hot and cold Dennis Schroder is running white hot.
Does Sam Presti ride the crest of the wave, or does he break down and sell his core for the seven remaining NBA 1st round picks of the 2020's that he doesn't already own?
9. Philadelphia 76ers (Steady)
(31-17) Last week: 2-1
Joel Embiid returned to the court against the Warriors this week, posting 24 points and 10 rebounds in only 26 minutes. It will be interesting to see what happens to Ben Simmons with JoJo back on deck. The Australian averaged 21.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 7.9 assists with Embiid out.
This is a team that could be anything. In their wins against the Bucks and Lakers, the Sixers were utterly dominant, winning by an aggregate 29 points. Yet they drop some absolute gimmes from time to time. If they can get into gear towards the end of the season, their ability to seemingly flip a switch will make them very dangerous.
8. Boston Celtics (Steady)
(31-15) Last week: 2-1
Boston's win in Miami this week, like last week's home victory against the Lakers, shows what the Boston team can do when fully operational. They are frighteningly thin, though, as evidenced by their loss to New Orleans with Jayson Tatum, and Enes Kanter sitting.
Speaking of Kanter, he looms as the most likely to be moved should GM Danny Ainge live up to his trader reputation. Kanter has shown flashes with the C's, and combined with his strong play in Portland last season and a relative pittance of a contract ($4.8m), he is the obvious chip to throw in. What about Daniel Theis?, I hear you ask. He's just straight out better than Kanter. His passing, shooting and defensive versatility make him far more valuable to the Celtics than Kanter is.
7. Miami Heat (Down 1)
(32-15) Last week: 1-2
After missing the first 44 games of the season with injuries, suspensions, and...shall we say, other issues, Dion Waiters made his season debut against the Clippers. He proceeded to do the most Dion Waiters thing he could: score 14 points in 18 minutes.
Waiters resurrection could be a blessing for the Heat, in so much as proving that he is living and breathing, and might actually be tradable. For a team reportedly looking to make changes around the fringes of the roster, Waiters's $12 million deal, which runs through next season, might be palatable for some desperate organisation.
6. Utah Jazz (Down 2)
(32-15) Last week: 1-2
A little of the lustre came off the Jazz this week, going down to the Spurs without LaMarcus Aldridge after losing to a Rockets side missing both Harden and Westbrook.
A very concerning sign for the Jazz is the recent regression in Joe Ingles. Mike Conley's return hasn't seen Ingles return to his early season 6th man role, yet over his past six contests, Jinglin' Joe is averaging a mere 7 points on 37.5% from the floor and a worrying 26.9% from deep. He's still contributing with 7 assists and 4 rebounds, but he's there primarily for his shooting. If that fades, perhaps a spot on the 2nd unit beckons.