• Alec Liebsch

NBA Power Rankings: Post-Trade Deadline Edition

Trade season is finally over. After weeks to months of speculation over which players are getting moved and which teams will be doing the moving, we finally have clarity on every team in the league for the rest of the league year.


The top dogs in Brooklyn and Los Angeles stood pat, but the hopefuls behind them made genuine improvements. Should-be buyers actually bought, and should-be sellers actually sold. Franchises were refreshingly honest about their directions this week...except the Kings.


Hold for a few pending buyout additions, rosters are mostly set for the final push of the 2020-21 season. For the rest of the season (including playoffs), here's how I'd rank all 30 teams.


30. Detroit Pistons - No one knows if Troy Weaver and the gang went into this season with the tanks revved up, but getting value for Delon Wright sets that in stone. The race for Cade Cunningham is on.


29. Orlando Magic - Orlando was at the center of the NBA universe on Thursday, selling off three high-profile veterans to craving contenders. They did great on the value front, poaching two high-profile youngsters in R.J. Hampton and Wendell Carter Jr., but the current product will stink.


28. Houston Rockets - What a brutal year. Rafael Stone and Stephen Silas, the franchise's newly-hired general manager and head coach respectively, went from navigating the James Harden trade demand, to weathering a putrid 21-game losing streak, to now getting next to nothing for Victor Oladipo, the last piece of the Harden trade they could've theoretically extracted value out of. At least the Christian Wood signing was a hit.


27. Oklahoma City Thunder - Restricted free agency rights on Tony Bradley will be valuable long term. That's been OKC's motto all year—the long game—which is exactly why they're this low. Losing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for the year hurts them now, but very much helps them on Lottery Night.


26. Minnesota Timberwolves - The only difference between Minny and the above teams is intent. These guys are trying, even if outside factors make it really tough for the on-court product to be competitive. If nothing else, Anthony Edwards is must-see TV these days.


25. Cleveland Cavaliers - Putting Andre Drummond in bubblewrap did nothing for the organization, just like how selling Kevin Porter Jr. for peanuts also didn't make much sense. Just a weird management of assets there. SexLand may make this team watchable down the stretch.


24. Washington Wizards - Give credit where credit is due: somehow, the Wizards got value for Moe Wagner. And now back to your regularly scheduled programming, which is terrible basketball in the nation's capital.


23. New Orleans Pelicans - NOLA should be better than this. Something's just not right, and now Lonzo Ball is due for a major raise in July. Can they finally figure out how to play winning basketball in the packed Western Conference?


22. Sacramento Kings - Delon Wright is an upgrade for sure, and both him and Tyrese Haliburton are big, switchable guards. Can never get enough of those. But this season is kind of a lost cause. So I ask for the 15th straight year: Kings, wyd?


21. New York Knicks - New York was passive with trades this week, merely adding a second round pick and getting off Austin Rivers' contract. That's good! The current roster—which is a playoff team—is still intact.


20. Toronto Raptors - Kyle Lowry is still a Raptor (for whatever reason), so this team is still solid. Where it's going, we may never know.


19. Indiana Pacers - Getting Caris LeVert back is key to Indiana's resurgence, even with the dreadful news of T.J. Warren's season-ending injury. Indiana's better than its record shows, and should be able to prove that down the stretch.


18. Charlotte Hornets - Man, it sucks to lose LaMelo Ball like this. He's not the only fun Hornet though; can Gordon Hayward have an All-Star-caliber April and May to keep them afloat?


17. Memphis Grizzlies - In the absence of multiple blue-chip prospects, Memphis is loaded with guys who are good. Having waves of competent players to mix and match with will be helpful as the playoff race gets tight.


16. San Antonio Spurs - Losing LaMarcus Aldridge knocks the Spurs down a peg, but he wasn't the difference for the 2020-21 team. Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson and Lonnie Walker IV are.


15. Golden State Warriors - Stephen Curry is getting a little more help. James Wiseman is getting better every game, and Jordan Poole is coming into his own. Keeping Kelly Oubre maintains nothing less than the status quo, which puts them smack dab in the middle of the league.


14. Atlanta Hawks - Current vibes are off the charts in Atlanta. Winners of eight of their last ten since the firing of Lloyd Pierce, Trae Young and friends look ready to meet the postseason mandate that ownership gave them.


13. Chicago Bulls - The biggest acquisition of deadline week was Nikola Vucevic, who is now a Bull. He brings dynamic elements to the 5 spot that Chicago sorely lacked, and now the team is basically a lock to make the playoffs for the first time in a half decade.


12. Boston Celtics - Beantown isn't a great place to be right now, but that may turn around with the addition of Evan Fournier. Never thought you'd see those words put together like that, did you?


11. Dallas Mavericks - Picking up J.J. Redick is such a Mavericks move. They haven't been the all-time offense that they were last year, so what do they do? Go and get one of the best off-ball shooters of all time. Output was already trending up, and now it's going to jump quite a bit.


10. Portland Trail Blazers - Sacrificing Gary Trent Jr. is a questionable long-term move, but the only time Neil Olshey is concerned with is the present. Norman Powell boosts the bench and gives them lineup flexibility on the wing. The Blazers are officially all-in.


9. Miami Heat - One of the biggest winners of Thursday's chaos, the Heat added quality players in Victor Oladipo and Nemanja Bjelica. Aldridge may be next, and suddenly they've created half a rotation out of thin air.


8. Los Angeles Lakers - The only thing knocking the Purple and Gold down is health. LeBron James and Anthony Davis both missing time simultaneously is a disaster in the short term, and raises questions about their viability come playoff time. I still give Playoff LeBron an edge over the field, though.


7. Milwaukee Bucks - P.J. Tucker makes a lot of sense for Milwaukee, especially as they start to gel and become the juggernaut we've come to know these past few years. Only some postseason skepticism keeps me from ranking them any higher.


6. Phoenix Suns - The Suns are one of the most well-built teams in the league. From top to bottom they make a ton of sense, and those top two guys do exactly what you need your ball handlers to do in the playoffs: make sh*t happen with the ball.


5. Utah Jazz - The best record in the West still resides in Salt Lake City, and a second half pick-me-up should keep it that way. Utah is really, really good when everything's clicking like it should.


4. Denver Nuggets - Finally, a big Nuggets trade! Tim Connelly and company pushed their chips in for Aaron Gordon, filling the Jerami Grant hole with aplomb. Nikola Jokic's MVP season will not be ignored.


3. Los Angeles Clippers - Help is on the way, guys! The Clippers really needed a point guard, and they got one in Rajon Rondo. Swapping out a redundancy in Lou Williams for a requisite in Rondo is a great move for a team with title aspirations, cap sheets be damned.


2. Philadelphia 76ers - The Sixers filled a need almost perfectly with the addition of George Hill. With Joel Embiid set to return soon and his teammates dominating without him, this final stretch could lock the Sixers into homecourt advantage throughout the East bracket.


1. Brooklyn Nets - Kevin Durant hasn't played in 40 days and it hasn't mattered. James Harden is an elite offense on his own, Kyrie Irving sleepwalks to 25 and 5, and everyone else makes sense around the stars. Can they mess around and combine for 200 points in a game?