What was supposed to be a sleepy trade deadline quickly ratcheted up in the final hours before the deals stopped at 3 p.m. ET on Feb. 6. Andrew Wiggins was a Warrior after the deadline, Marcus Morris went to Los Angeles and a former Finals MVP found his way to Miami. Perhaps no superstar was traded, but the wheels in motion still generated a whirlwind of rumors, grades and reactions throughout the weekend. The dust is now settled, and it’s time to take stock of the league before the All-Star break.
As we take a deep breath after the trade deadline, let’s dive into The Crossover’s power rankings with notes on all 30 teams.
30. Warriors – Welp, the Warriors made their gamble. Golden State shipped D’Angelo Russell to Minnesota on Thursday, receiving Andrew Wiggins, a top-three protected 2021 first-round pick and a 2021 second-round pick. The draft equity is nice, and Minnesota’s pick could have value in a deep draft. It’s hard to see Minnesota as a bottom-three team. They’re an iffy playoff bet at best. Still, Wiggins’ value will swing the deal. Detractors say Golden State did the Timberwolves a favor, taking on an onerous contract for a losing player. I’m not so convinced. The Warriors will be the best situation of Wiggins’ career (obviously) and the outline of a quality contributor is present. Wiggins may never be an All-Star, but he could very well be a starting piece on a playoff team. If it doesn’t work, he’ll likely be flipped again in the summer of 2021.
29. Cavaliers – We’ll hold on discussing the Andre Drummond acquisition for a later date. What’s going to happen to Tristan Thompson? He seems intent on avoiding a buyout, which is frankly a shame for a slate of potential playoff heavyweights. He’d be a marked upgrade for the Celtics as well as the Heat, and the Rockets would surely be in hot pursuit even given their small-ball devotion. Thompson played a huge role in Cleveland’s 2016 Finals victory. Let’s hope to see him in a new uniform by March 1.
28. Knicks – One of the hottest teams in the East is none other than the New York Knicks. Amid front office turnover and a potential D’Angelo Russell pursuit, Mike Miller’s squad ripped off four straight wins before Sunday’s overtime loss to the Hawks. Granted, New York’s victories came over the Pacers, Cavs, Magic and Pistons; not exactly a slate of contenders. Still, there’s actual basketball being played at Madison Square Garden, and a respectable final stretch could provide a much-needed dose of optimism heading into 2020-21.
27. Hawks – It may be a while for Clint Capela to see the floor in Atlanta given his nagging right heel injury, but a healthy Capela should be a helpful piece in Atlanta. The 25-year-old is an imposing rebounder, and he’s an active and agile rolling lob threat. Houston grew frustrated by Capela’s uninspiring stretches, but at his best, he was truly an impact piece for a Finals contender. Trae Young should be happy with the help he received at the deadline.
26. Hornets – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s time in Charlotte has ended, giving us a brief chance to look at the Hornets shaky draft history since over the last decade. The results have been far from encouraging. Michael Jordan and Co. spent top 10 picks on Cody Zeller, Noah Vonleh and Frank Kaminsky in the three years after drafting MKG, and they took Malik Monk at No. 11 ahead of Luke Kennard, Donavan Mitchell and Bam Adebayo in 2017. Perhaps P.J. Washington will turn the tide, but it’s been a rough drafting stretch for much of the 21st century. Let’s hope the 2020s flips Charlotte’s fortunes.
25. Pistons – So where does Detroit stand after punting on the Andre Drummond era? $35 million in 2020 cap space, all their future picks, and youngsters Luke Kennard, Sekou Doumbouya and Christian Wood. It’s not a great collection, though perhaps not a complete disaster. The Pistons continue to avoid the tank race, and they’d frankly welcome a short playoff appearance as they had in 2016 and 2019. Griffin’s continuing injury woes have boxed the franchise in. But the Pistons can still make a playoff run in 2020-21.
24. Wizards – It’s been a frustrating season in Washington for Bradley Beal, so it was nice to see him get revenge on Dallas (his opening-night nemesis) on Feb. 7. Shoutout to Scott Brooks for a heady playcall. The Wizards remain exciting despite being out of playoff contention.
23. Timberwolves – Just how much can D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns grow in the coming seasons? Both are impressive offensive talents, but it’s hard to mount a playoff run in the West with a bottom 10 defense. Russell is a bottom-25 player by defensive rating. Minnesota has never finished better than No. 24 in defense with Towns. A difficult project awaits, but the ceiling of a Russell-Towns duo can be high with even a middling defense.
22. Bulls – It’s been a difficult two seasons for Chandler Hutchison in Chicago, with injuries hampering the Boise State product’s brief career. The last week provided a dose of optimism. Hutchinson has scored 16-plus points in three of his last four games, including a season-high 21 against Indiana on Jan. 29. Hutchison remains an unproven shooter, but he’s impressive driving downhill to the tin. Perhaps he can evolve into a much-needed contributor in the Windy City.
21. Kings – The Dewayne Dedmon fiasco marks another embarrassing chapter for the Kings’ front office. Vlade Divac and Co. shipped the center to Atlanta along with two picks before the trade deadline, ending Dedmon’s time in Sacramento after less than one season. Sacrificing picks to unload a recent marquee signing is just short of disastrous. It’s nearly impossible to build a winning team with such shaky decision making.
20. Suns – It would have been foolish for Phoenix to seek a Kelly Oubre trade at the deadline. The 6’7” forward continues to grow as a scorer and shooter, and he’s under a reasonable contract over the next two seasons. A core of Booker, Ayton and Oubre certainly has its defensive shortcomings, but its a quality trio as Phoenix seeks its first playoff appearance since 2010.
19. Magic – The Magic are among the teams who I would have liked to see make a deal at the deadline. Orlando can only try to work around its frontcourt glut for so long. Aaron Gordon for a point guard made sense. Perhaps the Magic should have considered an Evan Fournier deal before he hits free agency. Markelle Fultz’ ascendance is encouraging, though this still feels like a franchise stuck in mud.
18. Pelicans – Good for New Orleans for holding onto Jrue Holiday. The Pelicans should certainly push for winning culture in the first year of the Zion Williamson era, and Holiday could be the anchor of a playoff team in 2020-21. Holiday and Lonzo Ball can be an elite defensive backcourt. New Orleans is lightyears ahead of many current lottery dwellers.
17. Nets – It’s not unfair to be a touch frustrated by Nets’ 2019-20, which is largely a lost season amid a healthy dose of Kyrie Irving melodrama. But don’t fret. A certain 7-footer is arriving soon.
16. Spurs – It’s officially an uphill climb for the Spurs as they look to keep their 22-year playoff streak alive. San Antonio enters Monday night 10th in the West at 22–30, five games back of the Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed. The Spurs are in Denver and in Oklahoma City before the All-Star break. They’re No. 24 in defensive rating. Consider it a surprise if San Antonio snags the West’s final playoff spot.
15. Trail Blazers – Damian Lillard was certainly right to be frustrated with the no-call on Rudy Gobert’s goaltend in the final seconds on Feb. 7. The Blazers are in the thick of a playoff race, and Lillard is playing perhaps the best basketball of his career. To lose a game due to arcane replay procedures is infuriating. Let’s hope the league alters its review protocol in 2020-21.
14. Grizzlies – Justise Winslow is an intriguing fit for Memphis if he can ever get fully healthy. The Duke product would be a sturdy partner with Ja Morant, and he showed a solid three-point stroke in 2018-19. Memphis absorbing so much money in the Andre Iguodala deal was confusing. But at least the Grizzlies added another young asset heading into 2020-21.
13. Pacers – The Pacers have lost five straight entering Monday, hitting some growing pains upon Victor Oladipo’s return to the floor. Oladipo is shooting a paltry 28.1% from the field since Jan. 29, and while a five-game stretch is nothing to fret, it’s a reminder that Indiana is better equipped to strike next year than in 2019-20. Patience is a virtue after Oladipo’s severe leg injury.
12. Thunder – Speaking of perhaps arcane rules, the Thunder have run into a difficult situation with rookie Luguentz Dort. The shooting guard has started the last nine games for the Thunder, but he’s currently sitting out OKC’s practices in order to preserve his 45-days of available service time on a two-way contract. The practice time could be vital for Dort’s development, who is emerging as a quality contributor. It’s unfair for his growth to be stunted in the name of service time. The NBA would be smart to alter its two-way policy to only consider games played as a service-time metric.
11. Mavericks – Let’s take a brief moment to appreciate the less-heralded Curry brother. Seth Curry was a middling rotation player as recently as three seasons ago, and the Duke product has since morphed into one of the league’s best bench guards. Curry is shooting over 42% from three for the fourth straight year this season, and he blitzed the Hornets with 26 points on Saturday. The undersized guard has made a major impact in his second stint with Dallas.
10. 76ers – Do the 76ers belong to Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons? Let me submit a third option: Furkan Korkmaz! The third-year forward has erupted for a combined 65 points in his last two games, banging home 13 threes in the process. Korkmaz is, of course, a rotational piece, but he’s an impressive one at that. His emergence has been important in solidifying Philadelphia’s rotation in 2019-20.
9. Rockets – Mike D’Antoni said it best on Sunday when asked about the Rockets’ swap of Clint Capela for Robert Covington. “We just look and see how we can maximize this team,” D’Antoni said. “It doesn’t have to do with ‘they’re making a statement, they’re trying something crazy.’ We play better this way.” Houston isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. But its small-ball lineup unlocks the floor for Russell Westbrook and James Harden. The Rockets’ deadline deals were sensible, albeit unconventional.
8. Heat – The Heat continue to not only stay relevant, but position themselves as a true power broker in the Eastern Conference. Perhaps Andre Iguodala doesn’t vault Miami over the top in 2020, but the Heat are certainly a more imposing threat in the first and second round of the East playoffs. Miami is a fringe Finals contender in 2020 and a major free agency contender in 2021. Its post-LeBron turn remains impressive
7. Jazz – Bojan Bogdanovic has been impressive in his first year in Utah, canning 42.5% of threes while averaging a career-high 21.2 points per game. Bogdanovic absolutely saved Utah on Sunday (with some help from Jordan Clarkson), hitting a game-winning three to beat the Rockets. Utah is a sneaky contender for the Western Conference crown if Mike Conley can return to his Memphis form.
6. Celtics – Any Brown-over-Tatum debate is beginning to lose credibility by the week. This is no disrespect to Jaylen Brown, who is emerging as a fantastic two-way wing. But Tatum has been on another level of late. He is averaging 26.6 points per game in his last 11 contests, hitting an absurd 46.5% of threes. Tatum is becoming the elite score many had hoped coming out of Duke in 2017. Boston has a true blue chip talent in Tatum.
5. Nuggets – My goodness, Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets delightful center has been downright dominant in Denver’s last six games, nearly averaging a 27-point triple-double. Jokic turned in his best performance of the year against Utah on Feb. 5, becoming the third player in NBA history to score 30 points while adding 20 rebounds and 10 assists. The Serbian center is one of a kind and a true gift to the game. Perhaps he’ll have his Dirk moment in one Finals this decade.
4. Clippers – The Clippers stood as an upper-tier Finals contender before Thursday’s deadline, sporting a roster rich with depth. But their closing five still felt a body short. Marcus Morris should solve this problem. He adds another long, switchable body on the wing alongside Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and he adds a reliable three-point stroke. Los Angeles is one of the deadline’s biggest winners.
3. Raptors – Will the Raptors ever lose? They enter Monday with 14 straight wins, holding a 1.5-game lead for the No. 2 seed in the East. Fred VanVleet has been a catalyst for Toronto. The 2020 free agent is averaging 18.7 points per game in 2020, making over 48% of threes. The 2019 Finals hero continues to be one of the most lovable players in the Eastern Conference.
2. Lakers – The Lakers faced a double whammy at the deadline, losing out on the Morris sweepstakes, then failing to even pursue Darren Collison as the point guard decided to sit out 2019-20. The Lakers emptied the cupboard for Anthony Davis, and the move has obviously been prudent. But the path to further improvement remains murky both before the buyout deadline and beyond.
1. Bucks – The rich get richer with Milwaukee’s buyout signing of Marvin Williams, who should add additional frontcourt stretch for the Bucks. Williams may even be superfluous in Milwaukee’s deep rotation. Jon Horst has built a deep roster around Giannis Antetokounmpo, one that is constructed around the MVPs strengths. It’s hard to see any Eastern Conference team toppling the Bucks before June.