NBA Power Rankings: Rising Celtics enter the top five; Rockets fall

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Monday, February 4, 2019

Thanks, NFL, but we'll take it from here. It's NBA trade deadline week!

Will the Los Angeles Lakers add Anthony Davis for their playoff push? Could Memphis Grizzlies mainstays Mike Conleyand Marc Gasol join a contender? We'll find out before the 3 p.m. ET Thursday deadline.

For now, let's see which teams are rising or falling this week, led by the Boston Celtics jumping into the top five after Sunday's win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Throughout the regular season, our panel (ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz, Tim MacMahon andAndre'Snellings, The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears and FiveThirtyEight's Chris Herring) ranks all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock of which teams are playing the best basketball now and which are looking most like title contenders.

Week 16 |15 |14 |13 |12 |11 |10 |9 |8 |7 |6 |5 |4 |3 |2 |1 | Camp

1.Golden State Warriors

Record: 37-15

Steve Kerr has coached in the All-Star Game twice since becoming the head coach of the Warriors. Kerr and his staff were tied record-wise with Mike Malone and the Denver Nuggetsto coach LeBron James' All-Stars but lost the tie-breaker. Kerr and his staff are probably not too sad about it, as they could use the break after playing in the NBA Finals the past four years.-- Spears

2. Milwaukee Bucks

Record: 38-13

Milwaukee effectively cut the head off the snake twice this week, limiting Blake Griffin to 18 points (on 16 shots) and Kawhi Leonard to 16 points (on 20 shots) in easy victories over Detroit and Toronto, respectively. Wizards star Bradley Beal got closer to his scoring average with 24 points against the Bucks on Saturday, but it was moot, as Giannis Antetokounmpo poured in 37 in Milwaukee's winning effort.-- Herring

3. Denver Nuggets

Record: 37-15

The Nuggets have been playing this week without Jamal Murray, who is missing time with a sprained ankle, but they continue to prove very robust in the face of injury. They have won six straight games and have caught the Warriors again for the best record in the Western Conference. The Nuggets are led by starting center Nikola Jokic, who earned his first All-Star nod this season and currently ranks third overall in the NBA in Real Plus-Minus. --Snellings

Record: 38-16

When Kyle Lowry was gratuitously snubbed as a reserve for the 2014 All-Star Game, word around the league was that he was being penalized by coaches for his reputation as a difficult customer. Five years later, he was selected as a bubble candidate, as he's not having a particularly impressive season statistically. This demonstrates how far Lowry has come as one of the game's most highly respected game managers, one who impacts play in numerous areas on both sides of the floor even when he's not scoring.-- Arnovitz

5.Boston Celtics

Record: 34-19

The Celtics entered Sunday's game still ensconced in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, but with their win over the Thunder, they left Sunday tied for the third seed with an inside track for home-court advantage in the playoffs. The Celtics still have the third-best scoring margin in the NBA at plus-6.9, just behind the Bucks and Warriors, and with nine wins in their past 10 games, they are trending strongly positive in their quest to better their Eastern Conference finals appearance last season. -- Snellings

6. Oklahoma City Thunder

Record: 33-19

The Thunder had won seven games in a row, including signature wins over the Bucks and at the 76ers, before losing in Boston on Sunday.While Paul George has stepped forward as the MVP candidate from this season's Thunder, former MVP Russell Westbrook has quietly broken out of the worst of his shooting slump. After making only 36.1 percent of his field goal attempts and 24.1 percent of his 3-pointers in 13 games from December to early January, Westbrook has made 44.4 percent of his field goals and 33.3 percent of his 3-pointers in his past six games. -- Snellings

7.Philadelphia 76ers

Record: 34-19

The Sixers and Bucks are the only two teams in the league to rank top-five in both true shooting percentage (Sixers are No. 4) and rebounding rate (Sixers are No. 5). Who will be the Sixers' 2019Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli, indispensable contributors who shored up Philadelphia's depth issues during their second-half surge last season? Will those mystery guests surface this week, or will the Sixers wait for the buyout market, where they nabbed that pair last February?-- Arnovitz

8.Portland Trail Blazers

Record: 32-20

The Blazers added some scoring and depth with the arrival of guard Rodney Hood via trade from Cleveland. The fifth-year guard averaged 12.2 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 45 games with the Cavaliers this season. Hood also got some postseason experience last year playing in the NBA Finals.-- Spears

9. San Antonio Spurs

Record: 32-22

"I wasn't the hero tonight," LaMarcus Aldridge said after a 25-point, 14-rebound night in Saturday's win over the Pelicans. He had to give credit to the Coyote, the Spurs' mascot who -- dressed in a Batman costume -- made a diving stop to net yet another bat flying over the AT&T Center court during the game. It was the highlight of a five-game win streak in which Aldridge has averaged 26.4 points and 12.4 rebounds. -- MacMahon

10.Houston Rockets

Record: 30-22

Sure, James Harden still occasionally looks to rest on defense, which is understandable considering how hard he works on the other end to score at historic rates. But Harden is also averaging career highs in steals (2.2 per game) and blocks (0.8). "He has great hands. He has great anticipation," Mike D'Antoni said after Harden's six-steal, four-block night in Utah, a dual feat only Draymond Green and Anthony Davis have accomplished among active players. -- MacMahon

11. Utah Jazz

Record: 30-24

The Jazz roared into the week with nine wins in their previous 10 games and then got blown out twice by potential Western Conference playoff foes missing core pieces -- Portland without Jusuf Nurkic and Houston without Chris Paul and Clint Capela. Do those disappointing results add a sense of urgency in Utah's discussions with Memphis about Mike Conley?-- MacMahon

12. Brooklyn Nets

Record: 28-26

Less than two years after Magic Johnson declared he wasn't a leader and traded him to Brooklyn, D'Angelo Russell was named an Eastern Conference All-Star reserve. Russell becomes the first player since Joe Johnson in 2014 to represent the Nets in an All-Star Game. He's a primary factor in the Nets' surge, posting an effective field goal percentage of 56.9 since the calendar flipped to 2019, up from 49.0 prior to New Year's Day.-- Arnovitz

13. Indiana Pacers

Record: 33-19

Since Victor Oladipo went down on Jan. 23, Indiana has struggled mightily on offense. The Pacers have scored 99.4 points per 100 possessions since Jan. 24, the second-worst offensive rating in the league, ahead of only the Knicks in that span. Domantas Sabonis, in particular, has had a rough go, shooting just 33 percent in those five games, down from 62 percent for the season prior to that.-- Herring

14. Sacramento Kings

Record: 27-25

Keep an eye on center Willie Cauley-Stein, who could be a restricted free agent after the 2019-20 season, as Thursday's trade deadline arrives. The 7-foot, 240-pound center is averaging 13.2 points and 8.7 rebounds. The Kings have two young big men to keep an eye on for the future in rookie Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles.-- Spears

15. LA Clippers

Record: 29-25

The Clippers are in a fascinating spot as they approach the trade deadline sitting in the No. 8 seed. They will keep their draft pick only if they fail to qualify for the playoffs (where they'd be heavy underdogs against an elite opponent) and have one of the most valuable commodities in the marketplace -- quality players on reasonable expiring contracts. In a sellers' market, would the Clippers entertain dealing Tobias Harris, the heartbeat of this season's overachieving squad? How aboutPatrick Beverley, a defensive bulldog and proficient long-range threat who could undoubtedly help a contender? -- Arnovitz

16.Los Angeles Lakers

Record: 27-26

Chaos has overwhelmed a Lakers organization with an embattled coach, a superstar at considerably less than 100 percent, grouchy veterans, an itchy front office and a young core that has been told to have a packed bag ready, should the team be fortunate enough to dispose of their services. Amid this, the Lakers find themselves in a fight for the No. 8 seed with not only the Clippers but also the resilient Kings and a Wolves team playing with more confidence.-- Arnovitz

17. Charlotte Hornets

Record: 26-26

When the Hornets host the Clippers on Tuesday, it will be their last home game before the NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 17. Charlotte will then play four road games before All-Star Weekend. Even with the trade deadline coming Thursday, it seems doubtful that the Hornets would trade their only All-Star in free-agent-to-be Kemba Walker.-- Spears

18.Minnesota Timberwolves

Record: 25-27

The Timberwolves and their fans continue to see a roller-coaster ride from greatness back to average with Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins' past six games featured scoring of 10, 31, 16, 28, 40 and 17, respectively. "We'd love to have more from him than what we had tonight," interim coach Ryan Saunders said of Wiggins after a 107-106 loss to Denver on Saturday. -- Spears

19.Dallas Mavericks

Record: 24-28

"We about to have some fun, lil bro!!" Kristaps Porzingis commented on Luka Doncic's Instagram post after the rookie's 35-point, 11-rebound, six-assist performance in Saturday's win over Cleveland. The plan is to err on the side of caution and allow Porzingis -- a year removed from tearing the ACL in his left knee -- to continue rehabbing the rest of the season, so he'll have to wait to play with Doncic. But the kid is a lot of fun to watch.-- MacMahon

20.Miami Heat

Record: 24-27

The Heat have lost three straight games and seven of their past 10. They maintain the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but that's mostly because the three teams behind them in the playoff race are a combined six games under .500 in their past 10 games. The Heat have been struggling on offense, failing to reach the 100-point mark in six of those seven losses, which has been too much for even their strong defense to overcome.-- Snellings

21.Washington Wizards

Record: 22-30

At 22-30, Washington isn't where it'd like to be this late in the season. But don't expect the disappointing first half to result in anything big as the trade deadline approaches. Owner Ted Leonsis said this past week that none of the team's three max players --Bradley Beal, John Wall orOtto Porter Jr.-- will be moved. It's also worth remembering that the Wizards already dealt for Trevor Arizain December, tradingKelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers to get him.-- Herring

22. Detroit Pistons

Record: 22-29

Coach Dwane Casey has been trying an array of starting lineups, hoping to find a rotation that can produce more scoring (the Pistons are tied for the NBA's second-lowest effective field goal percentage). But it hasn't exactly worked. In fact, Detroit has played three games in a row in which a starting wing player has failed to score.-- Herring

23. Orlando Magic

Record: 22-31

The Magic have won two straight games against the Nets and Pacers, both teams ahead of them in the playoff race. They sit three games out of the last playoff spot but have a tough schedule this week, with games at the Thunder and Bucks that will make it difficult for them to make up any ground in the short term.-- Snellings

24.New Orleans Pelicans

Record: 23-20

It's Anthony Davis trade deadline watch week in New Orleans. The Pelicans either begin what could be a long, painful rebuilding process -- see the post-Kevin Garnett-trade Timberwolves -- or enter an extremely awkward purgatory stage for the rest of the season. But no amount of awkwardness should sway New Orleans to take a low-ball offer from the Lakers instead of waiting for the Celtics to make a bid this summer.-- MacMahon

25. Atlanta Hawks

Record: 17-35

Since New Year's Day, Trae Young and John Collins rank third among the NBA's most common pick-and-roll combinations, and they're converting chances at a healthy rate: 12th among the 58 combos with 100 such possessions. (Young and center Dewayne Dedmon rank third in efficiency.) If the Hawks could clean up their turnover epidemic, they'd have an efficient half-court offense that would rank in the top half of the league.-- Arnovitz

26. Memphis Grizzlies

Record: 21-33

Mike Conley and Marc Gasolare doing their parts to help the Grizzlies get value for them in the trade market. They have excelled since Memphis' plan to shop the longtime franchise cornerstones became public, with Conley averaging 23.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 7.8 assists and Gasol putting up 18.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists.-- MacMahon

27.Cleveland Cavaliers

Record: 11-42

Cleveland strung together back-to-back wins for just the second time all season this past week, as backup guard Jordan Clarkson enjoyed showings of 18, 28 and 19 points. If there was a downside, it was that rookie Collin Sexton struggled, logging more shot attempts than points in all three games last week.-- Herring

28. Phoenix Suns

Record: 11-43

When asked about the trade deadline, Suns second-year forward Josh Jackson told The Undefeated last week, "Anything is possible at this point just because of the record." It would be shocking if the Suns considered dealing young stars Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. The Suns do, however, need a veteran point guard.-- Spears

29. Chicago Bulls

Record: 12-41

Forward Wayne Selden has played well lately since replacing injured rookie Chandler Hutchison in the team's starting lineup. He logged 15- and 20-point games against Cleveland and Miami, respectively, and has shot 54 percent from the field and 53 percent from deep in that four-game span.-- Herring

Record: 10-42

The Knicks pulled off the biggest trade in the NBA thus far this season, sending Kristaps Porzingis, leading scorer Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke to the Dallas Mavericks for a package that includes Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan andWesley Matthews. Though the move was made more for the future, each of the three new Knicks could represent an upgrade at a starting position for the Knicks. They've lost 13 straight games and 21 of 22, but they could be mildly more competitive moving forward if the vets get minutes.-- Snellings

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