NBA Power Rankings: March 19, 2016

michael-kidd-gilchristWith the exception of the Golden State Warriors, who’ve been on fire all season, nobody has been hotter than the Charlotte Hornets. They’ve won 15 out of their last 18 games, surging up the Eastern Conference standings into a tie with Miami for the fourth seed. It’s little surprise that Charlotte has also surged up our power rankings as a result! See where they sit this week and take a look at our power rankings from last week as well.

1. Golden State Warriors (62-6); same spot – Three more wins added since last week for the Warriors. They now need to go 11-3 the rest of the way to beat Chicago’s all-time regular-season win total of 72.

2. San Antonio Spurs (58-10); same spot – Big game between the Spurs and Warriors tonight! This is actually just the first of three more meetings between these teams over the next month.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers (49-18); same spot – Cleveland also has a pretty big game as LeBron heads to Miami to face some of his old teammates.

4. Toronto Raptors (47-21); same spot – Toronto has played consistently well over the past couple months. But will it be enough to make up two games on the Cavaliers for the top spot in the East?

russell-westbrook5. Oklahoma City Thunder (47-22); same spot – After a slump last week, OKC is playing good basketball again, winning three straight.

6. LA Clippers (43-24); same spot – Back-to-back blowout losses to Cleveland and San Antonio have the Clippers getting impatient about Blake Griffin’s return.

7. Charlotte Hornets (39-29); up 3 spots – Two months and several injuries ago, this didn’t even look like a playoff team. Now Charlotte sits just half a game behind Atlanta for the third seed.

8. Atlanta Hawks (40-29); up 3 spots – Atlanta has mostly been an afterthought this year. However, they’ve now won 7 out of their last 8 games to move into third in the East.

9. Miami Heat (39-29); down 1 spot – The Heat lost a big game to Charlotte this week and face another tough challenge tonight as they host the Cavs.

10. Boston Celtics (39-30); down 3 spots – After facing six straight opponents who are currently qualified for the playoffs, Boston has come out with five losses and a major drop in the standings. Things won’t get much easier either since 7 out of their last 13 games are against playoff teams.

11. Memphis Grizzlies (39-30); down 2 spots – After a huge win against Cleveland last week, an injury-plagued Memphis has come back down to earth with four straight losses.

indiana-paul-george12. Indiana Pacers (36-32); up 1 spot – The Pacers are finally playing like the team everybody expected them to be. But can they move up in playoff seeding? They’re currently 2.5 games back of Boston for the sixth seed.

13. Portland Trail Blazers (36-34); down 1 spot –
After terrific play following the All-Star break, Portland has stalled and failed to make up much ground on Memphis.

14. Houston Rockets (35-34); up 1 spot – Houston finally looks like their chemistry is coming together. The only problem is that they would face San Antonio in the first round if the playoffs began today.

15. Chicago Bulls (34-33); up 1 spot – Expect Chicago and Detroit to continue flip-flopping for the East’s final postseason spot.

16. Detroit Pistons (35-34); down 2 spots – With the amount of talent that both Detroit and the Bulls have, somebody is going to be bitterly disappointed when they miss the playoffs.

17. Utah Jazz (33-35); up 1 spot – A big home win over Cleveland has helped the Jazz stay in the postseason race. They now sit just a half game behind Dallas.

john-wall18. Washington Wizards (33-35); up 1 spot – Washington looked all but dead after last week, when they dropped five straight contests. But they’ve come roaring back with a three-game win streak.

19. Dallas Mavericks (34-35); down 2 spots – Just 3-7 in their last 10 games, Dallas has now sunk below .500 for the first time since November.

20. Milwaukee Bucks (30-39); same spot – The highlight of Milwaukee’s week was definitely the end-game exchange between John Henson and Memphis’ Matt Barnes.

21. Orlando Magic (29-39); up 1 spot – Despite a career-high 45 points from Victor Oladipo, the Magic couldn’t hold off the Cavaliers last night in what would have been a huge win.

22. Denver Nuggets (28-41); down 1 spot – Denver has unfortunately followed up a 4-game win streak with three straight losses.

23. New York Knicks (28-41); same spot – Many questions surround the Knicks heading into an offseason where they’ll be looking for a new coach and a potential roster overhaul.

24. Sacramento Kings (26-42); same spot – The Kings can’t wait for this nightmare season to end. It’ll be interesting to see if they trade DeMarcus Cousins in the offseason.

25. New Orleans Pelicans (25-43); same spot – It’s not hard to see that New Orleans’ 8-27 road record is their biggest problem this season…that, and all the injuries that have piled up.

26. Minnesota Timberwolves (22-47); same spot – The T-Wolves will be hoping that all their young talent takes a big step up next year.

brook-lopez27. Brooklyn Nets (19-49); same spot
– Lost in this miserable season is that Brook Lopez put together yet another strong season with 20.6 PPG and 8.1 RPG.

28. Phoenix Suns (19-50); up 1 spot – With four wins in their last 10 games, Phoenix is actually playing some respectable basketball right now.

29. L.A. Lakers (14-55); down 1 spot – Just 13 games left in the Kobe Bryant farewell tour. Nice to see that he made it through the year with no major injuries, unlike both 2014 and ’15.

30. Philadelphia 76ers (9-60); same spot – The goal remains the same for Philadelphia; get one more victory and avoid tying the worst mark of all time.

DeMarcus Cousins Trade for Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried?

demarcus-cousins-tradeAn increasing number of reports indicate that George Karl wants the Sacramento Kings to trade their All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins. And a very likely landing destination for Cousins could be the Denver Nuggets.

According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, Karl would like to get point guard Ty Lawson and forward Kenneth Faried in exchange for Cousins. Theoretically, Karl would have the power to make this deal, considering that he’s allowed to make draft picks and “some” trades. However, owner Vivek Ranadive is reportedly blocking any Cousins trade at this time. Here’s a look at comments that Ranadive made to USA Today earlier this week:

“I have no idea where that’s (trade rumors) coming from. But if you like, you should talk to [Kings vice president of basketball and franchise operations] Vlade [Divac], because I know Vlade feels exactly the same way. And I’m deferring to Vlade on everything. We have no interest in moving him. From my perspective, it’s really simple: We feel that he’s a one-of-a-kind player, and we have a group of players right now and we’re going to build on it.”

Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Karl has been trying to get Kings vice president of basketball operations Vlade Divac and several players to back him in convincing Ranadive that Cousins should be traded. Towards the end of last season, Karl stated that any player on the Sacramento roster was available for trade. It then got around to Cousins that Karl was interested in shopping him before the 2015-16 NBA season begins.

demarcus-cousins-trade-1Now there are rumors that the head coach and Cousins haven’t spoken to each other in months. So to try and facilitate this relationship in training camp next season might be a disaster. But on the other hand, Ranadive is very high on the 6’11” center, namely because he can do it all, as his numbers suggest: 24.1 PPG, 12.7 RPG, 1.7 BPG and 3.6 APG. So until the owner is on board, it looks like Cousins is staying put for the time being.

This puts Karl and other Sacramento front office members in an awkward position because if they are allowed to trade Cousins, they’d need to get considerable value back. And while Karl is high on Lawson, the Lawson/Faried combo doesn’t seem like enough to consider this trade a win.

The one thing that Sacramento ownership and Karl seem on the same page with is the direction of the team. Ranadive doesn’t want to rebuild since his team will soon be moving into a new arena. And Karl is closing in on Don Nelson’s record for the most NBA regular-season wins in history. So compiling draft picks and developing young players doesn’t interest him in any trade scenario.

That would make it very hard for the L.A. Lakers to get Cousins. The Lakers seem to have the most interest in him, but their main asset right now is the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming draft. In fact, the Kings may get rid of their own No. 6 pick in order to bring in a solid veteran player. Other teams pursuing Cousins include the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic, and both will also have a difficult time finding the veteran assets that could help Sacramento win now.

In other potential moves, the Kings are interested in signing free agent Rajon Rondo as well as dealing Rudy Gay. Rondo is also interested in the Kings, but they would need to free up some more money to sign him this off season. As for Gay, he’s had two very good seasons in Sacramento along with a friendly 3-year, $40 million deal. So he’s been drawing plenty of interest from other teams this summer.