NBA Power Rankings: Feb 13, 2016

gregg-popovich-lebronWe’ve hit the All-Star break, and there are 30 games left in the season. Golden State has a pretty firm grasp on the league’s top record (48-4), so it won’t be a surprise if they eventually lock up home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. It’s also no surprise that they once again top our power rankings just over halfway through the season. See where everybody else ranks below, and here are last week’s power rankings.

1. Golden State Warriors (48-4); same spot – The only question now remains if the Warriors will beat the ’96 Chicago Bulls’ regular season mark of 73-9. Golden State is on pace to accomplish the feat.

2. San Antonio Spurs (45-8); same spot – LeBron James recently said that he wishes he could spend lots of time around Gregg Popovich. It’s little wonder why when you consider how Popovich just seems to win every year.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder (40-14); same spot – OKC may not catch either San Antonio or Golden State before the year is over. But they definitely can’t be overlooked once the postseason starts.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers (38-14); same spotCleveland Cavs trade rumors are a daily story right now. Ben McLemore, Trevor Ariza and Kyle Korver are all reported targets of the Cavaliers.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Dallas Mavericks5. Toronto Raptors (35-17); same spot – Raptors stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan get to stick around their home city for the All-Star game. Then it’s back to work trying to catch Cleveland in the East.

6. Boston Celtics (32-23); up 2 spots – Boston continues to surge up the standings, with big wins over the Clippers and Cavs. Now rumors have them thinking about Al Horford in the trade market.

7. LA Clippers (35-18); down 1 spot – L.A. still remains in the upper echelon of the league while Blake Griffin sits. Unfortunately, Griffin will sit four games longer after he’s healed due to a suspension.

8. Memphis Grizzlies (31-22); down 1 spot – Memphis has a tough game coming up in Toronto on the 21st of this month.

9. Atlanta Hawks (31-24); up 1 spot – The Hawks may be talking about taking their team apart, but that hasn’t stopped them from winning.

10. Miami Heat (29-24); down 1 spot – Miami goes into the break with a two-game losing streak, but they have a chance to make up for it by playing Atlanta after the break.

11. Dallas Mavericks (29-26); up 1 spot – The Mavericks can boost their record with games against the Magic and 76ers coming out of the break.

12. Indiana Pacers (28-25); up 1 spot – Now a healthy team, perhaps Indiana can climb back up the Eastern Conference standings.

michael-kidd-gilchrist13. Charlotte Hornets (27-26); up 4 spots – The Hornets are playing their best basketball of the season and once again resembling the playoff team they looked like in November and December.

14. Chicago Bulls (27-25); down 3 spots – Chicago is playing worse than any legitimate playoff team right now with four straight losses.

15. Utah Jazz (26-26); up 1 spot – Much like their location, the Utah Jazz aren’t a flashy team. However, they have good chemistry and continue holding down a playoff seed.

16. Portland Trailblazers (25-27); up 3 spots – The Trail Blazers have played a couple more games than most teams, which lightens their load in the second half of the season.

17. Detroit Pistons (27-28); down 3 spots – Detroit definitely has the talent to win, but they haven’t found a way to put together consistent play for long stretches.

18. Houston Rockets (27-28); down 3 spots – Houston is a team at a crossroads between deciding if they want to build around James Harden, or dismantle the team and get draft picks/young players in return.

john-wall-wizards19. Washington Wizards (23-28); down 1 spot – The Wizards have a pretty solid core, but injuries have kept them from putting things together.

20. Orlando Magic (23-29); same spot – Orlando has played solid against the West, but they’re just 13-19 against their own conference.

21. Denver Nuggets (22-32); up 2 spots – Emmanuel Mudiay has gradually gotten better now that he’s healthy.

22. New York Knicks (23-32); down 1 spot – The big rumor now is that Carmelo Anthony could be on his way to Cleveland. But we’ll believe it when we see it.

23. Sacramento Kings (22-31); down 1 spot – Once in the thick of the playoff hunt, Sacramento has gone just 2-8 in their last 10 games.

24. Milwaukee Bucks (22-32); same spot – Milwaukee has a nice young core, but they need veteran role players around this talent.

tyreke-evans-trade25. New Orleans Pelicans (20-33); same spot – The Pelicans got the bad news that Tyreke Evans will miss the rest of the season after knee surgery.

26. Minnesota Timberwolves (17-37); same spot – Andrew Wiggins and Zach Lavine were undoubtedly the stars of the Rising Stars Challenge.

27. Brooklyn Nets (14-40); same spot – Joe Johnson reportedly isn’t interested in a contract buyout, so he’ll likely remain with Brooklyn until his deal ends.

28. Phoenix Suns (14-40); same spot – Phoenix currently owns the league’s longest losing streak at 9.

29. L.A. Lakers (11-44); same spot – Kobe Bryant gets one last chance to be in the All-Star game. Then it’s back to the dismal reality of playing his final season with one of the NBA’s worst team.

30. Philadelphia 76ers (8-45); same spot – The Sixers have a 6-16 record against the West, but they’re just 2-29 against their own conference.

5 Cleveland Cavs Trade Targets

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles LakersThe Cleveland Cavaliers are eyeing an NBA title, but they know improvements are necessary in order to beat the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs. So they’re actively trying to upgrade their roster through numerous trade talks. Timofey Mozgov and a $10.5 million trade exception have frequently come up in trade rumors, but the question remains what the Cavs want in return. Recent reports have shed light on whom Cleveland thinks will bolster their chances, so let’s look at 5 trade targets as well as a potential contract-buyout player who could find their way to the Cavs.

1. Ben McLemore, SG Sacramento Kings

The Cavs need more outside shooting to contend with Golden State, and they’re looking in the direction of Kings shooting guard Ben McLemore. The 23-year-old, who was picked seventh in the 2013 NBA Draft, is playing a career-low 21 minutes per game. However, he’s also shooting a career-best 37.2% from the three-point line. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that agents want to get their clients out of the toxic situation in Sacramento. Shooting guard is a position that Cleveland has solid depth at with both J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. But if Smith chooses to leave in free agency this summer, McLemore is an adequate replacement who’d also contribute this year too.

2. Jared Dudley, SF Washington Wizards

jared-dudley-cavsOne player that Cleveland would reportedly “love” to get on their roster is Jared Dudley. A CBS report explains that the Cavaliers have been actively seeking a trade for Dudley. This move definitely makes sense for the Cavs since the 8-year veteran could provide nice depth at forward, and he shoots 46.6% from three-point territory. The issue here remains what the Wizards would get in return for Dudley. They don’t really need Mozgov, but perhaps they’d go for the Cavs’ trade exception or expiring contracts.

kyle-korver-cleveland3. Kyle Korver, SF Atlanta Hawks

We mentioned Korver being a possible trade in a recent article because Atlanta is taking calls for the veteran small forward. Although NBC Sports believes that any of the first three players mentioned in this article are long shots for Cleveland, Korver isn’t such a crazy proposition. Only a contender would want the 34-year-old and his numbers are down as well. So perhaps some of the Cavaliers’ limited trade assets could tempt the Hawks. But Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer does like Korver quite a bit.

4. Trevor Ariza, SF Houston Rockets

Ariza is another player who was mentioned in the NBC report. Cleveland could really benefit from adding a multi-skilled veteran like Ariza at forward. And the 30-year-old would certainly help with outside shooting since he hits three’s at a 37.7% clip. But what would Cleveland send over in a trade? Houston is a franchise at a crossroads, meaning they might look to surround James Harden with different talent or completely blow up their roster. In the latter case, maybe draft picks and/or the trade exception would interest the Rockets.

5. Omer Asik, C New Orleans Pelicans

ESPN’s Brian Windhortst tweeted that Cleveland is also interested in Omer Asik, which doesn’t really make much sense. The Turkish player definitely rebounds well in limited minutes, but he doesn’t really offer anything more than the combination of Mozgov and Anderson Varejao. In fact, one could argue that both of these players are on par or even better than Asik at this point. And with the Cavs looking to run more these days, we can’t seem them having much use for Asik.

joe-johnson-netsContract Buyout: Joe Johnson

There were rumors last year that the Cavaliers could look to acquire Joe Johnson before the deadline. That never happened, but the 6’7″ small forward remains on Cleveland’s radar. In fact, Fear the Sword reported that the Cavs would “snatch up” Johnson. The key here, though, would be Johnson agreeing to a buyout with the Brooklyn Nets. But the drawback for him would be taking far less in the buyout than the back half of the $24.9 million salary he’s earning this year. Don’t expect Johnson to give away upwards of $10 million for the ‘chance’ at a championship.