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NBA Power Rank Week 17: Trades and Injuries Making Difference

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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Feb 20, 2015; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose (1) during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Power Rank Week 17:

The week  coming out of the break was punctuated by the trade deadline, some obvious rust in the first couple games back on the court and a couple of critical injuries/illnesses to key stars.

While the main focus remains making the post season other factors become important through the final stages of the season:

  • Teams will look to build their chemistry on and off the court
  • Focus will be on improving weaknesses (a top team will look to tweak the areas they aren’t performing well in)
  • We’ll start to see top teams resting players or doling out fewer minutes on the court as they look to be at full power by mid April
  • Newly acquired players will be integrated as quickly as possible into team systems
  • Roster tweaks, certain teams will look to test different line-ups with emphasis on determining the best offensive and defensive pairings
  • As teams draw closer to clinching divisions and playoff seeds they will look to test certain play sets on both ends in preparation
  • As the weeks tick and seeds get closer to confirmation teams will look to change seeds as they jockey to face their preferred opponent

As we look at week 17 results, keep in mind new players have joined rosters which will take time to integrate and can effect the overall flow of an offense/defense.  Some teams may be going through an adjustment to a longer All-Star break, in some cases the lack of practice time may make them appear rusty (younger teams) or a bit lost and in others the rest (veteran teams) will have actually helped.

So, with that here are the national media rankings for Houston for week 17:

John Schuhmann list of nba.com: I guess it was too good to be true, Schuhmann had held the Rockets steady for 3 straight weeks, but sends them back down the ladder again.

USA Today:  Week 17: The USA Today Panel didn’t post a ranking list for week 16 but last time out had Rockets in fourth and holds the two teams book ending them steady in third and fifth (Memphis/Toronto). it’s a repeat this week.

ESPN Marc Stein: The last two times out Stein had moved Rockets up and then down a spot apparently feeling they should rank between 7 and 8.  This week he decides to hold them steady at 8, however it certainly doesn’t feel like he sees the promise of the Rockets without Howard. Watch for the coming week for Stein to move them up following their winning streak of week 18.

As per Stein’s working partner John Hollinger doesn’t provide weekly rankings, rather he provides a daily adjusted list using the strength of schedule margin of defeat/victory and margin of victories over last 25% of games. This week he moved Houston up and down from 9 and 10. We’ll see if they beat Cleveland on Sunday whether this mark changes.

Rounding out our national media group is Matt Moore of CBS. He didn’t have a list in week 16 but ranked the Rockets 4th in week 15 his last time out. This time around he’s dropped them all the way to 7th curiously.

Basically the average appears to be 7th with a high of 4th and low of 10th.

Feb 28, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (R) talks with NBA referee Steve Anderson (L) during the second half against the Atlanta Hawks at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Tamberlyn’s Top 10:

Trade Deadline:

Immediately following the swell of trades that occurred in what seemed to be a 3-minute window we were left asking ourselves 2 questions:

1) what’s up with all the point guard trades

2) did Phoenix just decide to start all over? If not what are they doing?

I mean seriously to allow the Goran Dragic situation to get so far out of hand and then to complicate matters by also shedding Isaiah Thomas just because Dragic wanted him gone made very little sense. Especially because his contract was so reasonable and the Suns are still fighting to grab that 8th seed. Perhaps they decided that now Thomas knew he was on the market it was time to get rid of him before they were in the same situation. If you buy what the Suns are selling they always wanted Brandon Knight, but prior to his break through this season I think it’s fair to say no one thought that way. Now the Suns are even smaller and seem to be reeling.  Suffice to say they won’t make my top 10.

Once you got over the shock of what happened in Phoenix you can settle in to review the 37 trades and see who made the biggest moves and subsequently improved:

But the team who killed the trade deadline in one trade that occurred between 3 teams was Oklahoma City: they added Enes Kanter to shore up the front court and to replace exiting Kendrick Perkins. Then they added two 3-point sharp shooters Steve Novak and Kyle Singler. However the key to the trade was to oust malcontent Reggie Jackson (going to Detroit) who wanted to run his own team and in return the Thunder nabbed a very stable back up point guard D.J. Augustin who literally is a better fit for OKC given he offers a different style of point guard who can change the pace of the game from Russell Westbrook.

Injuries:

  • Terrible news out of the Miami Heat camp concerning Chris Bosh and the fact this illness (blood clots on lungs) seems to be happening more often makes you wonder why it’s occurring. Sounds like there needs to be some investigation into the situation.
  • Despite sitting out the All-Star game Anthony Davis remains out with the shoulder injury
  • Kevin Durant underwent another procedure on his foot due to pain from the screw inserted. Unlike other injuries I think a healthy and more importantly RESTED Durant is going to cause major concerns for the Thunder opponents come April.
  • New Derrick Rose would undergo the knife AGAIN for the a torn meniscus in his right knee AGAIN had everyone freaking out for the Bulls chances, but now they say he could return in 4 to 6 weeks. Personally it feels like we’ll never see him return to his MVP form and he’ll never be able to hit the court without everyone thinking that will be his last play of a competitive game
  • Russell Westbrook’s odd injury to his face stopped short a run of OH MY GOODNESS this February. I mean if he hadn’t missed those games due to the broken hand I say he would be the guy in the conversation with Harden not Curry. As it stands James Harden has EARNED the MVP without Howard in the line-up given Steph Curry has Klay Thompson, Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala and under appreciated Draymond Green. All players who could ask and get max contracts. Harden on the other hand has Howard who hasn’t played but kept the Rockets top 3 in the West no less.
  • Now suddenly a mysterious shoulder injury has taken Kyrie Irving out of the line-up in Cleveland only proving my point that he isn’t durable and will fold like a cheap suit in the playoffs the minute a tough team defends him with shall we say a bit more aggressiveness. He hasn’t proven he can play through pain and in my opinion he isn’t a prototypical tough guy.
  • Dwight Howard remains out with his knee injury and continues to work toward a return with the Rockets showing no slippage in his absence
  • Blake Griffin remains out with DeAndre Jordan stepping up huge in his absence making me wonder whether Jordan will draw max contract consideration in the summer. Further, the fact LAC played so well without Griffin has to have the Clipper brass wondering if it’s time to test the water in the summer for what Griffin might bring back should they shop him to say New York  and a third party? Certainly Doc Rivers needs to do something to upgrade his depleted bench which as it stands won’t get them past the first round.
  • Don’t look now but Paul George is practicing with the Pacers and they’ve suddenly been the team who sprinted past all the wannabee contenders into the 8th seed. If the playoffs started today Indy and Atlanta would face off again and you have to wonder what Indiana’s size would do to the small front court of the Hawks!

 The Ranking:

The new lists will be up for week 18 today so I’ll save my hyperbole for them since teams won’t shuffle much:

1. Golden State (up from second)

2. Memphis (were first)

3. Houston (were fifth)

4. Atlanta (were third)

5. Portland (were six)

6. Cleveland (were ninth)

7. Dallas (were eighth)

8. Toronto (were fourth)

9. Chicago (remain ninth)

10. San Antonio (were eighth

Next: Who won the trade deadline?

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