The month of January can be a boring time in the NBA, but that's definitely not the case in 2017.
Between Carmelo Anthony trade rumors, LeBron James-generated drama, and the continued dominance of the Golden State Warriors, there's plenty to talk about just weeks before the All-Star Game (and the trade deadline). So without further delay, here are this week's NBA power rankings.
Derick E. HingleUSA TODAY Sports
Brooklyn Nets (previous ranking: 30)
Good news for Brook Lopez: the NBA trade deadline is a little over three weeks away, which means just three more weeks of hearing your name endlessly floated in trade rumors.
Los Angeles Lakers (26)
As FOX Sports NBA Insider Chris Broussard recently pointed out on The Herd, the Lakers aren't tanking, technically. They're just playing all of their young guys and losing a ton of games as a result.
What's the difference, you might ask? Tanking involves a plan; the Lakers are taking it one day at a time.
Phoenix Suns (28)
Suns GM Ryan McDonough admitted the next week or so will determine whether Phoenix hangs onto its veterans — or if the Suns will be active at the trade deadline. Believe it or not, Eric Bledsoe & Co. are still just five games back of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Miami Heat (29)
I never thought I would say this, but Dion Waiters is exactly what the Heat need: an entertaining scorer who can sell tickets while Miami is playing miserable overall basketball.
Minnesota Timberwolves (27)
Karl-Anthony Towns might have been an All-Star snub, but it's hard to make an argument for Towns over the other Western Conference bigs when he failed to take a step forward in his second season. There's always next year, KAT.
NBAE via Getty ImagesDavid Sherman
Dallas Mavericks (25)
The Mavericks are one step closer to their new "dream" arena, which is great. Unfortunately, there's a catch — they might not be able to make the move for another dozen years or so.
Patience is a virtue, Mr. Cuban.
Orlando Magic (23)
Magic GM Rob Hennigan said what we're all thinking this week: Orlando will be "very aggressive" on the trade market ahead of the deadline. The question is whether they'll be buyers, sellers, or (somehow) both.
Sacramento Kings (24)
It's great that DeMarcus Cousins seems settled in Sacramento these days, but a bigger problem for the Kings remains. Owner Vivek Ranadive reportedly has no interest in letting basketball decision-makers do their jobs.
USA TODAY SportsEd Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
New York Knicks (18)
Despite wanting to get rid of him, the Knicks are probably stuck with Carmelo Anthony, according to Chris Broussard — unless, of course, Phil Jackson is willing to take back 75 cents on the dollar for the New York superstar.
The Pelicans have a conundrum. On the one hand, Anthony Davis is clearly at his best playing center. On the other, he keeps getting injured trying to bang against true big men. At this point, New Orleans has no choice but to hope those nagging pains are just a coincidence.
Chicago Bulls (20)
The Chicago Bulls are an absolute disaster, and the biggest problem is everyone saw it coming before the season started. If Rajon Rondo is still on the team by the All-Star break, we'll be absolutely shocked.
Detroit Pistons (16)
The Pistons continue to rely on the strength of their defense, which is a top-ten unit this season. Until Detroit can start drawing (and making) free throws, though, there's a low ceiling on the Pistons' potential. Detroit is in the bottom five in both free throw rate and percentage. If you can't take advantage of free points, you'll never be an above-average offense.
Portland Trail Blazers (19)
As if one All-Star snub weren't enough, both Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum had cases to make the Western Conference roster. We can't wait to see how they respond to the perceived slight.
Indiana Pacers (13)
Paul George had a clear message for booing Pacers fans recently: while that's your right, players perform better when they're motivated by cheers — so think about what you're actually doing when you decide to jeer.
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Milwaukee Bucks (14)
Giannis Antetokounmpo gets all the attention, but he's not the only Buck representing Milwaukee at All-Star weekend. Malcolm Brogdon will take part in the Rising Stars Challenge as one of the best young players in the NBA, and he's our darkhorse pick to win MVP honors in that game.
... they do give out an MVP award, right?
Philadelphia 76ers (21)
There's no longer any debate to be had here: the Philadelphia 76ers absolutely have to keep Nerlens Noel. I'm not saying they need to move Jahlil Okafor, necessarily, but Noel and Joel Embiid are perfect together. Do not break them up, Philly. Please.
Los Angeles Clippers (12)
If the Clippers really can turn J.J. Redick or Jamal Crawford (or both, even) into Carmelo Anthony via a trade with the Knicks, then a.) Doc Rivers is a wizard and b.) maybe L.A. can give the Warriors a run for their money in the playoffs.
Denver Nuggets (17)
Nikola Jokic really is a point guard in a center's body. He recently told reporters just how much he loves finding the open man, and the Nuggets center's favorite player of all time is Magic Johnson.
Denver has a real one in Jokic.
Charlotte Hornets (15)
We're hyped for Kemba Walker and his All-Star selection, but the Hornets point guard couldn't help pointing out that the nod is bittersweet since the game was moved from Charlotte to New Orleans. Walker really wishes he could celebrate with the home fans in February.
Atlanta Hawks (11)
It was a solid week for the Hawks, but we can't move Atlanta up the rankings just because they beat up on the lowly Bulls. Sorry, Hawks fans.
Memphis Grizzlies (10)
Congratulations to Marc Gasol on a well-deserved All-Star berth. Now, if only he can convince Conor McGregor to sit courtside in New Orleans, we'll really have a party on our hands.
Toronto Raptors (6)
The Raptors' recent losing streak is bad news, of course, but it's not just the losses that should concern Toronto. Dwane Casey's team continues to struggle against offensively skilled big men (like the aforementioned Gasol), which could spell disaster if the Raptors face Al Horford and the Celtics in the postseason.
Boston Celtics (7)
Speaking of the Celtics, we're all for Isaiah Thomas' fantastic offensive play this season and his All-Star selection. Really, though, Boston needs to rediscover its identity as a hard-nosed defensive team if it wants to make any noise in the Eastern Conference.
Greg M. CooperUSA TODAY Sports
Washington Wizards (9)
Bradley Beal summed up the Wizards' turnaround this week, and it's not complicated: “We are realizing we can’t win unless we play defense,” Beal said. “Our defense has been terrific ever since our slow start. We have plenty of guys that can score and make plays. We trust our offense. We have to do a better job of trusting our defense.”
Oklahoma City Thunder (8)
We're genuinely hoping Enes Kanter has a speedy recovery from his hand/forearm injury ... but honestly, who breaks their arm punching a chair?!
Oh well. Now, Russell Westbrook will just have to carry even more of the burden for the Thunder. We can't wait.
Cleveland Cavaliers (2)
There's no reason for the Cavaliers to truly panic. They'll be just fine in June, assuming they get through this regular season at full health.
If Cleveland does want to take some of the load off of LeBron and Kyrie Irving, though, here's our solution: Bring the King off the bench.
Let Kyrie and Kevin Love carry the starters, featuring Love as the offensive cog in the high post and Irving as the primary scorer. Then bring LeBron off the pine for ~20 minutes per game, letting him destroy opposing reserve units.
It's unorthodox, sure, but it would work.
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Utah Jazz (5)
We don't want to be greedy, but Gordon Hayward's All-Star selection wasn't enough. Rudy Gobert absolutely should have made the team as well.
Unfortunately, we don't recognize defensive monsters as stars in the NBA.
Houston Rockets (3)
Daryl Morey perfectly explains how NBA front office should approach roster-building when he detailed just how the Rockets improved so quickly this offseason: First and foremost, try to add a true superstar. If you can't do that, ignore the second- and third-level scorers and instead focus on players with skill sets that fill your needs.
It's not rocket science, but too many teams ignore that simple, practical advice.
NBAE/Getty ImagesBill Baptist
San Antonio Spurs (4)
Based just on his offense this season, it's tough to call LaMarcus Aldridge an All-Star snub, per se. He's criminally underrated on defense these days, though, and his all-around game is a big reason the Spurs are currently the second-best team in the NBA (even if no one is paying attention to San Antonio).