PBT's Week 16 NBA Power Rankings: Clippers remain on top, Celtics second

Lots of trade talk in this edition of the NBC Sports NBA Power Rankings, but that doesn't change the top where not only are the Clippers still on top but the top four teams have not moved.

1. Los Angeles Clippers (34-15, Last Week No. 1). There's the James Harden trade and Tyrone Lue's coaching, plus a lot of little things, but the primary catalyst behind the Clippers surge of success this season is far more straightforward: Last Friday night Paul George and Kawhi Leonard set a personal record for the most minutes they've played together as a duo in a season. Health is why these Clippers, as of Wednesday, are tied for the top seed in the West. They just went 6-1 on their Grammy road trip and are playing as well as anyone in the league. Don't expect significant trade deadline action from L.A., the Clippers made their big move with Harden.

2. Boston Celtics (38-12, LW 2). With the best record in the NBA and arguably the best roster, the Celtics were never going to do much at the trade deadline. They added Grizzlies' big man Xavier Tillman for a couple of second-round picks, which is a quality depth pickup. Also, there have been rumors of their interest in former lottery pick Kris Dunn (of the Jazz), but anything Boston does is just a depth move. The most interesting game of the week for Celtics fans is at Miami on Sunday — day games after spending the night in South Beach have tripped up many a team.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers (32-16, LW 3). Nobody around the league is talking much about Cleveland at the trade deadline, they are going to stay quiet, take this roster into the playoffs and see if they learned their lessons from getting smacked around by the Knicks last year. Then this summer comes the hard decisions. Cleveland won last season with their defense, and over their 14-1 run it has been the defense again, a 104.8 defensive rating in that stretch that is 2.2 per 100 better than anyone in the league (the Knicks are second). Combine that with Donovan Michell's scoring and the Cavs win a lot of games.

4. New York Knicks (33-18, LW 4). No Julius Randle for a few weeks (dislocated shoulder) hurts, and you could see it in the loss to the Lakers. One of the consistent things the Knicks could lean on for easy buckets was Randle backing someone in the post — either he got the shot or kicked out for an open 3. Those shots will be harder to come by for a few weeks. The Knicks have been looking to add depth at the trade deadline and have been the most mentioned team in the Bruce Brown sweepstakes with Toronto, but we'll see if a deal gets done. There are good tests against Dallas and Indiana this week.

5. Minnesota Timberwolves (35-16, LW 5). The Timberwolves would love to add some depth behind Mike Conley at the point and have been linked to Bones Hyland (Clippers), Dennis Schroder (Raptors) and Kyle Lowry (Hornets) as possible deals (because they are over the tax apron, Minnesota can't wait for Lowry to be bought out then sign him on the buyout market). The Timberwolves lost in Chicago Tuesday to start a five-game road trip before the All-Star break, and the next two will be tough facing the Bucks and Clippers.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder (35-16, LW 7). The buzz has been not to expect anything dramatic from the Thunder at the trade deadline — they have a deep, talented but young team and want to see what they will do in the playoffs (I'm not sure they have the bulk to deal with Nikola Jokic... but who can deal with him?). At some point they will use their massive stockpile of draft picks to add some talent, but not this deadline. This is not a franchise facing the pressure of Father Time like some others. Fun showdown this Saturday against Luka Doncic and the Mavericks.

7. Denver Nuggets (35-16, LW 6). We think of the Nuggets coasting through this season, waiting to flip the switch for the playoffs, but at this point last season they were 35-16 (it's just a year ago that had them in first by 2.5 games). This is the same Nuggets, and they remain the team to beat in the West during the postseason — they set the bar. Denver would love to add some depth to their rotation but any move they make at the trade deadline is likely on the fringes. They have been linked to Delon Wright, for example. However, this team will mostly ride into the playoffs with what they've got.

8. Phoenix Suns (30-21, LW 10). Phoenix would love to add depth, specifically more defenders, at the trade deadline. However, with everything they spent to land Bradley Beal and Kevin Durant, all the Suns can really offer is Nasir Little, a veteran minimum salary like Bol Bol, and a second-round pick or two. Maybe that nets you Kris Dunn (out of Utah, a former lottery pick) but that's about it. Phoenix is hot, having won 10-of-13, with a stretch of four winnable games before the All-Star break (the Warriors and Kings are the best of them).

9. New Orleans Pelicans (29-21, LW 14). No, the Pelicans are not trading Zion Williamson. Maybe because the market is slow there are people desperate for clicks, but that was never on the table. New Orleans did reach out to Brooklyn about Mikal Bridges and the Cavs about Jarrett Allen but were shot down, neither is available. The Pelicans have been in some talks about trades of just draft picks, but don't expect a trade for a player that moves the needle. New Orleans is on the road for the next four, including both Los Angeles teams.

10. Milwaukee Bucks (33-18, LW 9). The Bucks are 1-4 under Doc Rivers with a -3.5 net rating in that stretch... yet things really are looking better. Most importantly, their defense, while not great, is nearly four points per 100 possessions better since Rivers took over. Give it time, the Bucks seem headed in the right direction. Milwaukee is looking to add some depth at the trade deadline and the buzz around the league is they are being aggressive, going after name players like Andrew Wiggins. Milwaukee is feeling the win-now pressure.

11. Indiana Pacers (29-23, LW 11). Indiana already made its big trade play, bringing in Pascal Siakam, but there is buzz about another possible deal. Buddy Hield is an expiring $19.3 million contract and a sharpshooter, and there is interest in him around the league, particularly from the 76ers, who could use the depth if they are going to make a run this season (assuming Joel Embiid returns). Consider it something to watch, if the Pacers are not going to re-sign Hield they have to consider it. The Pacers need some wins to maintain the No. 6 seed with the Heat and Magic, which they can get this week against the Warriors and Hornets (the Knicks will be tougher).

12. Sacramento Kings (29-20, LW 12). First things first: Not getting either Domantas Sabonis or De'Aaron Fox on the West All-Star Team was a huge snub. Both were deserving, one was likely to miss out just based on the numbers game (only 12 roster spots), but both is a slap to the face. On the trade front, the Kings have been linked to a number of players who could step into Harrison Barnes' role, most specifically Kyle Kuzma. Delon Wright is another name linked to them. The Kings have won 6-of-8 but have real tests this weekend against the Thunder and Nuggets.

13. Philadelphia 76ers (30-19, LW 8). Any moves the 76ers make at the deadline are directly tied to the likelihood of Joel Embiid returning for the playoffs (he's being re-evaluated in a month, but there are a lot of questions and we are just two months out from the start of the playoffs). The buzz has been that the Sixers' front office does not want to bring in a player who messes with this summer's max cap space, but that's where a Buddy Hield trade works, he's an expiring contract. If Philly makes a deadline move, expect it to be one that does not tie up future money.

14. Los Angeles Lakers (27-25, LW 16). As always, there is drama around the Lakers at the trade deadline — LeBron James is passive-aggressively asking for a bold move, but honestly what move is available that turns this Lakers season around? Is Dejounte Murray the kind of upgrade worth a first-round pick? Don't let all this drama overshadow the unveiling of Kobe Bryant's statue outside Arena this Thursday night, which will be an emotional ceremony and evening (the Lakers host the Nuggets that night).

15. Dallas Mavericks (28-23, LW 13). Dallas has been one of the most aggressive teams at the trade deadline looking for scoring (really, two-way) help on the wing. They have most been liked to Kyle Kuzma and P.J. Washington, but the price has kept them from reaching a deal so far. (The Andrew Wiggins discussions never really gained traction.) Kyrie Irving returned, played in a back-to-back so he could make his Brooklyn return, and dropped 36 in a win. A couple of real tests this week on the court for the Mavericks against the Knicks and Thunder.

16. Miami Heat (27-24, LW 18). Miami made its move already bringing in Terry Rozier, and while there are some rumblings about another small deal, they most likely ride with what they have — and hopefully a more aggressive Jimmy Butler. So far the Rozier trade has not worked out, he's averaging 11.7 points a game on 32.9% shooting overall and 21.9% from 3, but if the Clippers taught us anything it's to give these kind of acquisitions time to mesh. After losing seven in a row the Heat have started to turn the ship and won 3-of-4, but big tests come this week against Boston and Milwaukee.

17. Orlando Magic (27-24, LW 15). Orlando has won 3-of-4, with some winnable games coming up (Spurs, Bulls), and suddenly the trade talk around the Magic seems to have quieted down. It's fair to ask if the best long-term move for this young team is to let this group go through a postseason push (they sit as the No. 8 seed as of this writing) and learn from it? Maybe they bring in a veteran salary dump in a trade or sign someone on the buyout market, but the best move might be to let this young core take its lumps and learn.

18. Utah Jazz (26-26, LW 17). Utah has made one good deal at the deadline, sending out a proven rotation player but not someone in the team's long-term plans in Simone Fontecchio to the Pistons for a high second-round pick (the Wizards 2024 pick). That's a good rebuilding strategy. Expect Kelly Olynyk to be traded before the deadline, and maybe Jordan Clarkson, although that seems a longer shot at this point. Suns, Warriors, and Lakers are on tap for the Jazz this week.

19. Golden State Warriors (22-25, LW 21). It's a strange thing to think it took almost half a season for a four-time champion to find its identity, and when it finally did, it was with something that was always at the heart of what made them tick: Draymond Green at center. In his last five games, while the Warriors are 3-2 overall they are +63 when he is on the floor. Coach Steve Kerr said the Warriors' defense is better and they just play faster with Green on the court because of his passing. Green isn't going anywhere but the Warriors have been active in the run-up to the trade deadline, and while they have shopped Andrew Wiggins teams have been hesitant to take him on after his play this season and his new contract (he has looked better since Green's return).

20. Chicago Bulls (24-27, LW 19). The most likely Bull to be traded before the deadline is Andre Drummond, which is a little strange. Why keep Alex Caruso and not get something back from a playoff team? Are they really going to re-sign 34-year-old DeMar DeRozan this offseason? I get there wasn't the market they expected for Zach LaVine, but why did that slow talks on everyone else? What is the long-term plan with the Bulls, what are they trying to build? Way more questions than answers in Chicago.

21. Houston Rockets (23-27, LW 20). One of the more interesting developments around the trade deadline (at least to me) was that Jalen Green was now available in the right deal (for someone like Mikal Bridges, but the Nets were not laying ball). Houston continues down a path of picking up the pace on their rebuild and if guys are not working out as envisioned – Green, for example — they are moving on. They did make the Steven Adams trade, which shows some patience and an eye toward next season. As a side note, Amen Thompson is playing like someone gaining confidence of late.

22. Atlanta Hawks (22-28, LW 22). The Hawks were at the center of trade talks for much of the run-up to the trade deadline, yet here we are, and it looks like Dejounte Murray and Bogdan Bogdanovic — as well as the majority of other Hawks players — are going nowhere. It looks like a quiet deadline in Atlanta. Good to see the Commissioner put Trae Young into the All-Star Game, he deserved it (this is the second year in a row the coaches left Young out of the reserves. It's a tough week ahead on the court with Boston, then at Philadelphia up next.

23. Brooklyn Nets (20-30, LW 23). There was a lot of Brooklyn trade chatter, mostly with teams calling about Mikal Bridges and getting shot down. Brooklyn sees him as part of the future. However, it's very possible Royce O'Neale and/or Dorian Finney-Smith are in new homes by Friday. Tough week on the court for the Nets who face Cleveland, Wembanyama and the Spurs, then the Celtics.

24. Portland Trail Blazers (15-35, LW 27). When Malcolm Brogdon was traded to Portland in the Damian Lillard deal, it was widely expected he would be quickly flipped in another trade. Now, it looks like he and Jerami Grant will still be Blazers after the deadline. Part of that is while nobody was looking the Blazers have been playing well, winning 7-of-11, with Deandre Ayton looking a lot more comfortable and Scoot Henderson starting to find a rhythm (although he still has a long way to go). That hot play will be tested by the Pelicans and Timberwolves this week.

25. Memphis Grizzlies (18-33, LW 24). Memphis has made one trade deadline move, sending Xavier Tillman to Boston for a couple of second-round picks. That is a win for both sides. Boston gets reliable frontcourt help, and Memphis gets a couple of picks for a player not part of their future. Of course, that trades away a healthy player and Memphis has been light of those — they had 13 players ruled out Sunday (a loss to Boston). They have their two-way players up and a couple of guys on 10-day hardship deals just to fill out the roster for games.

26. Toronto Raptors (17-33, LW 25). Toronto is expected to make another trade or two at the deadline, specifically sending out Bruce Brown (almost a lock to be traded) and Gary Trent Jr. (less certain but possible). Scottie Barnes deservingly was named an All-Star this week, but there have been games lately where his fit next to Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett has not been smooth. This is where it falls on Darko Rajakovic to make sure the offensive pecking order is clear.

27. San Antonio Spurs (10-40, LW 26). While the Spurs have made veterans Doug McDermott and Cedi Osman available, it's largely expected they will be quiet during the trade deadline – this is a young team that's growing and can afford to be patient. One rumor has been the Spurs interest in Wizards point guard Tyus Jones. Worth noting that Victor Wembanyama is now averaging 20.4 points and 10.3 rebounds a game — he's a 20/10 guy as a rookie. That's insane.

28. Washington Wizards (9-40, LW 28). Expected to be one of the big sellers at the trade deadline — Kyle Kuzma and Tyus Jones, in particular — the Wizards may stand pat at the trade deadline. The idea is less that those guys have become part of the long-term future and more that nobody would meet their price and Washington thinks there will be a better market for them this offseason. But if Washington could get first-round picks (in 2025 or beyond) shouldn't they jump at it? Is the market going to get better?

29. Detroit Pistons (6-43, LW 29). Detroit made a move, adding Simone Fontecchio from Utah and sending out Kevin Knox (salary ballast) and a valuable second-round pick to get him (Washington's 2024, so likely the 31-35 range). Fontecchio is a solid rotation player that can help the Pistons right now, and he is a restricted free agent this offseason. He's 28 and not part of the long-term plans, but for a team trying to win games and avoid the negative side of history, he helps.

30. Charlotte Hornets (10-39, LW 30). Despite having lost eight in a row there is a bright spot in Charlotte: In his last 10 games, rookie Brandon Miller is averaging 23.6 points per game. Most of those games have been without a true point guard on the floor, either, he has had to do his own shot creation and is finding a rhythm in the NBA. On the trade front, there has been a lot of Miles Bridges rumors, particularly to the Suns, and if Charlotte isn't going to bring him back they should trade him for whatever they can get (keep him past the deadline and then they need re-sign him).