Posted: Tuesday March 13, 2012 11:45AM ; Updated: Tuesday March 13, 2012 5:57PM
Britt Robson
Britt Robson>NBA POWER RANKINGS

Top teams hold pat as trade rumors continue to run rampant

Story Highlights

The Bulls, Thunder, Heat remain on top as trade rumors hover over other teams

The struggling Knicks have fell six spots to No. 22 after losing six straight games

Future trades could alter the picture for cornerstone franchises, big-name players

Is it the calm before the storm or simply the wafting away of a lot of hot air with all the trade rumors ahead of Thursday's deadline. Some of the biggest names in the game -- Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Rajon Rondo, Andrew Bogut, Monta Ellis -- may be on the move. Some of the NBA's cornerstone franchises, like the Celtics and the Lakers, are reportedly primed for a roster shakeup to either give them a shot at a last hurrah or hasten their rebuilding process.

But 48 hours before the deadline and ? nothing.

Almost certainly some players will change teams in the near future, personnel moves that will have an impact on the Power Rankings in weeks to come. But for now, the top four and bottom three teams stand pat from last week.

NBA Power Rankings
1Chicago Bulls
Last Week: 1
While the Bulls' coaches and players seem as maniacally focused as ever on the short-term objective of the next play, quarter or game, their fans can't help but project their worries into a reprise of last year's Chicago-Miami playoff series, where a lack of production from the shooting guard position doomed their team. This season, veteran acquisition Richard Hamilton has been an injury-prone disappointment and may be permanently over the hill. Kyle Korver is a catch-and-shoot specialist who would be destroyed in an ongoing postseason matchup with Dwyane Wade. Ronnie Brewer has a skill-set too reminiscent of Keith Bogans -- and Ronnie Brewer -- from last season. Add in the impact of Luol Deng's wrist injury and the decreased dominance of backup center Omer Asik, and you can almost forget that Chicago has been the NBA's best team this season.
 
2Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 2
The Thunder were up by three with three minutes left in Friday's home game against Cleveland when overconfidence kicked in. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who were 9-for-11 on shots at the rim at that point, combined to clank five straight outside jumpers, enabling an 11-0 Cavs run that put them up by eight with less than a minute to play. It was the turning point that led to OKC's second home loss of the season and the first since Jan. 3. Meanwhile, the Thunder can't get injured guard Thabo Sefolosha back soon enough. His replacement, Daequan Cook, is a three-point specialist in a shooting slump, making just six of 23 treys, and 10 of 30 shots overall, since the All-Star break. In response, coach Scott Brooks is bringing sixth man James Harden off the bench sooner. Harden's 31.8 minutes per game are more than five above his previous career high -- not the best circumstance for a team anticipating a long and rugged playoff stint.
 
3Miami Heat
Last Week: 3
Miami Heat (31-9)
The Heat's last two games were down-to-the-wire wins playing the grind-it-out style of two defensive-oriented opponents in Atlanta and Indiana. The Pacers game should be especially heartening for Miami, who trailed nearly the entire game, endured another subpar effort from slumping point guard Mario Chalmers, saw Mike Miller hobble off with a sprained ankle in the second quarter and still beat a gritty Indiana team locked in its comfort zone. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were alternately clutch and unselfish, with Wade setting up James for a game-tying three in regulation (just Miami's second make from long distance in 21 attempts over two games up to that point) and then Wade scoring the game-winner with Paul George bothering the shot as Wade tried unsuccessfully to draw the foul. Succeeding in these staunch tests are the ideal prep for a Heat team that will be wearing the largest targets on their backs come the playoffs.
 
4San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 4
Richard Jefferson still takes and makes more three-pointers than anyone else on the Spurs, but it is safe to say that his all-around game isn't as productive as San Antonio expected when it signed him to a four-year, $39 million contract in the summer of 2010 (although the deal was structured in a manner that allowed the Spurs to sign Tiago Splitter without paying a luxury tax). When San Antonio acquired Jefferson in a trade with the Bucks before the 2009-10 season, the general feeling was that he would be an ideal fourth jewel, an athletic slasher and hound-dog defender in addition to Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. After a disappointing first year, he retooled himself into a deadly long-distance threat, and although his accuracy has fallen a bit on shots both inside and outside the arc, he is still making 42.6 percent of his threes. But the Spurs have journeymen such as Matt Bonner, Gary Neal and Danny Green who all shoot better than 38 percent from distance, and their combined salaries are millions less than what Jefferson is earning each year. And at 31, in his 11th year, Jefferson isn't the slasher he once was.
 
5Orlando Magic
Last Week: 6
Orlando has tamped down its pace during Stan Van Gundy's five years at the helm. During that time, the team's ranking for pace has slowed from ninth fastest in 2007-08, down to 12th, 18th, 17th and now 27th. This trend may be an attempt to feature Dwight Howard more in deliberate half-court sets, mollifying his desire to be top option and focal point of any offense. But it certainly hasn't helped the defense, which plunged from its top-three ranking of the past three years and currently stands at 11th in points permitted per possession. Of course, everything Magic-related is expected to be rendered moot either this week, if Howard is dealt before Thursday's trading deadline, or after this season, when Howard can opt out and leave via free agency while Orlando gets nothing in return.
 
6Memphis Grizzlies
Last Week: 8
The Grizzlies are now 23-13 since Zach Randolph went down with a torn knee ligament on New Year's Day, a tribute to an ever-improving defense that now ranks sixth in fewest points per possession, and persistent teamwork that has seen different players come to fore throughout the season. They've won eight of 10 despite below-average shooting from top scorers Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol because for the first extended time in two seasons, the Grizzlies aren't conceding a disadvantage at the three-point line, as O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley and Quincy Pondexter are all taking and making shots from long distance. Along with Pondexter, backup power forward Dante Cunningham is a late-rotation player on the upswing, converting 57.4 percent of his shots from the field and 90 percent from the line when he has a chance to score. And even backup center Hamed Haddadi has proven to be more than a mere placeholder in limited minutes.
 
7Los Angeles Lakers
Last Week: 5
It hasn't been the best season for Pau Gasol. In the short window between the end of the lockout and the season opener, he was publicly involved in a nixed trade to Houston, then he lost Lamar Odom as a teammate, a player with whom he had great chemistry. The triangle offense -- a perfect scheme for someone with Gasol's intellect and versatility -- was jettisoned by new coach Mike Brown. The emergence of Andrew Bynum -- healthy all year for the first time since Gasol joined the Lakers -- usurped some of Gasol's scoring duties and was a factor in him not going to the All-Star Game for the first time in four years. And now the trade rumors have are in full force again, though they'll cease one way or another by Thursday's deadline. Whatever happens, he's handled it all with dignity, and deserves better circumstances the rest of the season.
 
8Philadelphia 76ers
Last Week: 17
A big reason the Sixers have won three straight after dropping eight of 10 is the decision by coach Doug Collins to replace Jodie Meeks with Evan Turner as the team's starting two-guard. The move wasn't intended to reward Turner, who was shooting a horrendous 27.4 percent in his last 11 games off the bench, so much as to improve his confidence and rhythm -- and, ironically, to get him more shots. With natural scorers Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young on that second unit, Turner was appropriately more deferential -- he was down to 6.4 field-goal attempts per game in February. That number has more than doubled, to 14.3, in his four starts, and after a 1-for-12 performance in his first start, he is shooting 60 percent and averaging 22 points in his last three games. Another benefit of the move is the huge upgrade in rebounding from Meeks to Turner, for a team vulnerable on the boards due to its small front court. Turner has grabbed a whopping 48 rebounds -- 45 on the defensive glass -- in his four starts. Chalk it up as another savvy adjustment for Collins.
 
9Los Angeles Clippers
Last Week: 7
After thumping the Spurs to salvage a split of their six-game road trip, the Clippers ran hot and cold for a pair of exciting losses to open up their six-game home stand, and are now 8-10 since Feb. 6. How can a team led by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin be so inconsistent? A porous defense that ranks among the bottom third of the NBA in efficiency. The NBA's second-worst free throw percentage. Lack of production from their second-tier scorers -- aside from the win in San Antonio, Caron Butler is shooting 4-for-31 in the previous four games, and the point totals for Mo Williams over the last four are nine, 33, three and 21. And, most curiously, a sudden spate of crunch-time miscues from the normally unflappable Paul.
 
10Atlanta Hawks
Last Week: 11
The Josh Smith saga continues with his recent demand to be traded. Leave it to Smith to undercut one of the best stretches of his eight-year career -- when he has frequently carried the Hawks without Al Horford and occasionally Joe Johnson -- by reinforcing the notion that he puts himself ahead of his team. While continuing to be a beast on defense, Smith has relished his go-to-guy role on offense when Johnson is sidelined or otherwise hampered by injury. But he was an All-Star snub because coaches don't like his narcissistic decision-making. Yet the question remains: Why is one of the most athletic leapers in the NBA currently jacking up a career-high number of 16-23 foot jumpers per game -- fifth-most in the NBA, ahead of Carmelo Anthony and Dirk Nowitzki -- when he is making only 33 percent (NBA average is 37.8), especially when his percentage of shots at the rim is 69 percent, well above the 62.9 NBA norm? Then there is the matter of Smith's contract, which expires next year with him making $13.2 million, not counting a 15 percent increase if he is traded. That makes him tough to deal from Atlanta, in more ways than one.
 
11Denver Nuggets
Last Week: 9
Like the Knicks, the Nuggets need to start paring their rotation and solidifying roles to gain some consistency as they enter the home stretch in the playoff race. Yes, the barrage of injuries complicates the process -- Ty Lawson's sprained foot is the latest health problem among their core, and Danilo Gallinari is just 5-for-25 over the last four games while slowly returning to form after missing 17 with a sprained ankle. But it makes sense for coach George Karl to expect more from two veterans who signed large, long-term contracts before the season started. Nene seemed poised to become a top-flight center with the most complete skill-set of any pivot man, and Arron Afflalo was supposed to be a lock-down wing defender and a reliable three-point shooter. More to the point, neither have been leaders. Nene allowed Kyrie Irving to blow past him for a game-winning layup last week and Afflalo turned down a game-tying three in the final seconds and awkwardly dished the ball to Andre Miller in a crunch-time home loss to Memphis on Sunday.
 
12Boston Celtics
Last Week: 15
"True Grit" is the Celtics' theme this season. Last week they got blown out by the Sixers and then turned around and blew out Portland. They came up short in a heart-breaking, last-second loss to the Lakers and then surged from behind in the final five minutes for a heartening, crunch-time win over the Clippers. Of course, the downside of admirably getting up off the mat is that you lack the talent to avoid being knocked down in the first place. Sliding Kevin Garnett over to center to accommodate Brandon Bass at power forward is probably the best use of a sparse, undersized collection of "big" men, but it practically guarantees Boston will get pounded on the boards every night. (Nenad Krstic, where are you?) After four dramatic seasons of serious contention from their core veterans, the Celtics have become sentimental underdogs.
 
13Indiana Pacers
Last Week: 10
Indiana has become an ordinary team, with a 7-8 record over its last 15 games that can be broken down into a 7-0 mark against opponents with losing records and an 0-8 record against teams over .500. Part of the decline can be blamed on the decline of it rugged frontcourt. When they were 16-6 in early February, the Pacers were feared for their physicality, but their rebounding totals have declined and the point totals of their opponents have risen each succeeding month of the season thus far. The fragile psyche of 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert is again causing him problems -- his recent play oozes insecurity and his numbers have dropped off since the All-Star break -- he's shooting 37.8 percent (compared to 51.2 in the first half) and had his points per game plummet from 13.8 to 7.7 while his rebounds have fallen from 9.6 to 7.2 despite playing nearly the same amount of minutes as before the break.
 
14Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Week: 13
Losing Ricky Rubio for the season due to a torn knee ligament last Friday was certainly a shocking and sizable loss for the Wolves, and the negative impact of his absence will be felt in various ways. For all the justified praise of his passing and ball movement, what the Wolves will miss most is his underrated perimeter defense, where he deployed his large wingspan, good foot speed and fundamentals, and anticipatory court vision to great effect. It's no coincidence that coach Rick Adelman described Minnesota's first game since the injury, a loss to the Hornets on Saturday, as "the worst game in a long time defensively for us." (Two nights later, the Wolves allowed a season-high 124 points in a win at Phoenix.) On the other hand, Rubio's role in the blossoming of center Nikola Pekovic, while undeniable, has been overstated. The ill-fated offensive schemes of former coach Kurt Rambis and Pekovic's inability to stay on the court and develop any rhythm due to foul trouble last year (he averaged 7.3 fouls per 36 minutes!) obscured Pek's unique combination of soft hands, brute strength and fancy footwork in the paint.
 
15Dallas Mavericks
Last Week: 12
Dallas is an aged team of winners, but time off has frayed its teamwork and desire. Coach Rick Carlisle did a masterful job of roster rehab by emphasizing paint defense after a 1-4 start, but the defending champs are 2-7 since the All-Star break and seem rutted in a deeper trough. Sensing the disconnect between Lamar Odom and his teammates, Carlisle tried to call him out in a controlled fashion, but Odom must be regarded as a lost cause and unexpected bonus moving forward. Cornerstone crunch-time scorer Jason Terry is in a funk, Vince Carter has disappeared and an injury to Brendan Haywood has damaged the defense, but what's happening in Dallas is a mostly team-wide meltdown. Yes, the Mavs played nine games in 12 nights, but they still shouldn't suffer double-digit defeats against chronic losing teams, like the Kings and Warriors. Dallas needs to start capitalizing on this soft part of the schedule, beginning with the Wizards and Bobcats at home the next two games.
 
16Utah Jazz
Last Week: 18
Utah Jazz (20-21)
As the trade deadline approaches, the Jazz have put making the playoffs as a greater priority than developing their youth. Over the past 10 games, the average minutes have declined for young players Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Gordon Hayward (although Alec Burks is seeing more time), while veterans Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Josh Howard and C.J. Miles have all seen their roles expand. Another season-long indication that coach Ty Corbin is sticking with the vets is the way he's paired his four big men. Starters Jefferson and Millsap spend the majority of their time on the court together, while Favors and Kanter likewise spend the bulk of their minutes in tandem. Greater intermingling among the quartet would suggest more accelerated youth development. And because Favors and Kanter are both stay-at-home, defensive-oriented big men, they would benefit from more time alongside the free-wheeling Millsap.
 
17Houston Rockets
Last Week: 14
The recent decline in minutes for shooting guard Kevin Martin is no mystery. The Rockets have played abysmal defense lately, allowing 109 points per game while losing six of seven, and Martin is the team's worst defender among their regular rotation players, with plenty of alternatives, including Courtney Lee and Goran Dragic who can guard more effectively. In previous years, K-Mart compensated with his high-efficiency offense, but the new rules on foul calls have knocked nearly four free throws per game off his average and discouraged him from getting to the rim, where his frequency has been cut in half, from 3.2 to 1.6 attempts per game compared to last season. This has been a year-long problem, but the recent bacterial infection that could sideline Lowry up to a month will likely further cut into Martin's time. He and Dragic comprise a wretched backcourt defensively, and Houston is a minus-8.3 points per 36 minutes when the two are paired (and in plus territory when each plays without the other).
 
18Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 21
My fixation on center Ekpe Udoh continues, because he continues to be a rare defensive catalyst for the Warriors while rapidly refining his raw offensive skills. Last year as a rookie, Udoh pretty much had three offensive results -- dunk, clank or turnover -- and while the numbers look similar this year, he's shooting 53.3 percent over his last 10 games (his career percentage is 44.0) and is displaying improved low-post footwork, pump fakes, reverse layups off the backboard and a decent jump hook. At the other end, he remains a pillar of strength at rim protection and is a perfect complement to power forward David Lee, who has always been an offensive juggernaut and defensive liability. According to NBA.com's StatsCube, Golden State is minus-7.3 points per 36 minutes when Lee is on the court without Udoh, minus-3.5 points per 36 when Udoh plays without Lee, and plus-8.7 points per 36 when they are teamed together.
 
19Phoenix Suns
Last Week: 19
Phoenix Suns (19-22)
Judging from Basketball Value's numbers, no team has a greater performance disparity between its starters and second unit than Phoenix. The gap is especially wide in terms of offensive productivity, which suggests both that Steve Nash is a premiere enabler of baskets for his court-mates, and that the Suns have no chemistry and very little scoring prowess on their bench. In hindsight, Phoenix was really damaged by a trade with Houston last February, when they swapped backup point guards -- Goran Dragic and for Aaron Brooks -- and threw in a first-round draft pick (who became Nikola Mirotic) for good measure. Dragic is averaging more than 20 minutes per game in Houston and is currently starting in place of the ailing Kyle Lowry. Brooks is playing over in China, where his team has gone deep into the playoffs. He can sign with Phoenix when that season is completed, or become a restricted free agent in the off season. Although hardly a classic point guard, his scoring and playmaking could give the Phoenix bench a badly needed jolt on offense.
 
20Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 22
When the Bucks unexpectedly crashed the playoffs in 2010, Ersan Ilyasova was one of their secret weapons. Averaging more than 23 minutes mostly coming off the bench, the wiry 6-10 power forward had the greatest beneficial impact on the team's performance, according to Basketball Value. After a forgettable 2010-11 for both Ilyasova and the team, he is again thriving, fueling a Milwaukee surge that has the team tied with the Knicks for the final playoff spot in the East. With Andrew Bogut out indefinitely with a fractured ankle (and being shopped ahead of the trade deadline), the Bucks are playing a more up-tempo style that allows Ilyasova to better scramble for rebounds and step out for three-pointers. Since the All-Star break, he's been doing a decent Kevin Love imitation, with 18.7 points and 9.3 rebounds on 58.4 percent shooting, including 52.6 percent from beyond the arc, all in just 35.1 minutes per game.
 
21Detroit Pistons
Last Week: 23
For the first month of the season, the exalted play of second-year center Greg Monroe in Detroit was the closest thing the NBA had to a one-man team. But the prolonged scoring surge from combo guard Rodney Stuckey and the insertion of physical power forward Jason Maxiell into the starting lineup have lightened the load on Monroe at both ends of the court. The next step for coach Lawrence Frank is creating synergy from his team's complementary skills. Detroit won three of four last week and is 11-7 since Feb. 3 but still ranks among the bottom six teams in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and 26th in assists. The threat of both Stuckey and Monroe should create more space for each to operate. More importantly, Monroe needs to upgrade his defense while playing between Maxiell and Tayshaun Prince in the front court. According to Basketball Value, the Pistons give up 12.5 more points per 100 possessions when Monroe is on the court compared to when he sits.
 
22New York Knicks
Last Week: 16
When coach Mike D'Antoni entertained the idea of pairing point guards Jeremy Lin and Baron Davis in the backcourt last week, you knew the Knicks were in trouble. What this team desperately needs is less glitz and more glue. Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire are trying hard to sublimate their top-dog mentality and blend in better, but they're scoring stars for a reason. And surrounded by Tyson Chandler, Landry Fields and a more circumscribed Lin, it is a potentially dynamic starting five. Whether they are given the time and have the right attitude to develop in the pressure cooker of Madison Square Garden is unknown. But toying with expanded roles for Davis, or J.R. Smith, or even Steve Novak beyond being a microwave off the bench, will only provide fodder for rueful stories from the Knicks faithful someday, as they look back on the wasted lockout season of 2011-12.
 
23Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Week: 26
Even before the season-ending injury to Ricky Rubio, point guard Kyrie Irving had secured his grasp on Rookie of the Year honors with his crunch-time heroics. His clutch play was the obvious difference in all three of Cleveland's wins over quality Western Conference opponents last week. The length-of-the-court drive for a layup with four seconds left to beat Denver by a point last week was the most dramatic; the nifty assist and pair of drives past Russell Westbrook to beat OKC in the final minutes Friday was probably the most impressive; and the 16 points he hung on Houston in the final seven minutes on Sunday was the most prolific. In each game, more than half his total points came in the final period, solidifying his third-place ranking in total fourth-quarter points this season. With the Knicks reeling and the return of center Anderson Varejao (recuperating from a broken wrist) delayed but not abandoned, the Cavs cling to their dreams of snagging that eighth and final playoff seed in the East.
 
24Portland Trail Blazers
Last Week: 20
The Blazers followed a listless road loss to the Timberwolves by trailing 81-38 during the third quarter in Boston Friday, and all those rumors about coach Nate McMillan's job status and various players quitting on the team and/or griping in the locker room acquired more currency. Saturday's win over the hapless Wizards is only a temporary salve, although it was important for LaMarcus Aldridge to go 12-for-15 from the field (including 6-for-6 at the rim) and Raymond Felton hit nine of 10 free throws and commit zero turnovers in the same game, because Aldridge has been too soft and Felton too clueless as a floor general during the doldrums that have dogged this team for most of the season. If the Blazers don't make a deal by the deadline, the front office should either fire McMillan, or, better yet, reiterate that it supports his authority. And if a trade is to be made for a new point guard, make sure it is someone who can handle the hectoring from McMillan.
 
25New Jersey Nets
Last Week: 24
Has Gerald Green learned how to play basketball yet? Ever since he jumped straight out of high school and was drafted by the Celtics in 2005, it was apparent that he was an extraordinary leaper and all-around athlete. But Green was otherwise unprepared for the NBA game. Dealt to Minnesota as part of the package for Kevin Garnett, he frequently broke off his assignments at both ends of the court and let his emotions careen based on a short-term perspective of his play. The Wolves traded him to Houston before the end of the 2007-08 season, and the Rockets dropped him after one game. Dallas gave him about as much burn in 2008-09 as Minnesota had the previous year, and then cut him loose. Three years later, after starring in the D-league, the 26-year-old has been signed to a pair of 10-day contracts by the Nets. On Saturday, he erupted for 26 points and a monster, windmill-style slam dunk in a loss to Houston. More significantly, New Jersey is a respectable 3-4 when Green plays at least 17 minutes. The Nets' defense is so lackluster that it is hard to know how much, or if, he has grown in that area. But it is good to see his persistence rewarded with another shot.
 
26Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 27
At this early stage in his career, the body language of center DeMarcus Cousins may be as important and revealing as his stat sheet. For much of last year and the beginning of this season, Cousins acted out as if every whistle, elbow and sudden turn of events was part of a conspiracy against him, and must be engaged to uphold his honor. It was exhausting, aggravating and it frequently overshadowed what a phenomenal collection of skills is bundled inside his 6-11, 270-pound frame. Over the past month or so, Cousins is increasingly winning the battle not to be a jerk on the court, a significant step toward honing the concentration necessary to become a better defender and more consistent overall. Meanwhile, he grabbed 17 offensive rebounds in Sacramento wins on either side of the All-Star break. He dished out five assists in two straight games. At home against Atlanta Sunday night, he intercepted a pass three-quarters of the court away from the basket, did a left-handed crossover dribble to get around one defender, picked up steam as he crossed the center line and went straight down the middle of the paint to finish with a delicate finger roll.
 
27Toronto Raptors
Last Week: 25
Andrea Bargnani returned after being out 20 games with a calf injury and was clearly rusty in a blowout loss in Detroit, shooting 2-of-8 in 19 minutes and not moving -- especially on defense -- with the tenacity he displayed when healthy early in the season. With Jerryd Bayless getting most of the minutes at the point in place of injured Jose Calderon and swingman DeMar DeRozan looking for his own shot, Bargnani received precious few touches in the second half as the Raptors blew a 13-point second-quarter lead and faded down the stretch at home against Milwaukee Sunday. Bargnani was 0-for-3 from the field in 15 minutes of the second half, compared to DeRozan's 4-for-12 while playing all 24 minutes. DeRozan has shot better recently after a disappointing start, but is still converting just 41.2 percent of his shots. Health permitting, Bargnani -- who has been the Raptors' leading scorer since the departure of Chris Bosh -- should be the go-to guy in Toronto.
 
28New Orleans Hornets
Last Week: 28
If you parse all the rumors and trade chatter, the player most likely to be dealt before the Thursday deadline is not Dwight Howard, but Hornets' center Chris Kaman, a 7-footer and former All-Star with a reliable mid-range jumper who could be both a valuable rental for the rest of the season and carries a $14-million expiring contract. But as the NBA learned when the franchise traded away Chris Paul at the beginning of this season (and had another deal or two nixed by the commissioner), there is an inherent conflict of interest when the other owners are collectively underwriting the Hornets and a desirable player from that team is on the market. Hopefully a new group will purchase the franchise and be in a non-compromised position to manage it before the end of the season.
 
29Washington Wizards
Last Week: 29
It felt like the Spurs were toying with the Wizards on Monday, generating 23 assists and 44 points in the paint in the first half alone. The persistent rumors are that the Wizards would love to "change the culture" before the Thursday trading deadline, beginning with the departure of much-booed forward Andray Blatche. But at some point, it has to be the responsibility of point guard John Wall and center JaVale McGee to maximize their bountiful talents and improve their team. Is a corrosive culture all that separates Wall from the likes of Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving? Would joining a more mature team transform McGee into a more complete player? There are a coterie of solid veterans who could provide mentorship, including Roger Mason, Maurice Evans and of course Rashard Lewis, who is making more than $21 million this season.
 
30Charlotte Bobcats
Last Week: 30
It has been an arid season for Bobcats highlights, but Bismack Biyombo's above-the-rim block of a slam dunk attempt by Trevor Ariza at the buzzer to secure Charlotte's win in New Orleans on Monday is one to savor. The teenage center was the seventh overall pick last summer because of his potential on defense. His minutes have steadily climbed from 13 per game in January to 31 thus far in March, and he rewarded management's confidence with 10 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game this month. Before his spectacular block on Monday, Biyombo earned a 10-point, 15-rebound double-double while helping to hold Dwight Howard to 15 points and 17 rebounds in an upset of Orlando that gave the Bobcats a rare two-win week.

 
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