Posted: Fri February 1, 2013 12:42PM; Updated: Fri February 1, 2013 3:31PM
Matt Dollinger

Streaking Spurs sit first; Grizz fall after Gay trade

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Tony Parker struggles for a layup
Tony Parker and the Spurs, winners of nine straight, own the league's best record at 37-11.
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

A blockbuster trade sent ripples through the NBA this week.

In dealing Rudy Gay to the Raptors on Wednesday, the Grizzlies might have surrendered their shot at being a championship contender. Memphis has been a mainstay near the top of these Power Rankings this season and looked like one of the best teams in the league. The Grizzlies weren't favorites to win the title, or even come out of the West, but their 14-3 start, compiled with impressive wins over the Heat, Thunder and Knicks, seemed to justify keeping the core intact. Instead, Memphis elected to make a move for the sake of its future, clearing future salary and acquiring the promising Ed Davis. But unloading Gay takes away the team's go-to scorer in the middle of its best run in years, a head-scratching move that obviously puts its title hopes in jeopardy.

With three weeks until the trade deadline, there are plenty of other candidates around the league to swing a deal. The Clippers could give up some of their depth to acquire a veteran big man, the Celtics might prepare for the future after losing Rajon Rondo and the Nuggets could look to cash in on their bevy of young, desirable talent. But they're not the only ones. The Jazz (too many big men), the Hawks (free-agent-to-be Josh Smith) and the Lakers (too many reasons to fit inside these parenthesis) are also potential deadline dealers.

This week, the Spurs return to the top of the rankings after winning nine consecutive games and watching the Thunder momentarily blink. Here's where all 30 teams stand this week. (All stats and records are through Jan. 31.)

NBA Power Rankings
1 San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 2
Since: 3-0
Owners of the league's longest winning streak, the Spurs are cruising right along and playing flawlessly in the interim absences of Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan. The glue holding the pieces together is Tony Parker, who was recently voted to his fifth All-Star Game and anointed by his coach as "better than any point guard in the league" this season. Parker has some stiff competition -- particularly in Los Angeles -- but it's tough to argue with what he's done.
2 Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 1
Since: 2-1
Russell Westbrook lost his cool Thursday night, exchanging words with both teammate Thabo Sefolosha and assistant coach Mo Cheeks before briefly departing for the locker room. Westbrook's passion and questionable decisions are footnotes to the game when the Thunder are winning. But when the team is losing, as it has in three of its last six games, they become major storylines and true cause for concern.
3 Miami Heat
Last Week: 4
Since: 2-1
Miami Heat (29-13)
Do the Heat need a center to repeat as champions? They better hope not. Miami recently brought in Chris Andersen and Jarvis Varnado, but it's hard to believe either is going to give them what they're looking for. In all likelihood, Miami's biggest players down low in crunch time this postseason will be Chris Bosh and LeBron James, much like last year, with the occasional contribution from Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony. The Heat rank dead last in rebounding and in the bottom half in blocks, but they do everything else so well. When you lead the league in field-goal percentage and rank second in three-point percentage, you can get away with a lot.
4 Los Angeles Clippers
Last Week: 3
Since: 2-2
Would Los Angeles consider rolling the dice sometime over the next three weeks? With a roster bursting at the seams, it sure would make sense to look for a 2-for-1 deal. For all of their strengths, the Clippers could still use another post player to play alongside Blake Griffin, particularly one who can score. DeAndre Jordan is an excellent defensive center, but his offensive deficiencies -- particularly at the free-throw line (42.7 percent) -- make him difficult to play in crunch time.
5 Denver Nuggets
Last Week: 5
Since: 3-0
As expected, the Nuggets are taking advantage of their recent wealth of home games, going 9-1 over their last 10 in Denver, with an odd loss to the Wizards marking their only defeat. George Karl's team has the fortune of not leaving the Mile High City for another week, playing three more home games before finally hitting the road on Feb. 9. It's going to be hard for the Nuggets to crack the top four, but they're doing everything they can.
6 New York Knicks
Last Week: 7
Since: 2-1
He's still in a bench role, but Amar'e Stoudemire is starting to look a lot like his former self over the last five games, averaging 16.4 points and shooting 67.4 percent from the field. Several teams will be looking to bolster their contender status at the trade deadline, but the Knicks might have already made their midseason addition in a full-strength Stoudemire (along with the return of guard Iman Shumpert). The Knicks are 7-3 when Stoudemire scores in double digits.
7 Memphis Grizzlies
Last Week: 6
Since: 2-2
There are two numbers behind the Grizzlies' decision to trade Gay: 16.4 and 16.5. The first is the number of field-goal attempts Gay was averaging. It was the most on the team, and yet Gay was shooting just 40.8 percent from the floor, worst among Memphis' starters. With Gay gone, Memphis will be able to distribute those shots to more efficient players, as Yahoo! Sports' Kelly Dwyer notes. The other number, 16.5 (or $16,460,538 to be exact) is the amount Gay is due this season. As bad as that is, it gets even worse the next two years when Gay is due $17.8 million and $19.3 million annually. With Wednesday's trade, the Grizzlies could become more efficient on offense and more efficient with their spending, a win-win move they felt compelled to make even though it likely diminishes their title hopes.
8 Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 8
Since: 3-2
After a 12-4 December, the Warriors slowed down in January by going 8-7 and taking steps back on both ends. Golden State averaged fewer points per game and allowed more in January compared to the month before, exposing some vulnerability for the first time this season. But if the Warriors can stay healthy for the second half of the season, particularly Steph Curry and the recently returned Andrew Bogut, they should be able to regain their early-season form.
9 Chicago Bulls
Last Week: 10
Since: 3-1
Like the Warriors, the Bulls were a different team in January, but in a good way. Chicago went 12-4 with a huge assist from Jimmy Butler, who nearly doubled his December averages to put up 9.9 points and 4.9 rebounds. The last pick of the first round in 2011 is starting to pan out, giving Chicago an athletic scorer off the bench. He's averaged 16.2 points over his last eight games, six of which the Bulls have won. On a team that scores the fifth-fewest points in the league, that type of production will stick out.
10 Brooklyn Nets
Last Week: 9
Since: 1-3
P.J. Carlesimo suffered the first reality check of his dreamy start with the Nets last week, losing three of four after starting 12-2. You can blame Reggie Evans for at least one of those losses after he made the curious decision to taunt the best player on the planet before playing him. If you're going to talk wild, nonsensical trash to LeBron James -- how does a lockout-shortened regular season affect a normal postseason? -- you better back it up with more than zero points and no offensive rebounds (an Evans strength) in a 20-point loss at home.
11 Indiana Pacers
Last Week: 11
Since: 1-2
Both of the Pacers' losses last week featured controversial endings, one of which the NBA formally apologized for. But Indiana could start benefiting from a few hometown whistles, with eight of its next nine in Indiana. The Pacers could also get a lift in the next couple of weeks with the return of Danny Granger, who reportedly participated in his first half-court scrimmage on Wednesday. For now, they'll have to enjoy the unlikely boost they've been getting from Lance Stephenson, who has averaged 16 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists in his last two games.
12 Atlanta Hawks
Last Week: 12
Since: 2-1
Will the Hawks be the next team to part with a star player for the sake of their future? The Suns are reportedly interested in acquiring Josh Smith and could have the cap-friendly pieces and draft picks to pull off the trade. With nine Atlanta players on expiring contracts, it might make sense for GM Danny Ferry to clean house and build around Al Horford and whatever the team can receive for Smith. The Hawks are in the thick of the playoff picture, but so are the Grizzlies and they just unloaded their leading scorer.
13 Houston Rockets
Last Week: 14
Since: 3-1
The Rockets are back to scoring in bunches, winning four of six and putting up 108.1 points per game over that span, but it's the defensive work of Omer Asik that warrants attention. The 7-footer has tripled his scoring and doubled his rebounding to average 10.1 points and 11.3 rebounds, one of only nine qualifying players with a double-double. And while Houston is giving up the fourth-most points while playing at the fastest pace, it is around the league average in points per possession, a testament to Asik's impact.
14 Utah Jazz
Last Week: 13
Since: 2-2
Utah Jazz (25-21)
A 45-point blowout from the Rockets marked the Jazz's worst home loss in history, but we're going to chalk up that game as an anomaly. Outside of that game, the Jazz have been playing very well, winning seven of their last 10. With four of their next five games at home, the Jazz should continue their hot play, which could talk the team's front office out of pulling the trigger at the trade deadline.
15 Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 15
Since: 2-2
The Bucks dropped to 0-11 this week when scoring 90 points or fewer, showing just how imperative their offensive success truly is. For all of Brandon Jennings' scoring ability -- he totaled 16 points in a span of 2:20 against the Pistons last week -- Milwaukee is actually averaging slighty more points per possession when he's off the floor than on it, according to Basketball-Reference. Meanwhile, opponents are averaging 9.6 more points per 100 possessions when he's playing, the largest margin of anyone in the rotation. Milwaukee has gone 8-4 since Jim Boylan replaced coach Scott Skiles, but it's going to need more out of Jennings -- on both ends -- to keep it up.
16 Portland Trail Blazers
Last Week: 16
Since: 2-1
The Blazers are as resilient as they come, compiling 10 wins this season when trailing at halftime, tied for the most in the league. The most recent example was a game Portland had no business winning, trailing by as many as 21 to the Mavericks before rallying to beat them thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge at the buzzer. The Blazers, trailing the No. 8 Rockets by a half-game in the West, will have to scrap their way to more wins like that to stay in the playoff picture.
17 Boston Celtics
Last Week: 17
Since: 2-1
The Celtics are still a playoff team without Rajon Rondo -- but just that, nothing more. Without Rondo, the Celtics' best-case scenario just isn't good enough to beat the Heat in a seven-game series. How general manager Danny Ainge plays it at the trade deadline will be interesting to watch.
18 Los Angeles Lakers
Last Week: 20
Since: 3-1
The 2012-13 Lakers have been a beat writer's dream, providing more drama, plot twists and up and downs than most teams have in 10 years combined. Mike D'Antoni and Steve Nash losing to the Suns on Wednesday was pretty good material, but not as juicy as D'Antoni's seemingly unabashed distaste for Pau Gasol. Not only did he bench the four-time All-Star in favor of Earl Clark, but he's also taken every opportunity to jab him in the media. If this is D'Antoni's way of getting Gasol to beg out of Los Angeles so he can embrace a smaller lineup, it's pretty crass. But his treatment of Gasol is also killing the big man's trade value, making it even more difficult to deal the well-compensated 7-footer.
19 Dallas Mavericks
Last Week: 18
Since: 1-3
The Mavericks were close to acquiring Jose Calderon from the Grizzlies before Detroit stepped in, but they were unwilling to part with Vince Carter, according to For a team desperate for a point guard like Calderon, that speaks volumes about how much it values Carter. The 36-year-old Carter, owed just $6.1 million combined for this season and next, has turned into a valuable role player -- and (gulp) defender -- in Dallas. Calderon, who has an expiring contract, would have only been a Band-Aid for the Mavs' point guard issues, which explains why they chose to keep the past-his-prime but still passable Carter.
20 Philadelphia 76ers
Last Week: 22
Since: 2-1
It appears the 76ers' big offseason acquisition could be close to debuting. Rarely are knee injections viewed as a good thing, but Andrew Bynum's Synvisc injections to "cushion" his wobbly joints may mean he's closer to hitting the floor. There's still no timetable for his return, but there's at least optimism regarding his status for the first time in a long time.
21 Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Week: 19
Since: 0-3
Minnesota is taking on a lot of water, losing 10 of its last 11 and looking lost without Kevin Love. Ricky Rubio is starting to return to his rookie form, playing around 30 minutes a night and averaging six assists in his last eight games, but the Wolves are going to need more to win. Without Love, the team doesn't have any players who can create their own shot, meaning when open jumpers aren't falling, the Wolves aren't winning.
22 Detroit Pistons
Last Week: 21
Since: 1-3
The Pistons pulled off the rare feat of making a trade that makes them better on the court and on the books. By acquiring Jose Calderon for Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye, Detroit will be more than $30 million under the salary cap this summer. In addition, the Pistons get the pass-first point guard they've desperately needed, giving them an outside shot at making the playoffs (5½ games back) in the lackluster East. But the Pistons won't be any better off if president Joe Dumars spends his cap room like he did last time it was burning a hole in his pocket, shelling out a combined $95 million for Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon.
23 New Orleans Hornets
Last Week: 23
Since: 1-3
With Eric Gordon back in the lineup, the Hornets have one of the most intriguing, balanced offenses in the league, but their defense has yet to fully take form. It's easy to imagine Anthony Davis one day anchoring a stingy unit in New Orleans, but he's still only 19 and the pieces around him consist primarily of shooters, not stoppers. The Hornets rank 27th in points allowed per possession and have yielded at least 100 points in six of their last seven games.
24 Toronto Raptors
Last Week: 24
Since: 0-3
GM Bryan Colangelo made a last-ditch effort to save his job by trading arguably the team's best young big man (Ed Davis) and its most movable asset (Jose Calderon and his expiring contract) for an overpaid and underachieving player (Rudy Gay).'s Rob Mahoney skewers Colangelo's move in this piece and also notes the redundancy of Gay and DeMar DeRozan on the wing.
25 Phoenix Suns
Last Week: 25
Since: 1-2
Phoenix Suns (16-30)
You know the Phoenix faithful enjoyed watching their Suns beat Mike D'Antoni and Steve Nash in their return to Phoenix. It was a big win for interim coach Lindsey Hunter, too, who improved to 3-2 and has helped the Suns beat both L.A. teams in his brief tenure. Hunter, regarded as a defensive specialist, helped the Suns hold the Lakers and Clippers under 90 points. It appears a different voice in the locker room has at least sparked the Suns for the time being.
26 Washington Wizards
Last Week: 28
Since: 2-2
This is where I give the Wizards more love than they probably deserve, but the return of John Wall has clearly made them a different team. They're 6-5 with him after going 5-28 without him. Wall hasn't exactly played like his former self since returning from the knee injury, but his ability as a playmaker is making enough of a difference. Washington likely dug itself too deep of a hole to climb out of this season, but it could have been in playoff contention if the early-season damage hadn't been as devastating.
27 Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Week: 29
Since: 2-1
The Cavaliers are reportedly discussing the possibility of signing former No. 1 pick and Ohio State product Greg Oden. It's a move with huge upside, as even a diminished version of Oden could still be a regular contributor in the NBA. Of course, all of this hinges on the health of his left knee.
28 Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 26
Since: 1-3
Once upon time, Tyreke Evans was one of the brightest prospects in the league, averaging 20.1 points during his 2009 Rookie of the Year campaign. But Evans' story has taken a confounding twist ever since. His points and assists per game have declined in each of his four seasons, leading to averages of 14.9 points and 3.1 assists this season, well below his rookie stat line. Evans once looked like he could carry the Kings to new heights. Now he's just contributing to their continued lows.
29 Orlando Magic
Last Week: 27
Since: 0-3
Orlando suffered its latest blow Wednesday when Glen Davis broke his foot, his second significant injury of the season after he missed time in December with a sprained shoulder. The Magic are 1-10 without Davis, who is averaging career highs of 15.1 points and 7.2 rebounds.
30 Charlotte Bobcats
Last Week: 30
Since: 1-2
The rookie wall has claimed its latest victim. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist played 40 games over a six-month span during his only season at Kentucky. He's quickly finding out how much tougher the NBA schedule is, having played 44 games in a little more than three months. In the first two months, the rookie averaged 10.9 points on 50.9 percent shooting. But since the start of January, he's averaged just 7.1 points on 39.2 percent shooting.
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