It was a dud of a trade deadline this year. No big moves happened. And the deals that did happen don’t move the needle all that much. But every year, on the day after the deadline, I re-rank all 30 teams based on what I think their odds are to win the NBA Finals. So this is a subjective list and not based on the current standings. (I repeat: This is a subjective list and not based on the current standings.)
Let’s start at the bottom of the league and work our way up as I dish my thoughts on what each team did or didn’t do at the deadline.
The Tanking Teams
30. Detroit Pistons
8-43 record, minus-8.7 net rating
Last ranking: no. 29
The Pistons are dead last, but hey, they’ve won two games in a row and had a surprisingly productive deadline. Quentin Grimes is a perfect player for the Pistons since we know he can be a solid 3-and-D guy to complement their core pieces. But Grimes has also flashed upside as a secondary on-ball guy. Over his final nine games of last season, during a stretch when the Knicks fed him creation opportunities, he averaged 21.9 points on 47.8 percent from 3 plus 4.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. To close the season, maybe Monty Williams will provide comparable chances to find out how much more they can get out of him.
29. Washington Wizards
9-41 record, minus-8.8 net rating
Last ranking: no. 30
I’m sorry, but this team stinks. Why wasn’t there a full-blown fire sale? Sure, Daniel Gafford was dealt. But why are Tyus Jones and Delon Wright still around? There is no one on this roster to get excited about except for Bilal Coulibaly. And even Bilal has hit the rookie wall. Rough times for the league’s least watchable team.
28. Charlotte Hornets
10-40 record, minus-11.8 net rating
Last ranking: no. 25
The Hornets have the NBA’s worst net rating, and it will probably get even uglier to close the season. But the results don’t matter as much as the continued progress of Brandon Miller and now Miles Bridges (after he flexed his no-trade clause at the deadline). Hopefully at some point LaMelo Ball can stay on the floor and Mark Williams can return. We won’t know the real state of the Hornets until we can see them all together at once.
27. Portland Trail Blazers
15-36 record, minus-8.2 net rating
Last ranking: no. 27
There was really no reason for the Trail Blazers to rush into trading Jerami Grant or Malcolm Brogdon before the deadline. All that really matters for Portland this season is the development of its young guys, and Grant and Brogdon provide some stability around the youth. Perhaps the two will have a strong market this summer or next season anyway, leading to a greater return for the Blazers.
26. San Antonio Spurs
10-42 record, minus-8.7 net rating
Last ranking: no. 28
After they had a slow deadline, I expect the Spurs to be aggressive this summer in seeking upgrades around Victor Wembanyama. But perhaps this stems from my own desire to see Victor with a group that’s ready to win, considering he’s already a ferocious defender, a dominant at-rim finisher, and a versatile player with emerging perimeter skills. The Spurs don’t need to rush things, especially because the 2025 and 2026 draft classes feature multiple franchise changers, but a step toward competitiveness would be nice.
25. Memphis Grizzlies
18-34 record, minus-6.2 net rating
Last ranking: no. 23
The Grizzlies made future-focused moves this week, sending David Roddy to Phoenix and Xavier Tillman to Boston for picks. But the most important move they made was re-signing GG Jackson to a four-year deal, promoting him from a two-way contract. Jackson is a silver lining in a lost season for Memphis, showing two-way upside as a 6-foot-9 forward who can generate shots, hit spot-up 3s, and hustle on defense. At only 19 years old, he’s younger than many players who’ll get drafted this June. Jackson struggled during his one year at South Carolina, shooting just 38.4 percent from the field. If he had never reclassified and had gone to a school that was a better fit, odds are he’d have been a lottery pick this year. Not a bad find for the Grizz.
The Teams Figuring Things Out
24. Toronto Raptors
18-33 record, minus-3.2 net rating
Last ranking: no. 22
The Raptors were criticized for giving up a first-round pick to acquire Kelly Olynyk, who turns 33 soon, and Ochai Agbaji, who has yet to prove that he can score with any consistency. But Toronto already has one first-round pick from the Pacers in this draft and could also keep its own if the pick falls in the top six (otherwise, it goes to San Antonio). The 2024 draft is a role player class, so it makes sense to kick the can forward for more value. Maybe Agbaji will figure things out with the Raptors. Olynyk’s game should age well if he re-signs with his home-country team.
23. Brooklyn Nets
20-31 record, minus-1.7 net rating
Last ranking: no. 21
I recently had a conversation with a high-level NBA executive who tore into Sean Marks and said he should be fired this offseason for the hopeless situation the Nets find themselves in. I find that view to be a bit extreme. Marks inherited a disastrous situation in 2016 and turned the Nets into something so appealing that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving chose to sign with them in 2019. Thanks to injuries and off-court controversies, that era turned into its own disaster. But considering their circumstances, is the Nets’ position really that bad now? Mikal Bridges is a high-end player. Cam Johnson, Nic Claxton, and Dorian Finney-Smith are great supporting pieces. The team replenished its draft assets through multiple trades. And it has cap flexibility. I’d argue that Marks deserves more time to show what he can pull off again, and this deadline was certainly a success for Brooklyn, as it accumulated more draft capital for players who didn’t have a future with the franchise.
22. Chicago Bulls
25-27 record, minus-1.5 net rating
Last ranking: no. 26
The Bulls haven’t made a trade involving a player since August 2021, per The Ringer’s Zach Kram. But they should have on Thursday, when the Warriors reportedly put Moses Moody and multiple picks on the table for Alex Caruso. Golden State arguably would have been overpaying considering that Caruso, as good as he is, is also injury prone and turns 30 later this month. But Chicago wanted Jonathan Kuminga, according to NBC Sports’ K.C. Johnson. Hilarious. The Bulls seem destined to stay in the middle. How sad to see one of the league’s most prestigious franchises fall so far.
21. Atlanta Hawks
22-29 record, minus-2.4 net rating
Last ranking: no. 20
The Hawks ultimately made the right choice by holding on to Dejounte Murray. No good offers were out there for him. Teams want to see him sustain his scoring from the perimeter before paying what Atlanta believes he’s worth. But maybe, as I wrote last week, the Hawks also want to see more from Murray for themselves before a big summer that could be headlined by Trae Young’s departure.
20. Utah Jazz
26-27 record, minus-2.4 net rating
Last ranking: no. 24
Danny Ainge traded away three rotation players on Thursday: Kelly Olynyk, Simone Fontecchio, and Ochai Agbaji. The team will be worse without them, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Jazz will keep their own first-round pick only if it lands in the top 10 this season. And now more minutes are open for lottery pick Taylor Hendricks. The Jazz are keeping their eye on the future rather than making shortsighted moves that lead them to the middle. Trust in Ainge.
19. Houston Rockets
23-27 record, plus-1 net rating
Last ranking: no. 18
On paper, you’d think the Rockets’ success this season would be because of their high-powered offense, which features names like Alperen Sengun, Fred VanVleet, and Jalen Green. But it’s actually their defense that’s fueling the team. Houston is in the top 10 in defensive rating and the bottom 10 in offensive rating. No trades were made to find a better balance, but I don’t blame the Rockets. They should ride out the year with their young guys. Feed Green all the shots. Give Amen Thompson heavy minutes. Let Jabari Smith experiment. This is the time to figure out what you have before assessing the future this summer.
18. Orlando Magic
28-24 record, plus-0.9 net rating
Last ranking: no. 14
The Magic elected to wait until the summer to make impactful moves that would improve their ailing offense. Orlando has been one of this season’s biggest surprises, but it likely faces an early exit in the postseason. Their elite defense should lead the Magic to a playoff spot, but the first round could expose just how far their offense needs to progress. Maybe along the way, Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner, and Jalen Suggs will pick up valuable experience that helps propel them as players in the years to come.
The Good but Not Great Teams
17. Indiana Pacers
29-24 record, plus-1.2 net rating
Last ranking: no. 19
It was a strange deadline for the Pacers: Buddy Hield was sent to a conference rival for cap filler and second-round picks. But Hield is 31 and will be a free agent this summer, so he wasn’t long for Indy anyway. And Doug McDermott was brought back to supplement their shooting. But Hield’s prowess as a movement shooter was integral to the potency of Indiana’s offense, and nothing was done to help the defense if the offense dips without him. Regardless, now it’s on the young guys—Bennedict Mathurin, Andrew Nembhard, and Ben Sheppard—to step up in his absence.
16. Sacramento Kings
29-21 record, plus-0.2 net rating
Last ranking: no. 10
I’ve argued all year that the Kings should be aggressive in pursuing trades to optimize their chances of making a deep playoff run. But here’s what I’ve come to realize the more I watch this team: There was no trade they could’ve made to become a Finals contender. Sacramento needs more than just tweaks. Going as far as they can and figuring out what they need will provide clarity this summer, when bigger fish could be available. At that point, yes, the Kings should be prepared to go all in because the windows can close fast.
15. New Orleans Pelicans
30-21 record, plus-4.7 net rating
Last ranking: no. 15
The Dejounte Murray trade rumblings before the deadline were odd. My impression is that the Hawks and Klutch Sports were mostly trying to drum up interest in Murray. Ultimately, the Pelicans decided not to make any moves, which was the right choice considering that few impactful players were available. The Pelicans should ride this out. Get Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram as much big-game experience together as possible. Figure out which supporting pieces are keepers and which ones need to be consolidated. Then aim for a big move this summer.
The Hazy, Faulty Old Contenders
14. Los Angeles Lakers
27-26 record, minus-1.1 net rating
Last ranking: no. 4
Last year, following a big deadline haul for the Lakers, I was extremely high on their Finals odds. This year, following a nothing burger? Not so much. The only reason the Lakers are even this high is because LeBron James and Anthony Davis are still playing so well. We’ll see whether Darvin Ham can find the right lineup combinations and schemes with his existing pieces, but it’s probably a safer bet to expect the Lakers to flame out, fire Ham, and then make massive changes this summer. All eyes will be on the offseason, when they’ll be able to deal three first-round picks, plus three swaps and six seconds, to make a big-time acquisition.
13. Golden State Warriors
24-25 record, plus-1.0 net rating
Last ranking: no. 11
Maybe it’s ridiculous to put an 11-seed this high on the list, but the Warriors are outscoring opponents by 19.4 points per 100 possessions in Draymond Green’s minutes since he returned 10 games ago. Jonathan Kuminga and Andrew Wiggins are beginning to thrive together. Stephen Curry has looked unstoppable again since Draymond’s return too, averaging 32.7 points on 47.7 percent from 3. The bench is bringing energy on a nightly basis. Golden State’s upcoming stretch, with games against the Suns and Clippers, will be a tougher test, but it’s also a chance for them to prove to everyone that they’re still the Warriors.
The Can’t Rule ’Em Out Contenders
12. Miami Heat
28-24 record, minus-0.2 net rating
Last ranking: no. 8
Will this be a repeat of last season? The Heat finished the 2022-23 regular season with the seventh-ranked defense and the 25th-ranked offense. Then they made the Finals. This season, they are ninth in defense and 23rd in offense. I’m hesitant to read too much into their ups and downs since we’re just now entering the stage of the season when Jimmy Butler begins to take things seriously. And recently, they’ve collectively defended at an even higher level. Terry Rozier has yet to find his way, averaging 12.6 points on 12.4 shots per game. But he deserves time to assimilate.
11. Philadelphia 76ers
30-20 record, plus-5 net rating
Last ranking: no. 6
The Sixers will move way up this list if Joel Embiid can return before the end of the season and look like the player who was about to win another MVP. And now, if he returns, he’ll have a better roster around him thanks to the addition of Buddy Hield and Cam Payne. Hield’s knockdown shooting gives the Sixers another asset in the half-court, while Payne’s shot creation and shooting will prove to be a better fit than Patrick Beverley’s skill set. The Sixers managed to get better while also retaining all their flexibility to make moves this summer. The only question is where they’ll finish in the standings: They’ve been terrible without Embiid, and they’re only three games up from the play-in tournament.
10. Cleveland Cavaliers
34-16 record, plus-5.6 net rating
Last ranking: no. 17
The Cavaliers have won 16 of their past 17 games and have outscored opponents by 16.4 points per 100 possessions. The defense has been the best in the league, and the offense is buzzing. When Evan Mobley and Darius Garland returned, I wondered whether they could screw up what Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen had found in their absence. But things have only improved, in large part because Mobley came back as a better player. Small sample size be damned: Mobley worked on his jumper during his extended absence and has made five of his seven shots from beyond the arc. If he can effectively space the floor, it will change everything about who the Cavs can be.
9. Dallas Mavericks
29-23 record, plus-0.2 net rating
Last ranking: no. 13
Luka Doncic is arguably the MVP this season, and now he has a much-improved supporting cast thanks to the acquisitions of Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington. If Dereck Lively can return and Kyrie Irving can stay on the floor, this group may take shape in a way that no team around Luka has before. The Mavericks are plus-6.7 in the minutes Doncic and Irving share. After some bold deadline moves, we’re about to see what they can become.
The Finals Contenders With Big Questions
8. New York Knicks
33-19 record, plus-5.7 net rating
Last ranking: no. 16
It was almost a perfect trade deadline for the Knicks, until it was revealed that OG Anunoby will be sidelined for at least three weeks following elbow surgery. But reinforcements are coming, as Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks are being imported from Detroit. These two fit perfectly around New York’s existing core, with Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle serving as the offensive engines. But the Knicks’ two stars need support. Bogdanovic and Burks can create in their own ways when needed, while primarily serving as off-ball threats. The Knicks continue to nail every acquisition they make and are proving that they’re one of the smartest teams in the entire league. What a world.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves
36-16 record, plus-6.1 net rating
Last ranking: no. 7
We’re nearly two-thirds of the way through the season, and Minnesota still has (by far) the NBA’s top defensive rating. Questions about the team’s offense persist, but adding a new backup point guard in Monte Morris should help boost its bench units. If Anthony Edwards and the starters can start clicking in endgame situations before the playoffs, they could ’04 Pistons their way to a championship behind a stellar defense and a good-enough offense.
6. Phoenix Suns
31-21 record, plus-3.2 net rating
Last ranking: no. 3
With a naked asset cupboard, the Suns did pretty well at the deadline, coming away with Royce O’Neale and David Roddy. O’Neale provides solid spot-up shooting, closeout attacks, and defense. Roddy is a versatile hustler on defense, although he needs to find his jumper, which has abandoned him since he left college. Overall, though, Phoenix managed to make upgrades around its stars on the cheap.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder
35-16 record, plus-7.9 net rating
Last ranking: no. 9
The Thunder are one of the biggest winners from the deadline, bringing in a veteran wing in Gordon Hayward and flipping one of their multiple 2024 firsts for a 2028 swap with the Mavericks (will Luka still be around then?), which positions them better in the short term and long term. Hayward represents a much-needed secondary creator and a better shooter than Josh Giddey. Granted, the Thunder didn’t address their lack of collective postseason experience, and they still need more rebounding, but Oklahoma City got better and increased its chances of making a Finals run, which should be improbable for a team with so much youth.
4. Milwaukee Bucks
33-19 record, plus-2.8 net rating
Last ranking: no. 5
The Bucks needed a defensive guard, and they got one in Patrick Beverley. Granted, he’s not a major needle mover, but for their needs he’s an upgrade over Cam Payne. And although Milwaukee has been only 3-6 since firing Adrian Griffin, I’m not concerned just yet. This is a transitional time for the Bucks. New defensive schemes are being implemented during limited practice time. And the team is showing signs of progress. They’re losing games during a tough part of the schedule, which I said could happen on The Mismatch. If they continue to falter as a team, then they will fall the next time these rankings are published. But for now, the Bucks deserve time to discover a new version of themselves.
The No-Brainer Finals Favorites
3. Boston Celtics
39-12 record, plus-9.7 net rating
Last ranking: no. 2
Xavier Tillman is another useful tool for Joe Mazzulla to use depending on what the game calls for. Behind Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford, the Celtics have a rim-running center in Luke Kornet, an interior big in Neemias Queta, and now Tillman, a more versatile piece who can defend in multiple schemes. The Jaden Springer addition is an intriguing move, too. Though Springer hasn’t come along offensively, he’s an excellent point-of-attack defender. If the Celtics can fix his jumper, he’ll be in the NBA for years to come and could even help out in spurts for the remainder of this season.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
34-16 record, plus-5.9 net rating
Last ranking: no. 12
The Clippers already made their big acquisition, James Harden, in November. The only question at the deadline was whether they’d move P.J. Tucker, and they didn’t. Word is he won’t seek a buyout, which gives Ty Lue another option off the bench when needed. Maybe the Clippers would’ve felt more compelled to push for a trade if Amir Coffey hadn’t emerged as a defensive stopper who’s also making over 40 percent of his 3s. Make no mistake: The Clippers are loaded.
1. Denver Nuggets
36-16 record, plus-4.5 net rating
Last ranking: no. 1
This season, there’s been a lot of talk about how the Nuggets have a weak bench following the summer losses of Bruce Brown and Jeff Green. But ultimately, Denver didn’t feel pressured to make any changes at the deadline. It’s the right choice: Peyton Watson is developing into a high-level 3-and-D player, and Christian Braun still has it in him to defend as well as he did during last year’s run. Their five starters, plus two impressive young guys and a multitude of options (usually Reggie Jackson), are more than enough for a chance to go back-to-back.