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Power Rankings: Where does the East stand before the trade deadline?

A shakeup may come, but for now the Cavs are comfortably on top

NBA: All Star Game-Eastern at Western Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

15. Brooklyn Nets

14. Orlando Magic

13. New York Knicks

The Knicks are bad. They are an expensive, old, bad team that is hindering the development of Kristaps Porzingis. But all hope is not lost. Phil Jackson is rumored to have his hand in a lot of honey pots as the trade deadline approaches. It has been reported that both Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose could be leaving the Big Apple which would be a major boost to the Knicks franchise. Clearly cutting corners and trying to use discarded veterans (Rose, Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee) did not work. The most prudent move would be to reset and build around Porzingis and to do that the Knicks will need assets.

It is unlikely the team will be able to get out from underneath the albatross that is Noah’s contract but Anthony, Lee, Rose are all pieces that could net the Knicks future assets in return. It remains to be seen if Phil is the right person to entrust those future assets to, but putting the focus on a bright future around Kristaps (and taking the spotlight away from Oakley, Dolan and Phil) is the best move for the franchise.

12. Philadelphia 76ers

11. Miami Heat

10. Charlotte Hornets

9. Detroit Pistons

Stan Van Gundy and the Pistons are in a unique spot as the trade deadline rapidly approaches. Coming off of a promising 2015-16 season the stock of the Pistons was trending upwards. But the pre-All-Star break returns this year have been poor. Currently the Pistons are in the playoffs if the season ended today, but locally the season is viewed as a disappointment. With the team moving into a new arena next year will SvG stand pat and be happy with back-to-back playoff appearances or try and make a big move to change the direction of the franchise? Reggie Jackson has struggled to regain his form after getting injured to start the season. Andre Drummond has not taken the next step in his development that many expected before the year began. Stanley Johnson talked a big game in the playoffs last year but has not lived up to his lottery pick pedigree in the second year of his career.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been one of the bright spots for the Pistons, but after failing to sign him to an extension before the year his future with Detroit remains unclear. All of this adds up to a team that could really shake things up at the trade deadline. Rumors have linked Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond with moves out of town, but does that really make sense? There is not a clear path to helping the Pistons take the next step, but they certainly are a team to keep an eye on as Thursday inches closer.

8. Milwaukee Bucks

7. Chicago Bulls

6. Indiana Pacers

The Bulls and the Pacers are situated similarly as Thursday’s deadline approaches. Both teams have a star, the type of player that NBA teams spend years trying to acquire. Paul George and Jimmy Butler are players worth building around in today’s and both the Pacers and the Bulls have failed to build around their respective star. Because of each team’s inability to capitalize on having a star player both Butler and George are reportedly available to be had via trade.

Either player being traded while their teams are firmly in the playoff race would be a shock but it speaks to the way today’s NBA works. Paul George has the ability to leave the Pacers after the 2018-2019 season and Butler has the chance to leave the Bulls the year after and teams are afraid of losing star players for nothing. Neither team has a clear path towards entering the next tier of competitiveness (though I think Myles Turner could help the Pacers get there) and perhaps each respective front office is worried they have maxed out their rosters potential. Again I would be shocked to see either player move, but the NBA is crazy and the trade deadline makes GMs do silly things (see the Demarcus Cousins trade).

5. Atlanta Hawks

4. Washington Wizards

3. Boston Celtics

Say what you want about Bill Simmons but that tweet is 100% accurate. The Celtics are the team to watch over the next 48ish hours. They have the largest war chest of assets thanks to a trade robbery that is only rivaled in infamy by the Lufthansa Heist. Since fleecing the Brooklyn Nets for what seems like every first round pick the franchise will ever have Danny Ainge has been relatively quiet. Chipotle’s most loyal customer has passed time after time on using any of his acquired assets to make his team better, instead drafting players like Terry Rozier, RJ Hunter, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown. But this deadline could be different.

The Celtics have been linked to Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin, Jimmy Butler and DeMarcus Cousins before he was dealt to New Orleans. Boston supporters see this season as their window being open. The Cavaliers injuries combined with the coming out party of Isaiah Thomas have created what seems like the perfect storm for the Celtics to make the move to get over the hump (no that hump is not getting Brad Stevens past the first round) and back to the NBA Finals. Who knows if Boston will actually make a move (he won’t) but for the Celtics from now until Thursday afternoon is their Finals … and it will be fascinating to see if Ainge will shoot his shot.

2. Toronto Raptors

1. Cleveland Cavaliers