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NBA Power Rankings, and every team’s most impactful trade of the past five seasons

With the NBA trade deadline just days away (Thursday, 3 p.m. ET), teams around the league are looking to make deals. Sunday saw Caris LeVert traded from the Indiana Pacers to the Cleveland Cavaliers, as LeVert joins a team in Cleveland that has continued to defy expectations this season despite significant guard injuries.

Prior to the Cavs-Pacers deal, the LA Clippers acquired Robert Covington and Norman Powell from the Portland Trail Blazers in a five-player deal on Friday.

How could these moves impact the futures of the franchises?

In honor of the approaching deadline, our NBA Power Rankings are getting a trade twist, as our experts are looking back at the most impactful deals for each team over the past five seasons. Which trades have worked out and which teams are worse off after their major moves?

Note: Throughout the regular season, our panel (Tim Bontemps, Jamal Collier, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Tim MacMahon, Dave McMenamin and Ohm Youngmisuk) is ranking all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock of which teams are playing the best basketball now and which teams are looking most like title contenders.

1. Phoenix Suns
2021-22 record: 42-10
Previous ranking: 1

Chris Paul was considered damaged goods when he was dealt from Houston to Oklahoma City. All the Point God did with the Thunder was up his value and turn himself into a wanted commodity. Enter Phoenix. They picked up Paul for Kelly Oubre Jr., Ricky Rubio, Jalen Lecque, Ty Jerome and a protected 2022 first-round pick. It worked out pretty well for Phoenix, as Paul led the Suns to the NBA Finals in his first year in the Valley. — Lopez


2. Golden State Warriors
2021-22 record: 40-13
Previous ranking: 2

Getting Andrew Wiggins and the No. 7 pick, which turned into Jonathan Kuminga, from the Timberwolves for D’Angelo Russell before the trade deadline in February 2020 has worked out well for the Warriors, who knew after less than one season that Russell wasn’t a long-term fit. They banked on the fact that their culture could get the most out of Wiggins and that they could use the draft asset to hopefully grow another piece for the future. So far, the returns have been great for Bob Myers and his staff. Wiggins became an All-Star starter this year, Kuminga has shown flashes of strong play and the Warriors have returned back to title contention. — Friedell


3. Memphis Grizzlies
2021-22 record: 37-18
Previous ranking: 3

The Grit ‘n Grind era officially ended when Mike Conley, the last remaining member of Memphis’ “Core Four” was traded to the Jazz. General manager Zach Kleiman, who was clearing the way for No. 2 overall pick Ja Morant, got good value, as Jae Crowder and Grayson Allen were contributors during their time in Memphis. One of the two first-round picks turned into Brandon Clarke, with the other likely conveying this year. And the Grizzlies turned Kyle Korver into De’Anthony Melton in a separate trade. — MacMahon


4. Miami Heat
2021-22 record: 34-20
Previous ranking: 4

The Heat acquiring Jimmy Butler from the Sixers in a sign-and-trade for Josh Richardson in July 2019 has been great for Miami. Butler fit right in to the Heat’s vaunted culture and led the group to within two games of a championship during the 2020 Bubble Finals. Butler has become the new face of the Heat’s roster after Dwyane Wade’s retirement. — Friedell


5. Milwaukee Bucks
2021-22 record: 34-21
Previous ranking: 6

The Bucks paid a steep price for Jrue Holiday, acquiring him from New Orleans for three future first-round picks and two pick swaps, but it paid off in a big way when the Bucks won the championship in 2021. Holiday has been an excellent fit alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton as Milwaukee’s third star, providing excellent perimeter defense while giving the Bucks another player who can create his own shot and be a playmaker for others. — Collier


6. Chicago Bulls
2021-22 record: 33-20
Previous ranking: 7

Trading Jimmy Butler to Minnesota on draft night in 2017 changed the trajectory of the Bulls franchise. Chicago missed the playoffs in four straight seasons after unloading a franchise player in Butler, who ended up leading the Heat to the NBA Finals in 2020. The Bulls, however, did acquire Zach LaVine in the trade, who has been a key part in leading the team toward the top of the East standings this year. — Collier


7. Philadelphia 76ers
2021-22 record: 32-21
Previous ranking: 5

When the 76ers moved up from No. 3 to No. 1 in the 2017 NBA draft, it seemed like Markelle Fultz would be the perfect complement to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Instead, Fultz’s bizarre decline in his shooting ability turned his selection into a nightmare, one that eventually led to him being dumped for a relatively minimal gain. The No. 3 pick, meanwhile, became Jayson Tatum, one of the best young wings in the NBA and a player who would actually have been a perfect complement to Embiid and Simmons. — Bontemps


8. Cleveland Cavaliers
2021-22 record: 33-21
Previous ranking: 10

Coming off three straight NBA Finals appearances paired with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving had had enough and demanded a trade out of Cleveland. The Cavs initially balked at the request before finding a trade partner in the Celtics late in summer 2017. And that deal almost fell apart when Cleveland asked for more in the middle of negotiations after finding out more about Isaiah Thomas’ health. Ultimately, the pact went through and the Cavs added Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and a first-round pick that would become Collin Sexton. The trade has aged well for the Cavs, as Irving has been unreliable ever since leaving Cleveland and the Cavs have turned the roster over with one of the most exciting young groups in the Eastern Conference. — McMenamin


9. Dallas Mavericks
2021-22 record: 31-23
Previous ranking: 9

The draft-night trade for Luka Doncic breathed life back into the franchise. The Mavs gave up the next year’s first-round pick to move up two spots by swapping with the Hawks, who took Trae Young then and Cam Reddish in the next draft. It’s a price well worth paying for a player who could be a perennial MVP candidate for more than a decade. — MacMahon


10. Utah Jazz
2021-22 record: 32-21
Previous ranking: 12

The Donovan Mitchell trade ranks among the best draft-night steals in recent history. The Jazz sent former lottery pick Trey Lyles and Tyler Lydon to Denver to draft Mitchell with the 13th overall pick. Days later, Gordon Hayward left Utah for Boston in free agency, but Mitchell quickly filled his shoes as the Jazz’s go-to scorer. Mitchell, the Rookie of the Year runner-up and a three-time All-Star, has been critical to the Jazz remaining a perennial playoff team. — MacMahon


11. Denver Nuggets
2021-22 record: 29-24
Previous ranking: 8

Last March, the Nuggets showed they were all-in on their title hopes by sending Gary Harris, R.J. Hampton and a 2025 first-round pick to Orlando for Aaron Gordon and Gary Clark. Gordon was set to provide Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray with a third name to help combat other West powers with star tandems or trios. The Nuggets were excited about what their new trio could do in the playoffs after Denver made it to the Western Conference finals inside the Orlando, Florida, bubble. Murray, however, tore an ACL just over two weeks after the Gordon trade. While Denver waits for Murray to return from the ACL injury, the Nuggets are still in win-now mode with Jokic playing at an MVP level. Even if Murray returns for this postseason, the Nuggets will get a better look at what Jokic, Murray and Gordon can do with a full season together next year. — Youngmisuk


12. Brooklyn Nets
2021-22 record: 29-24
Previous ranking: 11

This might be cheating a little bit, given it was a sign-and-trade for a player the Nets agreed to sign as a free agent, but it’s not often a team is able to land arguably one of the 10 greatest players in the history of the NBA in a deal. While things haven’t quite gone as Durant and the Nets would have hoped since he arrived — Durant missed his entire first season rehabbing an Achilles tear, then the Nets lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Bucks in seven games in the playoffs last season — it’s impossible to dispute the impact the trade has had on the Nets and the NBA since it took place. — Bontemps


13. Toronto Raptors
2021-22 record: 28-23
Previous ranking: 14

There have been few more impactful trades than Toronto’s acquisition of Kawhi Leonard, which allowed the Raptors to finally claim the first championship in the franchise’s two decades in the NBA. That Leonard ultimately stayed in Toronto for only that season — and went to the Clippers right after winning the title — doesn’t change its significance, nor the impact it had on the Raptors both in the moment and moving forward. — Bontemps


14. Boston Celtics
2021-22 record: 30-25
Previous ranking: 16

The trade for Kyrie Irving in the 2017 offseason, coupled with the signing of Gordon Hayward, seemingly made Boston the favorites to succeed LeBron James as the dominant force in the Eastern Conference. Instead, injuries and instability marked Irving’s two years in Boston and ultimately led to a feeling of disappointment surrounding the Celtics, despite the team making the conference finals three times in four years — something only James and the Golden State Warriors can claim in recent memory. — Bontemps


15. Minnesota Timberwolves
2021-22 record: 28-25
Previous ranking: 17

Swapping D’Angelo Russell for Andrew Wiggins was a trade both the Wolves and Warriors were ready to make at the time, but it has become apparent how much Minnesota gave up in recent years. Russell has been solid, but the Wolves surrendered a first-round pick in ’21 and Wiggins became an All-Star with the Warriors. — Collier


16. Atlanta Hawks
2021-22 record: 25-28
Previous ranking: 15

Trae Young. Luka Doncic. The two players will always be tied together because of the 2018 NBA draft. Atlanta originally had the No. 3 pick and the right to choose Doncic after Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III went off the board. But instead of picking Doncic, Atlanta traded the pick to Dallas, which jumped up two picks. Dallas got Doncic. Atlanta got Young (and Cam Reddish the following year with the other pick Dallas sent). Both teams seem happy with their sides of the deal so far. — Lopez


17. Charlotte Hornets
2021-22 record: 28-26
Previous ranking: 13

After eight years with Kemba Walker, Charlotte decided to go in a different direction by working out a sign-and-trade with the Celtics for Terry Rozier. The move has paid dividends for the Hornets on two fronts. First, Rozier is averaging 18.9 points per game over his three seasons with the Hornets. And just as importantly, the decision not to give Walker a max deal looks good, given the injuries and inconsistent play he has dealt with during the same time. — Friedell


18. LA Clippers
2021-22 record: 27-28
Previous ranking: 18

The biggest day in franchise history remains the day that the Clippers landed Paul George in a blockbuster deal to also get Kawhi Leonard to sign with the team as a free agent in July 2019. The price to secure the franchise’s two stars was massive as the team sent Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, five first-round picks and two pick swaps to Oklahoma City to get George. The deal made the Clippers title contenders. And while LA still waits to see just how far Leonard and George can take this team at full strength after Leonard tore his ACL in the second round last year, the Clippers are fully focused on remaining a title contender next season. They might only be fighting for a playoff spot this season because they do not know if Leonard and George will be able to return, but as evidenced by last week’s trade for Norman Powell and Robert Covington, the Clippers fully have their eyes on making another championship run next season. — Youngmisuk


19. Los Angeles Lakers
2021-22 record: 26-28
Previous ranking: 19

Just a couple months into LeBron James’ inaugural season with the Lakers, James told ESPN it “would be amazing” for L.A. to trade for the Pelicans’ young star, Anthony Davis. L.A.’s and New Orleans’ seasons went off the rails from there, but six months later, the Lakers got their man. In all, L.A. traded away eight players — including Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram — to the Pelicans and Wizards, plus picks and cash to get Davis. And AD delivered with a championship in his first season. — McMenamin


20. Washington Wizards
2021-22 record: 24-28
Previous ranking: 20

The most impactful trade the Wizards have made in a long time was ending the John Wall era by sending the former franchise point guard to Houston for Russell Westbrook in December 2020. Even though Wall had been plagued by injuries toward the end of his tenure, the trade officially made this Bradley Beal‘s team, breaking up the team’s star backcourt duo. While Westbrook was a Wizard for only one season, he did provide Washington with a memorable and frantic run to the playoffs last season — their first postseason appearance in three seasons — while setting the all-time triple-double record as well. The trade still impacts the Wizards today, because Westbrook was moved for Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, three key players on this season’s team. — Youngmisuk


21. New York Knicks
2021-22 record: 24-29
Previous ranking: 21

The love affair between Kristaps Porzingis, the fourth pick in the 2015 NBA draft, and the Knicks was short-lived, as the Knicks dumped him prior to the final trade deadline before he hit restricted free agency in exchange for filler salary and a pair of future first-round picks. At the time, New York was pilloried for the move, but as Porzingis has struggled to regain his prior form after multiple knee surgeries, it looks better in hindsight. Either way, it still extended one of the more remarkable stats in the NBA: No first-round pick has reached a second contract with the Knicks since Charlie Ward, who was drafted more than 25 years ago. — Bontemps


22. New Orleans Pelicans
2021-22 record: 21-32
Previous ranking: 23

When David Griffin was hired in 2019 — before Zion Williamson entered the picture — he was tasked with trading the team’s previous No. 1 pick, who had requested a trade: Anthony Davis. Griffin didn’t have many options in where to deal the big man but ultimately sent him to the Los Angeles Lakers for Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and several picks and pick swaps. Ingram became an All-Star in New Orleans, and Hart is a starter, while the picks could help New Orleans make moves in the future. — Lopez


23. San Antonio Spurs
2021-22 record: 20-34
Previous ranking: 24

In summer 2018, Kawhi Leonard’s journey in a Spurs uniform came to an end when he was dealt to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a first-round pick. While the deal worked out pretty well for the Raptors, the Spurs held on to DeRozan for three seasons but made the playoffs only once and were ousted in the first round that year. DeRozan was sent to Chicago this past offseason in a sign-and-trade deal, while Poeltl has turned into San Antonio’s starting center. — Lopez


24. Portland Trail Blazers
2021-22 record: 21-33
Previous ranking: 22

You could make the argument that the deal Portland just made by sending Norman Powell and Robert Covington to the Clippers for Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, rookie Keon Johnson and a 2025 second-round pick is the most impactful deal the Blazers have made in five seasons. After eight straight playoff appearances, the Blazers now are a team in transition, looking more like a team ready to rebuild. Shedding Powell’s salary is likely the first of more moves designed to not only cut payroll but give the team flexibility and assets for the future. Interim general manager Joe Cronin’s phone will be busy this week. — Youngmisuk


25. Indiana Pacers
2021-22 record: 19-36
Previous ranking: 25

The Pacers were criticized at the time in 2017 for not getting enough for their franchise player in Paul George, but the return of Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis paid off well. The Pacers took the eventual Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers to seven games in the first round of the next year’s playoffs, and Sabonis has made two All-Star teams in Indiana. — Collier


26. Sacramento Kings
2021-22 record: 20-35
Previous ranking: 26

After taking De’Aaron Fox with the No. 5 pick in the 2017 draft, Sacramento could have built its backcourt of the future by using its No. 10 pick to take Donovan Mitchell out of Louisville. Instead, the Kings traded down at No. 10 to get two picks, which they used on Justin Jackson (No. 15) and Harry Giles (No. 20). Mitchell, who went No. 13 to Utah, has blossomed into a three-time All-Star. Jackson, meanwhile, has bounced around to six different teams, and Giles, still only 23 years old, is not currently on an NBA roster. — McMenamin


27. Oklahoma City Thunder
2021-22 record: 17-35
Previous ranking: 27

Trading Paul George to the Clippers signaled that Oklahoma City was entering a rebuilding period after a decade of attempting to be contenders. Thunder general manager Sam Presti used Kawhi Leonard’s free agency as leverage — the Clippers needed to get George in order to sign the two-time Finals MVP — to extract incredible value out of the trade. Oklahoma City received a young potential franchise cornerstone in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, veteran forward Danilo Gallinari, five first-round picks and two pick swaps. — MacMahon


28. Houston Rockets
2021-22 record: 15-38
Previous ranking: 28

The deal that brought Russell Westbrook to Houston was a total disaster. The Rockets sent Chris Paul, two first-round picks and two potential first-round swaps to Oklahoma City in a deal that was largely motivated by the desire to keep James Harden happy. After one season together, Harden and Westbrook both wanted out of Houston and got their wish. Paul has proven that discussion of his decline was premature. All Houston has to show for the deal is the bloated contract of John Wall and half of rookie Alperen Sengun, whom the Rockets acquired by dealing two first-round picks, including one they received in the Westbrook/Wall trade. — MacMahon


29. Orlando Magic
2021-22 record: 12-43
Previous ranking: 30

It remains to be seen just what kind of impact trading Nikola Vucevic and Al-Farouq Aminu to the Bulls for Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr. and two first-round picks in March 2021 will have on the organization, but it represented the start of yet another rebuild as the lowly Magic dealt away the All-Star big man for the hope that the future would be brighter — again. Orlando now has to hope that rookies Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs will continue to get better and play well with fellow young players Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz when the latter pair, both of whom are rehabbing knee injuries, returns. — Friedell


30. Detroit Pistons
2021-22 record: 12-41
Previous ranking: 29

Detroit made a move to acquire Blake Griffin in 2018, a move that backfired because it required the Pistons to trade Tobias Harris, a first-round pick and several other players. Griffin made one All-Star team and did lead the Pistons to a first-round playoff exit in 2018-19, but he played less than two full seasons worth of games in what ultimately left Detroit ready to launch into a full rebuild. — Collier

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