NBA power rankings: LeBron on brink of Kareem’s scoring record; latest trade deadline buzz

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is on the verge of breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career scoring record and Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving has requested a trade, setting up what could be a wild week in the NBA.

Thursday’s NBA trade deadline is just days away. Trade winds picked up considerably Friday amid multiple reports that Irving wants out of Brooklyn after the two sides failed to agree to a long-term contract extension.

The Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns were expected to explore trade possibilities with the Nets, sources told ESPN. Irving, who is making $36.9 million in the final year of his contract, is reportedly seeking a four-year, $198.5 million maximum extension.

Meanwhile, James is 63 points away from surpassing Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s career scoring leader. The Lakers will visit the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday before returning to Los Angeles to play the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday and Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday. The record will likely fall in one of those two games.

Here’s a look at this week’s NBA power rankings as the trade deadline nears and playoff races heat up.

* Through games played 2/2

1. Boston Celtics (37-15)

Last week: 2

Boston briefly fell from the top spot after losing three in a row in late January, but the Celtics are back at No. 1 after All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown led them to back-to-back wins over the Lakers and Nets. Brown had 37 points in the win over Los Angeles. Tatum had 31 against Brooklyn.

2. Denver Nuggets (36-16)

Last week: 1

The Nuggets lost a couple of tough games against the Bucks and 76ers, but they bounced back with wins over the Pelicans and Warriors behind back-to-back 30-point games from Jamal Murray. Nikola Jokic had triple-doubles in both games. He is now averaging a triple-double with 25.1 points, 11.1 rebounds and 10.0 assists.

3. Milwaukee Bucks (35-17)

Last week: 4

The Bucks are coming on strong, winning six in a row and eight of their last nine. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been a monster during the winning streak, posting scoring/rebounding totals of 29-12, 33-14, 41-12, 50-13, 34-18 and 54-19.

4. Philadelphia 76ers (33-17)

Last week: 3

The 76ers have been rolling for weeks. They suffered a loss to the Magic on Monday, but they’ve won eight of nine and 13 of 16. Joel Embiid was named an All-Star on Thursday. He is averaging 33.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists.

5. Memphis Grizzlies (32-20)

Last week: 5

Ja Morant was named an All-Star on Thursday, but Memphis has struggled without Steven Adams, who is expected to miss three to four more weeks with a PCL sprain in his right knee. The Grizzlies have lost seven of their last eight games.

6. Brooklyn Nets (31-20)

Last week: 7

Brooklyn is coming off a 43-point loss to the Celtics and now Kyrie Irving has requested a trade with the Lakers, Mavericks and Suns emerging as possible suitors. Kevin Durant (knee) will be reevaluated in two weeks, but what will the Nets look like when he returns?

7. Cleveland Cavaliers (33-22)

Last week: 6

Donovan Mitchell scrapped with Dillon Brooks after taking a shot to the jewels in a 128-113 victory over the Grizzlies on Thursday. The Cavs are fifth in the East, just a half-game behind the Nets for fourth.

8. Sacramento Kings (29-21)

Last week: 8

The Beam Team has won nine of 12 to jump to third in the Western Conference, just two games behind the Grizzlies for the No. 2 seed. Domantas Sabonis was just selected as an All-Star for the third time.

9. Miami Heat (29-24)

Last week: 10

Miami has lost two of three with losses to the Hornets and Knicks, but the Heat has won eight of 12 after picking up a big road win over the Cavaliers on Tuesday.

10. Dallas Mavericks (28-25)

Last week: 13

The Mavericks were fourth in the West after winning three of four with victories over the Suns, Pistons and Pelicans, but Luka Doncic suffered a heel injury against New Orleans.

11. New York Knicks (28-25)

Last week: 9

The Knicks suffered back-to-back losses to the Nets and Lakers before bouncing back with a 106-104 victory over the Heat on Thursday.

12. Los Angeles Clippers (29-26)

Last week: 16

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are healthy and the Clippers are surging. They won six of seven before suffering a 106-105 loss to the Bucks on Thursday.

13. Minnesota Timberwolves (28-26)

Last week: 17

The Timberwolves have won six of eight to move into sixth in the Western Conference, but they have five teams lurking within 1 ½ games.

14. Utah Jazz (27-26)

Last week: 14

Lauri Markkanen earned his first All-Star selection and Utah is eighth in the West after winning back-to-back games against the Mavericks and Raptors.

15. Atlanta Hawks (26-26)

Last week: 12

The Hawks smashed the Suns 132-100 on Wednesday in Phoenix, but they drop three spots after losing four of their previous five games.

16. Phoenix Suns (27-26)

Last week: 18

Devin Booker (groin) could return as soon as Tuesday for the Suns, who had won six of seven before Wednesday’s loss to the Hawks.

17. Golden State Warriors (26-26)

Last week: 15

Stephen Curry has been hot over the past six games, but the Warriors are ninth in the West following back-to-back losses to the Timberwolves and Nuggets.

18. New Orleans Pelicans (26-27)

Last week: 11

Brandon Ingram is back but the Pelicans have lost 10 in a row to fall to 10th in the West. Ingram had 26 points, nine rebounds and seven assists vs. the Mavs on Thursday.

19. Portland Trail Blazers (25-26)

Last week: 21

Damian Lillard followed his recent 60-point game against the Jazz with back-to-back 42-point games in wins over the Hawks and Grizzlies.

20. Washington Wizards (24-26)

Last week: 23

The Wizards have won six in a row to move up to ninth in the Eastern Conference, but the schedule will get tougher over the next two weeks.

21. Los Angeles Lakers (25-28)

Last week: 22

The Lakers are coming off back-to-back wins over the Knicks and Pacers as LeBron James closes in on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career scoring record.

22. Oklahoma City Thunder (24-27)

Last week: 19

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander earned his first All-Star selection Thursday, but the Thunder has lost three of four to fall out of the play-in picture.

23. Chicago Bulls (24-27)

Last week: 25

The Bulls are 10th in the Eastern Conference after winning two of their last three, but they’ll have to hold off the Pacers and Raptors in the play-in race.

24. Indiana Pacers (24-29)

Last week: 20

First-time All-Star Tyrese Haliburton returned from a 10-game injury absence to post 28 points and 12 rebounds in a tough loss to the Lakers.

25. Toronto Raptors (23-30)

Last week: 24

The Raptors are two games out of the play-in after losing three of their last four. Changes could be coming at the trade deadline.

26. Orlando Magic (20-32)

Last week: 26

Paolo Banchero continues to lead the Rookie of the Year race. He’s averaging 20.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists.

27. Charlotte Hornets (15-38)

Last week: 28

The Hornets are reportedly engaged in trade talks on multiple fronts with several veterans up for discussion.

28. San Antonio Spurs (14-38)

Last week: 27

A number of teams have reportedly expressed trade interest in Jakob Poeltl, including the Celtics and Raptors.

29. Houston Rockets (13-38)

Last week: 30

The Rockets are reportedly among the teams that have engaged the Hawks in trade talks for John Collins.

30. Detroit Pistons (13-39)

Last week: 29

The Pistons recently picked up a rare win over the Nets, but they’ve lost six of seven.