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    NBA Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers (02/07/17)

    By Mark Dankenbring

    NBA Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers

    The calendar has flipped to February, which means the NBA season is approaching the All-Star Break and every team is through 50 games. The first week of February brings us another weekly issue of Risers and Fallers, so let's take a look at the movement in this week's power rankings. Our Power Rankings are developed using players on the active depth chart, which causes fluctuation week-to-week based on injuries and who is in and out of the lineup. To see a full description of how our Power Rankings are created, as well as this week's full list of rankings, please visit NBA Rankings 2/7/16.

    Within our rankings every week, there are noticeable risers and fallers throughout. The goal of this article is to identify who has gained or lost the most ground in the Association, whether it be due to injury or just a decline in team performance. Each article will include the Top 3 risers and fallers in the rankings, despite their initial position.

    The Top 5 of our rankings see decent fluctuation again this week. The Spurs have jumped the Rockets to take over the 2nd spot, while Cleveland finds its way back into the Top 5 with a healthy big three and Kyle Korver finding his stride. Just as the Raptors fell out of the second spot in the East, they now fall below the Celtics in our rankings, who have moved into the 5th spot in this week's rankings. Also, our Top 5 is held down by the five best teams record-wise in the current NBA standings. There continues to be some considerable movement among the rankings due to injuries and streaky play, so let's start by taking a look at the three teams that jumped the most in our rankings this week.

    Top 3 Risers

    Cleveland Cavaliers - #9 up to #4

    As expected, the Cavaliers' time spent out of our Top 5 lasted merely a week with Kevin Love only missing two full games. The Cavaliers have rebounded from their sub .500 January by starting 3-0 in February, including an OT thriller last night in Washington. LeBron has shown he's determined to right the ship in Cleveland, hitting a remarkable fade away three to send last night's game to overtime, and also starting off the month averaging 30.3 points, 13 assists, and 6.7 rebounds per game on 67.3% shooting. Last night's win for the Cavs also ended the Wizards' 16-game home win streak, showing everyone they're still the top dog in the East. The only thing holding the Cavaliers back from a top three spot in our rankings is their average defense, which currently sits at 15 in our Defensive Efficiency rankings. Cleveland will try and separate themselves from the Celtics even more before the break as they have three games in four days to close out the week.

    Miami Heat - #23 up to #14

    The Heat have been the NBA's hottest team over the past three weeks, assembling an 11-game win streak and jumping nine spots in our rankings this week. Goran Dragic has led the charge for the Heat, averaging 23.5 points and 6.8 assists per game over that stretch, solidifying himself as Miami's number one option on offense. The return of Dion Waiters has been huge for the Heat as well, as he's helped their offensive efforts tremendously in this streak by averaging 20.6 points per game. Miami's defense has been one of the most effective in the NBA on this run as they're allowing under 100 points per game, good enough to put them at 7th in our Defensive Efficiency rankings. The Heat will look to extend their streak to 12 against the Bucks on Wednesday, the last team to hand them a loss all the way back on January 13th.

    Dallas Mavericks - #25 up to #21

    The Rick Carlisle led Mavericks have been playing good basketball in the last three weeks, having gone 9-4 in their last 13 games, and now find themselves just three spots back of the 8th seed in the West. Dallas continues to deal with injuries to key players as well, with Deron Williams and J.J. Barea both injured at the point guard position, and Andrew Bogut has struggled to play any sort of consistent time at center all season. Yogi Ferrell has averaged over 37 minutes a game since he was signed by the Mavs 10 days ago, and has since been signed to a 2-year deal after making nine three pointers against Portland and leading the Mavs to a 4-1 record in his first five games. Seth Curry has looked solid for Dallas as he continues to get more minutes, and has averaged 19.2 points per game over his last five. If the Mavericks continue to play well and can re-integrate their starters into their newfound success, they could definitely find themselves with a playoff spot in the West.

    Top 3 Fallers

    Toronto Raptors - #4 down to #9

    With Toronto's recent struggles, they now find themselves just one game up on the Wizards for the 3rd spot in the East with four games to go before the All-Star Break. DeMar DeRozan's injury has shown to be a tough obstacle for the Raptors, as they've lost four of the six games he's missed in the last few weeks. Patrick Patterson's inability to stay on the court has plagued the Raptors, as he's only played eight full games in January and February, with half of them coming in Toronto's current 4-8 stretch. If anyone in the East should be asking for another playmaker, it's the Raptors. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan account for nearly half of the Raptors points per game and average nearly 11 assists per game combined, while Cory Joseph (2.8) and Patrick Patterson (1.4) are the only other players who average more than one assist per game. The Raptors need a third option if they want to contend against the Cavaliers in the East, so let's see if they make a move with the All-Star Break a little over a week away.

    Indiana Pacers - #12 down to #18

    This one may come as a surprise to most as the Pacers have won seven in a row, but the teams right in the middle of our rankings are always close and Indiana is currently without starting power forward Thaddeus Young. Indiana has taken advantage of a soft spot in their schedule, as four of their seven wins have come against teams in the bottom 10 of our power rankings, and only one win coming against a Top 10 team in the Rockets. Indiana has played exceptional defense recently, allowing only 96.3 points per game over their win streak, including holding two opponents to under 90 points. Their offense can still be a liability for them, however, as they currently sit at 24th in our Offensive Efficiency rankings. The Pacers' true talent will be exposed over the next few weeks, as their next 15 games are against teams currently in the Top 15 of our rankings, including two games each against the Cavaliers, Spurs, and Wizards.

    Chicago Bulls - #19 down to #28

    The Bulls continue to play .500 basketball, but the injury to Jimmy Butler drops them nearly ten spots in our rankings this week. It's tough to believe that the Bulls are a bottom five team in the league, but without Butler it's tough to identify who the Bulls can go to on the offensive end besides an aging Dwyane Wade. Chicago's offense has struggled all season, even with Butler healthy, as they're 23rd in the NBA in scoring, and without Butler they fall to 30th in our Offensive Efficiency rankings. The Bulls continue to rotate starters at the point guard position, indicating their lack of fluidity and cohesiveness as an offensive unit. Butler likely won't miss a large chunk of time, but without him the Bulls are in serious trouble.
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