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    NBA Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers (01/24/17)

    By Mark Dankenbring

    NBA Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers

    As we pass the midpoint of the season and see February fast approaching, we come at you with another dose of Risers and Fallers. 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 1/24/17.

    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 to Top 3 risers and fallers in the rankings, despite their initial position.

    We see some movement in the Top 5 of our Power Rankings for the first time in a few weeks. The Spurs fall down to number four with the injuries to Pau Gasol and Tony Parker, while Houston finds itself at #2 in our rankings, officially leapfrogging the Cleveland Cavaliers. Toronto sneaks its way into the 5th spot as Patrick Patterson is set to return, and we see the Jazz fall a few spots with Rodney Hood out for a few weeks. We also see a good amount of movement among the lower positions, so let's start off by taking a look at the three teams who jumped most in our rankings this week.

    Top 3 Risers

    Oklahoma City Thunder - #14 up to #9

    As the Thunder enter the last week of January basketball, they find themselves with a hold of the 6th spot in the West, and have cracked the Top 10 of our rankings this week. The Thunder now boast a fully healthy roster as Cameron Payne continues to back-up Mr. Triple Double and Steven Adams has returned after missing two games (both losses) with a concussion. Enes Kanter has been a consistent scoring threat for the Thunder off the bench, averaging just under 20 points per game on 60% shooting in his last five. Oklahoma City will play New Orleans and Dallas in their next two games, hoping to secure a few victories before facing Cleveland and San Antonio in a three-day stretch.

    Detroit Pistons - #24 up to #14

    The Pistons see the largest jump of any team in our rankings this week, as they move up ten spots to #14. Detroit welcomes back Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to their lineup after a five game absence, and his ability to defend and stretch the floor is a big boost for the Pistons' lineup. With his return, the Pistons rise in both offensive and defensive efficiency, moving up eight spots to 16 in our O-Rank, and seven spots up to 15 in our D-Rank. Marcus Morris was an important contributor for them without Caldwell-Pope, as he averaged 19 points and 8 rebounds a game in his absence. Look for the Pistons to play well in the upcoming week, and to hopefully make a push for a playoff spot as they'll face Eastern Conference foes in Miami and Boston this week.

    Denver Nuggets - #22 up to #16

    Denver enters Tuesday night's home game against the Jazz having won four of their last six games. The Nuggets have put on a clinic in terms of how to score the basketball, as they've averaged over 120 points per game in their last six. Nikola Jokic has solidified himself as their number one threat on offense, averaging 25.5 points per game on 61.4% shooting and an 84% mark from the line over that stretch. Add the 11 rebounds and four assists he's posted to that per game stat line, and Jokic turns into one of the most potent offensive big man options in the NBA. The Nuggets also hope to benefit from the return of their starting two-guard, Gary Harris. Harris had missed four in a row, only to return to post 22 points on 9-13 shooting in their game against the Kings on Monday. Look for the Nuggets to continue to put up impressive offensive numbers as they'll play the Suns and Lakers in three of their next four games.

    Top 3 Fallers

    Utah Jazz - #5 down to #8

    Utah's departure from our Top 5 is in large part due to the injury to Rodney Hood. It appears as if Hood will miss a decent chunk of time with a knee injury, so the Jazz will need to find suitable replacements for the 30 minutes a game Hood has averaged this season. Utah's depth will continue to be tested as they approach the 50-game mark on the season, and even head coach Quin Snyder said his players “looked emotionally drained” in their loss to the Thunder Monday night. The Jazz will play again tonight in Denver, and will wrap up the week against the Lakers and Grizzlies. If they can continue to play well and stay energized in Hood's absence, they could very easily enter the 4th spot in the West, which is currently occupied by the banged-up Los Angeles Clippers.

    Los Angeles Clippers - #6 down to #19

    Speaking of the Clippers, they continue to be the most volatile team in our rankings, as they once again drop out of the Top 10 with the injury to Chris Paul, and find themselves now closer to 20th. Blake Griffin is expected to return tonight against the surging Philadelphia 76ers, a promising sign for LA as they're 19-7 with Griffin on the court this season. Austin Rivers has done well scoring the ball for the Clippers in Paul's absence, averaging 19.8 points per game, but has struggled to facilitate as well as Paul, averaging under five assists per game, about half of what Paul (9.7 assists per game) usually produces. LA has lost two of three since Paul's injury, and will likely take some time to re-accommodate Blake Griffin back into the offense, so our expectations for them are tempered for the time being.

    Sacramento Kings - #13 down to #22

    With the injury to Rudy Gay and their recent struggles, the Kings drop nine spots down to #22 in our rankings this week. The Kings have seen their playoff hopes diminish over the last three weeks, as they've gone 3-10 since December 28th, with two of those wins coming against the Detroit Pistons. With Gay out of the rotation, DeMarcus Cousins now finds himself as the team leader in points, assists, rebounds, steals, and blocks. No one else on the Kings averages over 13 points or five rebounds a game, so Cousins will continue to dominate the offensive possessions for Sacramento. Sacramento's offensive struggles without Gay are also reflected in our offensive efficiency rankings, as they drop from 7th to 19th in the NBA. Unless the Kings find someone to compliment Cousins' output, they'll likely remain out of the Top 8 in the West the rest of the way.
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