NBA Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers

By Mark Dankenbring

NBA Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers

As we head into All-Star Break weekend, let's stop and take a look at our last edition of power rankings before the break. Injuries remain a common theme in affecting our rankings this week, as teams are being more cautious leading into their extended break. Once again, I'll take you through the biggest risers and fallers 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 2/14/17.

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 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 and Warriors hold down the top spots, but Cleveland falls out with the news that Kevin Love will need knee surgery, and the Jazz slide all the way up to third. The Rockets drop a spot into 4th, but also move up a few spots in our Defensive Efficiency Rankings. Boston is our top-ranked team in the East heading into the break, as they sit only two games back of the Cavaliers for first place and Avery Bradley looks like he'll return well before J.R. Smith and Kevin Love. The Celtics have won 10 of 11 and will play the 76ers and reeling Chicago Bulls before their week off. If Boston stays healthy and continues to play well, we could have a new top dog in the Eastern Conference before long. There is still a good amount of movement in the lower portion of the rankings as well, so let's first take a look at the Top 3 risers in this week's rankings.

Top 3 Risers

Utah Jazz - #6 up to #3

The Jazz come in as our most influential move in the rankings this week as they bust into the Top 5, finding themselves at #3 heading into the break. Utah has hit a rough patch in the last few games, having lost three straight at home, while only scoring 72 points last night against the Clippers. Utah still boasts the best scoring defense in the NBA, however, as they allow less than 96 points per game while holding opponents to the second lowest shooting percentage in the league at 43.9%. Utah also claims the top spot in terms of opponents points per possession at 1.17. Gordon Hayward has scored 30+ points in four of his last six games and leads the team in scoring with 22.2 points per game. The Jazz will get Rodney Hood back shortly after the All-Star Break, so look for them to remain in the top five of our rankings in weeks to come.

Dallas Mavericks - #21 up to #17

After having only won 11 of their first 38 games, the Mavericks have been able to win 11 of 17 and move within striking distance of the 8th spot in the West. Dirk's health has been the main reason for the Mavs' turnaround, and he's just starting to find a consistent stroke heading into the All-Star Break. In his last four games, Dirk has averaged 19.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.5 steals a game, which are much closer to his career averages. Yogi Ferrell has continued to be a huge boost for Dallas as well. He's averaging 15.2 points, 5 assists, and 1.6 steals in the nine games he's played for the Mavericks. Deron Williams has made his way back into the rotation, and will likely come out of the All-Star Break fully healthy and ready for the final 26 games of the season. Look for the Mavs to continue to rise in our rankings as the season goes on.

Philadelphia 76ers - #29 up to #25

Philadelphia finds themselves featured in the risers and fallers column for the first time all season, as they've moved up to #25 in our rankings this week. The Sixers come into today having won three in a row, including at Charlotte last night where Nicolas Batum had guaranteed a victory for the Hornets. Nerlens Noel has seen some extended minutes with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor not on the court and has been able to show his defensive skills. Noel has nine steals and five blocks in his last three games, which has helped Philadelphia move up to 13th in our Defensive Efficiency rankings. Dario Saric has played exceptional in his extended time as well, averaging 20.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game while shooting 53.4% shooting from the field in his last four. The 76ers are only 4.5 games out of the 8th spot in the East, and it looks like Embiid will return to the club shortly after the All-Star Break. Who knows, Philadelphia might find themselves playing something other than spoiler in the last couple months of the season.

Top 3 Fallers

Cleveland Cavaliers - #4 down to #9

The Cavaliers have now flip-flopped between the 9 and 4 position for the third week in a row. I could essentially copy and paste the blurb I wrote about them a couple weeks ago when Love was out with back spasms, but now they're looking at an extended absence from their All-Star power forward. Cleveland will close out this week with a back-to-back against Minnesota and Indiana, in which the Cavaliers are 0-7 on the second night so far this season. LeBron has carried the Cavaliers to a 5-1 record in February, as he's averaging 26.8 points, 11.2 assists, and 6.0 rebounds per game. Cleveland will now rely on 33-year old Channing Frye and 36-year old Richard Jefferson to produce in the absence of Kevin Love. Derrick Williams, who was just signed on a 10-day contract, now looks like he'll spend the rest of the season in Cleveland with the lack of depth in the front court. It will be interesting to see how the Cavaliers play without two of their key starters down the stretch, and see if they can hold off the Boston Celtics for home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Oklahoma City Thunder - #11 down to #13

The Thunder only drop a couple spots this week, but with the lack of movement elsewhere, find themselves among our Top 3 Fallers. The Thunder have lost six of nine and have struggled to score the basketball over that stretch, as they scored over 100 points only four times in those nine games. Without Enes Kanter, their third leading scorer, it's tough for Russell Westbrook to get any help outside of Victor Oladipo and Steven Adams. In their emotional loss to the Warriors, Westbrook, Oladipo, and Adams combined for 80 of the 114 Thunder points, while the rest of the supporting cast shot 33% from the field and 1 of 10 from three. It's clear that Westbrook could use more shooters off the ball, and if the Thunder don't get them, it will likely be a first round exit come playoff time.

Atlanta Hawks - #13 down to #16

Atlanta finds themselves dropping a few spots in the middle of the pack this week and ends up at 16th in our rankings. Thabo Sefolosha has been on the shelf for the last nine games, a stretch in which the Hawks have gone 5-4. His absence hurts the Hawks on both sides of the ball, as they drop two spots in both our Offensive and Defensive Efficiency rankings. Tim Hardaway Jr. has been a bright spot for the Hawks since entering the starting lineup, however, and has averaged 22.5 points in his last six. Dwight Howard has played well in the month of February as well, averaging a double-double with 12.4 points and 13.6 rebounds per game. The Hawks are still a solid team in the East, as they are tied for 4th with the Raptors at 32-23, but have dropped a few spots in our rankings due to the success of the Heat, Clippers, and Pistons over the last few games. The Hawks still seem like they're on the outside looking in on the race to the Eastern Conference finals, however, as Boston, Washington, and now Toronto with the addition of Serge Ibaka, all seem to have more talented squads.