NBA Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers (02/24/17)

By Mark Dankenbring

NBA Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers

With our first edition of Power Rankings post All-Star Break and trade deadline, there's plenty to discuss in terms of risers and fallers. A few trades around the league have seen teams ascend or descend in the rankings, while most didn't affect teams' positions like they probably would have hoped. 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 2/24/17.

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, roster changes, or just a decline in team performance. Each article will include the Top 3 risers and fallers in the rankings, despite their initial position.

Not much has changed in the Top 5 of our rankings this week, but we do see the Houston Rockets reclaim the #3 spot with their acquisition of Lou Williams, who proved his worth in his first game by scoring 27 points shooting 7-11 from behind the arc. Our biggest jump this week is the Pelicans, who find themselves in the Top 10 of our Power Rankings with DeMarcus Cousins now in their starting lineup. The Cavaliers remain in the 9th spot without Kevin Love in the rotation, but may receive some more help in the next few days with Deron Williams rumored to be on his way there, along with former Warrior Andrew Bogut who would bring a true center position presence to the Cavaliers. 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

New Orleans Pelicans - #18 up to #7

It's no surprise that the Pelicans top our list of risers this week, as they pulled off a trade with the Sacramento Kings to acquire DeMarcus Cousins for a couple bench players and a currently underwhelming rookie in Buddy Hield. The Pelicans seem to have made out like bandits in the short term, and that's why they find themselves in our Top 10 in this week's rankings. The Pelicans jump from 26th to 12th in our Offensive Efficiency Rankings with the trade, and also move up a couple spots to 4th in Defensive Efficiency. Boogie showed his defensive value last night with four blocks and five steals. The Pelicans did not reflect their ranking in their blowout loss to the Rockets last night, but as the team gets more practices and continues to mesh, New Orleans could be a dangerous 8-seed relative to years past.

Denver Nuggets - #20 up to #12

The Nuggets opened up the post All-Star stretch with a dud last night against the Kings in which their rising star Nikola Jokic scored only four points with 10 rebounds and two assists. Jokic also struggled mightily on defense last night, as he allowed Willie Cauley-Stein to score 29 points and grab 10 rebounds on 14-22 shooting. However, the Nuggets rise up our rankings this week as key players Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler all returned from multi-game absences before the break. The return of those three, as well as moving Jameer Nelson into the starting PG role bumped them from 8th to 5th in our Offensive Efficiency Rankings, and brought them out of last in our Defensive Efficiency Rankings up to 25th. The Nuggets look like they'll be battling for the 8th spot in the West with the Blazers and Pelicans, so if Denver can figure out the defensive side of the ball, they should have a decent shot to still make the playoffs.

Chicago Bulls - #30 up to #21

The Bulls rise out of the depths in our post-break rankings with the imminent return of Dwyane Wade and the fact Jimmy Butler will play out the rest of his season in Chicago. It will be interesting to see how the Bulls fare without Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, who were the third and fourth leading scorers on the team behind Wade and Butler, and Gibson also led the Bulls in rebounding with seven per game. Chicago also loses its most efficient 3-point shooter in McDermott, who is at 37.3% on the season, but add Anthony Morrow, a career 41.7% 3-point shooter. The promising sophomore Bobby Portis will see more minutes with Gibson out of the picture, so the Bulls might not lose much in terms of production at the PF position. Overall, the trade provided more lateral movement for the Bulls, and the rise comes from the return of Butler and Wade since our last rankings.

Top 3 Fallers

Miami Heat - #12 down to #16

The Heat will start the home stretch only 2.5 games out of the 8th spot in the East and will come out of the All-Star Break having won 14 of 16. However, their lack of improvement moves them below teams like the Thunder and Clippers who to have stronger rosters coming out of the break. The Heat are still searching for a superstar to lead them, as it's currently an effort by committee in Miami, where seven active players average 10 or more points per game, including James Johnson and Tyler Johnson, who have made every appearance off the bench this season. However, that isn't enough to say they have a great offense, as they sit in 18th in our Offensive Efficiency Rankings. The Heat made a strong push heading into the break, so it will be interesting to see how they come out of it, especially since they are close to a playoff spot and can even see 6th place on the horizon, as they are currently only four games behind the Pacers.

Charlotte Hornets - #11 down to #14

Charlotte finds themselves falling through the cracks in the Eastern Conference standings as they're officially behind the Bucks and Bulls in pursuit of the 8th seed. The Hornets failed to strengthen their roster as they remained stagnant around the trade deadline, as their pursuits for Bojan Bogdanovic and Lou Williams were ended by other teams. The Hornets desperately needed a boost to their rotation, as they've now lost five in a row and 12 of their last 13, with their only win coming against the Nets. Also, since they were in the middle of the playoff run at 19-14, the Hornets have gone 5-19 in their last 24 games, dropping them all the way to the 11th spot in the East. It's tough to envision them putting together a run to save their season, but they're still only 3.5 games back of 8th and can still make a push if they end their skid sooner rather than later.

Sacramento Kings - #26 down to #30

It's ironic that our last ranked team has won five of six games and their first game without superstar DeMarcus Cousins, but the Kings' roster seems completely depleted at this point. Boogie led the Kings in all major statistical categories, and now they're left with only one player averaging more than 10 points per game on the season in Darren Collison. Because of Cousins' departure, the Kings drop to 29th in our Offensive Efficiency Rankings, and find themselves dead last in Defensive Efficiency. This will be a great end of the year tryout for Kings' players, as no one will be close to Boogie's average of 20 field goals per game, so shots and offensive looks will be distributed much better to the remaining players. Who knows, maybe Buddy Hield gets a whiff of the West Coast air and continues to put up 16 a game like he did last night, but the Kings would still need more than that to avoid struggling for the remainder of the season.