NBA Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers (01/31/17)

By Mark Dankenbring

NBA Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers

As we pass the midpoint of the season and see February on our doorstep, 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 1/31/17.

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.

We see some movement in the Top 5 of our Power Rankings in large part due to the struggles the Cleveland Cavaliers have had in the month of January. The Warriors and Rockets remain the top two teams in our Power Rankings this week, but the Cavs drop out of the Top 5, allowing the Jazz to reclaim the 5th spot in our rankings. We also see the Thunder drop out of the Top 10 after the injury to Enes Kanter. There is 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

Washington Wizards - #13 up to #7

The Wizards will play their last game of January tonight, a month in which they've gone 11-4 and moved up to 5th in the Eastern Conference standings, just 2.5 games behind the second place Celtics. John Wall has continued his All-Star season in January, averaging 21.6 points, 10.8 assists, 4.6 rebounds, and 2 steals a game for the Wizards. This production has led the Wizards to win eight of their last nine games, including two over teams ahead of them in the standings. Washington has exhibited their strength on both sides of the ball recently, as they are one of three teams in the NBA to be in the Top 10 in both our Offensive and Defensive Efficiency rankings, with the other two teams being the Warriors and Spurs. Markieff Morris has developed into a valuable piece for the Wizards rotation as well, as he's averaging 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds in the month of January. After their game tonight against the Knicks, the Wizards will head into February looking to build off their success in January.

Indiana Pacers - #17 up to #12

The Pacers close out January with a 9-4 record on the month, good enough to solidify them in the 6th spot in the East. Paul George has led the charge for the Pacers, as he's scored 30+ points in four straight games, bringing his average up to 24.5 points per game in the month of January. Jeff Teague has also emerged as the player they hoped he could be, as he's averaging 16.3 points, 9.8 assists, and 5 rebounds a game in January. Through their 19-point victory over the Houston Rockets this past week, Indiana showed their defensive prowess, which is good enough to find them at number 6 on our Defensive Efficiency rankings. The Pacers will start off February against the same three teams they opened up against in January, the Magic, Nets, and Pistons. The Pacers will try and emulate their start to January, as they won all three of those games and kick started their best month of the season.

New Orleans Pelicans - #24 up to #16

The Pelicans have been an up and down team all season, with some big time wins over top teams in the league, as they've beaten the Spurs and Cavaliers in the past week, as well as some terrible losses, including a 143-114 smack down at home from the Nets. However, Anthony Davis seems to be healthy and Jrue Holiday has been playing solid basketball in the month of January, averaging 15.8 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 steals a game. The return of Davis strengthens their defensive game as well as offensive, as the Pelicans sit 4th in the NBA in Defensive Efficiency with Davis on the court. The Pelicans can make a push for the 8th spot in the West if they stay consistent, so look for them to play some better basketball over the next few weeks.

Top 3 Fallers

Cleveland Cavaliers - #3 down to #9

Our rankings were done this week with Kevin Love inactive with his back injury, so combine that with the 7-8 record the Cavs posted in January and Cleveland finds themselves dropping out of the Top 5 for the first time all season. The second unit for the Cavs has struggled to get going without a play-making point guard, which has LeBron fired up and pulling out all the stops to get Dan Gilbert and David Griffin to re-stock the bench with more talent. Cleveland's biggest weakness, however, seems to be on the defensive end, as they've dropped all the way to 24th in Defensive Efficiency. Kyle Korver has been underwhelming so far in his 11 games, averaging under 10 points per game on just 40.7% shooting from the field. LeBron has been doing all he can averaging 25.7/8.3/8.1 on 38 minutes per game in January, but if his teammates can't perform like they need him to, the Cavs will need an answer from outside the organization.

Chicago Bulls - #15 down to #19

The Bulls have found themselves amidst all sorts of controversy in the month of January. Rajon Rondo started off the month as a DNP-CD for several games, and then found himself back in the rotation after the struggles at point guard. Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler then called out their teammates for lack of effort and poor play, which resulted in Fred Hoiberg starting them off on the bench for a game and Rondo sounding off on the two, saying the veterans he knew in Boston would never act that way. Amongst all this off the court chatter, Chicago still managed to go 8-7 in January and find themselves in the 7th spot in the East. Jimmy Butler also posted a great month statistically in January, averaging 24/6/6 along with 2 steals per game. If Fred Hoiberg can get control of the locker room and get his team to buy in, they have a solid shot at the 4th or 5th seed in the East, but without the cohesiveness they could find themselves out of the playoffs altogether.

Denver Nuggets - #16 down to #22

The Nuggets have continued to play solid basketball as we close out the month of January, but the injuries to Nikola Jokic and Emmanuel Mudiay drop the Nuggets down to 22nd in our Power Rankings this week. The Nuggets have gone 7-2 in their last nine and currently hold the 8th spot in the West. The Jokic injury is huge for the Nuggets, however, as he is averaging 24/11/5 as well as a block and a steal per game in the month of January. Also, the Nuggets still struggle on defense, coming in at 27th in Defensive Efficiency. Therefore, without Jokic to lead the offense night after night, the Nuggets may struggle to outscore their opponents while he's out. Overall, Denver should still feel confident about the direction they're trending, but they need their most dynamic offensive player to stay healthy in order to become a legitimate playoff contender in the Western Conference.