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NBA Power Rankings: Mavericks have vaulted into the upper echelon

Stan Son updates his 2021-22 NBA power rankings.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

There was plenty of movement up at top, but as I rearrange this list on a weekly basis, I’m beginning to see how close most of those teams are. Any of the top eight teams could win it all but could also be ranked anywhere from first to eighth on a weekly basis.

The Milwaukee Bucks remain at the top after climbing the hill and taking their rightful place on the throne last week. They are the defending champs after all. The defense hasn’t been great so could that be the chink in the armor? Possibly. On the season, they are 14th in defensive rating and, over the last five games, they’re 16th. They boast the fourth-highest rated offense, though, and have the triumvirate of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. They did lose to the Warriors over the last week, but took care of the Jazz and, last week, defeated the Suns, Bulls and Heat.

The Dallas Mavericks made a huge move into the upper echelon. I may have overlooked them because they play at the slowest pace in the league and are 17th in offensive rating. They have the sixth-best defense, though, and have some impressive wins on their resume. They just took care of the Nets and Celtics on the road. A few weeks ago, they beat the Warriors twice while defeating the Jazz at home. They have wins over the Heat, 76ers, Grizzlies, Bulls and Nuggets. HalleLuka!

Remember what I wrote in the intro above? The Philadelphia 76ers were atop the rankings a week or so ago, but now “plummet” to eighth. They are still legitimate contenders, yet other teams have been playing better as of late. The 76ers are 3-3 in their last six games and barely won in overtime against the Magic. That’s an automatic two demerits.

The Brooklyn Nets were falling, and falling and falling. The capitulation seems to have occurred because they have bounced back, winning four of the last five games with one of those over Philadelphia. It helped that Kevin Durant returned to the mix and three of the games were played on the road. Kyrie Irving went for 50 and 60 points during that stretch, while Durant posted a 53-point game. Daaaaayam! The Nets had a 127.9 offensive rating over the last five games — tops in the league.

The Golden State Warriors drop because of inconsistency and the injury to Stephen Curry, who is out indefinitely with a sprained ligament in his left foot. They had won four of the last five games, but lost five straight before that and nine of the prior 11 contests.

The Toronto Raptors have won five in a row with impressive victories over the Suns and Nuggets on the road. They have been road warriors all season long, posting a 22-15 record compared to 17-15 at home. Over the recent five-game stretch, they have been top 10 in both offensive and defensive rating. This is a dangerous team because of the length and versatility they possess. They have championship experience and pedigree and could be a tough matchup for a plethora of teams. In Masai We Trust.

The Houston Rockets have been unopposed for much of the season as the worst team in the NBA, but a contender has entered the ring: The Portland Trail Blazers. They’ve lost eight of their last nine games and have had a offensive rating of 99.0 over their last five games. For perspective, the Magic were second-worst and they posted a rating of 106.4. In addition, they were 25th in defensive rating. Granted, Anfernee Simons missed some games, but it’s “play the young kids” time in Portland.

NBA Power Rankings: Week 24

1 Memphis Grizzlies 2
2 Phoenix Suns 1
3 Miami Heat 4
4 Dallas Mavericks 6
5 Milwaukee Bucks 3
6 Boston Celtics 5
7 Philadelphia 76ers 7
8 Denver Nuggets 8
9 Toronto Raptors 9
10 Brooklyn Nets 10
11 Utah Jazz 11
12 Atlanta Hawks 16
13 Golden State Warriors 12
14 Minnesota Timberwolves 13
15 Chicago Bulls 14
16 Charlotte Hornets 15
17 Los Angeles Clippers 18
18 Cleveland Cavaliers 17
19 San Antonio Spurs 19
20 New Orleans Pelicans 21
21 Washington Wizards 22
22 New York Knicks 20
23 Sacramento Kings 23
24 Houston Rockets 28
25 Detroit Pistons 25
26 Orlando Magic 26
27 Los Angeles Lakers 24
28 Indiana Pacers 27
29 Oklahoma City Thunder 29
30 Portland Trail Blazers 30

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