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NBA Power Rankings Week 11: Luka Doncic Is Rolling And So Are The Mavericks

The Dallas Mavericks made an impressive trip to the 2022 Western Conference Finals, famously embarrassing the Phoenix Suns on the road in Game 7 and leaning on a combination of Luka Doncic, Jalen Brunson, and a suddenly frisky defense. Then, the Mavericks lost Brunson in a high-profile defection to the New York Knicks and, with no salary cap mechanism to replace him, the Mavericks entered the 2022-23 campaign with relatively modest expectations for a reigning Final Four team.

Dallas followed those expectations with an underwhelming 15-16 start, and the Mavericks found themselves firmly in the morass that is in the middle of the Western Conference. Since then, Jason Kidd’s team is on a seven-game winning streak with the offense flying high. Dallas is scoring nearly 1.22 points per possession over that sample, pushing the team’s season-long offensive rating to 115.3 with Doncic in the center of the frame.

Doncic isn’t sneaking up on anyone at this point, as he was already considered one of the best players in the NBA. At this juncture in early January, though, he may be the MVP frontrunner, with the Mavericks scoring more than 1.19 points per possession with Doncic on the floor. Dallas is less equipped to sustain without Doncic in the absence of Brunson, but Doncic recently took over with 29 points, seven rebounds, and six assists in the second half of a comeback win over the Rockets. That came on the heels of a 60-point, 21-rebound, 10-assist epic against the Knicks and a 51-point eruption against the Spurs on New Year’s Eve.

All told, Doncic is averaging 44.5 points, 11.3 rebounds and 9.8 assists per game in the last six contests, averaging 16.5 free throw attempts, making 42.9 percent of his three-point attempts, and shooting 56.2 percent from the field. Doncic now leads the NBA in total points (1,201) and points per game (34.3) to go along with top-five marks in assists per game, assist percentage, free throw creation, and more. Doncic has also found recent chemistry with Christian Wood, who is putting up 23.2 points per game on 59.2 percent shooting in the last five, and the offense is truly firing on all cylinders.

To be fair, the Mavericks have slipped on defense. Maxi Kleber is out indefinitely with a hamstring tear, and his absence makes it difficult for Dallas to unlock certain small-ball units on defense. Wood is a negative on defense as well, and with Kleber off the court this season, Dallas is giving up more than 1.14 points per possession.

Dallas isn’t perfect by any stretch, but the Mavericks are taking care of business at home with a 15-5 record and riding Doncic to the highest of highs. It remains to be seen as to whether Doncic is able to keep up this torrid pace, but the Mavericks are rolling and so is he.

Where do the Mavericks rank in this week’s DIME power rankings? Let’s find out.

1. Brooklyn Nets (25-12, Last week — 1st)

The Nets are on a heck of a streak. Brooklyn has won 12 in a row, scoring 1.24 points per possession in the process, and the Nets have a ridiculous 65.9 percent true shooting mark in that sample. Kevin Durant is an MVP candidate, Brooklyn is unstoppable, and the vibes are somehow pristine for a team that appeared totally lost just a few short weeks ago.

2. Memphis Grizzlies (23-13, Last week — 8th)

After a hiccup with four losses in five games, Memphis righted the ship this week. The Grizzlies went 3-0 with a road win over Toronto and home wins over New Orleans and Sacramento. Memphis is in the top five in win-loss record, net rating, and defensive rating, which is a nice foundation for success.

3. Denver Nuggets (24-13, Last week — 3rd)

Denver would’ve been No. 2 if not for a loss to Minnesota to end the week. Still, the Nuggets are 10-3 in the last 13 games with 1.18 points per possession from what is a beautiful offense when it’s clicking.

4. Boston Celtics (26-11, Last week — 2nd)

Losing to Denver on Sunday is fine. It happened on the road and, as evidenced here, the Nuggets are good. But the Celtics followed that up with an embarrassing loss to a Shai Gilgeous-Alexander-less OKC team on Tuesday, which means Boston has to drop at least this far despite the league’s best record.

5. Philadelphia 76ers (22-14, Last week — 5th)

Philly might be ready for a run. The Sixers are playing quite well, beating New Orleans to end the week, and next five games are quite favorable on paper for Philadelphia. That includes games against the Pacers, Bulls, Pistons (twice), and Thunder, with four of the five at home.

6. Dallas Mavericks (22-16, Last week — 9th)

The next 10 days or so will be a nice test for Dallas. The Mavericks have home games against Boston and New Orleans before a long, five-game road trip.

7. Milwaukee Bucks (24-13, Last week — 6th)

In the last three games, Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 47.7 points and 17.3 rebounds per game. His 55-point explosion on Tuesday was a career high and, despite other issues with health and roster availability, Giannis’ presence basically ensures competence.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers (24-14, Last week — 7th)

The Cavs had a mini-sweep over the Bulls on each side of New Year’s Day, and the headliner was Donovan Mitchell. He erupted for 71 points in a history-making effort on Monday, which came in a come-from-behind win.

9. New Orleans Pelicans (23-14, Last week — 4th)

Unfortunately, New Orleans will be without Zion Williamson for a few weeks as a result of a hamstring injury. With Brandon Ingram also out, the Pelicans will be short-handed, and New Orleans dips a bit anyway after back-to-back losses.

10. Golden State Warriors (20-18, Last week — 19th)

Typically, the Warriors struggle mightily without Stephen Curry and, by the metrics, that is happening again. However, Golden State is on a five-game winning streak, and the Warriors are now 17-2 at home. Klay Thompson’s 54-point explosion carried the Warriors to a win over Atlanta on Monday, and the Warriors also have a home tilt against the Pistons on Wednesday.

11. Miami Heat (20-18, Last week — 12th)

Slowly but surely, the Heat are chipping away. Miami is 9-4 in the last 13 games, including four wins in the last five. The Heat aren’t where they want to be, but they’re at least staying afloat despite roster challenges.

12. Indiana Pacers (21-17, Last week — 15th)

The Pacers are rolling on offense, scoring more than 1.2 points per possession in the last seven games. That led to six wins despite shaky defense, and Indiana is still the No. 6 seed in the East as the halfway point approaches.

13. New York Knicks (20-18, Last week — 17th)

Julius Randle is playing out of his mind. He is putting up 29.4 points and 12.4 rebounds per game over the last 14 contests, including 33.6 points and 13 rebounds in the last five games. It isn’t perfect for the Knicks, but New York just rocked Phoenix to get back into a tie for the No. 7 seed.

14. Portland Trail Blazers (19-17, Last week — 14th)

Portland appropriately stays in the same slot this week after two wins over bad teams and two losses to good teams. On the positive side, the Blazers absolutely housed the Pistons by 29 on Monday behind a 36-point effort from Jerami Grant.

15. Phoenix Suns (20-18, Last week — 10th)

Yikes. The Suns are 4-11 in the last 15 games. Devin Booker missed nine of those games, with only two wins in his absence, and Phoenix is in the wilderness as a challenging stretch of schedule arrives. The Suns face the Cavs (twice), Heat, Warriors, Nuggets, Wolves, Grizzlies, and Nets over the next 15 days.

16. L.A. Clippers (21-18, Last week — 11th)

Three straight losses prompt a drop for the Clippers, which lost by 10 at home to Miami on Monday. That isn’t a great result, but the team is still 11-5 when Kawhi Leonard plays.

17. Sacramento Kings (20-16, Last week — 18th)

There are defensive challenges, particularly near the rim, but the Kings keep scoring. Sacramento are 20-16 on the strength of the No. 7 offense in the NBA, and the Kings just beat the Nuggets and Jazz (twice) in the last week.

18. Oklahoma City Thunder (16-21, Last week — 20th)

It was certainly an outlier performance, but OKC scored 150 (!) points against Boston on Tuesday. It was the most points scored by the Thunder since moving to OKC from Seattle, and it all happened without Gilgeous-Alexander.

19. Los Angeles Lakers (16-21, Last week — 25th)

The Lakers clearly aren’t the same without Anthony Davis, but LeBron remains absurd. He put up 47 points in a road win over Atlanta on his birthday, followed it up with 43 points in Charlotte, and James has scored 27 points or more in 11 straight games. He’s a robot.

20. Washington Wizards (17-22, Last week — 26th)

It’s been a weird season for the Wizards. Washington lost ten games in a row beginning on Nov. 30 but, once the Wizards stopped that skid, they won six out of eight. The losses came on the road to Utah and Milwaukee as well, and Washington is now 8-2 when Delon Wright plays this season. Shouts to Delon Wright.

21. Utah Jazz (19-21, Last week — 16th)

The Jazz have to drop in the standings after five straight losses. That is a straight-ahead reality, but it is worth noting that Utah’s defeats came by a total of 15 points. They weren’t getting rocked.

22. Chicago Bulls (16-21, Last week — 22nd)

Chicago lost five of six games around the Christmas holiday, but the loss was at home to Houston (yikes) and the Bulls just lost two in a row to Cleveland. Obviously, the Bulls are quite a bit better than the Cavs, but it doesn’t help the team’s standing.

23. Orlando Magic (13-24, Last week — 13th)

We touched on Orlando’s upswing last week and, right on cue, the Magic lost three in a row. All three losses came by double figures with ugly marks on offense and defense. No reason to panic, of course, but it was a reminder not to get over one’s skis.

24. Minnesota Timberwolves (17-21, Last week — 24th)

Minnesota stays level this week, though the Wolves would have fallen if not for a nice home win over the Nuggets on Monday. The Wolves do have a glaring excuse with a 17-game absence from Karl-Anthony Towns, but the win over Denver stopped a six-game losing streak and that isn’t something to celebrate with fireworks.

25. Toronto Raptors (16-21, Last week — 21st)

The Raptors are 5-12 in the last 17 games. There are some injury issues, but Toronto has given up 117 points per 100 possessions and this roster can’t win with that kind of defensive performance.

26. Atlanta Hawks (17-20, Last week — 23rd)

Are the Hawks actually a bottom-five team? Probably not, but they’ve been playing like one. Atlanta seemingly can’t function without Clint Capela, who is out with a calf issue, and the Hawks are 4-10 in the last 14 games with an active four-game losing streak. Given that the Hawks are in the middle of a California trip, it also isn’t guaranteed to improve anytime soon.

27. San Antonio Spurs (12-25, Last week — 27th)

The Spurs have been a little better lately with a 3-5 mark in the last eight games, but some reality arrived on Monday. San Antonio gave up 139 to the absurdly hot Nets and lost by 36 points. That’s not great for ye ole net rating.

28. Charlotte Hornets (10-28, Last week — 28th)

It wasn’t supposed to be like this for Charlotte. Granted, expectations were low, but the Hornets being No. 30 in offense is almost unthinkable. A home loss to the Lakers without AD didn’t help the vibes to begin 2023.

29. Detroit Pistons (10-30, Last week — 30th)

The Pistons won twice this week, which is enough to counteract a 29-point loss in Portland on Monday and escape from the basement. Detroit still has the worst record in the league, but it was a productive week on the whole.

30. Houston Rockets (10-27, Last week — 29th)

We have a new No. 30 after the Rockets lost nine of the last ten games. Houston has been blasted by 10.0 points per 100 possessions during that downturn and a trip to New Orleans on Wednesday won’t be any fun.