The Mavericks began this season old, slow and 0-3, getting blown out at home by Miami and Denver and losing a close game at Oklahoma City. Since then, despite subpar seasons from Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and newcomer Lamar Odom, the defending champions have regrouped to go 18-8.
Coach Rick Carlisle has done a masterful job molding a 10-deep rotation to meet the demands of the compressed season for the NBA's oldest team. Dallas leads the league in minutes by players off the bench. It also executes a smart defense that pressures the ball, ranking fourth in steals and sixth in blocks. The Mavs are fifth in defensive efficiency despite the loss of Tyson Chandler, who finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting last season.
With four straight wins against quality Western Conference rivals last week, Dallas leaps from 14th to join the top five for the time this season. Also cracking the top five is San Antonio, which has won seven in a row.
(All stats and records are through Monday, Feb. 13 unless otherwise noted.)
NBA Power Rankings