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NBA Power Rankings: Cavaliers shoot back into top 10, Pistons sputter out

It's been awhile since we've heard about the coaching deficiencies of David Blatt. No rumbles about a feud between the Cavaliers head coach and LeBron James. No talks of player mutinies, behind-the-back timeouts or people within the locker room losing faith.

Victories tend to do that. After losing six straight games and seeing their season toe rock bottom, the Cavaliers have responded by winning six in a row, defeating the Clippers, Bulls and Thunder along the way. The Cavs lead the NBA in net rating (16) and offensive efficiency (119 points per 100 possessions) over that span. LeBron has been dominant and decisive, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are playing their semi-supporting roles to perfection and the newcomers (Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert) have become immediate critical contributors. 

Things are still far from perfect in Cleveland despite that rosy picture. Even during the team's six-game winning streak the Cavs' defense ranks just No. 17 in the league. And despite the offensive success and the clearer definition of roles, the team ranked dead last in assist percentage (51.2). 

But there are plenty of reasons to believe the Cavs have turned the corner. Half a season isn't a ludicrous amount of time for a new Big Three to mesh -- particularly one with two-thirds completely green to winning  -- and there have been peripheral additions as well. A learning curve is to be expected with so many new pieces in place, even if it isn't always tolerated when the team is losing.

So enjoy the respite, Blatt. The Cavaliers are winning games, the national media is focused on deflated footballs and you're free to coach your incredibly talented team and try to mold them into a contender in peace.

Or at least until the next losing streak.

Here's where all 30 teams stand in this week's NBA Power Rankings.

(All stats and records through Jan. 25).

1. Atlanta Hawks


RECORD: 37-8 (4-0)

How many Hawks will make the All-Star team? Paul Millsap is close to a lock, Jeff Teague might be the most overlooked playing in the voting process and Kyle Korver is shooting a higher percentage from three-point range than Dwight Howard is from the line. With Mike Budenholzer coaching -- and Al Horford also worthy of consideration -- I’m putting the over/under at 2.

2. Golden State Warriors


RECORD: 36-6 (4-0)

James Harden probably didn’t even think Klay Thompson’s 37-point quarter was that good. For the rest of us, it was one of the most incredible shooting displays in NBA history. Klay scored 31 points his next time out and could do collateral damage to Stephen Curry’s MVP campaign with a blazing second half.

3. Memphis Grizzlies


RECORD: 31-12 (2-1)

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The Grizzlies are 6-2 since Zach Randolph returned from injury. Z-Bo has been as dominant as ever in the interior, averaging 18.8 points and 13.9 rebounds while shooting 57.8 percent. He's the closest thing the NBA has to Beast Mode. 

4. Houston Rockets


RECORD: 31-14 (3-1)

The most explosive offensive player in the game and one of the league’s best defenses make for a formidable duo. Hey, this Daryl Morey guy might know what he's doing.

5. San Antonio Spurs


RECORD: 29-17 (2-1)

Losses like San Antonio’s blowout at Chicago almost seem like a rite of passage for a Popovich team. Everything has to go wrong at least once a year so he can skewer the troops. Said Pop after the 23-point roasting: “I thought, as a group, they were mentally and physically humiliated.” Here comes the 10-game winning streak.

6. Portland Trail Blazers


RECORD: 32-13 (2-2)

LaMarcus Aldridge says he isn’t “into the rah-rah story,” but he’s deserving of one. With a heavily wrapped left thumb, one that was supposed to sideline him 6-to-8 weeks, Aldridge mustered 26 points and nine rebounds in a win over the Wizards. The Blazers star was No. 2 in Ben Golliver’s midseason MVP ballot last week and will receive even more recognition if he can continue to play at high level through injury.

7. Los Angeles Clippers


RECORD: 30-14 (3-0)

With the league's best offense, the Clippers don’t need to be elite defensively to be dominant. They’re 22-2 when holding opponents to 100 points or less.

8. Washington Wizards


RECORD: 30-15 (2-2)

John Wall has expanded his dominance to the defensive end this season. His next quest should be to become an elite closer. Wall is averaging fewer fourth-quarter points (3.6) than Rasual Butler (4.2) and ranks No. 18 in the league in clutch points per game.

9. Dallas Mavericks


RECORD: 30-15 (2-2)

Rajon Rondo might be a detriment to Dallas’ offense (106.3 points per 100 possessions on the court vs. 114.6 off it), but he’s just as impactful in a positive manner on the team’s defense (98.5 vs. 108.0)

10. Cleveland Cavaliers


RECORD: 25-20 (4-0)

Six straight wins after six straight losses is a good way to right your season. This team might have needed reinforcements more than we realized. Timofey Mozgov will be worth the two first-round picks if he's able to continue his production and the Cavs keep winning.

11. Phoenix Suns


RECORD: 26-20 (2-2)

I picked the Suns as my team to watch in the second half in’s midseason awards, but they won’t have much of a chance if Goran Dragic continues to play like this. The Suns guard scored a season-low two points in a loss to the Rockets.

12. Chicago Bulls


RECORD: 29-17 (2-2)

The Bulls have looked bunk for the better part of the last three weeks, going 4-7 and letting their frustrations seep deep. This is a team in desperate need of the All-Star break and a chance to clear their heads. Instead, a six-game road trip awaits.

13. New Orleans Pelicans


RECORD: 23-21 (3-1)

After looking ragged without him, the Pels have been unsurprisingly rejuvenated with Anthony Davis back in the lineup, winning three straight. New Orleans remains a thorn in Oklahoma City’s side as it fights for a playoff berth.

14. Toronto Raptors


RECORD: 29-15 (3-1)

The Raptors haven’t beaten a team with a winning record since Dec. 27, going 0-5 in such matchups since then. Toronto’s only wins have come against the shorthanded (Pistons, Bucks) and the perpetually shorthanded (76ers, Celtics).

15. Oklahoma City Thunder


RECORD: 22-22 (2-2)

We’re waiting for Oklahoma City to rip off a lengthy winning streak and jump into the playoff conversation, but this team continues to befuddle with its streaky play. The Thunder still have plenty of time to make up ground, but they're putting unnecessary pressure on themselves by dragging this out.

16. Milwaukee Bucks


RECORD: 22-22 (1-3)

The Bucks have led the NBA in defensive efficiency (89.4) over the last month, but have gone only 7-4 thanks to an offense that ranks in the bottom third of the league.

17. Charlotte Hornets


RECORD: 19-26 (3-1)

After a 10-24 start to the season, Charlotte has won nine of its last 11 games and appears to have weathered its first-half funk. The team is reportedly interested in Joe Johnson, but standing pat might be a wiser decision while things are working.

18. Detroit Pistons


RECORD: 17-28 (1-3)

Injuries don’t get much crueler than Brandon Jennings’ torn Achilles, suffered on a meaningless inbounds play in a blowout game. Jennings was amid the best run of his career while propelling the Pistons’ staggering turnaround. Now he's shelved for the season and Detroit has to go about trying to replace its most dynamic player.

19. Miami Heat


RECORD: 20-24 (2-2)

It wasn’t hyperbole when Luol Deng said the Heat have “found gold” with Hassan Whiteside. Talented 7-footers with two-way talent are the rarest resource in the NBA. The full array of Whiteside’s talents were on display in his triple-double explosion against the Bulls.

20. Denver Nuggets


RECORD: 18-26 (0-4)

The Nuggets are equally disappointing on and off the floor right now. Denver has lost six straight games and starting point guard Ty Lawson -- the face of the franchise -- was arrested for a DUI last week.

21. Sacramento Kings


RECORD: 16-27 (1-1)

Tyrone Corbin is daring to dream big, stating the Kings’ goal is to force opponents to shoot “42 percent or below on a nightly basis.” The Warriors, who lead the league in that category (Sacramento is No. 13), hold opponents to 42.1. Good luck with allllll that.

22. Brooklyn Nets


RECORD: 18-26 (1-2)

Mikhail Prokhorov isn’t the only one who wants out of Brooklyn. The Nets have now lost 10 of their last 12 and became just the fifth team in NBA history to lose back-to-back games by 35 points.

23. Utah Jazz


RECORD: 16-28 (2-1)

Dante Exum has finally cracked the Jazz’s starting lineup and could be there for good. The 19-year-old has started Utah’s last two games, leading the team to wins over the Bucks and Nets and averaging 14 points and 4.5 assists while hitting eight three-pointers.

24. Indiana Pacers


RECORD: 16-30 (1-3)

If there’s been a knock on George Hill the last few years, it's been his lack of aggression on offense. But with nowhere else to turn this season, Hill has asserted himself like the Pacers have always dreamt, scoring in double-digits in all seven games and averaging 21.8 per 36 minutes, up from 11.6 last season.

25. Orlando Magic


RECORD: 15-32 (0-3)

Channing Frye and Ben Gordon combine to average 45 minutes per game in Orlando. Why is playing time being wasted on 30-somethings on a rebuilding team when it could be going to younger players like Aaron Gordon or Kyle O'Quinn? 

26. Boston Celtics


RECORD: 15-27 (2-2)

The Celtics caught two teams sleeping last week (Nuggets and Blazers) on their Western road swing and almost snuck up on the Warriors, losing by just three despite the absence of Marcus Smart.

27. Los Angeles Lakers


RECORD: 12-33 (0-4)

With Kobe Bryant’s season over, Lakers tickets will be at an all-time discount. Buyer beware.

28. New York Knicks


RECORD: 8-37 (3-1)

The Knicks had just three wins in their last 38 games leading into last week. They then rattled off this season’s unlikeliest three-game winning streak. Terrified at the prospect of success -- and hurting their lottery odds -- New York promptly sat Carmelo Anthony in its next game and managed a season-low 71 points in a loss.

29. Minnesota Timberwolves


RECORD: 7-36 (0-4)

Unless Mo Williams can score 50 points once a month, the only reason to watch the Wolves these days is Andrew Wiggins. With Ricky Rubio hurt and the other youngsters struggling, this has turned into a one-man attraction.

30. Philadelphia 76ers


RECORD: 8-36 (0-4)

I don’t recognize half the names in the Sixers’ box score these days and I do this for a living.