How Did Mavs Slip In NBA Power Rankings?

The Dallas Mavericks, led by Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis and a talented supporting cast, are primed to have a special 2020-2021 NBA season, and ESPN's recent power rankings reflect that line of thinking.
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Nearly two months ago, ESPN released their ‘Way-Too-Early’ NBA Power Rankings, which featured MVP candidate Luka Doncic and Dallas Mavericks at No. 5.

Fair enough.

Since then, the Mavs have made changes to their roster through the NBA Draft, trades and free agency. 

*Dallas drafted a super-athletic specimen in Josh Green and a Seth Curry-like sharpshooter in Tyrell Terry. 

*The Mavs then turned to trades, starting with flipping Curry for two-way shooting guard Josh Richardson and pick No. 36, which turned into Tyler Bey, another promising athletic wing prospect. 

READ MORE: Richardson Will Start For Mavs, Says Carlisle

*After that, Delon Wright and Justin Jackson were both traded away in a three-team deal that netted them gritty veteran James Johnson.

*Free agency wasn’t as exciting as most Mavs fans were hoping for, but it was still productive, nonetheless. The Mavs brought back ‘spark plug’ guard Trey Burke, who was arguably Dallas’ second-best player in the playoffs once Kristaps Porzingis went out with a meniscus injury. The Mavs also brought back athletic big-man Willie Cauley-Stein, who will have an excellent opportunity to solidify a spot in Rick Carlisle’s rotation with Porzingis out until January. 

*The team rounded things off by signing defensive wing Wes Iwundu to a guaranteed two-year deal and J.J. Barea to a one-year deal (with the Mavs having 16 guaranteed contracts, we believe the final spot will come down to Barea and Iwundu).

So, given all the changes in recent months, where does ESPN think the Mavs belong in their power rankings now? 

The answer is No. 6 — still a high ranking that is very flattering, but also a very slight drop from previously being No. 5. Here is the full Top 10:

  1. Los Angeles Lakers
  2. Milwaukee Bucks
  3. Brooklyn Nets
  4. Los Angeles Clippers
  5. Miami Heat 
  6. Dallas Mavericks 
  7. Denver Nuggets 
  8. Boston Celtics 
  9. Philadelphia 76ers 
  10. Toronto Raptors

“The Mavs had the most efficient offense in NBA history and a mediocre defense last season. It wasn't a difficult decision to make defensive upgrades the primary offseason goal. (Well, that and positioning the Mavs to be max-salary shoppers in next year's free-agency market.) Swapping Seth Curry for Josh Richardson sacrificed elite shooting for a tough, two-way guard who should benefit from playing off Luka Doncic offensively and will usually draw the most difficult defensive assignment on the perimeter.” — Tim McMahon

The Miami Heat, previously ranked No. 9 in these power rankings, rose to No. 5, and ahead of the Mavs, due to their re-signing of Goran Dragic and signing Bam Adebayo to a max contract extension. Both of those players played key roles in getting Miami to the NBA Finals last season, so the certainty of having both of them for this season, plus the signing of Avery Bradley, helped the Heat get into the Top-5.

The Brooklyn Nets were also big risers, going from No. 10 nearly two months ago to No. 3 now. The difference between Miami and Brooklyn, though, is that nothing has changed with the Nets since the last batch of these power rankings came. So, either ESPN was inspired by Kyrie Irving's letter to the media when he skipped his press conference the other day, or maybe ESPN knows something about a potential James Harden trade to Brooklyn that has more traction now. 

READ MORE: Selfish Harden is a Mavs Secret Weapon

READ MORE: Should Mavs Fans Give Up Bradley Beal Dream?

Regardless, the Nets do have the talent on paper to be a top-five team in the league this year. Irving and Kevin Durant will just have to prove that they can stay healthy to make it a reality.

These power rankings are fluid throughout the season. A team in the Top-5 can have a week of three games where they go 1-2 and drop multiple spots, or have an excellent week and continue rising. Regardless, it’s encouraging to see the Mavs being viewed so favorably by the national media before the season begins. 

Some might say these lofty expectations from the national media are a little much for a team that was the six seed in the West and a first-round exit in the playoffs, but after what they all saw in the NBA ‘bubble’ — Dallas was the only team to feature two players on the ‘All-Bubble First Team’ with Doncic and Porzingis — how can we blame them?

The days of no expectations in Dallas are over, at least when we’re talking about the Mavericks (sorry, Dallas Cowboys fans). Doncic and the rest of the Mavs are primed to have a special season. 

Now, they just have to go out there, stay healthy, and show their work. ... and rise, not just in the "rankings,'' but in the "standings.''