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NBA Power Rankings Watch: the Mavericks had a dominant January

Riding the momentum of one of the best defenses in the league, the Mavericks wrapped up a very productive month.

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NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Orlando Magic Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks finished up January as one of the hottest teams in the league. They did so through their defensive effort, sporting the best defense in the league over the last 15 games.

We’re now entering one of the more turbulent stretches in any season: the wear and tear of the season so far with the all-star break just on the horizon, combined with nonstop trade rumors just before the deadline.

The Mavericks had two tough losses last week, one top-to-bottom butt-kicking and the other a crunch time slip up. But they also had some solid wins. It was an unexpected month start to finish, and this is where the national media sees this team ranking as they enter a new month.

ESPN

Rank: 9

Last week: 9

Luka Doncic didn’t receive any media votes to be an All-Star starter, but if his recent performance is a sign of what’s to come the rest of the season, he will get plenty of All-NBA votes again after being a first-team selection the past two years. Doncic, who sources tell ESPN has dropped about 15 pounds during the season, has averaged 30 points, 9.9 rebounds and 9.3 assists over the past seven games. — MacMahon

The Athletic

Rank: 12 (Brink of Contention)

Last week: 10

Any All-Star locks? Is it crazy to say the Dallas Mavericks don’t have an All-Star lock, even though they haven’t waived, traded or made Luka Doncic forcibly retire? Even though it feels like he’s having a down year at times, his numbers are ridiculous. He gives the Mavs 25.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 8.9 assists every night. He’s just barely having the worst shooting efficiency of his career with a 54.4 true shooting percentage. He’s also missed 16 games this season. That’s a lot. Still, I think the coaches will put him in, but the time missed makes it a little murky.

Any All-Star fringes? Well, then, it has to be Luka. Nobody else on the Mavs belongs in this All-Star discussion, which just emphasizes once again how poorly the Kristaps Porzingis trade has worked out for them. It hasn’t been a disaster, but it hasn’t brought them really any closer to establishing a team that can be significant in the postseason. Until Porzingis takes the leap or they find a second guy worthy of complementing Luka, they’re stuck with simply one All-Star consideration each season.

Any other weekend participants? Unless you want to throw Luka into as many events as possible, I don’t really see a need to have more Mavericks in the mix on Saturday night.

Bleacher Report

Rank: 8

Last week: 8

When the Dallas Mavericks lost to the Utah Jazz on Christmas, they were 15-17 and looking thoroughly mediocre.

Since then, they’re 13-4 (the fourth-best record in the league over that stretch) with a plus-7.7 net rating. And Luka Doncic is starting to look more like the player he was in 2019-20 and 2020-21.

Over his last five games, Luka is averaging 29.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 8.4 assists.

NBA

Rank: 10

Last week: 7

The Mavs’ defense had been ridiculously good, allowing 6.0 fewer points per 100 possessions than any other team over a stretch of 3 1/2 weeks. Some regression was due, and for that regression to have come at Golden State on Tuesday (though the Warriors had been struggling a bit offensively) wasn’t a huge surprise. But a loss in Orlando on Sunday, in which the Magic scored 41 points on 25 second-quarter possessions and the Mavs didn’t show the requisite urgency until late, was a clear step backward.

The Mavs still have the league’s No. 1 defense in January and the two games in between the two losses — efficient wins over the Blazers and Pacers — pushed them out of the bottom 10 in offensive efficiency. Reggie Bullock’s shooting has been a disappointment this season, but with Tim Hardaway Jr. suffering a broken foot last week, Bullock will be needed more, and he shot 10-for-15 from 3-point range over the two wins. Of course, Kristaps Porzingis left the second of those with knee soreness and the Mavs most recent, everybody’s-healthy starting lineup has yet to crack the 100-minute mark. Only the Lakers (77 minutes) have a most-used lineup that’s played fewer minutes than that of the Mavs (103).

With last week’s schedule having taken them from Portland to Orlando, the Mavs now have two days off before they begin their longest homestand of the season. It’s six games over 11 days, with only one of the opponents being a team that currently has a winning record. That opponent is the Sixers, who are in town on Friday for the first of two meetings.

Sports Illustrated

Rank: 10

Last week: 8

You know what we’re all really bad at? Assessing NBA coaches. Raise your hand if you thought the Mavericks would be worse under Jason Kidd, and the Pacers would be much-improved under Rick Carlisle. (My hand is up.) The Mavs are 12–4 since Jan. 1, with the No. 1 defense in the NBA, and they just obliterated the Pacers. The Mavs have roughly the same winning percentage as last season, despite substandard play from Luka Dončić and despite Dončić and Kristaps Porziņģis each missing roughly a month of games. Meanwhile, the Pacers are beyond dismal, despite Carlisle’s reputation for getting the most out of players.