NBA Power Rankings: The Mavericks Are Models of Consistency

Are the Mavericks good enough to top our power rankings, or do the Warriors still have a chokehold on the top spot?

Each week, we'll be translating numberFire's NBA power rankings into words. The rankings are driven by our nERD metric, which is a predictive statistic to help define what the team's winning percentage ultimately will be.

This week we see Golden State pacing the field yet again -- they've stood atop our rankings for nine weeks now. But we've just surpassed the halfway point of the season last week, so let's take a look at at a team that continues to drop in our rankings, a team on the rise and a team that has model consistency and greatness at the same time.

#30 Philadelphia 76ers (nERD: 11.3, Record: 8-37, last week: 30)
#29 Minnesota Timberwolves (nERD: 18.8, Record: 7-37, last week: 29)
#28 New York Knicks (nERD: 21.9, Record: 8-37, last week: 28)
#27 Orlando Magic (nERD: 31, Record: 15-33, last week: 27)
#26 Los Angeles Lakers (nERD: 32.3, Record: 12-33, last week: 26)
#25 Brooklyn Nets (nERD: 36, Record: 18-26, last week: 25)
#24 Utah Jazz (nERD: 39.9, Record: 16-29, last week: 24)
#23 Indiana Pacers (nERD: 40, Record: 16-30, last week: 23)
#22 Miami Heat (nERD: 41.9, Record: 20-24, last week: 22)

Once LeBron James left, the Heat turned to Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to lead this team. They brought in Josh McRoberts and Luol Deng to help them out, and they are still sitting at seventh in the playoffs thanks to the Eastern Conference. But Bosh and Wade have had nagging injuries (did we expect anything less?) and have missed 18 games between the both of them. McRoberts also was in a spot to continue improving his all-around game, but his season ended prematurely after 17 games.

But the season isn't all ruined just yet, as Hassan Whiteside has swooped in to save the day with triple-doubles! The little-known journeyman has made an impact for the Heat and is already fourth highest in the team's usage among players who are averaging 16 or more minutes a game. Whiteside has used this to his advantage and currently leads the team in true shooting percentage (65.7%) and rebounding percentage (22.3%).

Whiteside looks even better for the Heat if we look at the offensive and defensive ratings. Whiteside is third on the team on the offensive side of the ball (104.1) and second on the defensive side of the ball (100.2). The only net rating that his higher than Whiteside's (4.0) is the injured McRoberts -- and Whiteside is one of only three players on the Heat with a positive net rating. Whiteside gives the Heat a nice spark, but will it be enough to stay in the playoff hunt?

#21 Denver Nuggets (nERD: 42, Record: 18-27, last week: 21)
#20 Sacramento Kings (nERD: 42.3, Record: 16-27, last week: 19)
#19 Boston Celtics (nERD: 44, Record: 16-27, last week: 20)
#18 Detroit Pistons (nERD: 44.9, Record: 17-28, last week: 18)
#17 Charlotte Hornets (nERD: 46.3, Record: 19-26, last week: 17)
#16 Milwaukee Bucks (nERD: 50.7, Record: 22-22, last week: 15)
#15 Cleveland Cavaliers (nERD: 53, Record: 25-20, last week: 16)
#14 Oklahoma City Thunder (nERD: 53, Record: 23-22, last week: 13)

Don't look now, but the Thunder are positioning themselves for a run through the Western Conference. Kevin Durant has played barely half of the Thunder's games, but they have won 14 of his 21 starts and are a much better team when he's able to play when we look at the team's offensive and defensive ratings.

Off. RatingDef. Rating
With Durant105.199.8
Without Durant99.6101.3

We see a 5.7 point swing when the Thunder are playing with and without Durant on the offensive end. On the defensive side of the ball, there isn't as much of a difference with Durant on and off the court, but any edge the Thunder can find in the volatile Western Conference is needed. But the Thunder need Durant's sidekick to keep up his amazing performances as well.

Earlier this season, Russell Westbrook was on quite a tear in his first 10 games -- it was outstanding and rivals Michael Jordan's 1988-89 season. He's since regressed but only a little. He's still putting up career highs in points (24.7), rebounds (6.0), and steals (2.3) per game and has the fourth-best PER (24.7) on the season, 1.1 points ahead of LeBron James and just 0.2 points behind Stephen Curry.

Durant may be the key for the Thunder making the playoffs, but they wouldn't be on the cusp of the playoffs without a career year from Westbrook.

#13 New Orleans Pelicans (nERD: 53.2, Record: 24-21, last week: 14)
#12 Phoenix Suns (nERD: 55.5, Record: 26-20, last week: 12)
#11 Chicago Bulls (nERD: 58.8, Record: 29-17, last week: 9)
#10 Washington Wizards (nERD: 59.8, Record: 30-15, last week: 10)
#9 Houston Rockets (nERD: 59.8, Record: 31-14, last week: 7)
#8 San Antonio Spurs (nERD: 60.4, Record: 29-17, last week: 11)
#7 Memphis Grizzlies (nERD: 61.2, Record: 32-12, last week: 8)
#6 Toronto Raptors (nERD: 62.6, Record: 29-15, last week: 6)
#5 Portland Trail Blazers (nERD: 63.1, Record: 32-13, last week: 5)
#4 Atlanta Hawks (nERD: 70.5, Record: 37-8, last week: 4)
#3 Dallas Mavericks (nERD: 71.4, Record: 30-15, last week: 2)

The Mavericks have been a top-10 team in our power rankings all season. They actually spent two weeks at the top spot and seven weeks in second-place. But this week they find themselves in third in our nERD rankings. The Mavericks have been consistent and dangerously good all at the same time. They are also one of four teams from the Southwest division to claim a spot in the top-10 of our rankings.

How have the Mavericks done this? Well, they're second in points per game in the league and own the second most efficient offense in the league, based on our metrics. Tyson Chandler has been the best player, analytically, on the team as he ranks as the sixth best player in our nERD rankings and is putting up a double-double on a nightly basis. His 13.0 nERD indicates that an average team would finish 13 games above .500 with him playing.

Dirk Nowitzki has continued to play at a high level, too. His PER is just ahead of Chandler (21.5 to 21.1), and he is second on the team in points per game (18.9) behind Monta Ellis (20.3). With Nowitzki and Ellis scoring in bunches, Chandler plugging holes down low, and the addition of Rajon Rondo, the Mavericks may be one of the few teams in the Western Conference that can keep up with the Warriors.

#2 Los Angeles Clippers (nERD: 72.5, Record: 31-14, last week: 3)
#1 Golden State Warriors (nERD: 84.9, Record: 36-6, last week: 1)