NBA Power Rankings Week 17: Brooklyn Nets make a charge up the middle

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NBA Power Rankings Caris LeVert

Brooklyn Nets Caris LeVert. Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)

While the top and bottom of the NBA Power Rankings remained relatively stable, there was volatility in the middle, with the Brooklyn Nets leaping up 4 spots

The top four teams in the NBA Power Rankings remain unchanged as we prepare to enter Week 17 — All-Star week — before taking a long break after the end of play on Thursday.

Except for a flip-flop in the bottom two places, the last four teams in the NBA Power Rankings also remain unchanged.

Instead, the volatility in the mix came in the middle of the pack, where there were some dramatic rises and falls considering how late in the season we are now.

The plunge of the week belonged to the San Antonio Spurs, who plummeted three spots after an 0-4 disaster of a week that leaves them now four games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for eighth place in the Western Conference as San Antonio tries (or maybe doesn’t try) to reach the playoffs for a record 23rd consecutive year.

With a 1-3 effort last week, the Orlando Magic fell two spots even as they manage to cling to an eighth-place spot in the East that no one seems all that interested in claiming. Orlando is 2½ games ahead of the Washington Wizards for the last spot in the conference with a .415 winning percentage (22-31).

That would be the lowest for an NBA playoff team since the Spurs reached the postseason in 1988 after going 31-51 (.378). Only 12 teams have reached the playoffs with winning percentages lower than the Magic’s current .415 mark.

On the other side of the coin, a 2-2 week was enough to bounce the New Orleans Pelicans up two spots and into the top half of the rankings.

No team moved more over the last seven days, however, than the Brooklyn Nets, who jumped four places after a 2-1 week that still leaves them five games below the basketball Mendoza line at 23-28. While it’s a bit too early to say the Nets are locked into the No. 7 spot (Orlando is still just two games back), that seven-game gap between Brooklyn and the Indiana Pacers is daunting.

Point guard Kyrie Irving is going to miss at least one more game with a sprained knee, as he remained in Brooklyn as the Nets traveled to Toronto on Saturday and continue to face the Pacers in Indianapolis on Monday.

Irving has missed 31 of Brooklyn’s 51 games and the club is 8-12 with the two-time All-NBA selection and 15-16 when he sits.

But some definite strata have developed in the NBA this season. The Milwaukee Bucks are sort of running away with the regular season. The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics seem to occupy their own tier. Then there’s a clump that includes the Clippers, Raptors, Mavericks, Heat, Nuggets and Jazz.

Philadelphia and Houston are closely bunched, with Oklahoma City a bit further back. Then comes the Pacers on their own mini-level. Then it’s the mediocrity parade of the Nets, Pelicans, Magic, Suns, Spurs, Trail Blazers and Grizzlies.

Of that final group, three of those seven teams are likely going to be in the postseason — likely not for very long, mind you, but they will be there.

What is just as likely is that over the ensuing two months and change, the jockeying for position within that muddled middle will continue with enthusiasm even if it seems like much of the rest of the tiers have sorted themselves out.

And with that, we jump into the first post-trade deadline countdown.

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