NBA power rankings: Atlanta Hawks flying high

Today on NBA Power Rankings, the Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks are on the rise.

It's been a tumultuous week for the NBA. On Monday, a three-team blockbuster trade between the New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City Thunder shuffled Dion Waiters, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert around, while the Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks spent the week climbing the standings.

NBA Power Rankings 1/6/15
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NBA power rankings: Atlanta Hawks flying high

25) Charlotte Hornets (11-24)

Last week: 1-2 record

Last rank: 24th

Thank God for Kemba Walker is all Charlotte Hornets fans should be thinking right now. With Al Jefferson out for a month due to a groin injury, Walker has started to carry the load, averaging 31.5 points per game in his last two contests — both wins for the Hornets.

However, those wins came against the lowly Magic and Celtics, so we can’t completely ignore the fact that Charlotte has only won 33.3 percent of its games, or that the schedule gets a bit tougher from here.

(Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

24) Los Angeles Lakers (11-24)

Last week: 2-2 record

Last rank: 27th

Kobe Bryant’s second triple-double of the season at age 36 was impressive, as was his clutch play late against the Indiana Pacers, but are Los Angeles Lakers fans really going to ignore that every win carries them one step further away from a first round draft pick?

If the Lakers get a top-five pick in the NBA Draft Lottery, they get to keep it. But if it falls to sixth or beyond, the Phoenix Suns will get it as the last piece of the Steve Nash trade. With the fifth worst record in the NBA, the Lakers are playing with fire, especially after nearly beating the Portland Trail Blazers on the road last night.

(Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)

11) Phoenix Suns (20-16)

Last week: 2-2 record

Last rank: 11th

Two devastating road losses against the very teams that trail them in the race for the Western Conference’s eighth playoff spot. Two regrouping wins at home, including an impressively thorough rout of the Raptors. How long can the Suns hold the Thunder off for their playoff spot?

As much as Suns fans won’t like to hear it, and even with 20-year-old Archie Goodwin rising from the depths to singlehandedly send Jonas Valanciunas to extinction, a rough January schedule may define the season. With the point guard hydra currently clicking, Phoenix starts off with a four-game road trip before returning for an eight-game home stand against some truly brutal competition.

 (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

10) Houston Rockets (23-11)

Last week: 2-2 record

Last rank: 6th

If the first sign of impending doom is “Houston, we have a problem,” then the subsequent phrase is probably “and it’s Josh Smith.” What else can we say now that the Rockets are 3-4 since acquiring J-Smoove and have moved him to bench duty?

Houston’s recent struggles have dropped them all the way to the bottom half of the Western standings and it’s starting to look like Josh Smith has nothing left to offer an NBA team. Did the Rockets make a fatal mistake with their team chemistry? Or are we jumping the gun in a small seven-game sample size?

(Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

9) Los Angeles Clippers (23-12)

Last week: 2-1 record

Last rank: 10th

The Clippers entered Monday night’s game against Atlanta without a signature win and an uninspiring 7-9 record against teams with a record of .500 or better. They exited with a 7-10 record against winning teams and still missing a signature win.

Basically, Spencer Hawes’ return didn’t go according to plan. DeAndre Jordan has been a monster on the glass lately and the Clippers are still sixth in the West. But I can’t be the only one constantly underwhelmed by this team in what was supposed to be a title-contending season.

(Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

3) Chicago Bulls (25-10)

Last week: 3-1 record

Last rank: 2nd

The Bulls have moved to second in the Eastern standings, they’ve won nine of their last 10 games and they’re right on the heels (talons?) of the Atlanta Hawks for the top spot in the conference.

Jimmy Butler and Pau Gasol are playing like All-Stars and despite the recent shooting woes of Derrick Rose, the Bulls look as tough as any team in the East. Unfortunately, they get bumped from the top-two because of what the Hawks are doing right now.

(Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

2) Atlanta Hawks (26-8)

Last week: 4-0 record

Last rank: 4th

The Hawks have won five games in a row, going a perfect 3-0 on their recent road trip against the Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers. For yet another week, Atlanta is the hottest team in the NBA.

With the best record in the East, everything is clicking for this team. Dennis Schroder is slowly becoming German Rajon Rondo, DeMarre Carroll may be playing the best basketball of his career and this team is clicking in every way imaginable. The Hawks aren’t sexy yet, but their style of play has won them nine out of 11 games against Western teams this season. That’s pretty sexy for any Eastern team.

(Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

1) Golden State Warriors (27-5)

Last week: 3-0 record

Last rank: 1st

Andrew who? It’s tempting to put the Atlanta Hawks here, but what the Warriors have done since losing their big man is the reason they’re still the best team in the NBA right now. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at how they absolutely laid the smack down on their last two tough visitors to Oracle Arena.

First, there was the 21-point beatdown of the Toronto Raptors. Then the Dubs absolutely waxed the Thunder, holding one of the league’s most potent offenses to 30 percent shooting en route to the Dubs’ 12th straight home win.

The Splash Brothers are the NBA’s best backcourt and I don’t know of any players other than Jimmy Butler and Draymond Green who should be in the running for both Most Improved Player AND Defensive Player of the Year.

(Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)


But of course, the biggest news came with the unfortunate passing of ESPN broadcaster Stuart Scott. Scott was an inspiration to aspiring journalists everywhere, but he became something much more important not only because of the way he lived his life with his cancer, but also because of his heartfelt speech at the ESPYs that gave hope to others in the same predicament.

Boo-yah, Stuart Scott. You will be missed.

Switching back to basketball, the Chicago Bulls were on the rise in last week's power rankings. This week, the Knicks make a brilliant tanking move, the Warriors retain the No. 1 spot and another Eastern team ascends into the top two.

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For more sports coverage, please visit and follow Gerald Bourguet on Twitter: @GeraldBourguet
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