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NBA power rankings: Cavaliers break into the top 5

LeBron James and the Cavaliers are on a clear upward trajectory while teams around them stumble.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

1. Golden State Warriors (43-10, Last week: 1)

The Warriors dropped one to the Indiana Pacers, but it's not easy adjusting to life without your point guard who just so happens to be a Most Valuable Player candidate. Stephen Curry missed his first game of the season after going 52 straight for Golden State, but the injury doesn't sound like a serious one. Still, it's an ankle issue, which is something that's followed Curry throughout his career.

2. Atlanta Hawks (44-12, Last week: 2)

The Hawks lost back-to-back games for the first time since Nov. 18, but how many nights will Kyle Korver shoot 2-of-11 from deep? How many times will Lou Williams go 7-of-10 from the same range? Atlanta got back on track with a win over Milwaukee and should get back to its East-leading ways with that ugly loss to Toronto out of the way.

3. Memphis Grizzlies (40-14, Last week: 3)

Memphis has played just one game since the end of All-Star Weekend, but a win over the Portland Trail Blazers is big for a team that's just 3.5 games back from Golden State. Sure, there's the caveat that LaMarcus Aldridge wasn't active and they were down by 14 points before the Blazers collapsed in the fourth, but grinding out a win like that is what Memphis is all about.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers (35-22, Last week: 6)

The Cavaliers took a big jump while the rest of the NBA tried to figure out if they're really an "elite" team. Cleveland has taken plenty of bumps through the season, but it has just two losses since Jan. 15. The Cavaliers feel like a team that still hasn't peaked, and they've finally earned a spot in the top-five here after figuring things out together through the first few months.

Things are going so smoothly that J.R. Smith is blowing LeBron James' mind:

(Sorry Knicks)

5. Portland Trail Blazers (36-19, Last week: 4)

Portland rounds out the top-five, but back-to-back losses out of the break leave much to be desired. The Trail Blazers have been one of the best teams all season and the addition of Arron Afflalo added some much-needed depth, but getting blown out by the Utah Jazz before coughing up a hairball against the Grizzlies means Portland has some work to do.

6. Dallas Mavericks (38-20, Last week: 5)

I wasn't sure if Richard Jefferson could play 33 minutes in a Mavericks victory, but those things occurred on Sunday. Nothing could have prepared Michael Kidd-Gilchrist -- or anyone really -- for what happened next:

7. Houston Rockets (37-18, Lat week: 7)

If the Rockets end up with home court advantage, it'll be on the beard of James Harden, as The Dream Shake notes:

From stat-geeks reporting on Harden's three point assist rate to the cover of Sports Illustrated, James Harden is making his pitch to be the first Rocket to hoist the MVP award since Hakeem Olajuwon.

The next two weeks will be the most crucial in Harden's pitch for two reasons: The absence of Dwight Howard and the brutal schedule.

8. Toronto Raptors (37-18, Last week: 8)

Toronto's week went from 0 to 100 real quick, unloading on the Hawks. Against the Rockets, the team was on its worst behavior, letting Corey Brewer light them up for 26 points. In short: Drake released an album and thanked the Raptors, so thank me later for the puns.

9. Chicago Bulls (35-21, Last week: 10)

The Bulls have been good over their last six games, which included a win over Cleveland, but it's hard not to shake some doubt regarding their consistency. Take their recent loss against the Pistons. Spencer Dinwiddie outplayed Derrick Rose while Caron Butler went off for 20 points. Even Jimmy Butler's 30 points couldn't save Chicago.

10. San Antonio Spurs (34-21, Last week: 9)

San Antonio hasn't made a big run yet, instead lurking around the bottom of the West playoff picture. That's dangerous for everyone involved. The Spurs are still the Spurs, which means those top teams -- currently the Grizzlies and Warriors -- might have a nightmare first round. There's only a very slim chance San Antonio misses the playoffs, though, so don't stress out over these losses. It's all fun and games until it's a seven-game series.

11. Los Angeles Clippers (37-19, Last week: 11)

There was something strange in the air Saturday night. If you felt it, too, then don't fret. It was just Austin Rivers going off for 28 points while the Clippers continue to find ways -- strange ones, at that -- to win without Blake Griffin.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder (31-25, Last week: 14)

Just when the Thunder finally take over the eighth seed out West, they get hit with another injury setback. Kevin Durant is out after undergoing another procedure on his right foot and will be re-evaluated in one week to determine when he can return. Keep the triple-doubles coming in the meantime, Russell!

13. Washington Wizards (33-23, Last week: 13)

The All-Star break didn't heal anything for Washington. The Wizards are now on a four-game losing streak after getting smoked by both the Cavaliers and Pistons.

14. Milwaukee Bucks (31-24. Last week: 16)

Milwaukee's decision to move Brandon Knight while the team enjoys a remarkable season was a big gamble, but if the front office truly feels Michael Carter-Williams fits better in the long-term, then good on them for making a move and not worrying about Knight's departure shaking things up.

15. Phoenix Suns (29-27, Last week: 12)

The Suns' decision to move not one, but two of their point guards at the deadline was downright stunning. Can this team survive such a big turnaround while the Thunder push forward and the Pelicans try to keep Anthony Davis healthy? The playoffs are still in reach, but the Suns are on a four-game losing streak.

16. New Orleans Pelicans (28-27, Last week: 15)

Anthony Davis' health has been a recurring theme in the power rankings, which makes a lot of sense considering he's deep in the MVP discussion while the Pelicans are 13 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor than off. One of the Thunder, Suns and Pelicans will come out of the regular season with a playoff berth, but right now New Orleans is losing traction without Davis and no "Russell Westbrook" to take over while he recovers.

17. Brooklyn Nets (22-31, Last week: 17)

The Nets didn't make the big trade they wanted, but swapping out the spirit of Kevin Garnett for Thaddeus Young definitely helps this team. It wasn't long ago that SB Nation's Mike Prada broke down how Young turns garbage into gold.

18. Charlotte Hornets (22-32, Last week: 19)

Acquiring Mo Williams was a solid move to keep the ship afloat while Kemba Walker misses time, but will it be enough to get back into the playoff mix ahead of Detroit, Indiana, Miami or Brooklyn?

SB Nation presents: How Michael Kidd-Gilchrist overcame the odds to reach the NBA

19. Miami Heat (23-31, Last week: 18)

It's terrible that Chris Bosh is out for the foreseeable future because of blood clots on on his lungs, but it serves as a reminder that NBA teams are great about taking care of their players. It's hard not to be disappointed about missing out on Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic and the rest of Miami together this season, though.

20. Indiana Pacers (23-33, Last week: 21)

The Pacers have won six of their last seven games, including big victories over the Cavaliers and Warriors. If Paul George really is a month out from returning, Indiana is on target to make an unlikely push for the postseason. Thank Frank Vogel for keeping the Pacers together. Also, being in the East certainly doesn't hurt.

21. Detroit Pistons (23-33, Last week: 22)

Stan Van Gundy will not give up on getting the Pistons into the playoffs. Landing Reggie Jackson was a bold move, especially with both Greg Monroe and Jackson getting ready to hit restricted free agency. Whatever happens, Reggie doesn't look like he'll be shy. He put up 18 shots for 17 points in his debut for Detroit.

22. Utah Jazz (20-34, Last week: 24)

Get out of the way! Rudy Gobert's got the rebound, but it's smoking hot and headed your way!

23. Boston Celtics (20-33, Last week: 20)

The Celtics were one of the teams angling to jump on a wounded No. 8 seed in the East, but losing Jared Sullinger for the year may put a stop to any of that. It was probably a pipe dream anyway, especially considering only two current Celtics have positive efficiency ratings. Good job, Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart.

24. Sacramento Kings (19-35, Last week: 25)

It does not matter what the Kings' record was this past week. All that matters is DeMarcus Cousins went coast-to-coast to decimate another man:

25. Orlando Magic (19-39, Last week: 26)

The Magic hit their first three-game winning streak of the season by beating up the Knicks, 76ers and Davis-less Pelicans. While the wins certainly help morale and give interim coach James Borrego a few wins under his belt, what Orlando is really accomplishing is giving those top-four draft lottery teams a cushion.

26. Denver Nuggets (20-35, Last week: 23)

The Nuggets traded a player they wanted to go so badly they were willing to include first-round pick (JaVale McGee), and another one that likely couldn't wait to decline his $7.5 million team option (Arron Afflalo). That's left Ty Lawson, who's had a great season, in quite a predicament. Denver is somewhere between a complete breakdown or the beginning of a rebuild.

27. Minnesota Timberwolves (12-42, Last week: 28)

The Timberwolves have won four of their last six games and are likely going to win their way out of the bottom five before the season is over. It's unfortunate Shabazz Muhammad is out for the season while Anthony Bennett deals with an ankle injury.

28. Philadelphia 76ers (12-43, Last week: 27)

Sam Hinkie must have been fed up with these large-market Knicks and Lakers trampling all over his front lawn. Trading away young talent like K.J. McDaniels and Michael Carter-Williams was a big gamble. Expectations must be incredibly high for the top batch of players in this draft if they moved the odds to lose more games while picking up the Lakers' protected draft pick.

29. New York Knicks (10-45, Last week: 29)

Carmelo Anthony shut it down just in time for the Knicks to lose back-to-back games by at least 20 points. Nothing to see here until the draft lottery rolls around. Maybe someone should tell Phil Jackson that's the case:

30. Los Angles Lakers (14-41, Last week: 30)

How do you celebrate beating the Celtics, snapping a seven-game losing streak and finally reaching win No. 14? Send these rankings home, fellas: