*Photo via USA Today
1.Golden State Warriors-The darlings of the NBA continue to impress. They look great and now with Bogut back they have solidified their interior defense. This may be the most complete team in basketball when healthy and newsflash: they’re healthy.
2.Atlanta Hawks- The Hawks have been the surprise of the NBA this season and show no signs of cooling off.(winners of 10 straight) The Hawks play ideal team basketball and love to share the ball. Jeff Teague has also taken his game to the next level.
3.Portland Trail Blazers- This team is deep. It’s strange to think that they have actually gotten better with Robin Lopez missing time, but it seems that’s just what happened. Dame Lillard is a stone cold killer. I can’t think of a more clutch player in the league, right now.
4.Houston Rockets- They have won 7 of their last 10 games and are hitting on all cylinders. Trevor Ariza continues to impress at the three. Bringing in Corey Brewer and Josh Smith add a tremendous amount of depth at an already solid position. My only concern in lack of depth at the PG and C positions should Beverly or Howard sustain a significant injury.
5.Memphis Grizzlies- This is a story of the rich getting richer. Not only did they get a healthy and instantly productive Zack Randolph back this week, they added another athletic wing in Jeff Green. If you weren’t convinced they were a championship caliber team, you should be now.
6.Washington Wizards- The Wizard are quietly having a great season, especially point guard John Wall. The Wizards also have one of the best field-goal percentages in the league(2nd) and have been getting great play from their bench. Guys like Kris Humpries and Kevin Seraphin have really stepped up.
7.Dallas Mavericks- The Rondo trade dramatically changed the roster but the play has stayed similar. The perimeter defense has improved, as Rondo is actually trying, but the shot selection has been less than desired. I’m not convinced this is the same team we will be watching after the trade deadline.
8.Toronto Raptors- The Raptors cooled off a little from their hot start with Demar Derozan out. Luckily for the Raptors, Derozan returned from injury this week. Also a nice pick-up this off-season, for the Raptors, has been wing James Johnson. Johnson stepped up with Derozan out and has brought an extra edge to this team.
9.Chicago Bulls- The Bulls have struggled of late, some of that has been because of injury. But, the real issues look to be their defense, once one of the best in the league. They have struggled to keep opponents under a 100 points the last few games. Jimmy Butler cooling off a little hasn’t helped them either.
10.Los Anglese Clippers- This team continues to underwhelm me. With the exception of the small forward it seems like this team should be a championship contender. On paper they look great. Their 9-7 road record is yet another indicator they may not have the emotional to be more consistent.
11.San Antonio Spurs- People are really saying the window has closed and they’ve aged. People are already counting them out. I am not one of those people. They are 6-4 over their last 10 and that’s without their biggest minutes guy and one of their best players. Additionally, Tony Parker missed time and is still knocking off the rust. They will be fine.
12.Phoenix Suns- This team made some key investments over the off-season, bringing in Isaiah Thomas and locking up Bledsoe long-term, but the results as far as the record is concerned have been minimal. The addition of Wright is interesting, but the dramatic development of Alex Lin may solidify their playoff run.
13.Oklahoma City Thunder- The big dogs are finally back. Don’t freak out, I’m aware they are not yet playing great. Give it some time. Let some cohesion build back with Durant and Westbrook and do something with the Waiters/Jackson debacle. They have a tough road to the playoffs, but I can’t imagine Durant and Westbrook not willing them into the post-season.
14.Milwaukee Bucks- The Bucks have handled the loss of Jabari Parker better than I imagined. Like I said before, Kidd has this young team playing a fun style of basketball and taking advantage of the Bucks’ athleticism and length. If they keep this up they will easily make the playoffs.
15.New Orleans Pelicans- Anthony Davis is incredible, Osik seems to have hands like feet when he tries to catch entry passes, Eric Gordon is playing like Gilbert Arenas post big money, and Tyreke Evans is a wing who can’t shoot that prefers to play point guard knowing they have Holiday. This team is .500 because they are insanely talented. The problem is the parts to fit together. For the sake of your team move Osik and some combination of Holiday or Evans and give Anderson the start.
16.Detroit Pistons- The Pistons surprised everyone when they won seven straight after releasing Josh Smith. The move has definitely helped the Pistons open up their offense and has allowed other players to step up. Brandon Jennings is a perfect example of it.
17.Denver Nuggets- Who is this team. They’ve won 5 straight and Kenneth Faried is playing like they expected him to when they paid him. There have been numerous reports of trade talks involving Afflalo, Chandler, and Foye, but If I’m the Nuggets I remain in a holding pattern. The improvement of Nurkic has been a welcomed sight. Build through the draft and hug the Cavs for the Mosgov deal.
18.Cleveland Cavaliers-The Cavs have really struggled to get a groove. They just aren’t running smoothly in any facets of the game. The Cavs hope their recent trades for Timothy Mosgov, J.R. Smith, and Iman Shumpert work out and they can turn their season around.
19.Miami Heat- The Heat have had a tough season. They have done just enough to stay afloat in the East, but continue to fight the injury bug. That might not be enough for the front office, who is looking to trade anyone, but Bosh and Wade.
20.Sacramento Kings-The Cinderella story of the young season allowed the clock to strike midnight with the firing of first-time coach Mike Malone. This team has been in shambles ever since. Apparently coaching does matter. Perhaps the only silver lining is that DeMarcus Cousins has flourished into the best big man in the league and he’s doing it against double and triple teams.
21.Indiana Pacers- The Pacers still grind games out, but sometimes that isn’t enough. Especially with the amount of injuries they have dealt with. Even when healthy the Pacers still aren’t a great offensive team.
22.Charlotte Hornets- The Hornets have played better, but still have a lot of work to do if they want to turn the season around. It also looks like the Hornets are desperately trying to move off-season signing, Lance Stephenson, It seems the Lance project was a failure.
23.Brooklyn Nets- After a nice stretch of basketball, the Nets go on to lose 7 straight games and have looked terible at times. Since Jan 1 they have one of the worst three-point shooting pecetages in the league. The only bright spot has been the play of Mason Plumlee, one reason the Nets are okay moving Brook Lopez.
24.Utah Jazz-Is broken. The number of injuries this team has suffered to key cogs has been unfair and saddens me. Ingels should never start a game….ever! This team is young and the prospect of building around Favors and Gobert is exciting. They still have a very raw and talented Exum to throw into the mix, but they need a couple solid veterans.
25.Orlando Magic- The Magic have really seen their younger players step up, including Nikola Vucevic, Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo. Especially Vucevic who has played great in his last two games , averaging 29 points and 11.5 rebounds.
26.Boston Celtics- At this rate the Celtics entire roster will be first-round picks drafted by the Celtics. Danny Ainge is raking up picks. It’s a strategy that makes sense and will set the Celtics up for the future, just not for this year.
27. Los Angeles Lakers- This is one of the most difficult teams to watch. Even Swaggy P has been disappointing, aside from interviews with Jeremy Lin. They do not have a talented roster and even one of the greatest players in NBA history is getting schooled by father time. Get Clarkson some more minutes and develop the young guys.
28. Philadelphia 76ers- The Sixers don’t look as bad as the beginning of the season and even grabbed back-back wins a week ago. Still they lack the talent to compete on a nightly basis and the front office is okay with another lottery pick.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves- This team is bad. This team is really fun, but really bad. The good news is Andrew Wiggins is already showing signs that his jumper wasn’t as bad as advertised and that he can produce offense. The game seems to already be slowing down for the future of the league. A healthy Kevin Martin, Ricky Rubio, and Pek would greatly improve this team’s ability to compete.
30. New York Knicks-After trading Shumpert and Smith we know the Knicks are already looking forward to the off-season. The Knicks have had one of their worst seasons in franchise history, no need to say much.
-By Dustin Bailey and Nicholas Diesing-Fay