1. Miami Heat: 12-3
-Even with Dwyane Wade struggling or out most of this year, the Heat seem to be running on all cylinders. Ray Allen looks like the sixth man of the year, and Lebron looks like he has four more gears. They should take care of business against the Wizards tomorrow night before a rematch with the Knicks.
2. Memphis Grizzlies: 12-3
-The defense looked just a tad slow against the well rested Spurs. While alot of teams will give up points to the Spurs, you can’t expect to win when you give up 57 to Duncan and Parker alone. Four out of the next six are on the road will be a strong test for this team looking to prove the early season wasn’t a fluke.
3. San Antonio Spurs: 14-4
-Speaking of those well rested Spurs; the plan obviously worked with a big home overtime win against the Grizzlies. Popovich seemed to take the fine without a surprise, but this open’s up a bit of a Pandora’s box. If you are going to fine a contender for trying to win, can you fine a basement dweller for trying to lose?
4. Oklahoma City Thunder: 14-4
-After the loss to Boston in which they couldn’t make a shot in the 4th, the Thunder have run off five straight wins by an average of 21 points. This momentum will need to carry over with big games against Brooklyn and the Lakers coming up this week.
5. New York Knicks: 12-4
-The Knicks had an umimpressive win over Phoenix last night, but the fact that they can get in done without a great performance has to feel good. A win on the road vs. the Heat on Thursday would have to vault this team to a true contender status.
6. Brooklyn Nets: 11-5
-The Nets did exactly what you should do after a fight; not let it get to you. While the Celtic’s combusted, the Nets continue to rack up divisional wins. A tough opening schedule doesn’t get any easier however, and the nagging injury to Lopez has to be a concern.
7. Los Angeles Clippers: 10-6
-The Clippers finally looked like their old selves(or new selves?) in a 35 point demolishing of the Kings. Griffin is looking to impose himself on the post more, and Chauncey Billups seems to be fine with the role player status….for now.
8. Atlanta Hawks: 9-5
-The loss to the Cavaliers is a bit of a sore spot, but even good teams have bad nights. Besides that, this team is winning the games they are supposed to win. As long as this continues, the Josh Smith trade talk might stay quiet for a couple weeks longer.
9. Milwaukee Bucks: 8-7
-Which team is this? After looking less than stellar in the loss to Minnesota, they turned right around and fought back from a huge deficit to beat a Celtic’s team that was riding high. One thing is clear though, the Bucks may want to resign Jennings as soon as possible.
10. Golden State Warriors: 10-6
-The Golden State rebound is the 2nd coolest story coming out of San Fran this year. The coolest story? That of Daniel Nwaelele, the Afghanistan veteran turned NBA pro. You can see the story here. http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=8705798
11. Boston Celtics: 9-8
-The Celtics can’t seem to put a run of good games together, as perfectly evidenced by this weekend’s slate. After looking flawless against the Blazers, the Celtics went unbelievably cold in the 2nd half against Milwaukee. While this is a sign of an old team, going 1-1 without Rondo isn’t that bad.
12. Philadelphia 76ers: 10-7
-After a less than impressive weekend with a lowly win against the Bobcats followed by a loss to the Bulls, the 76ers showed they have a few flaws. Being outrebounded by 13 against the Bulls didn’t help.
13. Los Angeles Lakers: 8-9
-Really Dwight? It wasn’t emotional facing the old team you completely ditched, and then having them expose your biggest flaw on the way to victory? That wasn’t weird for you? Apparently you’ve been in different relationships than the rest of us then. Also, if you could let Pau borrow some of your larger pants, that would be great.
14. Denver Nuggets: 8-9
-Sometimes quickness doesn’t add up to defense. While the Nuggets are athletic, rebound and can score at a high rate, they can’t seem to stop anyone when it matters. They are 23rd in the league in points allowed. For a team who was supposed to shut teams down, that’s not a great stat.
15. Chicago Bulls: 8-7
-The Bulls are going to have to rely on their 4rd ranked defense until Derrick Rose can finally make their appearence. Their offense is ranked 22nd in PPG and 18th in FG%.
16. Utah Jazz: 9-9
-The Jazz are truly putting the team mold into play this year. While they don’t have anyone close to averaging 20 points a game(Al Jefferson is the closest at 16.7), they do have six guys in double figures. That’s a great start for a team who is going to have to win with depth and not stardom.
17. Indiana Pacers:8-9
-Much like the Bulls, the Pacers are going to have to win on the defensive side of the ball until Danny Granger can get back. Losing 15-20 guaranteed shots a game has really hurt this team, as has Roy Hibbert forgetting he had a good post game last year. Only the Wizards score less points per game than the Pacers.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves: 7-8
-The Timberwolves have to be feeling a little better after hearing that Ricky Rubio said there was no pain after his full contact practice, and that his backyard wrestling career didn’t interupt his rehab(I kid, I kid.) With Kevin Love showing no signs of a step back after the hand injury, this team is very close to being who they thought they would be at the start of the year.
19. Houston Rockets: 8-8
-Houston is the opposite of the Bulls and Pacers. They are 3rd in scoring and 29th against. It also doesn’t help that the Thunder completely exposed how to cover them. Harden is going to have to learn how to break the double team real quick, or else that scoring is going to slide even more.
20. Portland Trailblazers: 7-10
-While the win over the Cavs was, well a win, it doesn’t do much for this team’s confidence. Blowout losses to the Nets and Celtics with losses to the Pistons and Wizards(yuck) in between prove that teams have figured that the Blazers have absolutely no bench.
21. Dallas Mavericks: 8-9
-While the win over the Pistons were a nice bounce back, the three game losing streak was telling. Rick Carlisle does not trust his starters, and besides O.J. Mayo, doesn’t know who to trust in the 4th. Where are you Dirk?
22. Phoenix Suns: 7-11
-The Suns are only going to be more miserable come this time next week. They play Memphis, Dallas, LAC, Orlando and then Memphis again in the next 9 days. 7-16 or 8-15 is going to be a tough hole to dig out of.
23. Charlotte Bobcats: 7-8
-Right after we start praising them, the Bobcats go out an lose three straight. Can anyone agree with me!? It doesn’t get easier for the Bobcats, with six out of their next seven games coming against teams with winning records.
24. Toronto Raptors: 4-13
-The Raptors next move needs to be test the market for Andrea Bargnani. He simply cannot do anything on the defensive end, and that is where this team needs to start to get better. Tyler Zeller would help too.
25. Detroit Pistons: 5-13
-The Pistons play Cleveland twice in the next four with games between Golden State and Chicago in between. If they can even win the two Cleveland games, it will be a huge step forward for a team looking for something to hang it’s hat on.
26. Orlando Magic: 6-10
-J.J. Redick said it perfectly: “This was a win for the city of Orlando.” That had to have been a fun plane ride home full of “Dwight is a baby” and “Hack a Hack” jokes.
27. Cleveland Cavaliers: 4-13
-It is really depressing to watch this team lose close games, especially when you know that Kyrie would be the difference. While they won’t do it, I would love to see Varajeo get traded to a contender and not have his career year be wasted.
28. New Orleans Hornets: 4-11
-The Hornets have shown flashes of a team ready to take the next step, but you have to wonder what this team would look like with a healthy Davis and motivated and healthy Gordon.
29. Sacramento Kings: 4-10
-The loss to the Clippers showed what happens when you have a undisciplined team in a bad situation. This is a team in year nine of a three year plan that has already gone horribly wrong.
30. Washington Wizards: 1-13
-So much for that momentum. The Wizards were back to their old tricks in an awful loss to the Knicks. I guess the curse of Voldemort isn’t over. Poor Muggles.