1. Indiana (22-5): Lance Stephenson recorded his 4th triple-double of the season Sunday against the Celtics, while no other player in the league has more than 1. With Danny Granger back in the fold and getting up to game speed, it’s just a reminder that they have players besides Paul George and Roy Hibbert who can beat you. The depth and skill on this team is scary.
2. Portland (23-5): Despite losing to Minnesota this week Portland still has the best record in the West. If you wonder how they are doing it we got you covered here
3. Miami (20-6): The hottest team in the East are the Miami Heat, with 4 straight wins. Fun Fact: Lebron has been the game high assist man in 7 straight games without reaching double digits, opposing point guards need to do better.
4. San Antonio (21-6): As long as Tim Duncan is on the court the Spurs will be elite defensively, and this year is no exception. While new flavors come and go the Spurs are a steady force at the top of the Western conference.
5. Oklahoma City (22-5): The Thunder just keep doing it year after year. Like we covered here, OKC has been great at developing talent to replace pieces that look to be integral to their team. Jeremy Lamb, and Reggie Jackson have come on strong to help fill the void left by James Harden two years ago.
6. LA Clippers (20-9): The Clippers are winners of five straight, including an improbable win last night against Minnesota and a victory against the stalwart Spurs. While Doc Rivers has tried to stress defense, the Clippers winnings streak has been lead by their offensive firepower, scoring at least 108 in every game.
7. Houston (18-10): The Rockets are playing the worst of any contender (going 5-5 in their last 10 games) with a drubbing at the hands of Indiana being their low point. The common denominator in their recent losses, a lack of scoring. Despite being the third ranked offense Houston failed to score 100 points in three of their five losses.
8. Phoenix (16-10): The Suns were supposed to be the same doormat that they were in the previous season, Eric Bledsoe and Jeff Hornacek had other ideas. The Spurs are pushing the pace, forcing turnovers and using a two point guard lineup to take the league by storm.
9. Golden State (15-13): The Warriors were supposed to be a contender for the title, but with Andre Iguodala injured for most the year the Dubs simply have not been able to take care of the ball. Despite Steph Curry’s great play the Warriors are best when someone else can help him with the ball handling duties.
10. Atlanta (15-12): The ever underrated Al Horford has been red-hot of late, averaging 24 and 9 on 65% shooting over his last 5. The Hawks have great offensive balance and, as scrappy as they are, are not a fun match-up for any opponent.
11. Dallas (15-12): The Mavs, like most offensive based teams are really hit or miss. When their shots aren’t falling they are liable to get blown out with no defense to ground them. On defense they rely entirely on forcing turnovers to stop opponents, which leaves them out of position against teams that take care of the ball.
12. Denver (14-12): The Nuggets play solid defense under first year coach Brian Shaw. They are doing a good job, rotating to contest every shot, but early in the season this is leaving them out of position for rebounds. Despite having some good rebounders in Timofey Mozgov, Kenneth Faried and J.J. Hickson Denver is near the bottom of the league in defensive rebounding.
13. Minnesota (13-15): Ricky Rubio is one of the best passers in the league, but it is starting to become a problem that he can’t shoot at all. Behind Rubio the Wolves are one of the worst effective shooting teams in the NBA. On defense they are struggling to defend the rim (Nikola Pekovic is a good player but he is a revolving door at the rim) and are third to last in the league in effective field goal defense.
14. Washington (12-13): Since Bradley Beal has returned from his injury the WIz are 3-0. With Otto Porter finally healthy too, I love the Wizards and believe they will make there way into a first round home court series.
15. LA Lakers (13-14): At near .500 the Lakers are playing way above their head. With Kobe Bryant out for another six weeks an even record is probably the best that they can hope for. Mike D’Antoni should garner some coach of the year votes for their record in the tough Western Conference despite playing Kendall Marshall (previously of the d league) as their only point guard.
16. Detroit (13-16): While the individual talent is unquestionable in Detroit, I’m just not impressed with them as a team. Better ball movement is a must for this team if they want to challenge the elite of the East.
17. New Orleans (11-14): The Pelicans have been bad defensively, but with Anthony Davis coming back that should start to turn around. They would be best served to find a rim protector to pair with the Brow to help their porous wing defenders.
18. Charlotte (13-15): The soon to be Hornets are playing well winning 3 of 4. The Cats’ are paced by Kemba Walker who is shooting an absurd 62% over his last 5 while dropping over 26 a game.
19. Toronto (11-14): Back to back tough road wins against Dallas and OKC have this team trending upwards. They are currently first in the Atlantic and have a good shot to hold down this division for the foreseeable future.
20. Memphis (11-15): The Grizzlies were on a 5 game losing streak when the train wreck Knicks came to town and got them back in the win column. If not for their 5-3 record against the East the Grizz would be even further down the standings. If they don’t turn it around quickly you can expect the rebuild to being in Memphis, starting with Zach Randolph. Check out David Aldridge’s Morning TIp for more on Memphis struggles.
21. Chicago (10-16): Watching this team makes me really sad. They have the parts but not the engine.
22. Boston (12-17): Boston has finally lost its first place standing in the Atlantic and with a difficult upcoming stretch, it would be expected that they drop down to bottom 5 of the East within the next month. Good news for the Celtics is that Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley continue to make huge strides towards reaching their enormous potentials.
23. Sacramento (8-18): The Kings are 4-4 in their last 8 games with Rudy Gay, this isn’t great but for the lowly Kings this is a great stretch. The Kings are surely better with Rudy Gay but with a team not even close to the playoffs is this really a good thing?
24. Brooklyn (9-17): The Injury to Brook Lopez is about the worst news Nets fans could hear. Well, except the fact that they have an aging roster and have traded away all their draft picks. Yep.
25. Cleveland Cleveland (10-16): Alright, I’m calling it: The Cavs are about to get red-hot and start to achieve the success we all assumed they would have. The talent is there and, well, I Believe (in Santa).
26. Orlando (8-19): Positive youth movement in Orlando the question is when can they turn their youth into wins.
27. Philadelphia (8-20): Only 3 teams have failed to score triple digits against the Sixers who have lost 8 of 9. The lottery can’t come soon enough.
28. New York (8-18): This is all:
29. Utah (8-22): Trey Burke has really made a difference for the Jazz, after winning 2 of their first 16 without him the Jazz have gone 4-3 in their last 7. After splitting up Enese Kanter and Derrick Favors in their starting lineup their floor spacing has went up and improved their play at both ends.
30. Milwaukee (6-21): If they win their next game, that’d be a winning streak. So there’s that.