1. Indiana (32-7): The Pacers are back to their winning ways. They have also held their last 20 opponents under 100 points, so I guess that’s good too. With Miami looking very complacent and the East being the East, the number one seed is becoming more and more within reach.
2. San Antonio (32-9) With Tiago Splitter, Matt Bonner, Danny Green and Tony Parker all battling various ailments the depth of the Spurs will be tested going forward. This might be a death sentence to most teams, but the Spurs quietly go along, winning games, cementing their status as kings of the West.
3. Portland (31-10): The Blazers are officially the “hot girl with a tragic flaw” of the NBA. Beautiful face, great body, but dumb as all hell. The Blazers play a very volatile brand of basketball that relies on scoring from all angles. On both baskets. When you are allowing opponents to shoot freely, you have to be able to outscore them on a nightly basis. If one or two guys are off their game, the strategy falls apart and losses are easier to come by.
4. Oklahoma City (31-10): Kevin Durant has initiated “God Mode” and everyone is screwed. Check out his latest entry into his “pooping on opponents” diary:
11. Memphis (20-20): Last night’s loss to the Pelicans notwithstanding the Grizzlies recently have looked poised to capture one of the last playoff spots in the west. After a five game winning streak spurred by the return of Big Spanish himself, Marc Gasol (really Memphis? that’s the best nickname you could come up with?) the Grizzlies are poised to win the only way they know how, through superb defense and post scoring.
12. Atlanta (21-19): The Hawks had lost two in a row, luckily for them they were in for a cakewalk against a reeling Heat squad. Despite knocking off the defending champs by double digits the losses to Brooklyn and Memphis beforehand are more indicative of how good these Hawks are.
13. Chicago (20-20): When it is all said and done, Coach Thibs should be in consideration for the Coach of the Year trophy. This team has met disappointment time and time again and now, post Deng trade, they are mere remnants of their former selves. The next bunch of games should serve as a good barometer for how much fight this Chicago team has – they face the Clippers, Wolves and Spurs within the next week.
14. Minnesota (19-21): Minnesota is so disappointing. Even when they get players like Chase Buddinger back, other flaws seems to have developed. Due to Love and Pekovic’s lack of interior defense, the Wolves struggle against teams with talented offensive big men (San Antonio and Sacramento). In the West, that won’t cut it.
15. Brooklyn (17-22): Winners of 7 of 8 games since the new year, and slowly moving up the eastern standings, the Nets look to have found their identity. Offensively they are moving the rock well and are playing a very physical style of defense. I’m a fan of the new look team. Suddenly Joe Johnson looks to be a good NBA player again…
16. Toronto (20-20): The Raptors have lost 3 of 4 at the hands of Boston, LAL, and the Bobcats. This team still has a fun young core, but it’s certainly a work in progress. Jonas Valanciunas has had a very rough week scoring less than 4 points per game over his last 4. They need the big fellow to step up and support their quality guard play.
17. Washington (20-20): The Wizards are a .500 team in a conference where most of the teams are much worse than that. They have recently given big money to John Wall before he fully deserved to be paid. Word is The Wizards are ready to make the same mistake again in the form of a trade/big contract offer to Greg Monroe.
18. Denver (20-20): Easily the weirdest, hardest to analyze team in the league. Apparently, when the clock struck 12 at midnight on December 31st, the Nuggets turned back into the “old” Nuggets. They have lead the league in scoring in 2014 and have seemed to abandon the new defensive philosophy that Brian Shaw has been harping on as head coach. If anyone can clue me in to what kind of team the Nuggets are, I’d be happy to pick your brain.
19. Charlotte (18-25) The Bobcats have been bolstered recently by the return of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who might not always light up the stat sheet but provides the type of defense and energy that shows up in the win column. But this new found health was short lived after Kemba Walker went down with an ankle injury.
20. Detroit (17-24): This team has no identity. No one knows when to shoot or how much to shoot (Josh Smith has been struggling with that issue his entire career). In order to maximize the growth of Andre Drummond, the Pistons need to make a move and either acquire value or build some pieces for the future. They are far too inconsistent to make any noise in the conference.
21. New Orleans (16-24): No NBA team has been hit with the amount of injuries the Pelicans have suffered. First they lost Anthony Davis for an extended period, then when he came back, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson and now Jason Smith all went down. WIth the 76ers owning NO’s top five protected pick this year the Pellies either need to right the ship and hop into the playoff race or go on a long losing streak. Either way I expect NOLA to be one of the most active teams at the trade deadline.
22. Sacramento (14-25): The Kings have lost 3 of 4, but have played well for long stretches in all of those games. Isiah Thomas, the Pint Sized Pitbull (can this nickname please catch on!?), has been on fire as of late, and, I can only imagine, continues to inspire all you short people. Also, Demarcus Cousins=beast.
23. Cleveland (16-26): The state of the Cavs is as such:
30. Milwaukee (7-33): They haven’t won since 2013, so there isn’t much good on the “winning” front. They are CRUSHING it from a tanking perspective, though. If I were Embiid, Wiggins, Randle, Parker, or Player X, I’d start buying winter clothes now. The Polar Vortex is no joke.
Thank you for your continued support and be sure to check out the first in our weekly roundtable on all thing NBA.