1. Oklahoma City (38-11): Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Kevin Durant:
In a shocking development, Jason Kidd is dumbfounded:
2. Indiana (36-10): This team has hit a weird point. Their defense is not quite as sound as it has usually been and…they just signed Andrew Bynum for the rest of the season. Yes, the same Andrew Bynum who is doing his best Matt Flynn impression throughout the league. Maybe this was a ploy to keep him from other East rivals, but if Frank Vogel can get anything out of this he should immediately win Coach of the Year.
3. San Antonio (34-13): After enduring their first losing streak of the season (with losses to Miami, Chicago and Houston) the Spurs bounced back into the win column against New Orleans. Manu Ginobili has looked great so far this year, so great against the Rockets that he forgot he was 36 drove to the basket and threw down a monster jam. Apparently 36 year old dudes aren’t supposed to dunk like that because he promptly injured himself on the play.
4. Miami (33-13): The Heat are 4-1 in their last five, but the one loss could loom ominous later in the year. Before the Thunder beat up on the Heat, OKC and Kevin Durant were always playing second fiddle to the Heat. This win proved that KD can outplay Lebron James and lead his team to a victory. This subplot could become a big one if these teams meet again in the finals.
5. Portland (34-13): Rip City is officially 3-4 in it’s last 7 games and frankly, that won’t cut it. Depth is the issue. When LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard and Nic Batum aren’t firing on all cylinders, this team struggles to win. You know, because they ignore the idea and concept of defense.
6. LA Clippers (34-16): The Clippers have been playing really well and are clearly the elite team in the Pacific. Blake Griffin averaged 26 points in January on 55% shooting. He’s no KD, but he’s carrying his team in his own right.
7. Houston (32-17): “LINSANITY HAS RETURNED!” is what a sports writer grasping for straws might say after Jeremy Lin‘s first career triple double against Cleveland. The Rockets are 6-2 in their last 8 with their only losses coming to the “Hansel level” hot Grizzlies. Houston runs into another buzzsaw on Wednesday against Phoenix, can they survive and put together a win streak to cement their top in the upper echelon of the Western Conference?
8. Golden State (29-19): I have trouble deciding what to think of this team. They have a great talent level and in some games look like the best team in the league, but it’s an inconsistent performance level. If they can figure it out, I’ll still have them going to the finals in the West, but right now, I’m not quite as confident. In either case they have won 3 of 4 and Steph Curry is playing great.
9. Phoenix (29-18): They have won 5 in a row and have been led by should be all star Goran Dragic. In the teams’ 5 game winning streak, he is averaging 24.4 points, 6.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds on 60% shooting. The kid is playing about as well as anyone not named Kevin Durant. Phoenix continues to impress and will be a serious contender if they are able to acquire Pau Gasol.
10. Memphis (26-20): Just as I predicted in our first round table, the Grizzlies have become the hottest team in the NBA. The basketball gods apparently have something against Memphis, because right as they started to streak (six wins in a row 11-1 in their last 12) Mike Conley injured his ankle.
11. Dallas (27-21): It would be beating a dead horse to harp on their lack of a quality defense again this week, so I’ll avoid that. Instead I’ll focus on Dirk Nowitzki being named to his 12th all star game. When all is said and done Dirk will probably be the second best stretch four in the NBA behind Larry Bird.
Congrats to my guy @swish41. Good guys can and do win. #35 ain’t nothing but a number.
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) January 30, 2014
12. Atlanta (25-21): At this point what Mike Budenholzer is doing is bordering on the absurd. First Al Horford goes down and they continue to play well, then Jeff Teague gets hurt and they weather that storm. Somehow with smoke, mirrors and a whole lot of grit the Hawks are a threat to win every game they play. This week they absorbed a 43 point effort from Kevin Love and still came up with a win against a solid Minnesota squad.
13. Toronto (25-22): Winning 3 of 4 this week was an excellent step for the Raptors as they extended their Atlantic lead to 4 games. DeMar DeRozan returned from his ankle injury after missing two games (both Raptor wins) to play excellent in the teams’ most recent 2 games. He was the main reason they had a shot to upset Portland in Portland on Saturday (36 points). Although they came up short, I don’t see how the Raptors can break up this team before the deadline as they continue to play competitively against any opponent.
14. Chicago (23-23): The Bulls are having issues with Carlos Boozer and that’s honestly the best thing that can happen. This team is tank-proof because Coach Thibs and this team have too much pride, but if they part ways with Boozer, they improve draft stock and free up $15M. Worst things can happen upon parting ways with a player.
15. Washington (23-23): Try and figure out when the Wizards are going to play well and when they are going to barely show up to the game? You can’t. Recently this team has lost to bottom five teams Utah and Boston, while beating the elite Thunder and Warriors. On the bright side, John Wall seems to be emerging en route to his first all star appearance.
16. Minnesota (23-24): Kevin Love scored 40+ points again. Guess what? The Wolves lost because they are 0-3 this year when Love scores over 40 points. That stat right there is a microcosm of the Wolves’ season.
17. Brooklyn (20-25): A terrible week for the Nets saw them lose all three games they played this week. They need to snap out of it and get back to playing well if they want to get out of the dreaded 7 or 8 seed in the East. They are way too talented to play with this level of inconsistency.
18. Denver (22-23): The NBA’s weirdest team is keeping it up. While Ty Lawson is the number one option on this team, the Nuggets are still plagued with the issue of not having a go-to player. On the plus side, any guy on the roster can lead them to victory on any given night, but that means this team doesn’t have a plan down the stretch of close games.
19. New Orleans (20-26): The Pelicans are 4-1 in their last five and coincidentally four of their past five games have been against the east (I bet you can’t guess which one they lost). With the injuries the Hornets have suffered they should probably trade all their veteran pieces so that they get to keep their first round pick owed to the 76ers. On the bright side NO signed blog favorite Luke Babbitt.
20. Charlotte (21-28): The Bobcats are getting away from the defense that made them competitive early in the season. “Since the start of January the ‘Cats have allowed 107 points per 100 possessions to opponents ranking 23rd over that time“. If Not for Al Jefferson‘s torrid scoring streak this team would not sniff a victory.
21. Detroit (19-27): If this team can harness Andre Drummond‘s powers and full potential, Detroit can be in good shape. In order to do that, Detroit must make some sort of move before the trade deadline. Their entire front court is uncomfortable because, I mean…
22. New York (19-28): A loss to Miami is no big deal, but they have still failed to play well on a regular basis. This is a team of streaks and they need to put together another good run before the deadline or else I think the team will have no choice but to start planning for the future.
23. Cleveland (16-31): They lost to the Knicks by 1000 points and always seem to be on a perpetual four game losing streak. But hey, you have an All-Star somehow!
24. LA Lakers (16-31): They have lost 6 in a row and won only 3 games in all of January. I think this may be the worst team in the league outside of Milwaukee.
25. Utah (16-31): Will the real Enes Kanter please stand up? While the Jazz are a young team chock full of potential, I think the development of Kanter as a big man is one of the main factors in this team becoming a contender. That and not letting Steph Curry score 44 points.
26. Sacramento (15-32): Sacramento has lost 9 of 10 and 7 in a row. They need to get healthy, but this is unfortunately a bad team and, now after the Rudy Gay trade, a team in a tough financial situation.
27. Philadelphia (15-33): A buzzer beating win over the Celtics is the team’s lone win over the last 6 games. They don’t play defense and they play at a dizzingly fast pace on offense. While short on wins, they are never short on entertainment.
28. Boston (16-33): Rajon Rondo returning to form with 19 points, 10 dimes, 6 boards, and 3 steals as well as Jared Sullinger‘s back to back monster double doubles give fans and management alike a peak into the future of this franchise. Of course it’s all about the draft with this team, but you can’t help but love those two players. It’s kind of pathetic, but a lot of NBA “experts” do not seem to value Rondo very highly, which is strange considering he is arguably a top 3 point guard when fully healthy….which doesn’t look far off. Some people just have a very short memory.
29. Orlando (13-36): Apparently, the Orlando Magic aren’t concerned about Jameer Nelson’s sore left Knee. With it being advantageous for the Magic to lose games I don’t think the Magic are in the position to be concerned about any injury that doesn’t linger past the season.
30. Milwaukee (8-39): Hey, Bucks fans. A six game losing streak isn’t as bad as a nine game losing streak.
Sincerely, Mr. Brightside.