1. Miami (40-14): This past week Lebron James showed us all he was in fact not a robot by breaking his nose and bleeding all over the place. On the bright side, Lebron’s injury paved the way for Greg Oden to get his first start since 2009. Actually everything has been bright for Miami lately, winning 5 games in a row and 8 of 9.
2. Indiana (42-13): The Pacers are 3-3 in their last 6 and the wheels are officially falling off! Just kidding, but this is not the Pacers best basketball right now. Paul George is shooting just 40% from the field in February, LeBron James is, in my opinion, a robot and Dwyane Wade appears to be alive. Indy needs to turn things around to protect the #1 seed.
3. Oklahoma City (43-14): The Thunder were going to take a hit after inserting Russell Westbrook back into the lineup. Honestly, it was bound to cause some uneasiness with the squad. Throw in games versus the Heat and the Clippers and you can’t be surprised that the Thunder struggled. On the plus side, it appears that Derek Fisher dunked his head into the fountain of youth,
4. Houston (38-18): The Rockets are officially the hottest team in basketball after winning 9 of their last ten games (their only loss being a 3 point heartbreaker to Golden State in OT). Despite all the talk of Houston acquiring Rajon Rondo, Patrick Beverly is trying to prove that they already have a winning point guard on their team.
5. San Antonio (40-16): The Spurs looked to be back on their way to being healthy with Kawhi Leonard‘s impending return, but then it was announced that Tony Parker would be out indefinitely with “various maladies”. With the way Patty Mills has been playing, TP can take his time coming back.
— Quixem Ramirez (@quixem) February 21, 2014
6. LA Clippers (38-20): A great win over OKC helped them get over losses to the Spurs and Grizz. This team is deep, and deeper still with the acquisition of Big Baby. They will be there in the end to challenge for the west title. With a healthy roster, they are as good an anyone.
7. Golden State (34-22): They’ve bounced back a lot recently and seem to have gained some of that swagger that was missing for awhile in 2014. Bogut and Lee need to get healthy, but overall I’m ok with where this team is at right now. Klay Thompson needs to play a whole lot better though, he should be scoring at least 16 a game with his ability to stretch the floor and get into the lane.
8. Portland (38-18): The Blazers have been playing some meh ball in February. They are 5-5 in the month and have to deal with a nagging injury to their best player (LaMarcus Aldridge). A common theme of this team has been consistency with no injuries or changes to the starting lineup. This new-found volatility has proven troublesome for the Blazers. Regardless, Damian Lillard and Wes Matthews seem to be having a blast out there.
9. Phoenix (33-22): With Dragic playing like an MVP candidate (not like Durant, but you know,…deserving of some votes) and their bench providing a huge scoring boost this team can hang with anyone. I’m so excited to see Eric Bledsoe return healthy in a few weeks to see if this team could really be a contender. I’m thinking they might be…Jeff Hornacek is clear cut choice for coach of the year.
10. Dallas (34-23): Just as usual the Mavs made a ton of calls at the trade deadline, and just like in the past they didn’t have the assets required to make a big move. Dallas is a cautionary tale of how cap space doesn’t guarantee good free agents. If they can’t bring anyone in this offseason they will have wasted the end of Dirk Nowitzki‘s storied career.
11. Memphis (31-24): With Tony Allen and Mike Conley returning to the fray Memphis has as healthy a roster as they have had all season. These returns had propelled them to a four game win streak before they ran into the buzz saw that is the Charlotte Bobcats (I swear this isn’t sarcastic).
12. Toronto (31-25): The Raptors made the right move in holding onto Kyle Lowry at the trade deadline. The team is currently third in the eastern conference and have won five of their last six including their only two games since the trade deadline. They are a team that lives and dies by its guard play, but when you have Lowry and DeRozan, is that a bad thing?
13. Chicago (29-26); Joakim Noah is playing some awesome basketball. He is a very rare combination of a player with indeterminable will, a weird looking shot and unsuspectingly adept passing. A pure delight to watch. As I’ve said before, Coach Thibs should be up for Coach of the Year. I think he agrees:
14. Minnesota (27-29): *Looks at Kevin Loves stats* *Looks at Wolves record* *Plugs insignificant numbers into calculator* *Scratches head* *Sighs*
15. Washington (28-28): Apparently something catastrophic will happen if Washington isn’t a .500 team. Anytime the Wizards lose too many games, it is followed by a winning streak to even things out, with the opposite also happening. Either Randy Witmann put money on the Wiz finishing exactly .500 or they are the strongest case for mean reversion in history. Washington has won its last 3 games but of course this came after a three game losing streak. On the bright side an out of shape Andre Miller will be taking over the back up point guard minutes, so there’s that.
16. Brooklyn (26-28): Nearing .500%, the up and down season has continued recently for the Nets. Acquiring Marcus Thornton wasn’t much of a splash at the deadline, but adding a quality backup like Jason Collins, who knows how to rebound and use 6 fouls is of great value to this team. It’s hard to know where this team is going the rest of the season, but its hard not to cheer for the veteran laden bunch.
17. Atlanta (26-29): After the Hawks had fought valiantly the entire season, the wheels looked to have come off during a recent 8 game winning streak. Luckily for them the schedule makers decided to set them up with a game against the New York Knicks. Even without Paul Millsap the Hawks were able to beat the generally uninterested Knicks. Danny Ferry might end up getting his wish of a lottery pick come June.
18. Charlotte (27-30): Props the to Bobcats for improving their team at the deadline without giving up any young players. Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour should provide Charlotte with the offensive punch they sorely lack in order to finally get back into the playoffs. With the Bobcats winning 4 in a row and 5 of six they look to be hitting their stride just in the nick of time.
19. Denver (25-30): Brian Shaw, the NBA’s hottest coaching candidate three years ago, is finally coaching. And it’s not good. They have won one of their last 8 games and the ceiling looks a little low for this team. Especially with Kenneth Faried challenging assorted dunk contest winners at the rim and losing.
20. New Orleans (23-32): It looks like the Pelicans are going to come to regret dealing two first round picks for Jrue Holiday, especially when the pick conveyed this year could be a very good player in a stacked draft. The Pelicans future still remains pretty bright with Anthony Davis looking more and more everyday like the transcendent player he was expected to be coming out of college.
21. Cleveland (22-35): As soon as Cleveland was starting to feel good about themselves after they rattled off a 6-game win streak, everyone got hurt. In order for the Cavs to get back on the winning side, they’ll need Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao and C.J. Miles back and healthy.
22. New York (21-35): Somehow they are still in the fight for a playoff spot, even after losing 5 of their last 6. This team just doesn’t have the heart or leadership to do it though, it’s like a watching a boat sink slowly. Summer of 2015 can’t come soon enough. Oh but good news, Dolan didn’t trade away Hardaway Jr., the only good young chip on the roster.
23. Detroit (23-33): Detroit put on a classic display of “how to lose a playoff spot” in the quickest, most painful fashion. Their young star, Andre Drummond, has not been playing well and Charlotte beat up on them two games in a row to create a stranglehold on the eighth seed.
24. Utah (19-36): Derrick Favors‘ injury might be a blessing in disguise for the Jazz. It gives the team an opportunity to see if Enes Kanter can play some consistent basketball. It’s paying off – Kanter is averaging 22.7 ppg and 9 rebounds on 65% shooting over the last three games.
25. Sacramento (20-36): A disappointing deadline for the Kings, but you know they don’t have a shot to make the playoffs this year so they might as well wait to figure things out. They have a strong young core, but need to focus on the defensive end if they want to be great. They need a new vocal leader too. While Cousins is an insanely talented and skilled player, emotionally he doesn’t deserve to be leading this team since he seems to havr little control over his on-court behavior.
27. Boston (19-38): I couldn’t be more happy the team didn’t trade Rajon Rondo as all of the offers were basically giving the Celtics some spare change for their crisp dollar bill. The Celtics are obviously all about the lottery and draft this season, but it could be a quick turnaround for the team this summer when Danny Ainge can go to work with his plethora of draft picks and tradeable assets. The team is taking its time with injuries right now (Sully, Bradley, Rondo on back to backs) and its a great thing as losses are more valuable wins right now.
28. Orlando (17-41): So the Magic aren’t very good again, but it takes time to rebuild after losing a player of Dwight Howard‘s caliber. They have looked like they found a keeper in Victor Oladipo, who posted a triple double against the Knicks earlier this week. With a little luck in the draft this team could be back on its feet as early as next year. If they aren’t able to return to the playoffs they will be another cautionary tale of what happens when you trade a superstar.
29. Philadelphia (15-41): Nice! 10 losses in a row is just what Phili brass is hoping for. They traded some pieces at the deadline and will solely try and develop young talent the rest of the way. Phili’s healthy roster is as bad as anyone in the NBA right now. Only MCW, T. Young, Wroten and Moultrie should remain on the team going forward.
30. Milwaukee (10-45): The Greek Freak is practicing for his driver’s test and it’s downright adorable.