1. Miami (42-14): The Heat followed the same script as pretty much every other championship team. They coast through the early part of the season, (when you know the energy it takes to win a title, you realize conserving some of that energy for the stretch run is important) and turn it on when it matters. The Heat have finally started playing the basketball we all knew they were capable of, winning 8 in a row and 11 of their last 12. Lebron James has taken his game to a championship level late in the season, including scoring a career high 61 last night. LBJ seemed like he might be getting a little tired of all the Kevin Durant MVP talk so he squashed it in the best way he knew how last night.
2. Indiana (46-13): Did you think that Evan Turner might be the turning point that would guarantee the Pacers the #1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference? Me neither. If this Indiana team can get consistent production from Turner and resurrect the corpse of Andrew Bynum, they may just be able to dethrone the king.
3. OKC (45-15): The Thunder are finally starting to round into form post-Russell Westbrook. He’s averaging 23.8 points and 7 assists over the last 3 games and the team proved that they can win a grind-it-out game versus the Grizzlies. Everyone blamed Westbrook for the Thunder’s recent stumbles, but I pin it all on Kevin Durant‘s wildly misguided nickname: “The Servant.” Hey Russell, act like you’ve been there before:
4. San Antonio (43-16): As Jonathan Raymond of the National so aptly puts, Reports of the Spurs demise have been greatly exaggerated. With the recent return of Tony Parker and Kawai Leonard the Spurs are ready to make their stretch run towards the top seed in the West. Every year it seems that the Spurs are written off as too old and every year they end up with a top 3 seed in the West. With San Antonio winning three straight and 6 of 7 all the talk of them being past their prime goes by the wayside, just like every other year.
5. LA Clippers (41-20): 4 wins in a row over OKC, Houston, and NOP twice has the Clips rolling. Blake has been shooting poorly but has led the charge with his consistently high effort. Chris Paul is now qualified for the assist title and is leading the league at over 11 per contest. And my favorite stat of the season: Deandre Jordan has recorded double digit rebounds in every game but 1 since December 12th. This team has it all when they are healthy.
6. Portland (41-18): Combine a five game win streak with the best scoring/rebounding team and a slightly improved defense and you have a Blazers team that’s back in the mix. Strangely enough, LaMarcus Aldridge missed four of the five game, but there is no way that team is better off without him. Terry Stotts is preaching defense and even though it’s taking time, the results are starting to show.
7. Houston (40-19): The Rockets are soaring, With James Harden being named the Western Conference player of the week the Rockets just might have a shot at competing for a championship. Watch out for their Tuesday meeting against the Heat, if the Rockets want to announce their championship intention there is no better team to do it against than Miami.
8. Golden State (36-24): The up and down season has continued. Not a single player on the roster has performed consistently this season and it’s infuriating to watch as a fan. I still think they will make a big postseason run, but they need to really bring the same energy night in and night out.
9. Dallas (36-25): After a 9-2 start to February the Mavericks have lost two games in a row. At 11 games over .500 this team is overachieving, but with a five game streak that pits them against Portland, Indiana, Golden State and OKC the Mavs could easily end up coming back to earth in a hurry.
10. Phoenix (35-24): They have righted the ship somewhat with back to back wins. We really won’t know what this team can do in the postseason until we see Eric Bledsoe‘s return in a couple weeks, but we know they are already one of the bests offensive teams in the league. If they can hold onto a playoff spot, they may be able to push OKC or SAS to seven games.
11. Toronto (33-26): The Raptors are playing great basketball and have been impressive since the all star break. DeMar DeRozan has led the charge averaging 26 a game on 48% shooting since the break. Not that it’s all that impressive, but they are playing like the third best team in the East.
12. Memphis (33-25): Due to injuries the Grizzlies have yet to live up to their expectations, but with only two games separating them from the 6 seed Memphis can still end up where they want to. For what seems like the 10th year in a row about 10 teams in the west are worthy of a playoff spot. Too bad the NBA doesn’t separate teams by geography…
13. Chicago (33-27): Incredible story here. After winning 9 of their last 11, the Chicago Bulls are making waves throughout the NBA with a patchwork assembly of ragtag guys. Hell, Coach Thibs has turned Joakim Noah into a legitimate MVP candidate. He’s also transformed into a chest-bump intimidator. Just ask Tony Snell
14. Washington (31-28): The good news, the Wizards are winners of six in a row. The bad news, if this season is any indication the Wiz are on the verge of a six game losing streak. During their streak the Wizards beat only one team with a winning record and play two teams with winning record in a the next four games, in other words get ready for mean reversion!
15. Minnesota (29-29): Winners of five of their last six, I have to ask, has this team figured things out? Actually, I’m not going to fall into this rabbit hole again. I just know Kevin Love is going to put up stats, Ricky Rubio is going to miss a couple wide open mid-range jumpers and the Wolves will be consistently mediocre.
16. Brooklyn (28-29): This is just a sad story of veterans not having enough. Marcus Thornton played great last game, giving the team a boost with a nice 25 point outburst, but it’s obviously something that can’t be relied upon and this team is destined for a first round exit.
17. Charlotte (27-32): The Bobcats are a surefire playoff team in the putrid East. Despite shoddy moves over their franchise’s history, the Bobcats have stumbled into the post season. On the bright side they finally got rid of Ben Gordon‘s dead weight. Lost in the shuffle of LeBron’s 61 was Al Jefferson‘s 38 and 19 last night.
18. Denver (25-33): Hey, so they lost 10 of their last 11. So what?
They’re having fun. The fans are having a good time. Coach Shaw is doing a great job. On a happy note, they play the Wolves tomorrow so both teams will do their best to try to lose that one in the fourth quarter.
19. Atlanta (26-32): The Hawks have hovered around .500 all season, but after Paul Millsap went down the wheels finally fell off. Atlanta has lost 3 in a row and 11 of their last 12, and things aren’t looking any better with their next three games against playoff teams. Hawks fan should be excited, now instead of losing in the first round, they have a chance to add a premier talent in the draft.
20. Cleveland (24-37): Cleveland has had a solid February, but seriously, can they stop fans from getting onto the court? This might become dangerous one day and you can’t blame Kyrie Irving if he decides to defend himself one day.
21. New Orleans (23-36): The Pelicans are a team that won’t get a first round pick unless they end up with a top three pick. Luckily for their fans, during their 8 game losing streak (losing 10 of 11) the team has been playing like they aware of this. Just think of how much fun a front line of Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis would be!
22. Detroit (24-36): This isn’t about the Pistons, but Andre Drummond‘s love struggle with iCarly star Jeannette McCurdy. He liked her, she liked him, then she didn’t like him, then she made fun of him, then lingerie pictures got leak. Nothing like a scorned 20 year old budding NBA superstar center.
23. Utah (21-39): They lost by nearly 30 to the Bucks, so I’m not going to talk about them. This is their punishment.
24. New York (21-39): Six losses in a row have this team once again reeling. The Knicks are flat out terrible and if Carmelo wants to win, he should go to another franchise in the offseason.
25. Sacramento (20-39): Will they be good next year? the talent is there but they need a new leader on the court, Cousins sure as hell doesn’t have the maturity, nor do I think he really wants that role. This year is lost, and it makes me sad because I want MORE COWBELL!
27. Boston (20-40): The “NBA scout” that Chris Broussard quoted as saying that Rondo was the “40th” best point guard in the league should be fired and sent to a remote island. Rondo has looked good of late, despite playing with a banged up Boston squad. Rondo has double-digit assists in five straight games and has allowed the C’s to be competitive in quite a few games. All in all though, bring on the lottery.
28. Orlando (19-43): With the way Dwight Howard toyed with Orlando I want to see them turn it around and compete in the poor Eastern Conference. Unfortunately that isn’t going to happen for the Magic this year. At this point they can’t even get LeBron James to wear his good mask against them
29. Philadelphia (15-45): This week they lost to Milwaukee and Orlando TWICE! They may in fact deserve spot 30, but I’ll hold off for at least one more week. The pace they play at is still fun, nearly 103 possessions per game, but they don’t score on many of those and they put up little to no fight on defense. Still, I think they may be a playoff squad next year in the weak East.
30. Milwaukee (12-47): Ersan Ilyasova almost played a perfect game shooting 13-14, but similar to tree falling down with no one around, did it actually happen?