1. San Antonio (46-16): For much of the season, the narrative was the same, the Spurs were a good team that simply could not beat the great teams. Now, after a six game win streak (as well as 9 of the last 10) the Spurs hold the best record in the NBA. With the return of Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker the Spurs are back to playing the same lethally efficient basketball that the rest of the league fears.
2. Miami (43-17): The Heat looked great en route to winning 8 in a row, then they came back down to earth. Losing games against the surging Rockets, Spurs and Bulls. Following LeBron James 61 point outburst the King has simply not produced at a level the Heat need him to in order to compete for a title.
Lebron James’ 3-game slump since the ’61′ game: 1-16 from 20 ft, 1-8 from 15 ft, 38% FG overall, 19ppg, 0 wins.
— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) March 10, 2014
3. OKC (46-17): Lil B cursed Kevin Durant and nothing will ever be the same.
Two losses in a row? Rapper diss records? Things are not looking good from a “we need the #1 seed in the West” perspective. Don’t worry, Russell Westbrook had a cool dunk. If only dunks = consistency…
4. Indiana (46-17): Four losses in a row and inconsistent defensive play is VERY unlike this year’s version of the Pacers. Paul George has been up and down and I get the sense that this team is constantly looking over their shoulder watching Miami. Sidenote – Paul George, don’t ask your top rival in YOUR conference to be your idol.
5. Houston (44-19): The Rockets continue to be the hottest team in the NBA going 15-2 in their last 17. During this stretch the have impressive wins against Indiana, Miami, San Antonio, Portland and Phoenix (x2). Suddenly their defense is coming to play moving them all the way up to 12th in defensive rating. They have the best Shooting Guard and Center in the NBA as well as a top 5 Small Forward (James Harden, Dwight Howard and Chandler Parsons respectively) and have shown themselves ready to vault into elite status.
6. LA Clippers (44-20): The Clippers have won 7 straight in mostly dominating fashion. Chris Paul, now healthy, has the offense running ultra efficiently while Blake and DeAndre are feasting down low. No one in basketball, not even the Spurs or Heat, are playing as well as the Clippers are right now.
7. Golden State (40-24): The west is full of streaking teams right now, and the Warriors, who are on a 4 game winning streak at the moment are one of them. Curry, Lee, and Thompson are all playing well, but the paint clogger Andrew Bogut is the difference maker for this squad. When he’s healthy, they can play with anyone.
8. Portland (42-21): Portland is going to see what they are made of within their conference on this road trip. Having already dropped two in a row in Texas, the Blazers are moving on to the Grindhouse in Memphis, back to Texas to face the Spurs and wrapping up at New Orleans. A very tough start to a tough stretch. It’s salvageable, but they have to turn things around quick to be taken seriously.
9. Chicago (35-28): Legit almost cried watching these guys yesterday afternoon. This team plays harder than any team I have seen in the last few years. It’s clear Coach Thibs was not going to lay down when the going got tough. Players just filled in, took their opportunities and made the most of them. They also have an MVP candidate in Joakim Noah. He’s the best point-center that we’ve seen in awhile and he’s doing it without “conventional” talent. He just out works you and everyone on your team. Watching the Bulls is a pleasure right now. Yannick, what do you think?
10. Toronto (35-26): Winners of 6 of 7 and 9 of 11, the Raptors are rolling right now. Kyle Lowry may be struggling shooting right now, 27% in his last 5 games, but he is managing to impact the game in a variety of ways, averaging nearly 2 steals, 9 assists and over 6 rebounds in the same stretch. Once he gets his shot back, the Raptors will be that much tougher of a team.
11. Dallas (38-26): Impressively, the Mavs have been able to tread water during an extremely tough stretch of games. After losing to Chicago, San Antonio and Denver the fighting Dirks produced two wins against surefire playoff teams (Indiana and Portland). The victory against the trailblazers was a barometer win showing their meddle by coming back to win despite giving up a 30 point lead. If they can continue this resilience they will be a dangerous team come playoff time.
12. Memphis (36-26): The Grizzlies are averaging 95.8 points scored per game good for 25th in the league, which makes their offensive outburst of 100+ in 5 of their last 7 games shocking. No one questions the defense this team can play but it has always been their ability to score that has held them back, if they can stay hot on offense this could be the year they break through.
13. Phoenix (36-26): NOOOOOOOO! The surprise team in basketball is now on the outside looking in on the playoffs. It’s been a great year, but competing with the likes of Memphis and Dallas for that final spot is a tough place for a young squad to find themselves. Eric Bledsoe needs to play at a superhuman level to help Dragic and the rest of the cast find their way into the second season.
14. Washington (33-29): This entire season the Wizards have disappointed, from their poor start, to their in ability to string wins together. However, they look to be playing their best basketball right now two in a row and 8 of their last 9 games. While fans know this team is driven by the dynamic scoring of Bradley Beal and John Wall, what most people don’t realize is this Wizard’s team wins with defense, ranking 9th in the NBA in defensive rating.
15. Brooklyn (31-30): A letdown game in Boston aside, the Nets have been playing well of late. Winners of 5 of 6, this Joe Johnson led bunch is showing signs of getting ready for the stretch run.
16. Minnesota (31-31): Guess what? The Wolves lost another close game to a vulnerable Raptors team. Wait, you’re not shocked? Why? Oh, it’s because this team is the beacon of mediocrity and will never cross whatever hump has been holding back for years. That’s probably it.
17. Charlotte (29-34): The Bobcats have their fans in Charlotte thinking playoffs, which is commendable for a team that has struggled to make it to the second season. With last night’s win against Cleveland, the ‘Cats now have the playoff tiebreaker against the the Cavs, making a playoff trip that much more likely. People might have scoffed at Al Jefferson‘s contract but the perennial underrated Big Al has been worth every penny en route to a playoff trip.
18. Denver (27-35): Denver got lucky enough to play the Lakers, but then they ran into an Anthony Davis related buzzsaw. Nothing they can do about that when (the future best center in the NBA) Davis did everything but drive the bus. Kenneth Faried has had himself a pretty nice March, though.
19. New York (24-40): A good week for the Knicks have seen them find the winners podium in three straight games. They have the best point differential of any non playoff team in the east, but they still have the third worst home record in the eastern conference at 13-20. The playoffs, while a long shot, are still not out of the question.
20. New Orleans (26-37): The Pelicans have won their last three games, which probably irritates their fans to no end. With their only chance at a draft pick in 2014, being to select in the top 5 this current win streak is not a good thing for the Pellies. It might sound awful to say that wins are not in the long term best interest of a franchise, regardless of what Jimmy Smith writes.
21. Cleveland (24-40): Anthony Bennett is out for the next three weeks. Does that mean that he’s actually injured of sent into a hyberbolic time chamber so he can work on learning basketball? We’ll never know. A four game losing streak is perfect timing in the fight for the lottery and Nick Gilbert bow-tie swag.
22. Atlanta (26-35): Bless the hawks for fighting so hard early in the season, but with the injuries they have sustained they can no longer hold together their crumbling team. Losers of 6 in a row and 14 of their last 15, Atlanta is doing everything they can to move into the lottery. With a lottery pick, a healthy Al Horford and Paul Millsap plus oodles of cap flexibility the Hawks shouldn’t be down very long.
23. Detroit (24-39): Dumpster Fire Dot Com. This is a bad team. They have talent all over the place, but that’s kind of like having all sorts of good foods tossed into a blender. It’s gross when it’s not prepared correctly. I watched them last night and despite Josh Smith’s stat line and Andre Drummond’s monster game on the glass, this team had no chance of beating a weak Celtics squad. Ew.
24. Utah (22-41): Don’t look now, but Trey Burke is slumping. Once in the conversation as a dark horse for ROY, Burke is shooting an ugly 37% from the field. Good thing absolutely NO ONE is looking right now.
25. Sacramento (22-41): There is just no heart on this team. DeMarcus Cousins is so skilled and playing great, but he isn’t a leader.
26. LA Lakers (22-42): This team is an embarrassment. No hustle, no heart, and not much skill.
27. Boston (22-41): Whoever thinks Rondo isn’t an elite player is just not an astute basketball mind. Rondo has averaged over 11 assists and 2 steals over his last handful of games. When he plays, the Celtics are competitive. If he was healthy the whole year, this would be a playoff team without question.
28. Orlando (19-45): Since I have simply run out of things to say about this team I will regale you with words that describe their play: bad, awful, poor, young, heinous, lottery-bound, future-looking, rebuild.
29. Philadelphia (15-47): 16 straight losses! 16! Move over Milwaukee, Philly wants those 25% lottery odds.
30. Milwaukee (12-50): Giannis update. He did this: