1. Golden State Warriors (22-0) Last week: 1 – Warriors starting small forward Harrison Barnes remains sidelined with an ankle sprain, but a quick look at the standings tells us it hasn’t had too much of a negative impact. As long as some guy named Stephen Curry is healthy, the Warriors will be just fine.
2. San Antonio Spurs (17-4) Last week: 3 – Three straight wins and eight of nine for the Spurs, heading into Monday night’s game in Phildelphia. So in other words, four straight wins. As usual, not a ton hype surrounding the Spurs (unlike the Warriors), but they’ve always been fine with that.
3. Miami Heat (12-6) Last week: 4 – Well, well, well look what team has risen to the very top of the Eastern Conference? The Heat dropped one at home to those pesky Celtics but responded with a big win over the Thunder that included a whopping 38 lead changes. That’s how you fight.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers (13-7) Last week: 2 – The Cavs got popped by the Heat with LeBron James sitting out due to being tired. He’ll be criticized for sitting out this early, but with Kyrie Irving still hurt, it’s important not to completely drain James this early in the season.
5. Atlanta Hawks (13-9) Last week: 6 – Four hard games up ahead for the Hawks: at Dallas, at Oklahoma City, vs. San Antonio, vs. Miami. But the Hawks are a team expected to compete with this tier of teams, and anything less than 2-2 is a disappointment.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder (12-8) Last week: 5 – Two losses on the road to the Hawks and Heat and then a three-point win over the Kings at home isn’t a very impressive stretch. They’ll get the Griz on the road before looking for payback against the Hawks at home on Thursday
7. Indiana Pacers (12-7) Last week: 7 – It’s great to see Paul George healthy and playing the best basketball of his career. The dude just exploded for a career-high 48 points against the Jazz – but in a loss. Two straight losses for the Pacers, who hadn’t lost consecutive games since the first three of the season.
8. Dallas Mavericks (12-9) Last week: 8 – The good news for the Mavericks was that they beat the Wizards on Sunday. The better news is that shooting guard Wes Matthews dropped 36 points in the win. He’s been struggling to begin the season, so a game like that was necessary.
9. Toronto Raptors (12-9) Last week: 9 – Give Kyle Lowry credit: he did everything in his power to try to stop the Warriors over the weekend. A career-high 41 points, seven assists, and four steals wasn’t enough. That darn Stephen Curry scored 44 – and the Warriors won by three.
10. Chicago Bulls (11-6) Last week: 10 – The Bulls are floating around the top of the Eastern Conference about a quarter of the way through the season, and that’s with their offense not quite clicking yet. Derrick Rose is averaging just 13.7 points per game.
11. Los Angeles Clippers (11-9) Last week: 11 – You have to like the 11-point fourth-quarter comeback by the Clippers over the Magic. According to FOX Sports, they had been 0-7 when trailing entering the fourth quarter. Not anymore. Something to build on?
12. Memphis Grizzlies (12-9) Last week: 12 – The Grizzlies are 9-3 over their last 12 games but were recently smoked by the Spurs, 103-83 last week. But it’s how they responded – with a buzzer-beating dunk against the Suns – that proves this is a resilient bunch. No time to dwell on the past.
13. Charlotte Hornets (11-8) Last week: 15 – Impressive win over the Bulls on Saturday, as Nic Batum scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Bobcats. He’s averaging 17.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.5 assists for them this season
14. Orlando Magic (11-9) Last week: 16 – The Magic had been riding a five-game wining streak before they allowed the Clippers to come back and beat them on Saturday. The fourth-quartter collapse is the mark of a young team. But this young team is worth keeping around.
15. Utah Jazz (9-9) Last week: 13 – Real tough news for the Jazz last week as they found out Rudy Gobert has a Grade 2 MCL sprain that will put him on the shelf indefinitely. It’s the type of injury that could keep him out for at least a few weeks.
16. Boston Celtics (11-9) Last week: 17 – Good wins over the Heat and Kings, and a tough loss to the Spurs have this team playing better than it was a couple weeks back. Oh, and Happy 59th Birthday Larry Legend!
17. Houston Rockets (10-11) Last week: 19 – With five wins over the last six games, the Rockets can get back to .500 with a win over the Nets on Tuesday. It’s a fairly easy schedule over the next six games – Wizards, Lakers, Nuggets, Kings, Lakers – so perhaps they go on a nice run.
18. Portland Trail Blazers (9-12) Last week: 20 – The Blazers beat one of the hottest teams in the league in the Pacers last week, and came back from 17 down to beat the Wolves on Saturday. That’s progress.
19. Detroit Pistons (12-9) Last week: 22 – Four straight wins for the Pistons, three of which they’ve scored at least 111 points. Reggie Jackson earned himself player of the week, averaging 27.0 points, 8.8. assists, 3 rebounds, and 1.75 steals.
20. Phoenix Suns (8-13) Last week: 14 – Four straight losses for the Suns, three of which were by three points or less, and now the trade rumors are starting, as the Rockets are reportedly interested in Markieff Morris.
21. New York Knicks (10-11) Last week: 21 – Consider that the Knicks had a total of 17 wins last season, and you can understand the excitement building around this team a quarter of the way into the season.
22. Washington Wizards (8-10) Last week: 18 – Scary sight for the Wizards as John Wall banged knees with the Heat’s Jeremy Evans and was taken for X-rays. Luckily, there was no structural damage. The Wizards, however, continue to be a disappointment.
23. Sacramento Kings (7-15) Last week: 23 – Kings have lost five of their last six game and looked awful in their loss to the Celtics in Mexico City. Poor effort on the defensive end. DeMarcus Cousins has loads of talent but has looked off since missing time with back pain.
24. Minnesota Timberwolves (8-11) Last week: 24 – Three straight wins have been replaced by three straight losses, but the bigger picture looks bright. Rookie Karl-Anthony Towns earned Rookie of the Month after averaging 14.4 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks over month.
25. Milwaukee Bucks (8-13) Last week: 25 – They’re ranked 28th in scoring with 95.8 points per game and dead last in rebounding with 39.9 rebounds per game. Doesn’t seem to be much fire power in Milwaukee, as Giannis Antetokounmpo leads the team in scoring with 16.0 per game.
26. Denver Nuggets (8-13) Last week: 26 – The Nuggets snapped an eight-game losing streak and have now won back-to-back games. Who cares if one of those wins came over the Sixers? They’ll take any they can get.
27. New Orleans Pelicans (5-15) Last week: 27 – There haven’t been many high points for the Pelicans a quarter of the way through the season, but an overtime win over the LeBron James-led Cavs certainly counts as one.
28. Brooklyn Nets (5-15) Last week: 28 – More bad news for the Nets as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is out indefinitely with a broken ankle. RHJ is probably one of the most talented players on the team, so this one hurts.
29. Los Angeles Lakers (3-17) Last week: 29 – It really must kill Nick “Swaggy P” Young that Kobe Bryant is getting 100-percent of the attention for the rest of the season. #FreeSwaggyP
30. Philadelphia 76ers (0-20) Last week: 30 – The news out of Philly is that Joel Embiid has grown two inches since the team drafted him. That’s great, but doesn’t matter much if he never, ya know, plays in a game.