1. Miami Heat (60-16, previous No. 1) – LeBron James is back, but word is that Dwyane Wade (knee) could be out until the postseason. The Heat don’t need him now, obviously, but that’s certainly something to monitor.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (56-21, previous No. 3) – The Thunder are just one game out of the top spot in the West, which would line them up with the Jazz in the opening round. Tuesday, in Utah, could be a preview of that one.
3. Memphis Grizzlies (52-25 previous No. 4) – Often times it’s the toughest team – not the better team – that advances in the postseason. The Griz have “grit and grind” on their side. Is that enough to carry them?
4. San Antonio Spurs (57-20, previous No. 5) – The Spurs’ last three losses are to the Thunder, Grizzlies, and Heat. That’s not a good way to prove you belong as the No. 1 seed. Health, as always, is the main concern.
5. Los Angeles Clippers (51-26, previous No. 6) – The good news: The Clippers are healthy and determined to leave the Lakers’ shadow. The bad news: More shots of the Kardashians (and Kanye!) sitting courtside.
6. New York Knicks (50-26, previous No. 9) – Twelve straight wins, including the latest over Oklahoma City on Sunday. Melo looks great. Maybe this team is “realer” than we gave them credit for … maybe.
7. Denver Nuggets (53-24, previous No. 2) – Danilo Gallinari blew out his ACL last week, which is an absolute shame. It’ll be tough for Denver to compete in the postseason without him. *sheds a few tears*
8. Indiana Pacers (48-29, previous No. 7) – The Pacers clinched their first Central Division crown in nine years on Sunday after the Bulls lost to the Pistons. This team has bigger goals than that, though.
9. Houston Rockets (43-34, previous No. 8) – If Denver remains the No. 3 seed, it’ll come down to Houston or Golden State as its first-round opponent. That’s a matchup both of those team want now with Gallinari out.
10. Brooklyn Nets (44-32, previous No. 10) – If Brooklyn is to play Chicago in the first round, The Prokhorov will make sure that Derrick Rose is nowhere to be found. But can he make the Heat disappear the next round?
11. Golden State Warriors (44-33, previous No. 11) – Warriors Head Coach Mark Jackson desperately wants his team to be tough and “old school.” We aren’t quite sure they’re either of those things, especially if they hope to make noise in May.
12. Chicago Bulls (42-34, previous No. 12) – Derrick Rose is still keeping the option of playing this season open. His return would help an offense ranked dead last in points per game (92.8). Dude, decide already.
13. Boston Celtics (40-37, previous No. 14) – The Celtics say they don’t care who they play in the first round. With Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce returning on Sunday, you have to take them for their word. Give them this – they are fighters.
14. Atlanta Hawks (42-36, previous No. 13) – Losers of three in a row, Atlanta isn’t doing much to instill confidence in anybody associated with the team. They’re going in the wrong direction, and will be put to rest by the Knicks or Pacers in the first round.
15. Los Angeles Lakers (40-37, previous No. 15) – The Lakers go into Tuesday a half-game behind the Jazz for the eighth seed. Utah has the Thunder. L.A. has the Hornets. This battle could go down to the final game.
16. Utah Jazz (41-37, previous No. 17) – You have to hand it to the Jazz. It appeared that the Lakers were going to take the eighth seed from under them, but they are 7-1 in their last eight games. Can they hold off L.A.?
17. Milwaukee Bucks (37-39, previous No. 16) – The only way Milwaukee will have a chance to beat the Heat is if Dwyane Wade really is injured. And LeBron James. And Chris Bosh. And … you get the idea.
18. Dallas Mavericks (38-39, previous No. 18) – Losses to the Lakers and Nuggets just about sealed the fate of the Mavs, who will most likely miss their first postseason this century.
19. Washington Wizards (29-48, previous) – The Wizards were bad – really bad – without John Wall. But since the star point guard’s return, they’ve gone 24-20, which is very respectable.
20. Philadelphia 76ers (31-45, previous 20) – Good news for Sixers fans: Andrew Bynum has been playing a ton of NBA 2K13 on XBOX in preparation for next season.