1. Atlanta Hawks (47-12, Previous: 2) – The Hawks respond to last week’s demotion with three straight wins, so we’ll throw them back up at the top. But their next two games against the Rockets and Cavs will say a lot more than the last three (though Houston will be without James Harden, see below).
2. Golden State Warriors (46-12, Previous: 1) – A nice comeback against the Celtics – but how could they let Boston go up 26 on them? Add the fact they lost at the buzzer to the Nets the next night and it’s not the Warriors team we’ve seen all year.
3. Portland Trail Blazers (39-19, Previous: 4) – Big, big games coming up against the Clippers and Mavericks will really tell us where this team is at. They’ve recently taken down the Spurs and Thunder with Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge playing great.
4. Memphis Grizzlies (42-16, Previous: 3) – Smoked by the Clippers on Friday, the Griz did what they had to do the next night and beat the Timberwolves. That’s not gonna earn them much credit though.
5. Houston Rockets (41-18, Previous: 5) – James Harden gets a game for kicking LeBron James in the you-know-where. I guess you could say he took one for all of America there. But regardless, that was an awesome game against the Cavs.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers (37-24, Previous: 7) – LeBron James will not forget getting kicked, and he will not forget the free throws he missed to lose the game for the Cavs against the Rockets. Angry LeBron will be a good thing for the Cavs.
7. Los Angeles Clippers (40-21, Previous: 9) – Pretty hilarious to see Austin Rivers try to pick a fight with Kevin Garnett. KG has probably been messing with little Rivers for years since he played for Doc in Boston.
8. Dallas Mavericks (40-22, Previous: 8) – Uh oh. It doesn’t look like the Rajon Rondo era is going to last very long in Dallas, not if he and his coach can’t get on the same page. Bad look for Rondo as he enters free agency.
9. Toronto Raptors (38-22, Previous: 6) – After five straight losses, the Raptors got a freebee in Philadelphia. But let’s see what they do Wednesday against a Cavs team now hot on their trail in the standings.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder (33-27, Previous: 12) – I can’t get the dent in Russell Westbrook’s face out of my mind, but after successful surgery it doesn’t sound like he’ll be out long. Thunder don’t have much wiggle room.
11. San Antonio Spurs (36-23, Previous: 11) – After dropping four straight road games, the Spurs won the final two of their trip. Now with six straight at home, it’s time they pull it together. But Tony Parker has to be right.
12. Phoenix Suns (31-30, Previous: 13) – Just 2-5 since the trade deadline, and you really can’t be surprised when you trade two of your three best guards. Looks like frustration is setting in, too.
13. Chicago Bulls (37-24, Previous: 10) – Last week I called the Bulls maybe the toughest team in the NBA. Then Derrick Rose tore his meniscus and Jimmy Butler sprained his elbow. That has nothing to do with toughness. Except that things are going to get a lot tougher for Chicago now.
14. New Orleans Pelicans (32-28, Previous: 16) – The Pelicans had won five straight before falling to the Mavericks on the road on Monday. They’re currently one game out of a playoff spot with the Thunder dealing with a couple big injuries.
15. Washington Wizards (34-26, Previous: 14) – With Chicago taking some big injuries, this is a prime time for the Wizards to make a run and pass them in the standings for home-court in the first round.
16. Milwaukee Bucks (32-27, Previous: 15) – The Bucks aren’t in any real danger of missing the playoffs, but losses to the Lakers and Jazz certainly don’t help. Keep it together down the stretch.
17. Indiana Pacers (25-34, Previous: 20) – And the best record in the (very short) month of February goes to the Pacers (7-2)! They are right on the cusp of the 8th seed and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them knock off either Brooklyn or Miami.
18. Brooklyn Nets (25-33, Previous: 18) – Brooklyn played its first home game since Feb 6 on Monday, but the wait was worth it: a 110-108 win over the Warriors. Now they have four more home games in a row as they hold on to a playoff spot for dear life.
19. Miami Heat (26-33, Previous: 17) – An emotional win for the Heat over the Suns as Goran Dragic beats his old team and scores 21 points in under 15 minutes. Plenty of fouls and ejections in this one too.
20. Boston Celtics (23-34, Previous: 22) – Isaiah Thomas earns Player of the Week, Brad Stevens just misses Coach of the Month. Things are starting to turn around in Boston just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. Coincidence?!
21. Detroit Pistons (23-36, Previous: 19) – A Pistons dancer hit a no-look half court shot over the weekend. Hmm… the team may want to take a closer look at her.
22. Utah Jazz (23-35, Previous: 24) – Rudy! Rudy! Rudy! Rudy Gobert is one of the pleasant surprises of the season, but there is nothing pleasant for opposing teams trying to get a shot off around him. He’s averaging 3.1 blocks since January 2.
23. Sacramento Kings (20-37, Previous: 21) – The Kings are about to kick off a massive eight-game road trip that starts in New York City and then one night later puts them in San Antonio(?). Then it’s over to Florida and back up the east coast where it ends in D.C. on March 14.
24. Charlotte Hornets (24-33, Previous: 23) – Well, it’s official: Michael Jordan is worth over a billion dollars. That’s not going to make Hornets fans feel any better.
25. Orlando Magic (19-42, Previous: 25) – It’s a darn good thing there are lots of other things to do in Orlando than follow the Magic. Three straight losses over the last week.
26. Denver Nuggets (20-39, Previous: 26) – The Nuggets finally fired Brian Shaw after just an awful season filled with drama and an obvious disconnect between players and coach.
27. Minnesota Timberwolves (13-46, Previous: 27) – Kevin Garnett will be great to have around for the young guys on his team. Just think about all the new words they’re learning!
28. Los Angeles Lakers (16-42, Previous: 29) – Nick Young is feuding with SportsCenter anchor Robert Flores because Flores made a joke about Young’s girlfriend, Iggy Azalea, ruining hip hop. We’ve entered the twilight zone in Laker land.
29. Philadelphia 76ers (13-47, Previous: 28) – The 76ers rebuild is one of the big question marks in the league, and if I was a fan of the team I would be very nervous.
30. New York Knicks (12-46, Previous: 30) – RIP to Anthony Mason, who spent five seasons on the Knicks in the 90’s. Nobody on this current Knicks squad would sniff the roster of those Knicks teams, nor would they be able to handle that era.