1. Golden State Warriors (15-0) Last week: 1 – To put it quite simply, the Warriors are a cut above every other team in the NBA. They’re absolutely going to challenge that 1996 Bulls team for the best season record of all time, at 72-10. They’d have to go 57-10 the rest of the way – seems easy enough.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (10-3) Last week: 2 – LeBron James apparently has such high expectations for his team that even when they are up 24 points on a good Eastern Conference team in the Hawks, he’s frustrated enough to illegally substitute himself out of the game. Can’t do that, LeBron.
3. San Antonio Spurs (10-3) Last week: 3 – The Spurs rebounded from a bad loss to the Pelicans to beat the Grizzlies by 10 points. But speaking of rebounding, how about this: Tim Duncan failed to grab a rebound in that loss to New Orleans, ending his streak at 1,342 consecutive games, or his entire career.
4. Miami Heat (8-4) Last week: 8 – Watch out for this Heat team. They’ve got more talent than most seemed to remember heading into the season. Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, and more make this a tough opponent.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder (8-6) Last week: 5 – Gutsy win by the Thunder without Kevin Durant over the hot Mavericks on Sunday. Russell Westbrook led the way with his superstar partner on the sidelines for the sixth straight game. The Thunder are now 3-3 without KD, but he’s reportedly returning soon.
6. Atlanta Hawks (9-6) Last week: 6 – Jeff Teague returned to the Hawks against the Cavaliers after missing three games with an ankle injury. Though they still lost the game, it’s good to have him back on board.
7. Dallas Mavericks (9-5) Last week: 12 – The Mavericks had their six-game wining streak snapped by the Thunder on the road, but the message has already been sent: they are here to contend. That said, two big upcoming road games in Memphis and San Antonio will tell a lot more.
8. Toronto Raptors (9-6) Last week: 7 – Bad news for the Raptors as Jonas Valanciunas will miss sixweeks with a fractured hand suffered against the Lakers. It’s a big drop-off offensively going from Valanciunas to Bismack Biyombo.
9. Washington Wizards (6-4) Last week: 10 – A shoulder injury kept Bradley Beal out for three games, but he’s back now. The Wiz still went 2-1 without him and currently own a three-game winning streak with four games in five days coming up.
10. Chicago Bulls (8-4) Last week: 11 – Derrick Rose missed most of last week after spraining his ankle, but is expected to return Tuesday night. Even so, he’s only averaging 13.6 points and six assists this season, the lowest output of his career.
11. Los Angeles Clippers (6-7) Last week: 4 – TheClippers have now lost seven of nine games. This team just feels destined to let us all down again. Too many egos, too many characters, and too much drama. It is L.A., after all.
12. Indiana Pacers (8-5) Last week: 14 – The Pacers haven’t lostconsecutive games since they dropped their first three games of the season. C.J. Miles has been impressive this yearand is really allowing the Pacers to succeed in small ball.
13. Boston Celtics (7-6) Last week: 15 – Love these Celtics, who now own one of the toughest defenses in the league. Losing Marcus Smart for a few weeks hurts, but they should have the depth to overcome it. That said, a loss to the Nets isn’t a good way to prove that.
14. Utah Jazz (6-6) Last week: 13 – Up and down for the Jazz so far this season, but they did lose for the 10th straight time in Dallas. If the playoffs started today, that would be the matchup. Luckily for them there’s 70 more games.
15. Phoenix Suns (7-6) Last week: 17 – It’s still early, but Devin Booker has made good use of his little time. He’s 8-for-10 from deep to begin his career, and should see a bigger role on offense as the season unfolds.
16. Memphis Grizzlies (7-7) Last week: 18 – It was good to see the Grizzlies go on a four-game winning streak, but equally as bad to see Zach Randolph miss their last two games, one of which was a loss to the Spurs, with knee soreness. They need a healthy Z-Bo to go anywhere.
17. Houston Rockets (5-9) Last week: 9 – Ridiculous to fire your head coach just 11 games into the season, but clearly there are major problems with this team and the coach is always first to go. Shame on those players for getting their coach fired. It’s on them to perform.
18. New York Knicks (8-6) Last week: 23 – After the majority of Knicks fans bashed the pick of Kristaps Porzingis, they’re all now officially on board. A performance of 24 points, 14 rebounds, and seven blocks against the Rockets cemented that thought.
19. Charlotte Hornets (7-6) Last week: 22 – The Hornets started the beginning of their seven-game homestand the right way with wins over the Nets and Sixers. But, consider the opponent. It gets much harder with games against the Wizards, Cavaliers, and Warriors.
20. Detroit Pistons (7-6) Last week: 16 – The Pistons bench has been dreadful this year, forcing Stan Van Gundy to avoid using it as much as possible. But all that’s going to do is put a strain on the starters. Depth is a real issue in Detroit.
21. Milwaukee Bucks (5-8) Last week: 19 – The super-hyped team heading into the offseason, color me unimpressed with the Bucks to date. I can’t say I’m surprised, though. Jason Kidd hasn’t proven anything as a head coach – and if the Bucks continue to disappoint, it could get dicey.
22. Orlando Magic (6-7) Last week: 20 – Good news from OrlandoMagic.com that rookie Mario Herzonja has been taking advice from NBA and European legend Peja Stojakovic. That advice didn’t include how to beat his Kings over the weekend.
23. Portland Trail Blazers(5-9) Last week: 21 – After seven straight losses, the Blazers beat both teams from L.A. over the weekend. But at this rate, that isn’t going to mean much.
24. Sacramento Kings (5-9) Last week: 24 – Rajon Rondo is averaging 10.1 assists per game and as long as he can at least pretend to have the right attitude out on the court, he is going to line himself up for a nice contract with some team next season.
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-8) Last week: 25 – The Timberwolves went into Monday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers looking for their first home win of the season. As an impartial NBA observer, I’m a lot more confident in the T-Wolves’ future than the 76ers’.
26. Denver Nuggets (6-8) Last week: 26 – Three straight losses, and it doesn’t get much easier with games against the Clippers, Spurs, and Mavericks ahead. To make matters worse, Kenneth Faried is dealing with a sore ankle and back.
27. New Orleans Pelicans (3-11) Last week: 27 – Back-to-back wins over the Spurs and Suns, with Anthony Davis putting up a monster stat line of 32 points and 19 rebounds against the Suns. With such a talented player in the middle, head coach Alvin Gentry has to figure out how to keep winning games.
28. Los Angeles Lakers (2-10) Last week: 28 – On Friday, Kobe Bryant told reporters he needs to defer to the young guys and help them grow. On Sunday, he took 22 shots – hitting six of them. So what’s it going to be, Kobe?
29. Brooklyn Nets (3-11) Last week: 29 – They are what they are. The Nets have a couple ofveterans who have the capability to have good nights, but that’s about it. No bench. Not much support. They’ll be hurting for most of the season.
30. Philadelphia 76ers (0-14) Last week: 30 – You can’t blame Philly for blowing their fourth-quarter against the Heat over the weekend. It was, after all, uncharted territory. This team stinks. Boooooo!