1. Golden State Warriors (26-1) Last week: 1 – I have absolutely no problem with Klay Thompson saying he’s the best shooting guard in the NBA. First of all, on any night he absolutely can be. Second, that’s the attitude every player should have. Confidence goes a long way.
2. San Antonio Spurs (23-5) Last week: 2 – Here’s a stat that might shock you. For as great as the Warriors have played this season, their margin of victory over opponents is virtually the same as the Spurs, as the Warriors outscore opponents by 13.4 points per game compared to the Spurs’ 13.2. Cray cray.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (18-7) Last week: 3 – Oh happy day for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who had themselves a nice little Sunday Funday with the return of Kyrie Irving, who played his first game of the season. This is bad news for the rest of the East, which has remained close up until this point.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (18-9) Last week: 4 – The Thunder beat up on the Lakers (minus Kobe) by 40 points over the weekend. Lakers head coach Byron Scott said his team was “scared” and “in awe” of the Thunder. I believe it – the Thunder can be that good.
5. Indiana Pacers (16-10) Last week: 7 – The Pacers beat the Raptors, and the Raptors beat the Heat. So here we are with these three teams that should fight for that No. 2 seed all season long. Bonus points to the Pacers for also beating the Mavericks last week.
6. Miami Heat (16-10) Last week: 6 – Hassan Whiteside is just a beast in the paint. He already has nine games this season with fiveblocks. No other player has more than three of those games this season. I pity the opposing guard who finds himself in the paint.
7. Atlanta Hawks (17-12) Last week: 8 – Back-to-back fourth-quarter comebacks for the Hawks on the road over the Celtics and Magic.Not powerhouse opponents but certainly competitive teams. Add in an easy win over the 76ers, and the Hawks have matched their longest winning streak of the season.
8. Toronto Raptors (17-12) Last week: 5 – So the Raptors beat the Heat on the road by double digits and followed it up with a loss to the Kings at home by double digits? I know Kyle Lowry was ejected in the Kings game, but that still doesn’t add up. You gotta be able to bring it every night.
9. Dallas Mavericks (15-12) Last week: 9 – The Mavs got some much needed help from Chandler Parsons and Javale McGee in their win over the Grizzlies. If those two players can take on bigger roles going forward, the Mavs should stay somewhere in that No.4 – No. 5 seed area.
10. Chicago Bulls (15-10) Last week: 10 – So the Bulls went from super-intense Tom Thibodeau to laid-back Fred Hoiberg and naturally aren’t adjusting that easily. Now Jimmy Butler says he and his teammates need to be coached a lot harder by Hoiberg. They don’t have it in them to do the right things themselves?
11. Los Angeles Clippers (16-12) Last week: 11 – The Clippers have beaten exactly one Western Conference contender this season, and it’s the Grizzlies (who are dealing with their own issues). They just dropped their last two games to the Spurs and Rockets on the road.
12. Detroit Pistons (16-12) Last week: 15 – Nothing like a win in quadruple overtime over the Bulls to close out the week. Not only that, but the Pistons are very close to getting Brandon Jennings back, who hasn’t played since rupturing his Achilles.
13. Houston Rockets (14-14) Last week: 14 – After two bad losses on the road to the Nuggets and Kings, the Rockets responded with wins over the two teams from La La Land. The real question remains though after recent reports: just how happy is Dwight Howard in Houston? Winning creates happiness, we know that.
14. Boston Celtics (14-13) Last week: 12 – The Boston Celtics roller coaster continues to ride through the NBA, this time on a three-game losing streak. They scored just 77 points against the Cavs, allowed 119 against the Pistons, and looked flat against the Hawks. Hmm…
15. Charlotte Hornets (15-11) Last week: 13 – A good win at home over the Raptors (Jeremy Lin had 35 points!) sandwiched between two losses on the road to the Magic and Wizards. In fact, their 4-7 road record is the worst among teams currently in a playoff spot.
16. Orlando Magic (15-12) Last week: 18 – They’re 9-4 over their last 13 games and have won three of their last four. Head coach Scott Skiles says Victor Oladipo is a first-team All-Defensive player up to this point in the season – and he may be right.
17. Memphis Grizzlies (15-14) Last week: 16 – The Griz average just 95.9 points per game, which is the lowest total in the entire Western Conference. Their −4.3 scoring differential is fourth-worst in the West. This is currently the weak team in the playoff picture.
18. New York Knicks (14-14) Last week: 21 – Good news and bad news for Knicks forward Derrick Williams. The good news is his team just won its fourth straight game. The bad news is two women robbed him of $617,000 in jewelry. That’s an expensive night.
19. Utah Jazz (11-14) Last week: 17 – The Jazz better shape up fast or they’ll be looking in from the outside. Currently in the 8th spot, they’re 3-7 over the last 10 games and four teams are just a game behind them in the West.
20. Phoenix Suns (12-17) Last week: 19 – The Suns are one of the handful of teams fighting for a playoff spot, but they seem to lack execution down the stretch. They also turn the ball over an average of 16.4 times a game, second-most in the NBA behind the D-League’s 76ers.
21. Sacramento Kings (11-16) Last week: 23 – They’re 4-1 over their last four games, including a big win on the road in Toronto most recently. The talent is there, so if they can get their heads on straight, who knows?
22. Portland Trail Blazers (11-18) Last week: 18 – The Blazers’ road trip has gone poorly, with three losses in three games. Remember when these guys were exciting? It was only like eight months ago.
23. Milwaukee Bucks (11-18) Last week: 25 – Tough news that head coach needs surgery on his hip and will be out indefinitely. That said, I’m not sure how much the Bucks will miss him from a coaching standpoint.
24. Washington Wizards (11-14) Last week: 22 – With the Wizards banged up (Bradley Beal and Otto Porter are both hurt) rookie Kelly Oubre is getting more minutes. I guess developing young guys is the only positive out of this disappointing time.
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (11-16) Last week: 24 – Hey, two straight wins for the Timberwolves. More importantly, it’s great to see Karl-Anthony Towns really taking advantage of being teammates with Kevin Garnett.
26. Denver Nuggets (11-16) Last week: 26 – The Nuggets have lost two straight and also lost Danilo Gallinari to a sprained ankle in their latest loss.
27. New Orleans Pelicans (8-19) Last week: 27 – Head coach Alvin Gentry blasted his guys for poor effort in a loss to the Suns, so they came out the next game and beat the Nuggets. Still, this was a playoff team last year?
28. Brooklyn Nets (7-20) Last week: 28 – Brook Lopez is a huge Star Wars fan, so he at least has that going for him despite five straight Nets losses.
29. Los Angeles Lakers (4-23) Last week: 29 – The NBA and Christmas go hand-in-hand so it will be kind of cool to check out Kobe Bryant one last time on Christmas night. That is, unless the egg nog has done you in by then.
30. Philadelphia 76ers (1-28) Last week: 30 – Jerry Colangelo is now the vice president of basketball operations and Mike D’Antonio is a new assistant coach. Cool. But the guys playing the actual games still stink.