1. Miami Heat (14-3, Previous: 4) – Ten-game winning streak for the Heat. Ho hum. Just another 10-game stretch in South Beach. It’s them and Indy in the East. Seriously, there’s nobody else.
2. Indiana Pacers (16-2, Previous: 1) – You can’t win ’em all, Indy. It’s good to see that Paul George (43 points vs. Portland) and the Pacers will certainly go down swinging even in the rare games that they lose.
3. San Antonio Spurs (15-3 Previous: 2) – Tim Duncan became the oldest player to amass 20 points and 20 rebounds in the same night Monday against the Hawks. He also hit the game-winner with 0.4 seconds left. Legend.
4. Portland Trail Blazers (15-3, Previous: 7) – If you needed any more proof that the Blazers were the real deal, they gave it to you Monday night with a big, 106-102, win over the Pacers.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder (12-3, Previous: 3) – Give it up to the Thunder, who’ve beaten the Nuggets, Spurs, Warriors, and T-Wolves during their seven-game winning streak.
6. Los Angeles Clippers (12-6, Previous: 5) – The Clippers haven’t fully shown up to a few big games this season, most recently to the Pacers at home. But they’re healthy and deep – no major concerns right now.
7. Houston Rockets (13-6, Previous: 8) – Feels like the Rockets are going a bit under the radar right now, but they’re a real threat.
8. Golden State Warriors (10-8, Previous: 6) – The Warriors are clearly missing Andre Iguodala (hamstring), having lost four of six (two wins by a combined three points). They’re also giving up 100-plus points in all six games.
9. Denver Nuggets (10-6, Previous: 14) – Six straight wins have separated the Nugs from the losers and they’re back up with the teams they belong around in the playoff picture.
10. Minnesota Timberwolves (9-10, Previous: 10) – The Timberwolves are probably playing better than their record shows. They’re in the Top 10 in offensive rating and defensive rating. But it has to translate to wins for anybody to care.
11. Memphis Grizzlies (8-8, Previous: 11) – Memphis will look to keep its head above water while Marc Gasol recovers from a sprained MCL. Not easy to do out West. But he’ll be back.
12. New Orleans Pelicans (9-8, Previous: 17) – Really tough news about Anthony Davis’ fracture in his left hand. The Pelicans can’t afford to lose him for long if they want to make the playoffs in a stacked Western Conference.
13. Dallas Mavericks (10-8, Previous: 13) – A nice win over the Warriors is sandwiched between four losses. The offense isn’t a problem – but the defense is.
14. Atlanta Hawks (9-10, Previous: 12) – Seven of their next eight are at home. The Hawks have been playing a pretty mediocre brand of basketball, so maybe some home cooking will give them an edge.
15. Washington Wizards (9-9, Previous: 21) – The Wizards have won seven of their last nine games, and get this – are at .500 for the first time since Nov. 3, 2009. They’re plenty good enough to make the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference.
16. Phoenix Suns (9-8, Previous: 22) – Eric Bledsoe (shins) should be returning to the starting lineup, which means Gerald Green goes back to the bench. But Green is proving to be much more than a highlight-reel dunker this season.
17. Charlotte Bobcats (8-10, Previous: 20) – Charlotte let one get away in Miami on Sunday, getting outscored 38-25 in the fourth quarter and losing, 99-98. Check out this stat: They’re third in the NBA in defensive rating (points per 100 possessions) at 100.3. The Pacers and Spurs are the only teams better.
18. Chicago Bulls (7-9, Previous: 9) – It’s a shame that Derrick Rose will be lost for the season – again – after tearing his meniscus in his right knee. That about does it for the Bulls’ chances – again.
19. Detroit Pistons (7-10, Previous: 18) – The Pistons are certainly more fun to watch than they have been in years past. Hopefully that’s enough for Pistons fans.
20. Los Angeles Lakers (9-9, Previous: 23) – If Kobe can somehow get this team into the playoffs and a round deep, then maybe, just maybe he’ll be worth half of the contract extension he just signed.
21. Toronto Raptors (6-10, Previous: 24) – The Raptors’ 6-10 record is good enough for top spot in the Atlantic Division … because it’s the worst division mankind has known.
22. Boston Celtics (7-12, Previous: 25) – Two things will keep the Celtics from getting a coveted top-five pick this season: A terrible Eastern Conference, and Brad Stevens.
23. Brooklyn Nets (5-12, Previous: 15) – Brooklyn Nets? More like Brooklyn Nots! Burn. Lucky for them, they have the talent to dig themselves out. But will they ever be healthy enough to do so?
24. Cleveland Cavaliers (5-12, Previous: 16) – The Cavs can only win the lottery so many times and continue to stink. Bet they’d like a mulligan on Anthony Bennett. The basketball Gods shall not reward them with another top pick.
25. Orlando Magic (6-11, Previous: 26) – The Magic kicked off their road trip with an 18-point loss to the Wizards. Seven of their next eight games are also on the road. *Gulp*
26. Philadelphia 76ers (6-12, Previous: 27) – Tenth in points per game, fourth in rebounds per game, ninth in assists per game … wait for it … 30th in points allowed per game!
27. Sacramento Kings (4-11, Previous: 29) – DeMarcus Cousins’ thing is to not shake opponents’ hand prior to tipoff. I kind of like it. But I’m also a jerk.
28. New York Knicks (3-13, Previous: 19) – Could a team of Atlantic Ocean sea creatures (C Sea turtle, PF Dolphin, SF Seal, SG Lobster, PG Starfish) beat the Atlantic Division doormat Knicks? Game is on land.
29. Utah Jazz (4-15, Previous: 30) – The Jazz have won three of their last four, including a big win over the Rockets. Um, guys? That’s not in the Tanking For Dummies handbook.
30. Milwaukee Bucks (3-13, Previous: 28) – The Bucks take over honors for worst team in the NBA. Sorry, multiple wins over the Celtics don’t count for much.