1. Oklahoma City Thunder (19-4, last week No. 1) – Going into Monday night’s game against the Spurs, the Thunder haven’t lost since Nov. 23 against Boston. In those 10 wins, Kevin Durant has been the game’s high scorer eight times, narrowly missing it twice by one point. He’s the West’s best player.
2. New York Knicks (18-5, last week No. 3) – Linsanity returned to New York City last night, but it’s pretty clear that the Knicks don’t miss him that much. They were 9-1 over the last 10 games, and still undefeated at home, going into that one.
3. San Antonio Spurs (19-6, last week No. 2) – Scary collision between the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili and the Celtics’ Chris Wilcox on Saturday. Ginobili suffered a thigh contusion, and missed last night’s game vs. OKC. No word on if David Stern will fine the Spurs again.
4. Los Angeles Clippers (17-6, last week No. 6) – The Clippers are back. They’ve ripped off nine wins in a row, five of which were by 18-plus points. You expect that against teams like Sacramento, Phoenix, and Toronto though.
5. Miami Heat (15-6, last week No. 5) – LeBron James is averaging 25.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 6.7 assists per game. The Heat lost at home Wednesday against the Warriors, but more important, they figured out a way to beat the Wizards the second time around.
6. Golden State Warriors (16-8, last week No. 8) – Ladies and gentlemen . . . your surprise team of the season! It’s amazing what health can do for a team. Mark Jackson has his squad playing the best basketball Golden State has seen in years.
7. Memphis Grizzlies (15-6 last week No. 4) – The Grizzlies snapped a three-game losing streak with a win over Utah on Saturday. They’ve fallen off a bit after their hot start, but this team is built for the postseason.
8. Atlanta Hawks (14-7, last week No. 7) – The Hawks continue to play solid basketball, but were blown out at home by the Golden State Warriors on Saturday. Luckily nobody in Atlanta really cares or was there to see it.
9. Chicago Bulls (13-9, last week No. 10) – Joakim Noah (13.8 points, 10.6 rebounds) is averaging a double-double and taking on a bigger role without Derrick Rose. The Bulls are winning with defense, because they have no choice.
10. Brooklyn Nets (13-10, last week No. 9) – Life without Brook Lopez was tough for the Nets, who went just 2-5 in his absence. But even with his return, they barely squeaked out a win over the Pistons in two overtimes, and lost by one to the Bulls.
11. Indiana Pacers (13-11, last week No. 17) – The Pacers are by no means ready to roll with the big boys (see above), but it’s nice to see them stringing wins together. Don’t forget, these guys were thought to be real contenders in the East in the preseason.
12. Minnesota Timberwolves (12-9, last week No. 19) – Christmas comes early in Minnesota, as Ricky Rubio – not dressed as Santa Clause, contrary to reports – is back in action. The 22-year-old PG will come off the bench until he works his way into the starting lineup.
13. Milwaukee Bucks (12-10, last week No. 13) – The Bucks are playing decent basketball, but with two star guards set to hit the free agent market (Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis), they could be active at the trade deadline. Just keep center Larry Sanders, who is a beast.
14. Boston Celtics (12-11, last week No. 12) – Just when you think (again) that Boston is getting it together, they go to Texas and get handled by the Rockets and Spurs. Recent history shows that this is a second-half team, though.
15. Denver Nuggets (13-12, last week No. 15) – The Nuggets are fighting to keep their heads above water, and a hard-fought win against the Grizzlies proves they’re still legit. They’ll play a Spurs team tonight that just came from Oklahoma City last night. Predicting an upset here.
16. Utah Jazz (13-12, last week No. 14) – The Jazz aren’t a very “sexy” team, but they’re big and fast. Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap are leading the way for a Jazz team that could be sellers at the deadline.
17. Philadelphia 76ers (12-12, Last week No. 11) − Three losses to the Bulls, Pacers, and Lakers. If they can’t roll with these teams, they can’t be labeled a real contender.
18. Houston Rockets (11-12, last week No. 16) – There’s talk that the Rockets should bring Jeremy Lin off the bench. After what we saw without James Harden on the court, it may just work.
19. Dallas Mavericks (11-13, last week No. 18) – Mark Cuban had a lot to say about the NHL lockout. Hey, anything to take his mind off the mediocre state of the Mavs. Waiting on Dirk to save them.
20. Los Angeles Lakers (11-14, last week No. 20) – The Lakers beat the Washington Wizards and everybody started to ask if their season was turning around. That says a lot about how far the Lakers have fallen.
21. Orlando Magic (10-13, last week No. 21) – The Magic will beat the bad teams and give good teams a run, but they’ll inevitably miss out on the postseason. Hey, it’s nice there in the winter anyways.
22. Portland Trailblazers (11-12, last week No. 23) – There may not be a lot of hope this season, but Damian Lillard is a player that Blazers fans should grab and hold onto for dear life. Nice shooting, kid. Hopefully LaMarcus Aldridge’s sprained ankle isn’t a big deal.
23. Phoenix Suns (9-15, last week No. 27) – The Suns are your “good bad team of the week”. They only played twice since the last rankings, but beat both the Grizzlies and Jazz. This is another team that should be active at the trade deadline . . . or before.
24. Sacramento Kings (7-16, last week No. 22) – We saw this coming: With games on the road against the Mavericks, Bucks, and Thunder, the Kings lost all three by double digits. Then they proved they can also lose at home by double digits, this time to the Nuggets.
25. Detroit Pistons (7-19, last week No. 24) – Tough loss at the buzzer against Brooklyn last Friday. A loss like that can hurt a team’s morale, not that Detroit’s was flying high to begin with.
26. Toronto Raptors (6-19, last week No. 28) – The Raptors are riding a season-high two game winning streak. Emphasis on season-high.
27. Charlotte Bobcats (7-16, last week No. 25) – Nobody told the Bobcats that the NBA season is a marathon, not a sprint. They sprinted the first mile — then fainted.
28. Cleveland Cavaliers (5-20, last week 29) – Out of all the terrible teams, this is probably the most fun one to watch anyways. Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao are playing like All-Stars.
29. New Orleans Hornets (5-18, last week No. 26) – Cheer up, Hornets fans. With the NFL postseason approaching, there will be a lot of Super Bowl buzz. None of it will be surrounding the Saints though.
30. Washington Wizards (3-18, last week No. 30) – The Wizards are 3-7 in their last ten games. Pretty Bad. Then add the first 11 — all losses. Really bad. Still holding down No. 30, but New Orleans and Charlotte are both making runs at it.