It has been a while since we last spoke and since then, some things have become more clear while others are still up in the air. Its clear that LeBron James won’t be taking home another MVP trophy, but what isn’t clear is who is going to take it in his place. Russell Westrook is playing great but didn’t all year. Stephen Curry has played great all year but he is on the best team, and James Harden is just too different of a player for people to handle. Along with that award, the Championship is up in the air as it seems the Cavs may be the best East’s team right now, and only two weeks ago people were so sure that the Hawks had the East locked up. This is what makes the NBA such a phenomenal setting for sport.
1. Golden State Warriors (60-13, 0)
The team with the hottest offense has proven to now have the strongest defense as well. It’s pretty hard to bet against these guys. Steph is still making an MVP case for himself, but to really grab it he is going to have to make a push in the postseason and show that he is the best player on the best team.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (48-27, +3)
People have been saying that the Jazz are the hottest team since the All-Star break, but that is just because the Cavs’ hot streak started a little before the break. They have been absolutely unstoppable and Atlanta is no longer the top dog despite its record. The Cavs will have home court advantage against their first few matchups and as of right now they ride a 16-game win streak at home.
3. Houston Rockets (50-24, +1)
Kept on the map by the man who I believe should be ending this season with his first MVP award, James Harden. The Rockets have D12 back now and regardless of how trashy he may be individually, he makes a big impact on both sides of the ball. Dwight is exactly what The Beard needs to clear the floor up a little bit and allow for him to continue playing his brand of basketball.
4. Atlanta Hawks (56-18, -2)
Already has the Eastern Conference locked in no matter what happens so I guess resting up their All-Star Five for now could be a beneficial idea. I personally wouldn’t recommend it with the way that they have dropped since their huge win streak. They should start preparing for the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals now.
5. Los Angeles Clippers (49-25, +1)
The Clip Show got their big Blake Griffin back just in time to get a little practice in before the postseason. They are 7-1 since his return and having him on the floor really spaces things out, which allows for his teammates to do this.
6. San Antonio Spurs (47-26, +3)
It’s finally that time of year again, where we have to start respecting this program as they prepare to rip up every playoff team in their way. Could this finally be the year when someone in the West can beat them in seven?
7. Memphis Grizzlies (51-24, -4)
They have lost a lot of recent games to tough teams, which could say something about how they will do seeing those same quality teams in the postseason. They have a pretty easy schedule from here on out so a two seed seems very likely, but Harden is right on their trail.
8. Portland Trailblazers (48-25, -1)
Finally this team is back to looking more normal with Batum starting to really refill his own shoes, and the addition of Afflalo makes the game that much easier for Coach Stotts. They very well could start the playoffs with the most interesting matchup possible, against the fifth seeded Clippers.
9. Chicago Bulls (45-29, +3)
How far can a returning Jimmy Butler and a hot Mirotic take these guys? This is the real question because if D-Rose does make it back in time for playoffs, the chemistry will be so shaken that they might not win a game, let alone a series. What can their other offensive weapons do?
10. Dallas Mavericks (45-29, -2)
All the drama of Monta Ellis puts this team in a tough spot as the season starts to wind down. As of right now, their only hopes of victory are to play with him like they have all year despite the talking and secondary matters. The offseason is a better place for rumors anyways.
11. Oklahoma City Thunder (42-32, -1)
The way that Russell Westbrook has been playing lately can be seen as both a beneficial and hurtful act. It’s great because they need it and it may make it so that one team reels in back-to-back MVP awards from different guys. It’s terrible though because they can hardly win a game anytime he decided to drop 30+.
12. New Orleans Pelicans (39-34, +2)
Currently 2.5 games back with just nine left to play. This is the final sprint for the “Brow” and company if they want a shot at taking down the mighty Warriors. They may be able to put up an actual fight if they use their size to their advantage and work Anthony Davis on all ends.
13. Toronto Raptors (44-30, -2)
Back-to-back division titles for the men of the North is something for a young franchise to be happy about, even though their postseason may be very brief. They have an easy schedule from here on out and took advantage of a tough Rockets matchup last night, so their four spot could easily hop to three.
14. Washington Wizards (41-33, +1)
People are starting to question the coaching staff of this team since they have all they necessary pieces to be a successful team. Whittman has a contract through next year but after that, it may very well be time for a new one. Maybe Kobe Bryant will be retired and ready by then. If not they can just get Bradley Beal since he is always injured anyways.
15. Utah Jazz (33-41, +4)
The leaving of Enes Kanter made room for Rudy Gobert to step into a spot where he will get a lot of minutes and experience. He has not disappointed by any means as he become a dominant force alongside Favors, and they have helped pushed this team to winning a lot more recent matchups. They are out of playoff contention but watch out for them next season.
16. Milwaukee Bucks (36-38, -3)
The Bucks still have yet to clinch but it is very likely that they will be playing in the offseason. Jason Kidd really took this franchise and flipped it around this year. He obviously couldn’t coach guys his age, but the youngin’s really seem to look up to him.
17. Phoenix Suns (38-37, 0)
Looking more and more like they will be having an early vacation this year. OKC owns the tiebreaker between these two now and New Orleans is more likely to steal that spot out of anybody. Their huge midseason trades maybe should’ve waited until the offseason.
18. Miami Heat (34-39, +5)
Dwayne Wade has started to take over this team again and it is just in time for playoffs. They’re not locked in but they do sit at the seventh seed which could mean an interesting matchup between King James’ former team and his former former team.
19. Boston Celtics (33-41, +2)
Absolutely great defense in their recent games but a slow offense will not win you ball games. Isaiah Thomas seems to be a good fit, minus all of those Shaqtin’ a Fool type plays. Currently a playoff team but that spot is anything but locked in.
20. Detroit Pistons (28-45, 0)
Reggie Jackson has really let loose now that he is the owner of a prime starting spot in a point guard driven league. The chemistry is starting to build and hopefully they can maintain dominance in the weaker East next season with an injury free squad.
21. Brooklyn Nets (32-40, -3)
The closest team to snagging a playoff spot as of right now. We all know that an entire season is a lot to ask from a bunch of old guys, but winning a series may be a little easier for these experienced vets. Unfortunately, they will be playing the Hawks or the Cavs.
22. Indiana Pacers (32-41, -6)
Taking the biggest drop this week is the Pacers. This is mainly because of the huge build up that they started after the All-Star break and then the subsequent plummeting of this squad. They went from being in dire need of PG24, to hoping he doesn’t ruin the chemistry, and now back to needing him more than anything. We’ll see how and if plays, if they make that eighth spot.
23. Sacramento Kings (26-47, +1)
We don’t need to talk about this season because it is already over for them and they aren’t going to be a top five pick either. What they need to focus on is how to replace the brilliance behind Chris Mullin who just accepted an NCAA coaching job.
24. Charlotte Hornets (31-42, -2)
In my eyes this is the team that should be taking the final spot in the Eastern playoffs, but they are not trying to help that cause as of late. 3-7 in their last 10 is not the record that they want when they’re just a couple games out of the eighth spot. Kemba is back now and hopefully his presence will be enough.
25. Denver Nuggets (28-56, +5)
Surprisingly playing much better basketball since our Gaucho was fired from the show. Players like Will Barton and Danilo Gallanari have provided a potent offense for this squad and interim coach Melvin Hunt is over .500 is his short time in the chair.
26. Los Angeles Lakers (20-53, +1)
Playing extremely well at the worst possible time beating the Sixers twice and the T-Wolves in between. Remember they need the fifth pick or better to keep their pick at all, and as of right now they have the fourth worst record. At that spot they have a 16 percent chance to not get a pick, but if they keep winning and move up to 5th, then they have a 65 percent chance of not getting it. They are only a few wins and a few Magic losses away from that spot.
27. Philadelphia 76ers (18-57, +1)
Those two losses to the LA Lakers in one week will keep them behind in the rankings, but leaves them ahead in the draft. They have a great chance to grab a number one pick and add yet another potentially franchise changing rookie. Who wants to bet that they take another big-man bust?
28. Minnesota Timberwolves (16-58, -2)
One of the more scary lower-end teams with tons of young athletic players that have proved to be poison to some teams who can’t handle the speed and athleticism. It’s a different brand of basketball but of they get a few more pieces, and keep injuries away, this team can manage their way to a 35-40 win season next year.
29. Orlando Magic (22-52, -4)
It is clear that his team has fully gone into rebuild mode with a coaching change in the middle of the season and plenty of young players being brought in and out. Payton has been an absolute bright spot but Aaron Gordon hasn’t proven to be a top 10 pick yet.
30. New York Knicks (14-60, -1)
A franchise worst 60 losses on the season for a historically respected program. No Melo, JR, Shump, Felton, or Stoudemire anymore to keep fans in those seats as rookies and D-League payers have taken over the roster.