While there’s been little change at the top of this week’s rankings, there’s plenty of change lower in the rankings. At this time of year, the league’s best separate themselves from the herd, which is exactly what has taken place to this point.
1. Golden State Warriors
last week 1
Kevin Durant and the Warriors took care of business in Oklahoma City and have managed to keep their impressive play going. The Warriors have done a tremendous job of navigating distractions and bouncing back from occasional hiccups. Their composure has been incredibly impressive.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
last week 2
The rough patch for the Cavs might be over. The team has won five of their last six games and Derrick Williams has looked good in his first two appearances. The team still needs another playmaker, but it seems unlikely that they will receive one until after the trade deadline.
3. San Antonio Spurs
last week 3
While the Spurs have been impressive, they still have been prone to the occasional bad loss, like their road loss at Madison Square Garden. They’re still the clear third best team in the league and with the league’s best defense, they remain one of the league’s most potent threat.
4. Washington Wizards
last week 4
The Wizards were on the wrong end of the game of the year with their overtime loss to the Cavs, but Washington gained some validity. With a 9-1 record over their last ten, Washington has managed to continue it’s ascent up the standings.
5. Boston Celtics
last week 5
Like the Wizards, Boston is also 9-1 in their last ten games. They’re three and a half games up of Toronto and currently look like the clear second best team in the East. With a loaded war chest for the impending trade deadline, Boston is poised to make some noise.
6. Houston Rockets
last week 9
The Rockets have won four straight games and have managed to capitalize on a soft schedule. Their defense has looked better lately and they’ve won most of their games in convincing fashion.
7. Memphis Grizzlies
last week 11
The Grizzlies lost their last game to the Warriors, but have been playing dominant basketball lately. They got a quality blowout win over the Spurs and have been one of the hottest teams in the Western Conference.
8. Utah Jazz
last week 6
The Jazz have lost their last two games, which is yet another case of inconsistency for this Jazz roster. The loss to the Celtics is understandable, but their loss to the inexplicably hot Mavericks was still surprising.
9. L.A. Clippers
last week 10
Blake Griffin has been finding his groove lately as the Clippers have found a way to win close road games. If Griffin can resume the level of play he’s known for, it can help take pressure off of a short-handed roster.
10. Indiana Pacers
last week 7
Speaking of maddening inconsistency, the Pacers lost understandable games to the Cavs and Wizards, but they failed to bounce back and were blown out by a Jabari Parker-less Bucks. With upcoming games against the Spurs, Cavs, and Wizards, things aren’t going to get any easier.
11. Atlanta Hawks
last week 8
The Hawks have also experienced some slippage lately, but are still stumbling into position to overtake a slumping Toronto Raptors. They haven’t been impressive, but they’re still winning enough to make up ground.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder
last week 12
The Thunder won against a shorthanded and tired Cavs team, but were unable to give Russell Westbrook the revenge he craves against the Warriors. They’ll have to wait until March 20th to get another shot at beating Durant in OKC.
13. Miami Heat
last week 13
I didn’t expect that Miami would still be in this spot when I placed them here last week. The team stretched its win streak to 13 games before losing to an Embiid-less Sixers squad. How Miami reacts now that it’s streak is over will be fascinating, as they try to prove their run was more than just lightning in a bottle.
14. Toronto Raptors
last week 15
Things haven’t got much better for the Raptors. They’ve suffered two bad losses in a row to the Wolves and Pistons. The team has fallen apart with injuries lately. While DeRozan is back, the team still is missing Patrick Patterson.
15. Denver Nuggets
last week 16
Nikola Jokic has been absolutely fantastic lately and has kept Denver in position to make the playoffs. With the trade for Mason Plumlee, the Nuggets can keep continuity with two excellent passing big men.
16. Detroit Pistons
last week 18
Detroit is simply too talented to struggle as much as they have this season. They’ve won four of their last six games and are back in playoff position. They have the ninth best defense in the league, but their woes on the other end have limited their success to this point.
17. Chicago Bulls
last week 17
The Bulls have lost three straight games, as the law of averages catches up to them. The Bulls are tenth in the East in point differential, so I don’t expect things to get better for Chicago any time soon.
18. Portland Trail Blazers
last week 19
How Jusuf Nurkic will fit with this Blazers squad remains to be seen. He’ll likely be a downgrade from Plumlee. But with three first round picks in the upcoming draft, the Blazers have the potential to be buyers at the trade deadline and turn their season around.
19. Dallas Mavericks
last week 14
Seth Curry has been one of the best stories in the league this season. Since entering the starting lineup, the Mavericks have had the most surprising runs of success outside of Miami.
20. Sacramento Kings
last week not ranked
Wins over both Boston and Atlanta have helped Sacramento get back on the right track. It’s proof that as long as Sacramento has DeMarcus Cousins, they’ll be capable of beating anybody.