- Cleveland Cavaliers last week 2
Kyrie Irving seems to have a good handle of the Golden State Warriors. Not only did he hit another game winning shot, but his seven steals showed an understanding of everything they were trying to do. The shorthanded defending champs made a statement on Christmas.
- Golden State Warriors last week 1
The other half of the Christmas Day showdown, the Warriors still looked as dominant as ever. There’s some fine tuning at this point, but smart money is on both teams having many sets up their sleeves for the seemingly inevitable Finals matchup.
- Toronto Raptors last week 4
The rest of the roster is clicking as both Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan continue their excellent seasons. The Raptors’ historically great offense is one of the biggest stories of the first two months.
- San Antonio Spurs last week 5
Sometimes it feels as though the Spurs have solved the regular season. Despite countless defensive liabilities throughout their roster, Leonard has them as the third best defense in the league. Death. Taxes. Spurs.
- Houston Rockets last week 3
The absence of Clint Capela is a tough one for a Rockets squad that was on fire before he went down. Capela has been an anchor for the team on the inside and his absence calls their frontcourt depth into question. They’re still great, but may have a brief fall without their center.
- Memphis Grizzlies last week 6
The Grizzlies bounced back from their three game losing streak with solid wins over the Pistons and Rockets. With Mike Conley back in the mix, this team is showing that they aren’t ready to go away just yet.
- Boston Celtics last week 13
The Celtics have won five of their last six games and have moved into third place in the East. Their home loss to the Thunder should have been avoidable, but sometimes Russell Westbrook happens.
- Charlotte Hornets last week 10
The Hornets have won three straight games and appear to have put their four game losing streak behind them. Their defense is elite, but they need to find more offensive consistency if they want to avoid future slides.
- L.A. Clippers last week 12
The Clippers got a quality win over the Spurs without Blake Griffin, but followed that up with a loss to the Mavericks (as well as the Lakers without Chris Paul). Without Paul, this is a team without an engine. They need him to compete while Griffin is out of the lineup.
- Oklahoma City Thunder last week 9
The Thunder have won three straight games, including a quality win over the Celtics. The Thunder have had the third easiest schedule to this point, so I’m still waiting to see them tested before elevating them too high.
- Utah Jazz last week 7
The Jazz have lost their last three games, but two of those were against the Warriors and Raptors. The team is once again without George Hill and are in desperate need of some health and continuity.
- Atlanta Hawks last week 18
The Hawks have been incredibly inconsistent lately, but they have quality wins over the Raptors and Thunder. Dennis Schroder is showing improved play lately, which is helping Atlanta get back on track.
- Milwaukee Bucks last week 14
I continue to be impressed with the performance of the Bucks this season without Khris Middleton. Outside of their back-to-back losses to the Cavaliers, this team is playing at a high level and appear to be legitimate.
- New York Knicks last week 11
The Knicks simply aren’t as good as their record. They are 11th in the East in point differential and their recent West Coast trip showed it with losses to the Suns, as well as back-to-back losses to the Nuggets. I’m skeptical of their status as a playoff team.
- Washington Wizards last week 20
Don’t look now, but the Wizards are turning their season around. They have quality wins over the Hornets, Clippers, Pistons, and Bulls recently. John Wall’s play this season has gone under the radar, but he should be enough to push them into a playoff spot.
- Indiana Pacers last week 15
The Pacers are one of the most frustrating, inconsistent teams in the league. Good wins are mixed in with the bad losses and it is really difficult to get a reading on how good this team can be.
- Sacramento Kings last week not ranked
Look who’s in a playoff spot! Despite being four games below .500, the futility of the Blazers has the Kings in the eighth seed with a game up on Portland.
- Detroit Pistons last week 16
The Pistons are on a five game losing streak after dealing with a tough stretch of their schedule. The players only meetings don’t seem to be doing the team any good and they may need to look into why things have fallen apart since the return of Reggie Jackson.
- Denver Nuggets last week 19
The Nuggets might be the league leaders in heartbreaking losses. They should have found a way to beat the Hawks at home, but these are the growing pains of a young team. The return of Gary Harris has helped open things up for Emmanuel Mudiay. Look for the Nuggets to make a push for a vulnerable eighth seed.
- Portland Trail Blazers last week 17
The Blazers have lost 9 of their last 10 games and things don’t appear likely to turn around soon. Damian Lillard is dealing with a sore ankle and even if he plays through it, the roster seems incapable of playing defense. This simply isn’t a good basketball team.