The All-Star lineups are set and now the league is heading into the annual of trade speculation, buy-outs, and LeBron complaining about his roster. Teams have had enough time to evaluate what they have, and what they need. Only a few more weeks are left to make some shakeups before we are locked in and sprinting towards the playoffs. With that in mind, let’s look at how the league stands after this week.
Golden State Warriors
last week 1
Do you think the Cavaliers regret moving Warrior-killer Dion Waiters for J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, and a first round pick? Probably not, but the Warriors have won 10 straight games outside of their loss to Dion and the Heat.
San Antonio Spurs
last week 2
The Spurs managed to lose to two of the West’s worst teams in the Pelicans and Mavericks over the weekend, but it isn’t enough to knock them out of the second spot just yet. Pop’s squad is still playing some of the best basketball in the league and can be excused for one hiccup.
last week 4
The ship may have righted itself in Cleveland. They found their rhythm against the Nets in the second half and demolished the Thunder on their home court. The only cause for concern is that the already-thin Cavs will be without Kevin Love for an undisclosed period of time as he deals with a sore back.
last week 10
That’s right, the Wizards are the hottest team in the Eastern Conference. They have won four straight games including decisive wins over the Hornets, Hawks, and Celtics. With Toronto and Boston slipping, there’s a real chance for the Wizards to make some noise in the East.
last week 9
The Celtics have finally passed the Raptors and currently hold the second seed in the East. Boston hasn’t been blowing the doors off of teams lately, but have capitalized on a freefall from Toronto. Winners of three straight games, the Celtics are finding ways to win behind Isaiah Thomas.
last week 5
The Rockets defense is plummeting in a big way after being one of the biggest surprises of the first half of the season. Houston has lost 3 of it’s last 4, with it’s latest loss coming against the Pacers, where Harden and Gordon combined for 7-28 shooting.
last week 6
I’m not sold on this Hawks team. They’ve had the second easiest schedule in the league to this point and their point differential is that of a very mediocre team. Keep an eye on a possible collapse during the second half of the season.
last week 8
The Clippers have lost two straight games, but they got good news on the injury front as Blake Griffin returned to the lineup. While the loss of Chris Paul hurts, having Griffin back and getting him in rhythm should help prevent any prolonged losing streaks.
last week 3
The Jazz responded to being 3rd in the rankings last week by going 1-3 for the week with losses to the Thunder, Nuggets and Grizzlies. Inconsistency has been the name of the game for the Jazz, who haven’t been able to consistently generate offense as of late.
last week 12
Wins against the Raptors and Jazz will help the Grizzlies feel better about their loss to the Trail Blazers this week. The Grizzlies are just a half game back of the Thunder as of Monday and will need a little more consistency if they want to avoid a first round matchup with the Spurs.
last week 13
The Pacers have won three straight games including a convincing win over the Rockets. Paul George continues to be the catalyst of this team, as he shoulders the heavy lifting. But he’s received help recently as both Teague and Turner have provided consistent production.
last week 7
The Raptors are in freefall mode at the moment after losing to the Orlando Magic. They missed DeRozan for three games heading into Sunday’s game against Orlando. But as he returned, so did their defensive issues. Toronto is lacking an identity and their rotations are amplifying the defensive issues that their personnel has.
Oklahoma City Thunder
last week 14
The Thunder have navigated the month of January well, dealing a blow to critics that stated their record was just a production of a soft schedule (hi!). If they beat the Spurs on Tuesday they can have an above .500 record for the month. Not bad considering how difficult their schedule has been.
last week 17
The Nuggets are for real, and that’s no Jokic. With a 7-3 record over their last ten games, the Nuggets are beginning to build a cushion between them and ninth seed Portland. Nikola Jokic is on a tear and is making a case for being the best passing big man in the league.
last week 16
Team turmoil got itself a win against an Embiid-less Sixers team. The Bulls have managed to hold onto a playoff spot for now, but there’s a fairly decent chance that this team will look different once the trade deadline passes.
last week not ranked
To quote Dion Waiters, “men lie, women lie, buckets don’t.” The team has found an unlikely hero in Waiters as he has led the team to seven straight wins and an Eastern Conference Player of the Week award. This Miami run doesn’t make sense, but it’s fun.
last week 11
The Hornets have lost four straight games as the team has failed to give Kemba Walker the help he needs. Nic Batum has struggled and Marcin Williams is the team’s third leading scorer. In other-words, Walker really deserved the All-Star nod he received this week.
last week not ranked
The Wolves have won four of their last five games and are starting to get more winning plays out of their roster. It takes a young team time to learn how to win, and that’s what we’re seeing now.
Portland Trail Blazers
last week 19
The Blazers still can’t defend, but are playing better basketball lately. The team won three straight games before losing a close one to the Curry-less Warriors. But they have some tough competition to make playoffs in the Nuggets.
last week 18
The Sixers have lost two straight games, although only their narrow loss to the Rockets came with Embiid in the lineup. They’re tough to beat with their young star, but he still doesn’t play every game. Likely a factor in him missing out on a spot with the All-Star team.