Again, I cannot state enough how variable these ranking and the play of teams will be this year since the range of tiredness for clubs will be much wider, causing more injuries and consequently even more variance in how clubs perform. For the teams with winning records, I’ve included their record against other teams with winning records.
1. Chicago Bulls (12-2, 4-1): Recently easy schedule remains easy for a while. Team’s defense and rebounding remains great; Rose’s efficiency remains less so.
2. Philadelphia 76ers (9-3, 1-2): Haven’t played a lot of good teams, but have absolutely annihilated the bad ones (8 wins by 10+, 7 by 18+, 4 by 25+).
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (11-2, 3-2): When is someone going to tell Westbrook to stop shooting as much as Durant?
4. San Antonio Spurs (9-4, 5-1): Have the best record in the league against teams with winning records. Should be a great game on Tuesday in Miami between the teams with injured SG’s.
5. Los Angeles Clippers (9-5, 2-4): Took care of business this week, dropping the Heat and Lakers.
6. Orlando Magic (8-3, 1-2): Beat up on Portland during their current road trip that’s going quite well (3-0 so far, at NYK on Monday). Face Spurs and Lakers on Wednesday and Friday on tired legs.
7. Denver Nuggets (8-5, 4-4): Flat out fun team to watch – lots of running, lots of scoring, lots of hyper-physical play.
8. Portland Trail Blazers (7-5, 5-3): Have been slumping, but note that they’ve played 8 of their 12 contests against winning clubs.
9. Los Angeles Lakers (9-5, 2-4): Kobe’s scoring highlights are fun to watch, but it’s the rebounding and interior defense of Bynum and Gasol that’s winning games for the Lakers (7-3 with Bynum, 2-2 without).
10. Dallas Mavericks (8-5, 1-4): Beat a bunch of slouches in a row – nice warm up for the Lakers and Clippers in LA to start off the week.
11. Utah Jazz (8-4, 2-4): Only loss this month was by 3 to the Lakers. The Clippers and Mavericks this week give the Jazz a chance to prove how good they really are.
12. Atlanta Hawks (9-4, 2-3): Probably the streakiest team in the land, and will certainly have their hands full for a while without Al Horford.
13. Miami Heat (8-4, 3-3): Face Spurs, Lakers, and Sixers in the next 5 days. Will the slump continue? Will the NBA apologize for this terrible schedule that’s helping injure all these players, including Wade?
14. Indiana Pacers (9-3, 1-2): Their defense has been magnificent in the early going against a cake schedule. Coach Vogel certainly has them playing hard.
15. Minnesota Timberwolves (4-8): Continue to play better than their record, continue to lose close games (5 of their L’s are by 15 points total). Team defense, Kevin Love, and this Ricky Rubio character seem to be OK.
16. Memphis Grizzlies (5-6): The Grizz are now 4-3 without Z-Bo. This is when we remind you that he’s been to the playoffs once in his 9 seasons as a starter.
17. Houston Rockets (5-7): Recent tear could continue for the rest of January (Wash, Det, NO, SanAn, Min, Mil, Wash, NYK, Min). Kyle Lowry = likely most egregious All-Star snub.
18. Phoenix Suns (4-8): Crushed Portland last week – lost to New Jersey one week later. Thanks NBA for this stupidly unpredictable and often hard-to-watch regular season.
19. Golden State Warriors (4-8): Were the team to start Miami’s slide. Pay attention to rookie G Charles Jenkins. He’s shooting 56%, has 19 assists to 2 turnovers, and has now started 6 contests in a row.
20. Cleveland Cavaliers (5-6): It’s nice they’re picking up some wins, but they have to beat a winning club at some point to really feel good about their progress. Rookie Tristan Thompson’s focused energy has been a welcome surprise.
21. New Orleans Hornets (3-9): Not much else may be right with this team, but boy can they rebound. Almost everybody is averaging between 4 to 8 rpg.
22. New York Knicks (6-6): Can we end this Shumpert-as-a-starter experiment already?
23. Boston Celtics (4-7): In case there’s any confusion why they were so good for the past 4 years, Garnett is the only one of the Big Four playing much worse than normal (although Pierce isn’t exactly doing so hot).
24. Milwaukee Bucks (4-7): Along with the Spurs, the Bucks are one of only two teams to have won all their home games and lost them all on the road. 5 of next 7 are on the road.
25. Sacramento Kings (4-9): In a thrashing at Dallas’s hands on Saturday, the Kings scored only 60 points, including a mere 23 by halftime. That’s practically Kobe’s average for a half this past week.
26. Detroit Pistons (3-10): Pistons worth keeping for any length of time: Greg Monroe and Jonas Jerebko. By the way, Monroe is slowly becoming the player he was projected to be some years ago.
27. New Jersey Nets (3-10): Their recent W was on the road, so that moves them above Charlotte.
28. Toronto Raptors (4-9): Lost to Washington and Sacramento last week, then Bargnani got hurt. Here’s an idea: get youngster Ed Davis more minutes.
29. Charlotte Bobcats (3-10): Kemba Walker’s scoring is up – still shooting under 40%.
30. Washington Wizards (1-11): Currently sporting the worst Offensive Rating ever (91.2). Yes, ever.