1. Boston Celtics (1) - There's no better team in the league than Boston and they're head and shoulders above the rest of the league. They're going to approach the NBA's record 72 wins in a season though I can't see them overtaking that record. It's not outside of the realm of possibility, though and they're the class of the league.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (3) - Delonte West has settled in extremely well at the shooting guard position for the Cavaliers. They're an unorthodox bunch, what with a 6'9" point guard, two big men (one who rebounds, one who scores) and two shooting guards but they find different ways to win. Mike Brown's insistence on defense has really done wonders for this team and everyone, including some Cavaliers players, are finally starting to see why this mentality is so critical to success. Just look at Boston. An aggressive, smart defense will always keep you in ball games. LeBron James will find ways to win many close ball games.
3. Orlando Magic (4) - They've really legitamized their placement atop the league this week with big victories over both San Antonio and the Lake show. This group is dangerous when everyone's connecting. They got Dwight Howard back from injury and had a tremendous week from Jameer Nelson and he was huge in both of the victories. They're a group of misfits but they find a way to work and they play hard. Stan Van Gundy has done a tremendous job with this organization.
4. Los Angeles Lakers (2) - Kobe Bryant has tried to do it all this week and for the first time all season, the Lakers look vulnerable. We know these tough patches come every year so I don't believe it's anything worth throwing up the white flag, but there is trouble with this team. Andrew Bynum isn't having the season he was supposed to have this year but they're getting really good production out of Trevor Ariza and Jordan Farmar off the bench. Lamar Odom doesn't seem as comfortable off of the bench as he did in the starting lineup. When he started against New York this week, he looked a lot like the player who was a huge contribution to last year's squad. I think Lakers fans really undervalued his importance but I doubt he'll start next season as a Laker.
5. New Orleans Hornets (8) - The Hornets are on a roll right now and are doing a tremendous job on the defensive side of the ball. Tyson Chandler has looked energized this week and James Posey continues to be a tremendous force off of the bench. Peja Stojakovic's injury is cause for concern and this week will be the true test as to if the Hornets run is legitimate, and they need a healthy Peja to really have a fair shake.
6. Atlanta Hawks (7) - Even though they loss to Boston this week (who hasn't) how strange was it to have people circling a game at Atlanta? This squad has the attention of the best team in the league and has had them on the verge of defeat two times this season. They ended the week with a strong defensive performance against Detroit and this team continues to overacheive. Al Horford has proved last season was no fluke.
7. Portland Trail Blazers (11) - I can't seem to get a firm enough understanding of this squad and I move them up between the top half of the league every week. Brandon Roy is right behind LeBron James and Dwyane Wade this season as far as MVP candidates are concerned and his 52 point performance against Phoenix Thursday night was amazing. The players play well as a team and they all know who the go to guy is. Minnesota fans have to look at Randy Foye and shake their head.
8. Houston Rockets (9) - Ron Artest seems pretty comfortable off of the bench and, honestly, Shane Battier's game may be better suited starting off for the Rockets. Rafer Alston's injury doesn't help matters but Aaron Brooks has done a fine job in the starting role. The team finds ways to win basketball games and Yao Ming deserves acclaim for his job so far this season as the anchor for this team.
9. Denver Nuggets (5) - This is the lowest the Nuggets have been since Chauncey Billups' arrival but they've hit a wall this week. After Carmelo Anthony's tremendous week last week, he shot horrible from the field this week. Their lack of explosiveness in the front court is crippling and they still seem to lack something to be taken serious as a Western confrence contender.
10. San Antonio Spurs (6) - I may have gotten too crazy with their run last week but the Spurs had two tough losses to New Orleans and Orlando this week. I'm shocked at the lack of minutes being distributed to Ime Udoka and Bruce Bowen but Popovich knows best about this squad. Kurt Thomas has seen a huge increase in minutes lately and I'm wondering if the Ian Mahinmi experiement is ever going to come to fruition.
11. Utah Jazz (10) - The Jazz organization is so caught up in the Carlos Boozer situation (his injury, whether or not he'll return next season) that they're letting it overshadow a very dissapointing start to this season for Utah. They've been very inconsistent this year and they still struggle on the road (unless they're playing Detroit). Deron Williams has yet to regain that level of play he's displayed the last two seasons but I see it only as a matter of time before he gets his feet back. When he does this team will take off, but it needs to happen soon.
12. Dallas Mavericks (12) - Dallas has had a quiet season but with the return of Josh Howard I think this team is ready to start taking strides. Jason Kidd can't do much at this stage in his career, but he can run an offense and Dirk Nowitzki's production with Kidd on the court is a testament to that. They take advantage of lesser competition and that's a huge upgrade from the beginning of the season. They just need to find ways to beat the better teams.
13. Phoenix Suns (14) - The Phoenix Suns have quietly had a huge week and a monster performance from Brandon Roy is all that kept it from perfect. I know Shaquille O'Neal is a punchline on these forums but his play this year has been solid for this team. I don't believe all that much has been lost from last season, but this talented bunch isn't having fun and I guess that means you complain regardless of record. I'm getting tired of the whining in Phoenix but that's a tradition Mike D'Antoni instilled that can never be replaced amongst that bunch.
14. Miami Heat (15) - Dwyane Wade had a tremendous week and this team as a whole had a tremendous week. A big Friday night victory against the Lakers was followed with a solid performance against New Jersey and this team seems to have finally developed some kind of a groove. Shawn Marion may not be playing up to his potential and Michael Beasley may be a huge dissapointment (statistically speaking) in the rookie class, but they have to love what they found in Mario Chalmers and I think Daequan Cook is doing a tremendous job in his important role off of the bench. They got a solid little team if they can get physical inside.
15. Detroit Pistons (13) - Rodney Stuckey has performed very well since his insertion into the starting lineup. They have, legitimately, no front court, though, and that bench that was so widely praised at the beginning of the season looks incredibly weak without Stuckey on it. Players like Aaron Afflalo, Walter Herrmann and Amir Johnson have dissapeared and have not lived up to preseason expectations. Jason Maxiell plays like a guy who received a huge contract instead of the guy who for the past couple of seasons looked like he was playing for his career. It's amazing to see how lackadaisical this team is. I don't think Flip Saunders was the problem.
16. Chicago Bulls (17) - Drew Gooden's injury is an inconvenience but the Bulls continue to play solid basketball. They may lack consistency but they're a legitimate playoff threat with Derrick Rose surprisingly playing at the current level of play he's displayed. They'll be around all season.
17. Milwaukee Bucks (20) - The Bucks have had a really solid week and have played well since Michael Redd's return from injury. They've been under the radar all season long but have to be pleased with the production that Scott Skiles has gotten out of this bunch. They're weirdly assembled but they play hard every night and that's reason enough to believe in them. Scott Skilles proves once again that he's a tremendous coach.
18. New Jersey Nets (16) - Devin Harris' performance against the Mavericks was unbelievable and New Jersey has to feel it made out like bandits with that trade. Eduardo Najera also played in that game against the Mavericks but quickly collected another DNP. They've gotten good minutes out of Ryan Anderson lately and Rod Thorn's done a good job building this team from the ground up. I can't see Vince Carter staying past the deadline if the Nets have an opportunity to trade him, and he's played well enough this season to where I can see some team taking a chance on him. They need to continue and complete the rebuilding cycle.
19. Philadelphia 76ers (21) - Well the destruction I wished on that franchise didn't happen and they've played well under new coach Tony DiLeo. Elton Brand's injury will show if this team is really better suited to run a spread out, fast court game. I think that fits the styles of their players better and I think they'll play well without Brand for a month.
20. New York Knicks (19) - Seven man rotations and no defense, D'Antoni ball is in full effect over in New York. All cheap shots aside, he's done a good job with that bunch and even though Al Harrington has cooled down considerably, Nate Robinson has picked it up with a very good week for the Knicks. They probably won't make the playoffs but the fact that people are believing they have a shot speaks for the job D'Antoni has done with this overacheiving bunch.
21. Los Angeles Clippers (23) - Marcus Camby has awoken this week and played at level that he displayed while with Denver. The Zach Randolph trade has worked out well for the Clippers but Baron Davis' play is holding this team back. You have to wonder if his priorities are in order, but I guess if you willingly sign for big money to play for the Clippers your priorities are already put into question. They can't move him, he has to work out there, but he can't continue to shoot this team out of ball games.
22. Indiana Pacers (24) - The unfortunate flu epidemic nailed the Pacers locker room and they played inspiring ball near the end of the week even though they were without three of their top four scorers in Marquis Daniels, Danny Granger and Troy Murphy. Jarrett Jack gave them a tremendous week as did T.J. Ford and overall, I'd say both Ford and Rasho Nesterovic have been nice additions to the Pacers team. They lack any kind of consistency but have talent over in Indiana. I just don't know if it will ever be fully tapped.
23. Memphis Grizzlies (22) - The Grizzlies lost both of their games in a quiet week and O.J. Mayo finally scored in single digits in a game. Yes, I know it was a quiet week in Memphis. I'd like to see Hakim Warrick start to get more minutes over in Memphis, though. He does well given the lack of opportunities he truly has.
24. Golden State Warriors (25) - Jamal Crawford single handedly got the Warriors a victory, and they're getting good production out of Marco Belinelli. Monta Ellis is gearing up to return sometimes in the next month but this team still lacks a true point guard. Hopefully, though, Ellis can return to form and give this Warriors fan base reason for excitement this season.
25. Charlotte Bobcats (27) - Boris Diaw looks rejuvenated in Larry Brown's offense and has done a fantastic job in his new starting role. Raja Bell looks unhappy in Charlotte and who can honestly blame him? Aside from that, though, the Bobcats look to be open to the thought of trading Raymond Felton. To me, it's amazing that he hasn't succeeded there but D.J. Augustin's performance is quietly pushing him out of favor with the organization.
26. Toronto Raptors (18) - The drop may be a tad drastic but this team is in awful shape. Chris Bosh is getting booed, they're losing to Oklahoma City and they don't play as a team anymore. Bryan Colangelo has truly done a bad job with this bunch but they're just not that talented to begin with. Jermaine O'Neal has done fine this season but it was fair to see all season that he just couldn't be that inside guy that Toronto truly needed. This team needs to do a lot of restructuring within the organization.
27. Sacramento Kings (26) - Reggie Theus' firing infuriated me but I'm not surprised. A team full of outcats from other organizations probably should be in playoff contention. When Brad Miller is your most consistent start you're not going to be in great shape and new coach Natt's 1-3 record since taking over isn't surprising. Theus deserved better for what he did last season and I don't think stressing that this team play hard and try to win should be overlooked simply for playing younger players and accepting poor performances.
28. Minnesota Timberwolves (28) - The Timberwolves are reeling big time and Kevin McHale is winless as Minnesota's coach. Al Jefferson is a fine player but he can't do it all by himself. This shouldn't come as a surprise as, even in his last seasons, Kevin Garnett couldn't do it by himself in Minnesota. This is a poorly run organization and the team is horribly assembled. They may never get better with McHale at the helm.
29. Washington Wizards (29) - Mike James has played well since arriving in Washington but it's made no change to their record. Who can be surprised? Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison are playing really hard and it's difficult to watch those two players fail but the organization as a whole just has no real direction. They're in a hole, too, with the contract that was given to Gilbert Arenas.
30. Oklahoma City Thunder (30) - They finally got a win this week! They're playing hard every night now, which is an upgrade, they just don't have the talent on the team to win. Kevin Durant has played fine ball since Brooks was introduced as interim coach but after him, nobody is consistent enough to really give this team a chance to win on a nightly basis. They're still a few years away.