1. Boston Celtics (1) - This team is absolutely on a roll and every bit as dominant as last season's champions were. Kendrick Perkins is a force down there in the middle and the bench, despite Kevin Garnett's in game criticism, is fantastic. Players like Glen Davis, Eddie House and Leon Powe have spearheaded a very fun team over in Boston.
2. Los Angeles Lakers (2) - A quiet week for the Lakers, despite their loss to Sacramento. They seem to be in cruise control at the moment and aren't as smooth and dominant as they were at the beginning of the season, but they're still winning and are still 20-3. I was surprised by Luke Walton's promotion to the starting lineup, and even though coach Phil Jackson stresses Vladimir Radmanovic is not in the doghouse, the team's depth at the small forward position may leave him on the outside looking in. Something to keep an eye on.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (3) - A loss at Atlanta keeps this team from jumping up in the rankings but they're still playing fantastic ball and are still looking every bit as talented as both Boston and the Lakers. I understand and agree with the high praise for Dwyane Wade but LeBron James is currently in another atmosphere. He's playing tremendous ball and they're getting great production out of everyone else on the team. Zydrunas Ilgauskas' injury is something to keep an eye on but the team is still playing good ball.
4. Orlando Magic (4) - They've solidified their spot with a fantastic road trip this week. Tough wins at Portland and Utah couldn't be overshadowed by a tough, last second loss without Dwight Howard to Phoenix. Rashard Lewis is carrying this team currently and even with Hedo Turkoglu playing inconsistent ball, they continue to quietly win and that seems to be enough for them.
5. Denver Nuggets (5) - Carmelo Anthony is currently on fire. His 33 points in one quarter against Minnesota on Wednesday was the highlight of a quiet two game week for the Nuggets. This team continues to roll along with Chauncey Billups and are even getting good minutes out of their big men. Their lack of depth and inconsistent production out of those 4 and 5 positions may do them in but currently it's not so you have to keep them up here.
6. San Antonio Spurs (11) - Yeah they've shot up here quickly and the San Antonio Spurs have arrived. This team's offense is clicking and just as quickly as Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili returned this team has reeled off a string of successive victories. They're going to be in the race all season and their slow start seems like it was years ago.
7. Atlanta Hawks (8) - Mike Bibby has played like his former self here lately and has eased some of the pressure off of Joe Johnson. The team's getting healthy and a big, impressive win over Cleveland helped the Hawks get some of their much deserved recognition.
8. New Orleans Hornets (9) - Friday's dissapointing third quarter at Boston has taken some eyes off of the fact that the Hornets have been highly successful the past three weeks. Tyson Chandler's stiff neck is room for concern but if he can return at full force the Hornets can work at reclaiming the spot they held last season.
9. Houston Rockets (9) - That loss to the Clippers was embarassing but we'll give them a break since they were without Ron Artest. The fact that Yao Ming has been the most consistently healthy out of the big three this season is room for concern but the team has stayed up around the top ten all season long and continue to play solid, cohesive ball.
10. Utah Jazz (10) - They looked great against Portland but couldn't take care of business against the Dwight Howard-less Magic at home. They still look like the class of their division but seem to be lacking something so far. Even though Paul Millsap continues to prove his early season production is no fluke, they're better suited with Carlos Boozer and need him to return.
11. Portland Trail Blazers (6) - The Blazer's big drop was more one of those "everyone else around you" situations more than their actual play, though their play hasn't been very inspiring this week. Brandon Roy has been amazing this season but aside from him, nobody else can consistently keep up. This team is deep but they're unpredictable. All of this will change as the season goes on as this team just needs to grow.
12. Dallas Mavericks (12) - You inhale and take a step back, and the Mavericks are right there. Again. Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry are shouldering the load but they usually get somebody different to step up every single night. I'm pleased to see the increase in Brandon Bass' minutes and think he's more important to that team than his production shows. Carlisle needs to utilize him a little better.
13. Detroit Pistons (14) - Right now in Motown, there's no such thing as bad wins. This team is still trying (months later) to transition into the Allen Iverson era and even though their victory over the Charlotte lacked punch, this team has lost bad games and the fact that they won needs to be acknowledged moreso than how they won. Tayshaun Prince has fallen off big time since Iverson's arrival and I'm not sure if this small lineup that has him at the power forward position is going to help that, but Antonio McDyess' return gives this team some more front court depth. Rodney Stuckey has done great with the starting role, but you have to move either Iverson or Richard Hamilton to the bench. Their lineup stands no chance in the postseason.
14. Phoenix Suns (15) - I'm one of the few that doesn't like the arrival of Jason Richardson in Phoenix but I'm going to give it some time. The loss of two important role players in Raja Bell and Boris Diaw (regardless of fickle fans' loss of interest in the two) will hurt the team just as the loss of McDyess did to Detroit. Richardson is a scorer, but not much else, and I'm not too sure if he was any kind of missing piece to anything. Looks like a desperate move by Steve Kerr to me.
16. Miami Heat (16) - Dwyane Wade is trying to do it all by himself, but they can't get anyone else to step up and compliment the spectacular season the former Finals MVP is having. Coach Spoelstra and Wade actually have this team overacheiving but they should still stay above average all season long.
16. New Jersey Nets (13) - Welcome back to Earth, Nets. Vince Carter's 0 for 13 performance against Toronto highlighted a woeful week for the Nets. They've played over their heads this year but have been too good for me to drop them too far. I like what they're currently getting out of Brook Lopez.
17. Chicago Bulls (18) - I'm a little dissapointed in the season Joakim Noah is having for the Bulls as I felt with last season's late surge he would carry that over into this year but he seems to be lackadaisical at times out there. Ben Gordon and Derrick Rose are night in and night out doing it for Chicago and they have to be pleased with the recent production out of Drew Gooden. By the way, I like Luol Deng but they have to be displeased with his production given the contract that he received this offseason.
18. Toronto Raptors (19) - This team has responded well to coach Triano and played some inspired ball this week. Jose Calderon has been solid this season, but so much more was expected after last season. He has struggled as the team's second option although he's still putting up the same numbers as last year. I'm surprised with Andrea Bargnani's decrease in minutes lately and wonder if the Raptors will look to move him at the deadline.
19. New York Knicks (17) - A Jerome James sighting! D'Antoni has finally started to play more than 7 people (it's too early for his typical short rotation) and the team got Jared Jeffries back this week. He's not a great player in any category but is versatile enough to where I could see him succeeding in D'Antoni's system. It was sad to see Cuttino Mobely to retire. He was always a classy guy and a fantastic shooter. His lefty release always looked like it was going in. I give best wishes to him and hope the enlarged heart condition doesn't substantially shorten his life.
20. Milwaukee Bucks (21) - Andrew Bogut and Richard Jefferson have been solid in the starting lineup for the Bucks this season. Ramon Sessions has quieted a little bit recently but this team still has stayed around .500 all year. They're not great in any facet of the game, but they're well coached and are solid in all areas. They're a fun team to follow.
21. Philadelphia 76ers (20) - The firing of Maurice Cheeks was pathetic. It's a shame that a team that gave an injured, overweight Elton Brand that type of money can blame Cheeks for being unable to work Brand into an offense that's better suited in the open court. Ed Stefanski should be ashamed of himself and I hope to see bad karma visit this team the rest of the season.
22. Memphis Grizzlies (26) - Don't look now, but outside of Boston and San Antonio, the hottest team in the league is the Memphis Grizzlies! Benching Rudy Gay seemed to spark the team a bit and they're even getting solid minutes out of Darko Milicic this week. O.J. Mayo has been nothing short out of tremendous this year and lately has played like the best rookie in the league. And that's no shot on Derrick Rose, just high praise for Mayo.
23. Los Angeles Clippers (27) - For one week, the Clippers were the team I thought they would be this season. With great wins over Portland and Houston this week, the Clippers looked like a talented cohesive team and like a team that could hang with the league's best. It's probably fools gold as far as the record is concerned, but Zach Randolph continues to be the team's best player and Al Thornton looks like a great player to build around for the next couple of seasons. For one week at least, Clipper land!
24. Indiana Pacers (22) - Their inconsistency and inability to get over the hump is killing me. Danny Granger is seemingly doing it by himself but this team is just bland all around. I had picked them to make the poseason this year, and they still may make a run at it, but they're lacking some serious energy and excitement on this team. This organization still needs that shot in the arm.
25. Golden State Warriors (24) - The Warriors won a couple games this week and that's reason for excitement in the bay area. Corey Maggette may be ruled out indefinitely and his scoring may be missed, but he hasn't seemed like much of a fit out there on that team. Kelenna Azubuike deserves a little bit of praise for his performance this season. It further heightens why teams showed interest in him in the offseason.
26. Sacramento Kings (28) - A victory over the Lakers gives this team a nice little boost and shows that they can still play hard for Reggie Theus. Kevin Martin is back to missing games after his short return and you have to wonder how serious that injury is. Brad Miller will most likely be gone by midseason and this team is still two years (including this one) away from being taken serious as postseason contenders.
27. Charlotte Bobcats (23) - I know I bashed Phoenix for the Richardson trade, but it's not as if I like it any better for the Bobcats. They lack scoring and, again, Michael Jordan is running an organization where pieces just don't fit. You can't make things work. His lack of dedication kills this team and the front office is so infatuated with his name that they won't properly evaluate his job. After all, if they did he would not have gotten the job in the first place after that fiasco in Washington.
28. Minnesota Timberwolves (25) - Memo to Kevin McHale, improve this team or be shown the exit. Randy Wittman was let go this week and McHale now steps up. He was solid in the 2005 season but he's not that much of a coach. Al Jefferson, Randy Foye and Kevin Love (three players McHale has traded for) have all played better under McHale but I don't know if they can be enough for McHale to keep his job. Or rightfully keep his job anyways.
29. Washington Wizards (29) - Caron Butler is wasting away over there in Washington and their team's response to their struggles was not addressing their extremely small and thin frontcourt, but was instead a decision to add Mike James and Javaris Crittenton to a team that boasts a bunch of run of the mill guards in the first place. I'd like to see Crittenton to get an opportunity to flourish but this situation is no different from his situation in Memphis.
30. Oklahoma City Thunder (30) - Finally Kevin Durant is grabbing some rebounds and playing some down in the post. He's too talented to let his game be jump shooting and taking possesions off on defense. Jeff Green has been tremendous this week and I was surprised at Russell Westbrook being benched today. They're playing more competitive lately and the talk of them being unable to win 9 games this season is ludicrous. They'll win at least 10 games this season and this team is talented, just extremely raw. They need more time.