As has been the case for much of the past decade, the best team in LA is also the best in the entire league. No one has more fun playing together. And man, aren’t those Blake Griffin commercials great?
2 Thunder 26-8
A loss to the Wizards will usually drop you in rankings (just ask the Heat). But at least Kevin Durant has pledged not to get thrown out anymore. That means the Thunder have a chance to beat anyone, anywhere, anytime.
3 Heat 23-9
The Heat are playing like most defending champions. They get bored enough to lose to an occasional inferior opponent but are still great enough to know it’s too early to worry about it.
4 Spurs 27-10
As usual, the age of their best players (Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, etc.) makes Spurs vulnerable. But as usual, precision and discipline make them true title contenders.
5 Grizzlies 22-10
Who knows if all those Rudy Gay trade rumors are true. Like most very good things about the Grizzlies, they inexplicably were pretty much ignored.
6 Knicks 23-11
Carmelo Anthony waited near the Celtics’ bus, reportedly to confront Kevin Garnett. But Melo and Knicks ought to be more irritated by their uneven play as of late.
7 Warriors 22-11
Quick ball movement and overall determination make Mark Jackson into Coach of Year candidate. Suddenly, talking endlessly about the game as a broadcast analyst is a worthy job qualification.
8 Rockets 20-14 +3
The league’s top-scoring team is playing better in halfcourt lately. But Rockets are still at their best when James Harden is running the floor, finishing and drawing fouls.
9 Bulls 19-13 +3
Lose to Bobcats, beat Heat on road. Either way, the Bulls are starting to resemble staunch defensive team that plays smart even without leader Derrick Rose.
10 Hawks 20-12 -2
Athletic and enjoyable as ever offensively, but lapses on both ends are keeping the Hawks from great things. They could be one of more active teams at February trade deadline. 11 Pacers 20-14 -2
Return to physical, gritty play means up-and-coming Pacers are missing only one thing. Good news is, Danny Granger should return from injury just in time.
12 Celtics 17-17 +6
The Celtics are finally playing team defense like everyone knew they could. Even better, the offense is coming around after all those offseason additions. 13 Trail Blazers 19-15
Damian Lillard should not be missed. And even he says he’s not the best player on hte team. Now that LaMarcus Aldridge is back to form, Lillard may be right.
14 Nets 19-15 +3
Interim coach P.J. Carlesimo seems to have revitalized Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. Just wonder if it will actually last this time.
15 Nuggets 20-16 -5
Finally seeming to get what they needed – more games at home and more games against Lakers. No matter who or where Nuggets play, Ty Lawson is one of the league’s most underrated.
16 Jazz 18-18 +4
Give Al Jefferson credit. He says he’s focused on Jazz, not impending free agency, and he’s playing like he actually means it. 17 Bucks 16-16 -2
Scott Skiles walked away from a contract extension and what appears to be a team in need of a life raft. Sometimes, coaching changes do the trick.
18 Lakers 15-18 -4
Just throwing a bunch of big names together doesn’t always work. At some point, someone has to be voice of reason, act like a grown-up and stop all the excuses. At least there’s still time.
19 Timberwolves 15-15 -3
Kevin Love re-injuring a broken hand adds more aggravation to a season of promise. Still, underrated coach Rick Adelman will likely find way to keep the Wolves in games. 20 76ers 15-20 -1
Never know what you’ll get from Philly night to night. Unlike recent seasons, however, the Sixers are no longer occasionally out-hustling the league’s best for surprising wins. 21 Kings 13-22 +4
DeMarcus Cousins is arguably the best all-around big man in game. The Kings say they aren’t trading him, and you can’t blame them. But just imagine the potential return. 22 Mavericks 13-22 -1
Dirk Nowitzki says he’s not really for building a team on hope. It’s debatable whether the Mavs have even that much anymore.
23 Pistons 13-23
Nice core of young guys (Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, Andre Drummond) surrounded by dead weight (Charlie Villanueva, Jonas Jerebko). Add it up, and there’s enough for Pistons to pull a few surprises.
24 Magic 12-22 -2
Magic are winless in first nine games without injured Glen Davis. Read: More changes need to be made, and the Magic likely to make at least a few before season’s end.
25 Hornets 9-25 +2
Anthony Davis has been at his best since Eric Gordon jumped on board. If it continues, the Hornets could be dangerous in season’s second half.
26 Suns 12-23
Word is, just about everyone’s on trading block except Luis Scola (who can’t be moved). Unfortunately for Suns, no one else really wants what they got.
27 Raptors 12-22 -3
Alan Anderson is among league’s biggest individual surprises. But the bottom line is not enough meshes. Worse, it’s highly unlikely that’ll change once Andrea Bargnani returns from injury.
28 Cavaliers 8-28
They beat the Bobcats and Wizards on the road, which is why Cavs are positioned here. But time is nearing for them to put all those assets and cap space to use.
29 Bobcats 9-24
The Bobcats reportedly are one of teams ready to make a strong push for DeMarcus Cousins. If so, Kemba Walker is the only guy Bobcats need to insist on keeping. 30 Wizards 5-28
Garrett Temple is starting at point guard. Nice guy, but until that changes, this is going to be a long one.