It’s hard to think a team is the real thing in January, but do yourself a favor: Believe in Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the productive Clippers bench.
2 Thunder 30-8
Everything you expect a defending conference champion to be: The Thunder possess bonafide stars (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook), excellent role players and genuine legitimacy.
3 Heat 24-12
For someone who looks as if he has the body of a 47-year-old, Dwyane Wade (who actually turns 31 on Jan. 17), is still lethal. Having LeBron James around sure doesn’t hurt.
4 Spurs 29-11
Once again the Spurs must try to do it for a while without injured Manu Ginobili. On the bright side, it’s worked out OK in the past.
5 Grizzlies 24-12
Rudy Gay trade talk has died down, and the Griz might keep him until at least through the season. Hopefully for their sake, they can now focus on task at hand.
6 Knicks 24-13
Carmelo Anthony is missing too many games for a variety of reasons (injuries, waiting to discuss Kevin Garnett’s trash talk). He needs to go back to season’s first month where he stays focused, determined and on the floor.
Seems like rest of the league is waiting for the Warriors to just fade. The Warriors, meanwhile, are waiting to see how long it takes coaches to select Stephen Curry to the All-Star Game.
8 Pacers 23-15 +3
We always knew the Pacers would come around. What we still don’t know is how far they can go. And we probably won’t until Danny Granger returns from injury.
9 Nuggets 23-16 +6
The Nuggets are having their way with opponents at home, which is a good thing, considering they have a bunch of home games coming up. Few teams are displaying more cohesion.
10 Bulls 21-15 -1
Opposing coach pointed to Tom Thibodeau as NBA’s best, saying his Bulls always play hard and overcome just about anything via defense. The Bulls are proving those theories more and more.
11 Celtics 20-17 +1
With way things are going, the C’s will be Top 10 by next week. With where things are headed, they’ll be Top 5 by season’s end. Why? Because all the new guys are starting to get it.
12 Nets 22-15 +2
The Nets are coming closer to figuring out
Deron Williams is more of a No. 2 option than All-Star starter. Once they find a real No. 1 to pair with Williams, they should be true contenders. But forget it until then.
13 Rockets 21-17 -5
League’s youngest team is also its highest-scoring. The Rockets, however, also are among the most inconsistent. But either way, James Harden too much fun to be missed.
Few teams are more fun to watch, as young Blazers play looser than any team in league and are coming around faster than expected. Is it time to start thinking about Terry Stotts for Coach of Year?
15 Hawks 21-16 -5
Always a maddening ride in the Josh Smith-Al Horford era. Suddenly, the Hawks went from early to surprise to Most Likely to Make Major Trade at deadline.
16 Jazz 21-19
Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are playing extremely well for two guys who may be elsewhere next season. And let’s give some credit to Gordon Hayward, who’s coming into his own and become a difference maker.
17 Bucks 19-17
Scott Skiles walked away from being just average. Provided the Bucks don’t make a deal of some sort, that’s exactly where they’ll stay.
18 Lakers 16-21
Mike D’Antoni said team was starting fresh this past weekend. Since the Lakers won their first game of their new 2013, it’s a good start. But no one knows how this basketball fiasco might end.