Kevin Durant isn’t quite LeBron, but he’s closer than ever. And today, the Thunder are the best team in the league because of it.
2 Clippers 32-10 -1
Yes, they’re for real. If you don’t believe it now, you will in the playoffs. Reserves
Jamal Crawford and
Eric Bledsoe would be top-two options on a few of league’s bottom-feeders.
3 Spurs 33-11 +1
The Spurs were supposed to be done, like, three years ago. But they won 33 of their first 44. Credit shrewd drafting, timely free-agent acquisitions, outstanding coaching and anti-aging supplements
Tim Duncan has to be taking.
4 Heat 26-12 -1
The defending champs are the best fourth-ranked team in league history. Same as last season -- if you make a turnover against the Heat, you’re toast. Oh, and they still have
Stephen Curry for the All-Star team. You’d better believe it. Even with his outstanding season of good health, he remains one of league’s most underrated.
7 Knicks 25-14 -1
Have lost a little bit of their edge since Amar’e Stoudemire returned. It’s just a coincidence, but if the Knicks can move him at the trade deadline, they might.
8 Pacers 26-16
Playing so well without Danny Granger that the feeling here is they may not need him anymore. Expect the Pacers to see what they can get in return. If it’s nothing, they still come out winners when Granger returns.
Everyone is playing better since P.J. Carlesimo took over for Avery Johnson. That’s especially true of
Joe Johnson. Suddenly, the Nets are dreaming of East’s No. 1 seed again.
10 Bulls 24-16
Coach Tom Thibodeau says
Derrick Rose is getting closer to his return. Just envision what could happen to the East playoff chase if it happens this year, because the Bulls are playing much much better lately.
11 Nuggets 25-18 -2
A lot of people sitting around and waiting for the Nuggets to take a nosedive. But that may have already happened with all those road games at the start of season. Best may still be yet to come for this balanced, deep club.
Figuring out what to do with impending free agents
Al Jefferson and
Paul Millsap is what this season is now all about. Won’t be easy, considering those are Utah's two best players.
14 Celtics 20-20 -3
Jason Terry has been one of most disappointing offseason acquisitions. But bottom line is the Celtics are capable of getting really hot or embarrassingly cold. Wonder which team will show up at the end?
O.J. Mayo has been less productive since
Dirk Nowitzki’s return. The Mavs have to figure out how to utilize both for this to work out. On the bright side, they seem to be getting closer.
19 Timberwolves 17-21 +2
Well, Chris Johnson sure seems like a find via 10-day contract, huh? Unfortunately, neither he nor anyone else on this team is
Kevin Love. Until he’s back and healthy, the Wolves don’t really stand much of a chance.
20 76ers 17-24
Everyone keeps mentioning Andrew Bynum. There’s a reason for that. Without him, the Sixers are just an average bunch. And that’s being kind.
21 Lakers 17-24 -3
Well, guess they still have to make another big trade. It's time for
Dwight Howard or
Pau Gasol to go. Otherwise, Lakers may go down as biggest bust in league history.
22 Pistons 15-25
If only they could play the Celtics 75 times a year. Until that happens, fans can enjoy the Pistons’ own version of the Big Three –
Andre Drummond and
Brandon Knight. All are coming along nicely.
Ryan Anderson hasn’t missed a beat since last season in Orlando. Now the Hornets only need to fill in around Anderson,
Eric Gordon, Anthony Davis and possibly
25 Magic 14-26
Should be active near the trading deadline. It took them 10 years to recover after losing Shaquille O’Neal. Shouldn’t take nearly that long after losing Dwight Howard. Still, the Magic have a little ways to go.
The Suns fired their coach without already having an interim in place (the job eventually went to Lindsey Hunter). Then Jermaine O’Neal reportedly got into a shouting match with GM Lance Blanks. Yeah, we can call Suns a total disaster now.
30 Bobcats 10-31 -2
Kemba Walker is playing like a champion, the one regret Michael Jordan will never have. Everyone else? Well, let’s just not go there for now.