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 LeBron James.
5 Grizzlies 26-14
Recent trade allows the Grizzlies to hang on to both Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph. Lifting that dark cloud of suspense should allow team’s two best players to perform more freely. Watch out.
6 Warriors 25-15 +1
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.
9 Nets 25-16 +3
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.
12 Hawks 23-18 +3
Josh Smith had an issue with management and is supposedly on the trading block. Basically, same as it ever was for the talented, but always inconsistent, Hawks.
13 Jazz 22-19 +3
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?
15 Bucks 21-18 +2
Playing just as hard under Jim Boylen as they did under Scott Skiles. Unfortunately for the Bucks, results are pretty much the same: Win one, lose one, and don’t really go anywhere special.
16 Rockets 22-21 -3
James Harden is having trouble relocating his touch. Rockets, therefore, are having trouble winning much. It wouldn’t hurt if Patrick Patterson rediscovered his early season production, either.
17 Trail Blazers 20-21 -3
Never know what you’re going to get from this mostly up-and-coming unit. But home losses to the likes of Cleveland and Washington sure don’t give you much hope for the rest of this season.
18 Mavericks 18-24 +1
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 – Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Brandon Knight. All are coming along nicely.
23 Kings 16-26
Beginning to sound more and more like it’s the Kings’ final season in Sacramento. Read: Californians should catch DeMarcus Cousins while they can.
24 Hornets 14-27 +3
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 Greivis Vasquez. 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.
26 Raptors 15-26 -2
Still hard to know what the plan is here. But the current roster is good enough to surprise some people from time to time. Not exactly what you want to hang your hat on, though.
27 Wizards 9-30 +2
Different team since John Wall returned, with road wins vs. Denver and Portland (and five wins in seven games) offering evidence. And who would’ve guessed Randy Wittman would still be coach?
28 Cavaliers 10-32 +2
Acquisitions of Marreese Speights and Wayne Ellington put them in a better place. Losing Anderson Varejao for season, however, is a shot to team morale.
29 Suns 13-28 -3
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.