Most critics believe the Spurs’ best players are too old to hold down this spot for an entire season. Is this the year Tim Duncan and the gang prove those critics wrong? 2 Heat 36-14 +1
LeBron James is playing like some sort of video-game creation, an unstoppable force who’s determined to win another title. Hard to believe in anyone but the Heat when that’s the case. 3 Thunder 39-14 -1
Recent losses to the Lakers and Heat have the Thunder brass thinking about minor moves. If not, they could do worse than march on with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
4 Clippers 39-17
All-Star MVP Chris Paul might be having a season full of destiny. The Clippers seem to get better as season progresses. Scary thought.
5 Grizzlies 33-18
Zach Randolph says the Grizzlies are better without Rudy Gay. From the looks of things, Randolph might not just be blowing smoke.
6 Nuggets 33-21
Since no one made the All-Star team, the Nuggets will be well-rested heading into second half. But more than that, they’re just balanced, deep and flat-out good.
7 Knicks 32-18
Lots of folks wonder if the Knicks are physical enough to challenge the Heat and sustain a lengthy East playoff run. There are, however, no doubts about their ability to just outscore you.
8 Pacers 32-21
Tje Pacers now have an edgy, physical style that overcomes even the loss of Danny Granger. New star Paul George is a big reason for that.
9 Nets 31-22 +3
Major players in the Josh Smith sweepstakes, the Nets are looking for a move to put themselves over the top. But even without one, they have ability to perhaps pull a postseason surprise.
10 Bulls 30-22 -1
It’s sounding less and less likely that Derrick Rose will return to save the day. But we’ve already learned it’d be foolish to overlook the Bulls’ smarts, defense and hustle.
11 Warriors 30-22 -1
Second half of season will be a test for team with four rookies. Are the Warriors for real or still a year or two away from really good things? We’ll have some answers in April.
12 Celtics 28-24 +1
Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger and Leandro Barbosa are injured. Trade rumors surround Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. And the Celtics are suddenly the best they’ve been all year.
13 Jazz 30-24 +1
Interesting times for a team that suddenly seems to be finding itself. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are two biggest reasons for hope — but with expiring contracts, also the two biggest trade chips.
14 Rockets 29-26 -3
No one expected league’s youngest team to be this good, this quickly. Shows what determination, teamwork and a whole lot of James Harden can do for you.
15 Bucks 26-25 +2
Perhaps the league’s most aggressive team heading into trading deadline, the Bucks are looking to make a splash and set themselves up for future. On the bright side, things aren’t looking too shabby if they stand pat.
16 Lakers 25-29 -1
Passing of longtime owner Jerry Buss certainly will provide the underachieving Lakers with extra motivation. So will Kobe Bryant’s desire to prove this team can still do great things as long as he’s in charge.
17 Hawks 29-22 -1
Likely to spend pre- and post-trade deadline in flux, as no one seems certain where Josh Smith will be playing in a week. The Hawks will either stay the course or gut the team. 18 Trail Blazers 25-28
Fantastic trio in LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum only needs some consistent help. The Blazers appear more likely to try to land some over the summer then now.
19 Mavericks 23-29
Much like the Lakers, the Mavs are a mostly veteran team that’s failed to meet expectations. Gentlemen, you have less than 30 games to get things right.
20 76ers 22-29
Jrue Holiday proved he’s one of league’s true up-and-comers in All-Star game. Other than that, however, all the Sixers can do is sit, wait and pray on return of healthy Andrew Bynum. 21 Raptors 21-32 +1
The Rudy Gay era has replaced the brief one belonging to Andrea Bargnani. Read: Raptors should be better. If not this season, then next.
22 Pistons 21-33 -1
More deals await, likely in the off-season, to add to dynamic young nucleus of Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Brandon Knight. Until then, those three alone give you reasons to watch.
23 Timberwolves 19-31
Apparently willing to part with two first-round picks (either now or later) for proven veteran. But getting back a healthy Kevin Love is first order of business. 24 Hornets 19-34 +2
The good news: Anthony Davis is becoming more of a force the longer he stays healthy and on the floor. The bad: Hornets still have no idea what to do with Eric Gordon.
25 Suns 17-36
Desperately seeking to use all that freed-up cap space in a trade. But as far as actual players to deal, Suns have little to offer.
26 Kings 19-35 -2
Remember when all the trade talk seemed to center on DeMarcus Cousins? Now, Kings can only play out string as they prepare for ownership change – and roster turnover.
27 Cavaliers 16-37
With two rookies and two second-year players starting, the Cavs are likely to continue inconsistent ways. But with Kyrie Irving as one of league’s brightest rising stars, it should be a fun ride. 28 Wizards 15-36
John Wall and Bradley Beal are the only two guys the Wizards are determined to keep for next season. Other than that, expect them to make every attempt at an extreme makeover.
29 Magic 15-37
The Highlight of season was beating Dwight Howard and the Lakers in Los Angeles. But in a season of 82 games, that’s not enough.
30 Bobcats 12-40
Michael Jordan returning to the court at 50? Oh, why not? What else do Bobcats have going on?