Looking even more seasoned than the team that lost in the Finals. Thank you, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and yes, you too, Kevin Martin.
2 Spurs 18-4 +2
See what can happen Gregg Popovich plays his best guys? OK, we’ll let that go now. Bottom line is Tim Duncan and Spurs are still doing great things we figured they’d stop doing three years ago. 3 Heat 14-5 -2
Charles Barkley was right: Dwyane Wade isn’t what he once was. But Wade’s doggone close, and whoever has LeBron James on their side still has the best shot to come out of the East.
4 Grizzlies 14-4 -2
With good health, hard to envision Grizz finishing any lower than the fourth seed in the West. Remember when people ripped them for trading Pau Gasol? 5 Knicks 15-5
Something is different about Carmelo Anthony this season. He’s actually wearing the look of a potential NBA champion. Let’s just hope Amar’e Stoudemire doesn’t get in the way upon return.
6 Clippers 14-6 +1
Blake Griffin is better than ever, and that’s really saying something. When he and the Clippers are rolling, they’re as dangerous as anyone. 7 Warriors 14-7 +2
This may be the season Stephen Curry makes the All-Star team and the young Warriors get a taste of the playoffs. 8 Hawks 12-6
Larry Drew was supposed to be on the hot seat entering the season. Now, he’s a coach of the year possibility. Helps that Josh Smith is playing like the Hawks always knew he could.
9 Celtics 11-9 +1
Rajon Rondo’s amazing numbers keeping the entire team relevant. Just imagine what can happen when Jason Terry gets the hang of things.
10 Bulls 11-8 +3
Defense, rebounding and a whole lot of Joakim Noah suddenly giving Bulls hope without Derrick Rose. Honestly, though. did any of us doubt that could happen? 11 76ers 12-9
Andrew Bynum now saying it hurts to walk. Opponents now saying it hurts to try to defend Jrue Holiday, and suddenly, Evan Turner from way outside. 12 Nets 11-8 -6
Excitement and chemistry created by new season is new city is gone. But mostly, so is Joe Johnson’s effectiveness. There’s still time, though. 13 Jazz 12-10 +7
Ty Corbin doing a fantastic job of getting his Jazz to play hard and together. Underrated and balanced talent such as Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Mo Williams doing the rest.
14 Timberwolves 9-9 +3
Not entirely healthy yet, but Kevin Love makes up for a lot of ailments. If Wolves make playoffs, he deserves serious MVP consideration. Heck, he does anyway.
15 Mavericks 11-10 -1
O.J. Mayo thriving in new home. Can we please just watch him play with Dirk Nowitzki? Please? Mavs could be lethal once it happens. 16 Bucks 10-9 -1
Like most Scott Skiles-coached teams, doing just enough to stay in the playoff chase despite lacking a little in the depth department. Actually, the Bucks are staying in (and occasionally heading) the chase for the Central Division title.
17 Lakers 9-12 -5
Mike D’Antoni is having to spend another part of his career watching Chris Duhon run his first-team offense. Still no excuse for the lack of everything, though.
18 Nuggets 10-11 -4
Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala and JaVale McGee are three big reasons Nuggets are a blast to witness. Now if they could just close out games. 19 Pacers 10-11 -1
Continue to labor too much without Danny Granger. On second thought, Granger’s injury doesn’t pardon the bench’s so-so play. 20 Rockets 9-11 -1
At some point, maybe next season, James Harden will need some consistent help. For now, though, it sure is fun watching him try to get it done mostly alone.
21 Magic 8-12 +1
It’s pretty clear Magic wanted to show they could matter without Dwight Howard. Jameer Nelson, Glen Davis and J.J. Redick are all doing their part.
22 Trail Blazers 9-12 +1
They are really good when they’re good, and not usually too terribly awful when they’re not. In the meantime, enjoy Damian Lillard while the Blazers try to get it figured out.
23 Bobcats 7-13
Have the occasional moments that make us regurgitate last season, but overall, they’re considerably improved. That’s especially true of Kemba Walker. He alone makes ’Cats worthy of your occasional attention. 24 Kings 7-13 +5
They still look mostly disjointed, but now actually winning a little in spite of it. For that, DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans and the rest deserve at least a little credit.
25 Pistons 7-16
Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond are three future guys to fear. And sometimes, three dangerous guys in the here and now.
26 Hornets 5-14
The Pelicans can create more buzz than the Hornets if Anthony Davis gets and stays healthy. As for Eric Gordon, how much longer until franchise shrugs and surrenders?
27 Suns 7-15 -3
Reality is setting in and the wheels coming off. It’s difficult to envision the Suns pulling it together anytime soon. Other than that, things are great.
28 Cavaliers 4-17 -1
Kyrie Irving is due to return, and while that may not mean much in terms of wins, it gives the Cavs someone for whom opponents really have to strategize. Hey, that’s something.
29 Raptors 4-18 -1
At least Kyle Lowry got some serious money to come here. Now, Raptors are wondering what it might cost for Andrea Bargnani to leave. 30 Wizards 2-15
John Wall still appears weeks away from returning. And to think there was a time when people pegged them as a potential playoff team. That may yet happen — in 2016.