Thunder, winners of 12 of 13, retain top spot in this week's power rankings; Suns slip one spot to ninth.
Kevin Durant and the Thunder have won 12 of their last 13 games and remain atop the power rankings.
Mark D. Smith / USA TODAY Sports
By Jimmy Spencer
And just like that, 2013 is over. The first half of this hyphenated NBA season is coming to an end, and it's time to evaluate the best and worst things for each team through the first two months of the season.
Best: The Thunder are the league's hottest team, winners of 12 of their last 13 games, and have the best record in the league. Durant's leading the league in scoring (28.5 ppg) and OKC has a top-10 scoring bench. Worst: Russell Westbrook returned quickly in 2013, and played fantastic, but is now gone with another knee surgery. He'll be back, though.
Best: Miami may be a small step behind Indiana in the standings, but they remain the favorites to win the NBA title (+170). LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh continue to dominate as the 'Big Three when healthy.' Worst: Miami is 19-3 when Wade plays and 4-4 when he doesn't. Can he stay healthy through June?
3. Trail Blazers 25-7 -1
Best: The Blazers entered the season with a solid nucleus and rejuvenated bench, but no one saw this coming. Portland is one of the NBA's best teams, LaMarcus Aldridge is an MVP candidate and Damian Lillard is the league's newest superstar. Worst: Portland has the worst defensive rating of any current playoff team.
4. Pacers 25-5 --
Best: The Pacers were the kings of the NBA to start the season, earning a 16-1 record through Dec. 1. Indy has the East's best record, holds opponents to a league-low 89.4 points and Paul George could be a top-three player in the league. Worst: Indy lost to Portland, OKC and Miami during a stretch of 16 days to start December. Of course, they're on track again and maintain the top record out East.
5. Spurs 25-7 +1
Best: Those professionals in San Antonio continue to take care of business and are a perfect 17-0 against teams with a losing record. Worst: While those wins against cupcakes are the staple of the Spurs, this year's team is still seeking a statement win. They've lost both games to Houston, and the Thunder, Clippers and Pacers also delivered December losses.
6. Rockets 21-13 +1
Best: Houston hasn't become the West's best because of Dwight Howard, but the hottest free agent last offseason has played well in each of Houston's 33 games. He is averaging 17.9 points and 13.3 rebounds per game. Worst: Omer Asik remains in limbo and hasn't played since Dec. 2.
7. Clippers 21-12 -2
Best: We know the offense is fantastic, but the Clippers actually have the seventh-best defensive rating in the league, points allowed per 100 possessions. Worst: J.J. Redick is hurt, Jared Dudley is shooting 34 percent from three-point range and Eric Bledsoe is killin' it with Phoenix.
Best: Stephen Curry has taken his breakout performance last postseason and carried it into this season. The Warriors' sure-fire All-Star has career highs in assists (9.6) and points (23.4) despite the lowest three-point percentage of his career (41.3%). Worst:Golden State struggled without Andre Iguodala, revealing how fragile the Warriors are in terms of depth.
Best: If not for the Blazers, the Suns would be the league's biggest surprise. The backcourt duo of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic is combining for 36.5 points and 11.7 assists per game. Worst: So much for that top lottery pick; the Suns have hit fast-forward on their rebuilding. The loss to the Warriors drops them in the rankings.
Best: Monta Ellis is proving the doubters wrong, Jose Calderon is lights out from behind the arc and Dirk Nowitzki is still, mostly, Dirk. It all has the Mavericks in the thick of the West's postseason hunt. Worst: The Mavericks defense still stinks, allowing 102.2 points per game on 46.1 shooting.
11. Hawks 18-14 -2
Best: Everything is relative in the East, and playing slightly above .500 all season long has the Hawks positioned in that third spot out East. Playing at this pace could actually result in home-court advantage in the first round. Worst: That pace may not be possible after what could be a season-ending injury to Al Horford. It drops them in the rankings, too.
12. Timberwolves 15-16 +1
Best: Kevin Love has been unreal this season, averaging career highs in points (26.1) and assists (4.2) while still grabbing 13.8 rebounds per game. Worst: Love could be an MVP candidate, if the Wolves were any good. They remain a .500 team at best. Ricky Rubio continues to be a horrendous shooter (24.2% last five games), and that's not helping.
Best: Washington hasn't had a winning record since three games into 2009, but this season they're creeping close. That's thanks to a healthy John Wall and the consistent scoring of Bradley Beal. Worst: The Wizards must stay healthy, as their bench is the lowest-scoring one in the league.
Best: Anthony Davis has recovered quickly from his broken hand, averaging 20.2 points and 11 rebounds in the five games since his return. Worst: New Orleans hasn't had the opportunity to run at full health because of injuries to Davis and Tyreke Evans. It's hard to see what type of strides this team has made, if any. Oh, and the Pelicans can't beat a winning team (0-11).
15. Raptors 14-15 +6
Best: Raptors GM Masai Ujiri was able to move the contract and shooting volume of Rudy Gay to Sacramento, and his team is 7-3 since. Worst: At this rate, without Gay, it appears the Raptors won't keep Andrew Wiggins in Canada.
16. Celtics 13-18 +2
Best: The Celtics, despite being four games under .500, are still somewhat of a surprise. Even without Rajon Rondo, the team is actually holding the eighth seed in the East heading into the New Year. Worst: Rondo's return still doesn't make Boston even close to a legit contender, and Boston could sit in purgatory and out of the lottery.
17. Nuggets 14-16 -5
Best: The Nuggets made a nice little run there after starting the season 1-4. Denver showed some life under Brian Shaw and won 10 of 12 games from Nov. 11 to Dec. 3. Worst: It's hard to figure out which team the Nuggets truly are. They've lost six in a row and nine of their last 12 games. JaVale McGee and Danilo Gallinari remain out.
18. Pistons 14-19 -2
Best: Andre Drummond is averaging a double-double (12.8 and 12.3) on 61 percent shooting. Worst: OK, OK, Josh Smith. You don't have to be a superstar, but at least please try to be the best player on your team. Smith is shooting 40.5 percent this season for 15.1 points per game. He's had four games in which he's been limited to five points or less.
19. Grizzlies 13-17 +3
Best: Memphis can still play defense and is ending the year on a high note, winning three of four heading into the 2013 finale against Chicago. Worst: The Grizzlies have seen more injuries than a keg party with a slip-and-slide. Marc Gasol's absence proves just how valuable it is to have that clog in the middle who can also shoot.
Best:Los Angeles stayed afloat before Kobe Bryant made his long-anticipated debut. Worst: The return didn't last long, as Bryant recovers from a new injury, and the Lakers begin to sink. Even with Bryant, it doesn't look like Los Angeles is a playoff team.
21. Bobcats 14-18 -2
Best: The Bobcats are pacing to make the playoffs for just the second time in franchise existence. Al Jefferson won't be an All-Star, but he is averaging 17.7 points and 11.6 rebounds. Worst: Charlotte may be competitive, but they're still three games under .500 and there's plenty of work left to do.
Best: Kyrie Irving is a superstar once again. He is healthy and having a much better December than November. He's up to 25.2 points and 6.3 assists this month. Worst: Andrew Bynum is not working out for Cleveland, or even playing right now.
23. Bulls 12-18 +1
Best: Chicago's offense is the worst in the league, but Tom Thibodeau's Bulls are still allowing just 93.1 points per game, second only to the Pacers. Worst: Derrick Rose's injury has devastated the Bulls' chances to contend -- again.
Best: DeMarcus Cousins is playing close to All-Star level. He's the dominant center every team wants, and he's proving the perfect center to the Kings rebuilding efforts. Rudy Gay is actually showing flashes of being a controlled shooter ... at times.
Best but worst: Brook Lopez was the one guy the Nets couldn't blame for their woes. Now, Lopez -- with his 20.7 points on 56 percent shooting -- is out for the season. Somehow, things are getting worse. Worst: Jason Kidd is having an awful rookie season coaching, and the Nets future remains torched.
26. Magic 10-21 +2
Best: Orlando is rebuilding, and guys like Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis may not be in their future. Luckily, both are auditioning nicely for potential trades that could help the Magic in the future. Worst: It's not that Victor Oladipo has been bad; he just hasn't been the runaway Rookie of the Year type player that some thought he'd be.
27. Knicks 9-21 -1
Best: Ummmm ... at least Carmelo Anthony has remained healthy and productive. Worst: The Knicks are awful and at a rate much worse than anyone expected. At least everyone saw the Andrea Bargnani effect coming.
28. 76ers 9-21 -1
Best: Remember when the Sixers were on top of the NBA after a 3-0 start that included wins against Miami and Chicago? Michael Carter-Williams looked to be Philly's next great thing. Worst: Then reality set in, MCW got hurt, and after a 5-4 start, the Sixers have gone 4-17.
Best: Derrick Favors is living up to expectations and Trey Burke should be in the running for Rookie of the Year. The No. 9 overall pick isn't completely efficient at 40 percent shooting this month, but he's averaging 14.3 points and 5.9 assists per game in December. Worst: Enes Kanter and Marvin Williams have declined, and it appears Gordon Hayward is better as a secondary option.
30. Bucks 7-24 --
Best: The league's worst start means the Bucks are the current favorites to land the No. 1 pick and perhaps Andrew Wiggins. Worst: It should have been the year Ersan Ilyasova took over, but instead the 26-year-old has been awful.