The Sixers' recent losing streak has us depressed, because we really wanted Philly to make the postseason in Joel Embiid's rookie season, but it's probably for the best. If and when the 76ers add one more top-tier talent in the draft, they'll be ready to build a dynasty. Seriously.
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Orlando Magic (27)
Rockets forward Ryan Anderson recently said he wanted to return to Orlando this offseason. You'd assume that stings a little bit for Magic fans, but in reality, there's no guarantee Anderson would be lighting it up in Orlando the way he is for Houston this season.
New York Knicks (23)
I mean, what is there to say about the Knicks at this point — other than "Poor Kristaps Porzingis"?
Minnesota Timberwolves (26)
Lance Stephenson is back in the NBA courtesy of Minnesota, and he might be able to give the Wolves a boost with his playmaking. Really, though, the Wolves live and die with their defense these days — and a recent down-swing on that end of the court has Tom Thibodeau's team struggling once again.
New Orleans Pelicans (24)
It seems as if those rumors of a Jahlil Okafor trade to the Pelicans have passed, which is a very good thing for New Orleans. Okafor and Anthony Davis would be an offensively skilled frontcourt pairing with zero chance of stopping the opponent from getting to the rim on every single possession.
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Milwaukee Bucks (18)
We were all set to declare the Bucks a real threat in the Eastern Conference before Jabari Parker's unfortunate knee injury. Now, all we can do is hope that Parker recovers fully and as quickly as possible.
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Sacramento Kings (25)
After throwing down one of the most ridiculous dunks of the season in a big win over the Celtics (without DeMarcus Cousins), Willie Cauley-Stein perfectly summed up this Kings team: “When we’re all locked in and we’re all playing for each other and playing at the best of everybody’s ability, it’s proven we can run with anybody and lose to anybody.”
Indeed, WCS. Indeed.
Dallas Mavericks (21)
Yogi Ferrell is all the rage in Dallas, but we're honestly counting the days until Mark Cuban takes part in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. Here's hoping Dirk Nowitzki comes out of the stands to reject his boss at some point during the festivities — you know, just for fun.
USA TODAY SportsKevin Jairaj
Miami Heat (22)
Look, you can recognize how awesome the Heat's win streak is and how it might be a bad thing in the long-term, since 2017 is their best shot at a top draft pick. With that said, we're loving Miami's recent playoff push, and a report they're interested in Serge Ibaka is further proof Erik Spoelstra & Co. plan to keep the pedal to the metal.
Portland Trail Blazers (15)
We never thought we'd say this in 2016-17, but Evan Turner's recent injury is a big blow to the Blazers. ET had found his rhythm in Portland since the first of the year; more importantly, the Blazers don't have a ton of depth. His absence could mean the difference between a playoff berth and a bad lottery pick.
The Hornets were one of our favorite teams in the first half of the season, which makes their recent slide all the more depressing. On the bright side, Charlotte's struggles perfectly coincidenced with Cody Zeller's injury absence. Maybe his return can get the Hornets back on track headed into the All-Star break.
Denver Nuggets (16)
The Nuggets are expected to be active at the trade deadline, with both skilled big men and veteran wings available in Denver. The assumption is the Nuggets will look to stockpile picks and young assets, but could they try to secure their status as a Western Conference playoff contender instead?
Detroit Pistons (17)
Sure, it was just a game against the Lakers, but the Pistons showed a flash of the team they can be against Los Angeles this week. Andre Drummond led the way, Stan Van Gundy praised Reggie Jackson for his two-way effort, and Stanley Johnson decided to stick around after the win to get more practice in.
That has to be SVG's dream come true for this squad.
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Atlanta Hawks (12)
The book is out on the Hawks, and it's not good. They will roll over if you punch them in the mouth early.
If you're bemoaning the fact that this NBA season is inevitably going to boil down to the Cavaliers and Warriors, you're really not paying attention to the Eastern Conference. Take the Pacers, who looked like also-rans through the first half of the year and are now threatening to claim home-court advantage in the postseason.
This regular season has been amazing, and it's slowly slipping away. Take the time to appreciate squads like Indiana while you have the chance, and stop worrying about the looming Finals.
We stand by that statement for now, but here's the kicker: We really want to be wrong, and we'll love every night that Boston's young players shove that statement right back in our faces.
Getty ImagesMike Stobe
Utah Jazz (6)
Rudy Gobert swears he's over his 2017 All-Star snub,and we're not here to call the Jazz center a liar.
We'd just like to point out that Gordon Hayward made it clear Gobert wants to prove he's already the best big man in the NBA. So if Gobert is over the snub, it's because he has bigger fish to fry.
Cleveland Cavaliers (3)
Colin Cowherd summed up why people need to pump the brakes with their overreactions every time the Cavaliers drop a game: Cleveland doesn't care about the regular season. The next two months are simply about making sure Kyle Korver feels comfortable alongside LeBron James & Co. — and making sure no one else gets hurt. (Miss you, J.R.)
In fact, in Colin's eyes, the Cavs are still the favorites to win the title.
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Houston Rockets (2)
James Harden deserves all the accolades in the world, and he's still our frontrunner to win the MVP.
Has anyone else noticed his 3-point shooting has fallen off a bit this year, though? We're not worried, given how big of an offensive burden the Beard carries for Houston. A slight dip in efficiency is expected. Perhaps it's even just a random blip.
The Warriors should be thanking the Thunder — and not just for Kevin Durant.
Stephen Curry has found his MVP-caliber form lately by playing more like "the old Steph," the version of Curry who will pull up from 30 feet with 20 seconds on the shot clock just because he can or dribble through all five defenders to test the opponent. Durant, in turn, had to figure out how to play his game while his point guard hijacked the offense...
... which is exactly what KD did for years with Russell Westbrook, of course. Only this time, his new point guard's aggressiveness actually helps his team win games. Curry can shoot the hell out of the ball, while Westbrook's early-shot-clock 3-pointers bail out the opposing defense.
Combined with a flowing offense that doesn't rely on players to make things happen in isolation, KD has to be in heaven.