- Los Angeles Lakers
Previous Ranking: 1 (Same)
Recently, the Lakers have had some more bumps in the road than expected. After getting a fantastic performance out of LeBron James, who scored 46 points, to beat the Cavs, LA would drop back to back games to Philadelphia and Detroit respectively. The Detroit one in particular is a little worrisome, but it is not enough to knock the Lakers off the top spot as they are still the favorite to win it all, despite some unusual losses and Anthony Davis being in a slump.
- Los Angeles Clippers
Previous Ranking: 2 (Same)
The Clippers have quietly been one of the most consistent teams in the league this year. Their star duo of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard have been phenomenal this season, and have carried the team to a hot start. George is averaging 24 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists a game, while Leonard is averaging 25 points himself, along with 5 rebounds and assists. The two should both get All Star selections this season as they lead LA to a top seed in the West.
- Utah Jazz
Previous Ranking: 5 (Up 2)
Utah is the hottest team in basketball right now, riding an eleven game win streak all the way to the best record in basketball currently. They have had several wins over quality teams, such as the Bucks, Warriors, and Mavericks on this streak. Although Mitchell has been the leader, they have gotten several great performances from players like Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley along the way. Joe Ingles also passed John Stockton for most three pointers made in Jazz history Friday night in the win over Dallas. Utah gets another tough test with Denver this afternoon in order to keep the winning streak alive.
- Philadelphia 76ers
Previous Ranking: 4 (Same)
With a statement win over the Lakers, Philly was able regain the top seed in the East for the time being. The main thing that could hurt this team down the stretch however, is their lack of a closer. Against the Lakers, the team would go cold down the stretch allowing LA to sneak back into the game until Tobias Harris would ice the game with a nice midrange jumper. Philly currently doesn’t have a guy on the perimeter who they can just give the ball to down the stretch to closeout games right now. Unless Tobias Harris can step into that role, or Doc Rivers can consistently scheme ways to get Embiid the ball during crunch time, they could struggle in clutch moments.
- Brooklyn Nets
Previous Ranking: 8 (Up 3)
In the first two games of the Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden big three era in Brooklyn, the Nets were handed back to back losses from the Cavs. Since then, they have been able to rattle off four consecutive wins, thanks to the insane scoring ability of their big three. Interior defense is still a major weakness for this team, as DeAndre Jordan is not going to be good enough to hold it down in the paint, but fortunately for Brooklyn, Andre Drummond might get bought out by the Cavs. If that does happen, the Nets are rumored to be frontrunners for him and he will be an upgrade over Jordan.
- Milwaukee Bucks
Previous Ranking: 3 (Down 3)
It seems that the dominant regular seasons from the Bucks the last couple years may be a thing of the past. After consistently being the highest seed in the East by a wide margin, the Bucks are currently hanging on to the three seed right now. Although it is still early, it is a little worrisome for a team that had steamrolled through the competition the past few regular seasons. Ultimately, if they lose more regular season games, but can translate their past regular season success to playoff success, it will totally be worth it.
- Boston Celtics
Previous Ranking: 6 (Down 1)
Despite being one of the best defensive units under Brad Stevens the last couple years, the Celtics have struggled mightily on that end this year. The Celtics had no answer for Joel Embiid as he dominated them in back to back games, and had to break out a zone in an attempt to slow down the Spurs on Wednesday night. This frustrated Jayson Tatum in particular, as he expressed his disappointment in having to play a zone postgame. On the brightside, the team has finally gotten fully healthy with Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum returning from injuries.
- Denver Nuggets
Previous Ranking: 11 (Up 3)
The Nuggets had their own little five game winning streak until it was snapped by the Spurs in a 119-109 loss this Friday. The return of Michael Porter Jr. has been a big lift for the Nuggets as his scoring from the wing has been missed greatly. Nikola Jokic is continuing to play like an MVP candidate, and should be a clear cut All Star starter this year. Slowly but surely, the Nuggets are starting to look more and more like the team that made it to the Western Conference Finals last season.
- Indiana Pacers
Previous Ranking: 9 (Same)
After a red hot start the Pacers have cooled off, going just 5-5 in their last ten games. They are clearly missing the production they would be getting from T.J. Warren and Victor Oladipo, as Warren is still injured. Caris LeVert, who they got in the Oladipo trade, has been out indefinitely with a kidney issue as the team could really use his scoring. The team will have to rely heavily on Malcom Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis, both of whom should be in consideration for All Star selections this season.
- Phoenix Suns
Previous Ranking: 7 (Down 3)
After about a week of no games played due to Covid protocols, the Suns have come back and not looked the same. They have lost four of their last six games and were on a three game losing streak until they snapped it with a blowout win over the Warriors. The Suns have been missing Devin Booker, who has been out for the past week with a hamstring injury. His return will be crucial in getting Phoenix back on track.
- Portland Trail Blazers
Previous Ranking: 12 (Up 1)
With several injuries to key players, Portland will have to rely on Damian Lillard even more than usual. Dame is no stranger to this role however, as he carried the Blazers in the bubble and led them on an incredible run to make the playoffs. He showed exactly what he is capable of with a buzzer beater Saturday night to beat the Bulls. They will need more of that from Dame to help them stay afloat while CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic can get healthy again.
- Golden State Warriors
Previous Ranking: 13 (Up 1)
Rookie center James Wiseman had his best game of his young career against the Timberwolves this week. Wiseman scored a career high 25 points to go along with 6 boards and 2 blocks. He also shot 9-14 from the field and 3-3 from three point range. Wiseman has been mentored by Draymond Green since he has been drafted to Golden State and looks to have a promising future for the Warriors.
- Atlanta Hawks
Previous Ranking: 15 (Up 2)
Trae Young has officially regained his confidence, and with that the Hawks have been able to string together some wins. The most impressive thing for the Hawks might have come in a loss however to the Brooklyn Nets. Atlanta lost by 4 to the Nets in overtime, but they once again showed that they can compete with top tier teams in the Eastern Conference when they are at their best.
- San Antonio Spurs
Previous Ranking: 18 (Up 4)
The Spurs have continued to fly under the radar this year and might be one of the most underrated teams in the league. Young guns like Dejounte Murray and Keldon Johnson have continued to impress and make plays for this team. DeMar DeRozan has been spectacular as well, and has improved greatly as a playmaker, averaging a career high 7 assists per game. Coach Greg Popovich has his team playing great, and they might sneak into the playoffs.
- Dallas Mavericks
Previous Ranking: 10 (Down 5)
Dallas is in the middle of a 4 game losing streak and it is not looking good at all for them. They struggled right out of the gate, but assumed once they got Kristaps Porzingis back the team could turn things around. Unfortunately, Porzingis has really struggled coming off his injury and might be hurting the team more than he is helping. Porzingis will have to turn things around quickly or else Dallas could fall out of the playoff picture real quick.
- Memphis Grizzlies
Previous Ranking: 16 (Same)
Right after the Grizzlies got Ja Morant back, the team would have several postponed games. Memphis currently has the most postponed games in the league right now due to the NBA’s Health and Safety protocols, but were finally able to suit up Saturday night against the Spurs. It would be a win by committee, as Memphis has seven players in double digit scoring. Despite all the postponed games, it seems like Memphis hasn’t missed a step.
- Cleveland Cavaliers
Previous Ranking: 17 (Same)
The worst scoring offense in the entire league seemed to finally turn things around offensively however, they haven’t been able to stop anything on the other side. They gave up 115 points to the Lakers and 143 points to the Celtics in a pair of losses. On the brightside, if they are able to put up a complete game on both sides of the ball, they could be competitive with some of the better teams in the league.
- Miami Heat
Previous Ranking: 14 (Down 4)
Jimmy Butler finally made his return to the Heat Saturday night, and it was a much needed return. Butler scored 30 points and added in 8 assists and 7 rebounds in his first game back and helped lift the Heat to a 1 point win over the Kings. His return should help the Heat turn things around and get back into playoff contention, as they have struggled greatly without him and his leadership.
- New York Knicks
Previous Ranking: 20 (Up 1)
The Knicks have been all over the place this season. One week they can blow out the Celtics by 30 points, and then follow that up with back to back wins over quality opponents. Then they follow that week up by going on a three game losing streak to stop any momentum they have. They have probably been the most inconsistent team this season, but will continue to win games, and may find themselves in playoff contention near the end of the season.
- Houston Rockets
Previous Ranking: 23 (Up 3)
The new look Rockets seemed to have found some chemistry with their new pieces as they have quietly put together a nice six game win streak over the last week or so. John Wall and Victor Oladipo are having some under the radar seasons so far, as both are putting up some solid stats coming off injuries. Christian Wood has also been playing like an All Star and it would be awesome to see him make one of the teams due to him having such a great come up story.
- Toronto Raptors
Previous Ranking: 19 (Down 2)
The Raptors just can’t seem to turn things around. After stringing together a couple wins, Toronto would go on a three game losing streak this week to keep their record below .500. Their center rotation is so much weaker compared to last year and it is really starting to show just how important Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka were to this team. Although Chris Boucher has been great, him and Aron Baynes are nowhere near the same level of Gasol and Ibaka and it has hurt the team substantially.
- Charlotte Hornets
Previous Ranking: 22 (Same)
Rookie guard LaMelo Ball had yet another great performance Saturday night to help the Hornets beat the Bucks. Ball had a career high 27 points to go along with 9 assists and 5 boards. He did this on 80% shooting from the field and helped close out the game against a talented Bucks squad. It is only a matter of time before he gets put into the starting lineup as he has proven how good he can be when given the opportunity.
- New Orleans Pelicans
Previous Ranking: 24 (Up 1)
Zion Williamson has continued to be dominant for this Pelicans team, but there has been too much inconsistency outside of him. Lonzo Ball had his best game of the season against the Bucks, scoring 27 points and dishing out 8 assists in a win, but would follow that up with a disappointing 7 point performance against the Rockets in a loss. Sharpshooter JJ Redick has continued to struggle, and was even a DNP coach’s decision the last two games. The supporting cast needs to help Zion more because his great performances are going to waste right now.
- Orlando Magic
Previous Ranking: 21 (Down 3)
Rookie Cole Anthony came in clutch with a tough game winner against the Timberwolves to get them back in the win column on January 20th. Since then the Magic have only won one game and it seems like they don’t have the talent to win consistently. The injuries to key players like Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac might be too much for the Magic to handle this year.
- Oklahoma City Thunder
Previous Ranking: 26 (Up 1)
Despite the Thunder seemingly wanting to tank, they have remained competitive in a majority of the games they have played this year. Although it may hurt their draft pick, it will certainly help with the development of young guys like Luguentz Dort and Darius Bazley. If these guys continue to develop, they could be nice pieces to keep alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as they continue to build for the future.
- Sacramento Kings
Previous Ranking: 27 (Up 1)
After winning a close one over Toronto by 2 points the Kings would fall to the Heat 105-104 thanks to a great performance by Jimmy Butler. DeAaron Fox has been great, but his free throw shooting has to be a little worrisome. He is currently shooting 67% from the charity stripe, which is really bad for a guard who is always trying to get to the rim. If he can get that number up, Fox could really elevate himself to the next level.
- Chicago Bulls
Previous Ranking: 25 (Down 2)
The Bulls lost in the most heartbreaking fashion Saturday night, blowing a 5 point lead with 11.5 seconds left in the game. Although a lot of that has to be credited to the greatness of Damian Lillard, no team should lose a game when up two possessions with that little time left in the game. The team is currently in a transition year with a new front office and coach, so they aren’t expected to be a top tier team, but that is a game you would like to see them win.
- Detroit Pistons
Previous Ranking: 30 (Up 2)
Detroit was able to rattle off two wins this week against quality opponents in the Lakers and 76ers. Although this doesn’t do too much to help this Pistons in the standings, it is nice for Pistons fans to see their team win some games after their worst start to a season ever. Rookie guard Killian Hayes will be out for at least eight more weeks as well.
- Minnesota Timberwolves
Previous Ranking: 29 (Same)
Although the team is still struggling with Karl-Anthony Towns, rookie Anthony Edwards has been a bright spot these past four games. After struggling immensely scoring the ball, Edwards was able to rattle off four consecutive performances of 15 plus points in these last four games. His efficiency wasn’t amazing, but it is a promising sign to see him be able to put the ball in the bucket again.
- Washington Wizards
Previous Ranking: 28 (Down 2)
Despite Bradley Beal’s insane scoring numbers, the Wizards have continued to lose games. Outside of Beal, there have been few bright spots as the team has looked awful on a nightly basis. It is time for the front office to finally free Beal and trade him to a contender, along with firing head coach Scott Brooks and embrace the rebuild and a culture change.
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