The NBA season has been a bit confusing so far. The Western Conference is extremely competitive and the difference between eighth and 14th place is two games. The East is starting to become a bit more defined but the seven and eight spot is going to be contentious all year. The confusion and random teams is what makes the NBA so interesting. Anyone can win and this is the most important time of the year for teams to solidify their spots in the conferences.
- Phoenix Suns- (4-22)
Man the Suns are bad. Devin Booker is out with a hamstring injury, Mikal Bridges is visibly annoyed and it was reported that DeAndre Ayton and Booker had a verbal altercation after their loss to Portland. The Suns have not won a game since November 23rd, and they are by far the worst team in the West. Here’s to another year of tanking.
- Atlanta Hawks- (5-20)
The Hawks are on a four game losing streak now, and Trae Young is trying to force his way out of this slump. He is shooting 23.9% from three and is averaging four turnovers a game. This young team is relying on him to do a lot, and the plus side is he is facilitating the ball well with 7.3 assists a game. Young will have to do better on defense though since he has the worst Defensive Real Plus-Minus in the league according to ESPN.
- Cleveland Cavaliers- (5-20)
The East does not run through Cleveland. The Cavs are bad and every game they play is just adding onto the LeBron James’ greatness debate. The fact that he took this team to a finals last year is wild, but this team, on paper, should not be this bad. Tristan Thompson is doing what he does by rebounding everything and Collin Sexton is trying to lead a team that just does not look like they care. It’s sad to see a team that should not have fallen so far be this bad.
- Chicago Bulls- (6-20)
The Bulls fired Fred Hoiberg on Monday, but their game against the Thunder showed that the young talent of Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. will be something to watch out for. Carter blocked what was going to be a vicious dunk by Russell Westbrook and Markkanen hit the game winning shot. This team is not good, but if there is any reason to watch the Bulls, it’s these two guys.
- New York Knicks- (8-18)
The Knicks are just hanging around. Emmanuel Mudiay is trying to prove he belongs and Kevin Knox is proving his worth off the bench. Tim Hardaway Jr. is having the best season of his career and the team is still without Kristaps Porzingis. The bottom half of the east is for the taking and the Knicks are only four games behind the eight seed. Anything can happen in the NBA.
- Brooklyn Nets- (9-18)
A win against Toronto boosted the Nets in my rankings. Even with that win they are struggling on both sides of the ball and are 2-8 in their last ten games. They were “stunned” by a dagger from Paul George a couple of nights ago when it looked like they might win. The Nets do not know how to win yet but they have put themselves in some close games.
- Miami Heat- (10-14)
Congratulations Miami, you just beat the Suns. They did look good against the Suns, but they have not been able to win more than two in a row. Like I said with the Knicks, the East is up for grabs, and the Heat sit one game behind Orlando. If they can improve their home record, which is 5-9, to a winning record they might have a chance.
- Orlando Magic- (12-14)
The Magic might be coming back down to earth after starting the season off in a surprising way. They have lost two straight games and are clinging to the eight seed in the East. They lost in overtime to the Nuggets and then were blown out by the Pacers. The fall could be hard for the Magic if they keep on losing.
- Houston Rockets- (11-13)
Hear me out. I know this is going to make people mad but the Rockets are the 14th seed in the west now and have lost two straight. They have all the ability in the world to be a top ten team, but now they are not even top 20. Houston is 4-6 in their last ten games and with a point differential of -1.3. What worked last year is not working now and the Rockets are finding it hard to win when the threes are not falling. I believe they are a top ten team, but for now I am comfortable putting them here.
- San Antonio Spurs- (12-14)
The Spurs are underachieving big time. They are coming off a 13 point win against a hot Lakers team, but the Spurs still do not look like they have an identity. The Spurs have been known for their defense, but this season they are allowing 114 points a game and have a point differential of -3.7. Before this win they were 1-4 and lost three of those games by over 30 points. This marks a low point in the Popovich coaching era and for a team that has had 20 straight years of success, this is abnormal.
- Washington Wizards- (11-14)
The Wizards are on a three game win streak, but I do not think that changes the fact that everyone in that locker room hates each other. The Wizards have one of the most talented duos in the league with John Wall and Bradley Beal. They have been producing consistently, but the rest of the team has struggled. A three game win streak could signify a change, but only time will tell.
- New Orleans Pelicans- (13-14)
The Pelicans are coming off a loss to the Grizzlies, but the problem in New Orleans is the lack of defense. The Pelicans allow the fourth most points per game but have been able to counteract with the second best points for. Anthony Davis is an absolute monster right now, but his talents are being wasted there. The upside to New Orleans problems is that they have four guys scoring over 18 points per game.
- Charlotte Hornets- (12-13)
The Hornets are a sneaky seven seed in the East and have gone 5-5 in their last ten games. They have a plus three point differential and Kemba has done it all. He leads the team in scoring with 25.8 points per game which is ten more points than their second leading scorer. They are coming off a huge win against the Nuggets after losing three straight to West teams. They play the Knicks twice in their next three games which should help them keep their spot in the east for now.
- Detroit Pistons- (13-10)
The Pistons have lost three in a row after beating the Warriors. Blake Griffin has evolved his game to be more of a perimeter player and has yet to miss a game. This has to stay consistent if they want to keep winning. Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson have both been solid as well, but with this three game losing streak the Pistons need to regroup and fix the problems.
- Utah Jazz- (13-13)
The Jazz are a game back of the eight seed and are on a two game winning streak. They blew out the Rockets even after Rudy Gobert was ejected early in the first quarter. The acquisition of Kyle Korver should help in the long run, but for now Utah is trying to fight their way into the top eight in the west.
- Minnesota Timberwolves- (13-12)
Another team that is just outside of the playoff picture, the Timberwolves are trying to find their identity after trading Jimmy Butler. They are now 9-3 after trading Butler and Karl Anthony Towns has looked a lot better. Robert Covington has fit right in with Minnesota as their key defensive player. The team is clicking more than it did with Butler and everyone finally seems happy.
- Sacramento Kings- (13-11)
The Kings are on a three game win streak and still have the worst point differential of any team above .500. Even with a -1.1 point differential the Kings are still the eight seed in the West for now. This is the first time the Kings have been over .500 this late in the season since the 2004-05 season. They have been clutch in close games and De’Aaron Fox is coming off a huge 30 point 12 assist game against the Cavs. The Kings allow the third most points per game but still find a way to win, and for this franchise, that is all they could ask for.
- Portland Trail Blazers- (14-11)
The Trail Blazers win against the Suns ended their three game losing streak. The Blazers have been starting games slow and trying to come back late. These early games are the most important for teams like Portland that need to secure a playoff spot before the conference gets too competitive.
- Dallas Mavericks- (12-11)
Two of the most impressive young players are on the Mavericks. Luka Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr. have played great basketball during the season. Smith saved the game with a critical block on Tobias Harris and Doncic had his rookie moment when he blocked LeBron James twice. The Mavericks are 7-3 in their last ten games and are coming off a loss to the Pelicans. They are the nine seed for now in the West and it looks like the young talent could lead them to the playoffs.
- Boston Celtics- (14-10)
The Celtics are on their best run of the season with four straight wins. This team is underperforming and they finally look like they are getting on the right track. Gordon Hayward is getting better and the chemistry in Boston just looks improved. If players on this team can accept lesser roles for the better of the team, they will be a contender. For the Celtics to succeed, they need to play like a team.
- Los Angeles Lakers- (15-10)
It has taken some time, but it looks like the Lakers have started to gel together. They are coming off a loss to the Spurs but have gone 7-3 in their last ten games. The duo of Lonzo Ball and LeBron James looks exciting and once everyone gets a feeling for eachother the Lakers are going to be dangerous. This might not be their year, but if they can find the missing piece next year the league better look out.
- Indiana Pacers- (15-10)
Even with Victor Oladipo being out with knee soreness, the Pacers have a deep enough bench to keep things together. They are on a two game win streak and beat the Magic by 22 on Friday. Bojan Bogdanovic is leading the league in three-point shooting and Myles Turner is having a great defensive year. The Pacers are one of the best defensive teams in the league and to top it off Domantas Sabonis is a huge asset coming off the bench. They are probably keeping Oladipo out for safety reason and it looks like that should not be a problem with the way the Pacers are playing.
- Memphis Grizzlies- (15-9)
The Grizzlies look like they did a couple of years ago. The defense is top five in the league, Mike Conley is playing great and Jaren Jackson Jr. is killing it in his first year. Jackson is a force on defense but has helped a lot on offense. They score the fourth lowest points per game in the league but have the second best points allowed. They are another deep team that gives problems with their different defensive match ups.
- Los Angeles Clippers- (16-8)
It has been a few years since the two teams that share the Staples Center were both good. The Clippers have a game and a half lead over the Lakers. Tobias Harris has been on fire and earned Western Conference Player of the Month for November. This Clippers team has no “stars” but they have worked really well together. They force the fewest turnovers in the league, but they also take care of the ball. If they can keep up their magical run, they would be a huge surprise team to make the playoffs.
- Milwaukee Bucks- (16-8)
The Bucks have struggled a bit in their last ten games, going 6-4. They are still dominating teams with a point differential of plus 9.8 which leads the league. They also lead the league in points per game and have been pretty solid on guarding the rim. They give up way too many threes. Giannis is having an MVP season and is helping to mask some of this teams flaws. The Bucks are on pace to win 50 plus games and be a top seed in the East.
- Oklahoma City Thunder- (16-8)
The Thunder are one of the hottest teams in the league but lost a close game to the Bulls Friday night. They have a great defense and offense that has confused teams and led them to wins. Paul George had a clutch shot against the Nets but failed against the Bulls. The Thunder are finally showing their strength after underachieving last season. Paul George and Russell Westbrook are the one two punch the Thunder need and if the pieces around them stay consistent and healthy this team won’t leave the top five any time soon.
- Philadelphia 76ers- (18-9)
Jimmy Butler looks like the missing piece for the 76ers and the closer that they have lacked. They are 8-2 in their last ten games, but are still trying to figure out how everyone fits together. Joel Embiid played one of his worst games against the Raptors on Wednesday and has struggled over the past few games. Embiid seems like he might always be a question mark, but as long as Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler stay healthy the 76ers are a title contender.
- Golden State Warriors- (18-9)
The Warriors have struggled without Steph Curry, but now that he is back it looks like they are back to business. They are on a three game win streak and are still the most talented team in the league. They may be third for now, but with Curry this team will bounce back to number one in no time.
- Denver Nuggets- (17-8)
The Nuggets suffered a huge loss with Paul Millsap going down with a broken toe and Gary Harris being out for a month with a hip injury. They injury bug could not have hit at a worse time. The Nuggets are 7-3 in their last ten games and everything was clicking. They had a seven game win streak and Nikola Jokic is playing like an All-Star. They might have a hard time replacing Millsap and Harris and in the West you can not have any slip ups.
- Toronto Raptors- (21-6)
The Raptors look like a completely different team compared to last year. DeRozan is a great player, but Kawhi Leonard is on another level. He is so healthy right not and Gregg Popovich is angry about it. Kyle Lowry has taken a facilitator role and is thriving in it. The Raptors have few weaknesses and under a new coach and a new star player they have looked like problem. Unless the Raptors fall off somehow they are my favorite to come out of the East.