By Joe Manganiello and Dave Holcomb
1. San Antonio Spurs: They have won 8 of 9, and whooped Miami’s butt at home on national television. Most importantly, for the first time this season, they are healthy.
2. Miami Heat: To anyone who thought Miami would fall off their league-high offensive rates after LeBron’s nose injury… Yeah, never mind…
3. Houston Rockets: They play at a Top 5 pace, and since Feb. 1 they are sixth in defensive efficiency. This seems unfair.
4. Indiana Pacers
5. Oklahoma City Thunder
6. Los Angeles Clippers
7. Chicago Bulls: Joakim Noah has transformed into Larry Bird the last couple weeks. Sidebar: Could there be two more opposite looking basketball players? Possibly Shawn Bradley and Muggsy Bogues, but that seems too obvious.
8. Dallas Mavericks: The Mavericks finished tied for the most wins in the month of February, and have have the third-most efficient offense in 2014. How is this happening?? Did they hide the old Monta Ellis in Alastor Moody’s trunk and replace him with a pick-and-roll terminator? After a couple seasons of mediocrity following the 2011 NBA Finals, Dirk Nowitzki and Marc Cuban are totally capable of dark magic.
9. Washington Wizards
10. Portland Trail Blazers
11. Golden State Warriors
12. Memphis Grizzlies: How tough is the West? Memphis has won 12 of 20 and STILL can’t crack the playoffs.
13. Brooklyn Nets: Good news is they are 10-5 over their last 15 games, and are now over .500 for the first time all season. Bad news is they are still the most expensive team in basketball history – and destined for a first-round exit.
14. Phoenix Suns: Unquestionably the NBA’s best story on the season, Phoenix could be a hard-luck loser if Dallas and Memphis continue their winning ways through March and April. But with Eric Bledsoe on the way back – the Suns 16-8 with him this season – the race for the final three seeds in the Western Conference will be must-see television.
15. Toronto Raptors
16. Minnesota Timberwolves: If Minnesota played in the Eastern Conference, they’d be battling with Washington and Brooklyn for the No. 5 seed. Instead, they are four games out of ninth place. Isn’t there a way to expedite the process of Milwaukee moving to Seattle so that they can switch conferences with the T’Wolves – for Kevin Love‘s sake?
17. Cleveland Cavaliers
18. Sacramento Kings: The Kings are the 12th best scoring and rebounding team in basketball. How are they still so bad? (We look at their defensive statistics.) Glad that got cleared up. Well, here’s to Jimmer Fredette being the latest King freed from the former Maloof-purgatory!
19. Charlotte Bobcats
20. Orlando Magic: Since the All-Star break: Arron Afflalo is scoring over 23 points per game; Tobias Harris is averaging about 19 and 6; Nikola Vucevic has a double-double with over eleven rebounds; and Victor Oladipo quietly continues to make his Rookie of the Year case by collecting 14 points, four rebounds and four assists a night. We love this nucleus!
21. Detroit Pistons
22. Utah Jazz
23. Boston Celtics
24. New Orleans Pelicans: Just 2-8 over their last ten games, it seems like a safe bet that New Orleans is going to go for it – finishing in the Bottom 5 to earn back the first round pick they otherwise care packaged to Philadelphia last June.
25. Los Angeles Lakers
26. Denver Nuggets: It’s difficult to say what’s done Denver the most damage this season – injuries (Danilo Gallinari never appeared for them this season), odd personnel choices (what is Nate Robinson doing for them exactly?), or being in the Western Conference (Denver trails Atlanta in the loss column by a single game).
27. Milwaukee Bucks
28. New York Knicks
29. Atlanta Hawks
30. Philadelphia 76ers