1) Boston Celtics – The winning streak has come to an end at 16. The Miami Heat were the ones to stop the Celtics hot streak. The question going forward for me is if the Celtics start losing games more frequently without the pressure of having to defend the winning streak can they maintain much of what got them there? Still, this team has played the best basketball this season.
2) Houston Rockets – They have already beaten the Warriors this season. James Harden is the clear-cut favorite to win the MVP right now AND Chris Paul has returned from injury.
3) Golden State Warriors – The Warriors lost two big games against two of the top teams in the league this last week to the Celtics and the Thunder. The crazy thing about Golden State is that these losses are measuring sticks for the rest of the league. When a win against the Warriors affects your status in the NBA, it says more about the Warriors than it does the team that beat them.
4) Cleveland Cavaliers – The Cavaliers started off to a rough, but they have won 6 games in a row and are sitting at the 4th seed in the East. I have them slightly over Detroit because they a) just dominated the Pistons b) they have LeBron James and c) the Cavaliers scare me more than the Pistons.
5) Toronto Raptors – Toronto has been really good this season. Unfortunately, their 4-game winning streak ended tonight, but they have been a top team so far this season.
6) San Antonio Spurs – San Antonio overcame a 23-point deficit to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Still without Leonard, this team is 3rd in the Western Conference. Their blowout loss to the Pelicans wasn’t pretty, but it’s just one game.
7) Detroit Pistons – Detroit has been a lot of fun to watch this season. Tobias Harris is playing a terrific brand of basketball along with Andre Drummond. Losing to the Pacers while having a 22-point lead in the 3rd quarter wasn’t ideal, but they came back and shellacked the Timberwolves the following game. That was unfortunately followed up with a 116-88 loss to the Cavaliers.
8) Minnesota Timberwolves – The T-Wolves have been a bit of a head scratcher this season. Their best games have come when Jeff Teague has played his best. Shabazz has been awful when he’s on the court and their defense (which is ranked 27th in the NBA) has been abysmal. Regardless, they’re still winning games. They did lose by 3 to the Pistons and 16 to the Hornets.
9) Philadelphia 76ers – The 76ers lost a tough game to the Warriors but they did have a 22-point lead at half time. Joel Embiid has been a bit of a character this season and whether you love it or hate it, this team and this franchise fuels off his emotions. Ben Simmons has been the Rookie of the Year so far, but he isn’t even focused on that. He wants to win rings.
10) Portland Trailblazers – The Trailblazers are ranked 2nd in the NBA in defense. That right there explains why this team is on top of their game at this point. Their offense has been questionable, but I like this team going forward.
11) Washington Wizards – John Wall has not been at the top of his game but Brad Beal and Otto Porter Jr. have delivered consistently for this Wizards team. Wall is still playing solid basketball, but he seems to be settling for the 3-point shot too often. I want to see what they do with Gortat and Mahinmi. They have lost three of their last four.
12) Oklahoma City Thunder – If there is any team that wants to beat the Warriors more than anyone, it’s the Thunder. If there is any individual who wants to beat the Warriors more than anyone, it’s Russell Westbrook. The Thunder dominated the Warriors in OKC tonight, and this is why I said the Thunder are the biggest threat to the Warriors in the preseason. They are struggling early on in the season, but when they play at this level, they’re an extremely tough out.
13) Indiana Pacers – The Pacers have won 4 in a row thanks to Bogdanovic and Oladipo. They also saw Myles Turner play terrific in Sunday’s game against the Heat. This team continues to get solid play from a variety of players every night and their shortened 8-man rotation has helped spread the wealth minute wise for Lance, Joseph and Sabonis. The Pacers have a very heavy home schedule for the month of December, so this current level of play could continue in their favor.
14) New Orleans Pelicans – Cousins and Davis had 53-points, 26 rebounds and 7 assists in their blowout win against the Spurs.
15) Charlotte Hornets – I have really liked the way the Hornets have played this season. Especially now that the Hornets have Batum back, they are in good hands.
16) Denver Nuggets – I am concerned with the Nuggets going forward. Paul Millsap will be a huge loss for this team. Losing by 30-points to the Rockets with no Ryan Anderson or Eric Gordon is disappointing to say the least.
17) New York Knicks – The Knicks had a nice win over the Raptors tonight. scoring 41-points to the Raptors 10-points in the 3rd quarter. Tim Hardaway Jr. is a streaky player, but when he is going he is near unstoppable. Porzingis has still been consistently good, and this team is right there in the playoff hunt sitting at 10-7 and 5th in the East. I could have them a tad too low, but the Hornets and Pacers have been playing better the last week.
18) Milwaukee Bucks – The Bucks won in overtime against the Suns tonight, and I am sure that was an interesting atmosphere for Eric Bledsoe. The Bucks got slaughtered by the Mavericks and lost to Washington by 11-points. I want this team to succeed but they are definitely a mix of hot and cold this season.
19) Miami Heat – The Miami Heat ended the Celtics 16-game winning streak, holding off the rallying Celtics in the 4th quarter. This team is so up and down like Milwaukee. They are a playoff caliber team, but they have yet to show consistency. I think they need to build off this big win and make a nice push in December.
20) Los Angeles Lakers – The Lakers had a nice comeback win against the Bulls, but they still have a lot of work to do. They are in the playoff mix right now, but I don’t believe it will last. Lonzo Ball has to do a better job at being more effective on the offensive end.
21) Utah Jazz – The Jazz lost some key players to injury, but they still have a decent amount of depth and a solid coach. They beat the Magic by 40-points on the road and then topped off the Bulls by a 30-point win. This team has a future star in Mitchell and him getting time to grow is a blessing in disguise.
22) Orlando Magic – Orlando has lost 6-games in a row. The old saying is, “water finds its’ level”. I like players on the Magic, but they aren’t the team we saw in the 1st few weeks.
23) Memphis Grizzlies – Without Conley this team will be limited with what they can do. Losing by one to the Mavericks on a buzzer beater 3 is a tough way to go down though. I love Marc Gasol but this team has lost six straight.
24) Phoenix Suns – They are playing better and while there are no expectations for this team going forward, they are playing fearless. I like the edginess to Devin Booker and believe this team is heading in the right direction. However, they have lost 4 of their last 5. Two of those games were against the LA Lakers too.
25) Brooklyn Nets – Who would have thought that Spencer Dinwiddie would be making the headlines for the Nets this season? With both Lin and Russell down for a significant period of time, Dinwiddie is taking full advantage of this time. I would like to see some other young prospects on this team take advantage of the same opportunity.
26) Dallas Mavericks – In the last three games the Mavericks have been playing much better. They defeated the Bucks by 32-points, the Grizzlies by 1-point on a game winning three from Harrison Barnes, and lost a tough, competitive game to the Celtics. The Mavericks to me are in good shape heading forward, but they still could embrace a full youth movement surrounded by Barnes and Smith Jr.
27) Sacramento Kings – The Kings have decided to give some of their young talent more playing time and that is a good thing for the Kings. They’re still playing George Hill and Zach Randolph a decent amount of minutes, but allowing this young core to grow together is the ideal situation.
28) Los Angeles Clippers – Doc is apparently on the hot seat. De’Andre Jordan is rumored to be on the trading-block and the Clippers have lost Pat Beverly for the rest of the season. I was unsure what to expect from this team and now after 17-games, I am even more confused. They did end their losing streak tonight to the Hawks, but you have to consider who they beat. Atlanta has been horrific this season.
29) Chicago Bulls – The Bulls do have some young pieces to work with going forward but they’re not talented enough to defeat teams on a regular basis. The Bulls are embracing their youth movement by allowing Ports and Markkanen time to grow, but they should try their best to unload Robin Lopez somewhere. Their offensive struggles will continue to happen with this roster makeup and at this point, it might be a battle of the 1st overall pick between the Hawks and the Bulls for the rest of the season.
30) Atlanta Hawks – The Clippers without half their starting lineup ended their 9-game losing streak against Atlanta. There is not much to be excited about this season, but give it time and I believe the Hawks will be a playoff team in the next couple of years.
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