1. Golden State Warriors (29-1) —
    A 3-0 week was highlighted with a tough defensive win against the Cavaliers in a replay of last year’s finals. Yet again, Golden State showed who was boss despite only scoring 89. Amongst many other injuries, Steph Curry could be sitting with a leg injury shortly after being named AP Athlete of the Year for 2015. This team has a very legitimate shot at breaking the Bulls’ record of 72 wins.
  2. San Antonio Spurs (27-6) —
    The Rockets loss on Christmas was tough, but it’s hard to ignore how well this team is playing. They’re now 18-0 at home after a close win over the Timberwolves, and Kawhi Leonard has solidified his name in the upper echelon of team leaders. Sometimes, it’s hard to even remember that LaMarcus Aldridge remains one of the best low post players in the league.
  3. Oklahoma City Thunder (22-10) —
    The lone loss this week came to the Bulls, who desperately needed a win. With Kevin Durant back, this team is nearly unstoppable, and has put themselves in the top-three-in-the-West conversation. Russell Westbrook is still playing some of the best basketball of his life, as he’s in the top five in the NBA in scoring, assists and steals per game.
  4. Cleveland Cavaliers (21-9) —
    The hangover from the Warriors game was real, as Cleveland got absolutely demolished in Portland, losing by nearly 30 to a weak team. The Cavs are still definitely the team to beat in the East, but their weak spots have been exposed. Kyrie Irving is back, but absolutely not in full form yet. He’ll get there soon, proving so by hitting a few clutch shots against the Suns to seal the victory.
  5. Indiana Pacers (18-12) +2
    Indiana followed up a bad three game losing streak with a win over the lowly Timberwolves and a win over the very good Atlanta Hawks. With Monta Ellis and George Hill playing at full speed, some of the burden can be taken off of Paul George, who’s averaging almost 19 shots taken per game.
  6. Atlanta Hawks (21-13) -1
    The Hawks strung together a nice six-game win streak that included five wins over Eastern Conference teams before falling in Indiana. They’re certainly not on the torrid 60-win pace of last season, but this year’s Hawks are a good candidate to make play for the #2 seed in an East that is extremely contentious so far.
  7. Toronto Raptors (19-13) +1
    The Raptors had a lot of players return from injury this week, but were not able to put away the Bulls. Still, they’ve got one of the league’s nastiest backcourts in DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, who are both putting in PERs above 20 at the moment (DeRozan 21.0, Lowry 23.5).
  8. Los Angeles Clippers (19-13) +2
    The Clippers are on a much needed win streak after close losses to two of the three contending teams in the West. But the most important news out of LA this week was a partially torn tendon to Blake Griffin, who will miss at least two weeks. Can the team keep racking up wins in his absence? It’s up to the role players (looking at you, Austin Rivers).
  9. Miami Heat (18-13) -3
    The loss to the Nets looks really ugly, but otherwise, Miami had a good week that featured wins over an upstart Magic team and the relatively-revitalized Pelicans. Still, an overtime loss to the Grizzlies was ugly – they went for just 90 despite an overtime period, and gave the ball away 14 times. Amar’e Stoudemire just isn’t himself anymore.
  10. Dallas Mavericks (18-13) -1
    Brooklyn, Chicago and Milwaukee went down in order this week as Dallas racked up three straight against the East. With Wesley Matthews and Chandler Parsons back, this team can contend in the West, and have shown sparks of that in the last few games.
  11. Chicago Bulls (17-12) —
    Nothing says “team without an identity” than losing to the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets (at home!) and then going on the road and beating the Thunder. The Bulls pulled a 2-1 week with another good win over the Raptors, but something doesn’t seem right in Chicago. Is it time to get on the #FreeBobbyPortis train?
  12. Boston Celtics (18-13) +3
    Boston is now on a four-game win streak in which they have allowed an average of 93 PPG, below their already-good average of 98.7 PPG this season. This team doesn’t have a true scoring star, but now that Marcus Smart is back, the Smart-Thomas combo may be interesting to watch.
  13. Orlando Magic (18-13) +1
    Similar to Boston, Orlando thrives on defense without a true scorer on the team. They’re just 2-7 when allowing more than 100 PPG, and 16-6 when they don’t. Nikola Vucevic continues to outperform expectations, as he’s averaging 17.3 PPG on 53.3% shooting and a PER of 23.2.
  14. Charlotte Hornets (17-13) +2
    The Hornets beat Kobe’s Lakers as Michael Jordan said a goodbye to the Black Mamba. Kemba Walker is having a great season, and put up 38 against them – 18 in the fourth quarter. After talk that Sam Dekker would be the best former Badger to enter the NBA this season, Frank Kaminsky is starting to emerge – in his last ten, he’s averaging nearly 10 points and 6 boards per game in 25 minutes of play.
  15. Memphis Grizzlies (18-16) +2
    Holding the dynamic Heat to just 90 in a close win (in overtime) was a major positive for a Grizzlies team that’s struggled recently. They continue to win small and lose big, and are 7th-worst in point differential (-3.3). It will be interesting to see how this team responds to a two-game suspension for Matt Barnes.
  16. Detroit Pistons (17-15) -4
    The Pistons have dropped three straight to Eastern Conferences foes and now find themselves out of the competitive playoff picture. But Brandon Jennings is close to being back and Andre Drummond is putting up Moses Malone-like numbers. Do they have the talent to make it to the playoffs this year?
  17. Houston Rockets (16-17) -4
    Houston was given four tests this week, and it failed three of them despite winning perhaps the most important game against the Spurs on Christmas. With trade rumors flying and the constant drama surrounding Ty Lawson and Dwight Howard, the Rockets have yet to find their identity, and this far into the season, it’s becoming a problem.
  18. Washington Wizards (14-15) +1
    The Wizards plateaued at .500 this week before losing to the Clippers, but there are encouraging signs in Washington. John Wall is putting up nice numbers on a team that otherwise lacks scorers. Their defense needs work, however – their 104.8 PPG allowed is near the bottom five in the NBA.
  19. New York Knicks (15-18) -1
    New York broke an ugly four game losing streak with a win over the Pistons on Tuesday night. Their last seven have been against the East, and that test did not go great, as they went 3-4. They have a winning record against the West (6-5), but won’t face a Western Conference team until the Spurs on January 8th – they have to make it through the Bulls, Hawks (twice) and Heat first.
  20. Utah Jazz (13-16) +1
    The Alec Burks injury vs. the Clippers was ugly, and hurts for a team that is bottom five in points, as he’s their third leading scorer. Utah is not finding their way against tougher teams, but remains in playoff contention in an extremely shallow West.
  21. Sacramento Kings (12-19) +2
    DeMarcus Cousins is getting heat again after not leaving the court following an ejection and could face suspension time. Nothing is going right in Sacramento, and despite recent wins over the Pacers and Raptors, not much is changing. Amazingly, the Kings are only two games out of the playoffs in the West.
  22. Milwaukee Bucks (12-21) +2
    Yes, they’ve lost three straight and remain leagues away from a playoff berth in the East, but Milwaukee is showing signs of improvement. They’ve played closely in the last two losses against the Mavs and Thunder, and the Monroe-Giannis-Middleton combo are now all averaging right around 15 PPG. It’s not great, but it’s a starting point for one of the youngest teams in the league.
  23. Portland Trail Blazers (13-20) +4
    Portland finally pieced together two wins after dropping five straight, and that came in mighty fashion with a huge win over the East-leading Cavaliers. Above all else, this is a breakout season for CJ McCollum, who after averaging just 6.8 PPG in about 16 minutes last year is now averaging 20.4 in 35 minutes of playing time per game on 43.8% shooting (39.3% from three).
  24. Denver Nuggets (12-20) -4
    Granted, they’ve played three of the top four teams in the NBA in their last three, but the Nuggets are still on a losing streak following losses to the Spurs, Thunder and Cavs in that order. Hopefully, a clutch win over the Blazers will end a disappointing 2015 for Denver.
  25. New Orleans Pelicans (10-21)
    The Pelicans have as many wins in their last 10 games as they did in their first 21. They lost a close game to the Heat on Christmas but followed it up with a win vs. the competitive Rockets. However, Anthony Davis is on injury watch, and that’s a big problem for a team where he’s 23% of the scoring and 26% of the rebounding.
  26. Minnesota Timberwolves (11-20) -1
    The Wolves continue to plummet as they’ve now lost four in a row, including two to the Spurs. The good news, though? Karl-Anthony Towns is looking like a great decision as the first pick in the NBA Draft – he’s averaging 15.9 PPG in just 29 minutes of playtime per game on 53.4% shooting to go along with nearly 10 boards per game.
  27. Phoenix Suns (12-21) -5
    Phoenix has lost five in a row and seven of its last eight in an absolute tailspin. To compound things, guard Eric Bledsoe, the team’s leading scorer, will miss the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery. Things aren’t looking great in the desert right now.
  28. Brooklyn Nets (9-22) —
    The Nets have won two of their last four, and to two good teams (Bulls and Heat), as Wayne Ellington and Shane Larkin have provided sparks off the bench. If Brooklyn wants to improve, it’s going to need to find a scorer, and these two may be good places to look.
  29. Los Angeles Lakers (5-27) —
    The Kobe tour continues with more losses, this week to the Clippers, Grizzlies and Hornets. The Lakers have put up 100 in four of their five wins, but just six of their 27 losses, as shooting continues to be an issue. And although Kobe himself is starting to heat up, Louis Williams, D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, 3rd, 4th and 5th in minutes, are all shooting below 42% from the floor and below 34% from three.
  30. Philadelphia 76ers (2-31) —
    Another one! This week, it was to the lowly and tanking Suns, but still, a win’s a win. The 76ers .061 win percentage puts them on a pace for just five wins, which would be two worse than the all time worst record set by the 2012 Bobcats (7-59). Can they pull it off? Colangelo hopes not.


Photo courtesy of bleacherreport.com