1. Golden State Warriors (44-4) +1
    And so it goes: with a 30-point win over the NBA’s other superpower, the Warriors reclaim #1 in these rankings. And 48 games in, this team is truly pushing the boundaries on the best regular season of all time. It’s been a total team effort over the last week, as Klay Thompson has led in scoring some nights and Draymond Green racked up another couple of triple-doubles.
  2. San Antonio Spurs (39-8) -1
    Admittedly, I might have been a little too high on the Spurs over the last couple of weeks. Faced with two major tests this week, against the best in the East and West, they went 0-2. For any other team, that’s no big deal. But for these Spurs, they’ll have to deal with losing someone as big as Tim Duncan to injury, because it could happen. Duncan may be on his last legs, but he gives this team great depth at power forward and center. A commanding 130-99 win over the Rockets salvaged the week, and San Antonio still gets Golden State at home later in the season.
  3. Cleveland Cavaliers (34-12) +2
    A big week for the Cavs, who have now won four in a row including the huge win over the Spurs. A lot of buzz has been generated this week when it was announced that Tyronn Lue, who has now coached all of five games in the NBA, will coach the All-Star Game. Still, he’s 4-1 in those games, and the Cavs look arguably stronger than they have all season.
  4. Toronto Raptors (32-15) —
    Toronto is the hottest team in the NBA right now, and it’s not even close. They’ve won a franchise-record 11 in a row, and only five of those 11 have come within ten points. Additionally, their 7-0 homestand that ended with a close win over the Pistons was just the fifth of its kind in the last 20 seasons. Cleveland should be scared, as Toronto certainly looks like a contender right now.
  5. Oklahoma City Thunder (36-13) -2
    Another fine week for OKC has them just four games back of San Antonio. This is born largely out of the work of Russell Westbrook, who had a monster January, averaging 20 points, 11 assists and 9 boards a game. The Thunder are on pace to hit 60 wins – so that makes it possible for a team to get to 60 wins and yet finish third in their conference. Interesting.
  6. Los Angeles Clippers (32-16) —
    The Clippers are also on a nice four game win streak, including quality wins over the Bulls, Hawks, and Pacers. Unfortunately, the negative attention came this week in the form of Blake Griffin getting into, uh, some sort of scuffle with an equipment manager. That means he’ll remain out for over a month. But in his absence, the team continues to roll, begging the question of his value and fit in Doc’s system.
  7. Miami Heat (27-21) +9
    The Heat bounced back from a very rough stretch of games and have now won four straight, all over Eastern Conference teams and three in a row on the road. In Hassan Whiteside’s absence, Amar’e Stoudemire has surprisingly stepped up, and even Dwyane Wade is playing better. Miami could be considered a dark horse for the playoffs, and are playing for at least the three-seed right now.
  8. Memphis Grizzlies (28-20) —
    The Grizz also find themselves on a solid three-game home win streak, as well as the five-spot in the West. Obviously, there’s quite a drop off in the conference after the Clippers, but Memphis is playing its best basketball all season – eight straight games with over 100 isn’t easy for the 26th best offense in the league.
  9. Dallas Mavericks (28-22) +2
    It was a very busy January for Dallas, who played 18 games last month, a franchise record. Dirk has sat a couple of those, which has allowed perennial role player Chandler Parsons to step up significantly. Encouragingly, they’ve had the last two opponents to under 80 points, even if those opponents were the Suns and Nets.
  10. Chicago Bulls (26-20) -1
    Ahh, the UnpredictaBulls strike again – after a dominant performance in a win over the Cavs, they lose to the Heat and then, a couple of days later, get blown out by the Clippers. Despite the playoffs never being in question, there’s been constant frustration in Chicago this season. Now, with Mirotic out with an appendectomy, Rose is having to step up more.
  11. Boston Celtics (27-22) -1
    Marcus Smart is back, Isaiah Thomas is an All-Star, and the Celtics are at full health. Things are looking up for a Boston team that many didn’t give much of a chance coming into the season. They’ve quietly scored 109 or more in their last ten games with one of the most octane offenses in the league.
  12. Atlanta Hawks (27-22) -5
    Atlanta has now dropped its last three and five of its last six and has subsequently fallen to the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Paul Millsap suffered a slight ankle sprain but is back now – but Jeff Teague has seen production go down, and this team is far shallower than most think.
  13. Indiana Pacers (25-22) —
    The Pacers salvaged a rough streak of games with two solid wins over the Hawks and Nuggets, both at home. They remain towards the bottom of the playoffs in the East, and are going to need to keep production going from the supporting cast to stay above ground.
  14. Portland Trail Blazers (23-26) +6
    Portland now occupies that pesky eight-seed in the West, but they’ve surely earned it. They’ve racked up four straight, all against teams with worse records than their own, behind the efforts of CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard. The Hoopers’ baby is having himself quite a season – despite being left off the All-Star team, he’s going for 24.3 PPG and 7 APG.
  15. Charlotte Hornets (23-25) +3
    The Hornets continue to hover right around .500, and they’ll need more than that if they want to make the playoffs. Still, this franchise is playing some of its best basketball in quite a while, with eight guys averaging at least nine points per game. They’ve got a couple of tough home games coming up – the Cavs, Heat, Wiz, and Bulls all await within the next eight days. Charlotte’s got something to prove.
  16. Detroit Pistons (25-23) -2
    After an improbable start to the season, Detroit is now the eight-seed in the East and remains in by just two games over Charlotte. They dropped critical games against Cleveland and Toronto, but will thankfully get the Nets on Monday night. The Pistons still lead the league in versatility, with the regular starters only missing an incredible two combined games.
  17. Houston Rockets (25-25) -5
    Just when you think things are going well, Houston drops three in a row. Recent tests against the league’s best have all come up short, as the Rockets are 0-6 in their last six games against the Warriors, Cavs, Spurs, Clippers, and Thunder. This wasn’t the season Houston was hoping for, and they’ve got a lot to prove with just 32 games left.
  18. Utah Jazz (21-25) +5
    The signature defense in Utah is back, as the Jazz have limited opponents to 92 or less in four straight. It’s going to take a little more than just that to make it into the playoff picture in the West. Gordon Hayward is emerging as a real leader on this team, and he’s one of only two guys (Trey Burke) to play in every game this season for the Jazz.
  19. Washington Wizards (21-24) -4
    Washington picked up a close win over Houston to stop the bleeding and keep playoff chances at least a possibility for the Wizards. Despite injuries, John Wall is playing his best basketball all season, and subsequently leads the team in PER (19.8). Washington will be without coach Randy Wittman for the next two games, as his brother unfortunately passed away.
  20. New York Knicks (23-27) -1
    A win against the lowly Suns is the only thing New York has to show in its last six games, as the Knicks have dropped games to some of the league’s best over the last few weeks. They’re only three games out of the eight-seed Pistons, but they’ll need production from the bench if they want to win games. That’s been absent so far this season.
  21. New Orleans Pelicans (18-28) +3
    The Pellies are 7-3 in their last ten after going 11-25 to start the season. Still, they don’t have much in the way of quality wins this season, and have yet to prove even remotely that they’re ready for the postseason. At 3.5 games out, it’s still a possibility, but more and more players are going to have to step up. A small supporting cast is emerging for Anthony Davis.
  22. Sacramento Kings (20-27) -5
    After racking up five straight wins, the Kings have now dropped four in a row, three of which were very close games. In each of those losses, they’ve allowed more than 110. In fact, the Kings are dead last in defense in the NBA, and with DeMarcus Cousins ailing, this team is going to need to use everything in its power to stop itself from plummeting.
  23. Orlando Magic (21-25) -2
    The Magic were 19-12 coming into January. Then, they went 2-13 in the month, and now find themselves three games out of the playoffs in the East. The pieces are all there, and even though this team is young, they have some real talent. The next six games will be very, very tough though: at San Antonio, at OKC, vs. the Clippers, vs. Atlanta, at Atlanta, and vs. San Antonio. Yikes.
  24. Milwaukee Bucks (20-29) -2
    Despite sending Jabari Parker to the Futures game, the Bucks continued their drought in the All-Star despite having a nice resumé built for Giannis and Monroe. Their early February slate provides an interesting slew of middling teams that could make or break Milwaukee’s season. Their toughest contests in February include Atlanta, Houston, and Boston.
  25. Denver Nuggets (18-30) —
    The Nuggets have not been held and have not held an opponent under 100 for their last eight games, which is more a testament to their mediocre offense than to their defense. Nikola Jokic is really making a name for himself, and continues to outperform rookie projections. Unless the Nuggets go for an offseason blockbuster trade, this team is not set for a playoff run anytime soon.
  26. Minnesota Timberwolves (14-35) —
    Minnesota has dropped its last four and 15 of its last 17 after starting the season 12-20. On the bright side, their top draft pick is actually panning out, as Karl-Anthony Towns has had himself an incredible season, averaging 16.6 PPG and 9.9 RPG. While some talent is present up North, Minnesota can still consider 2016 a rebuilding year.
  27. Brooklyn Nets (12-36) —
    The Nets are headed for their worst season since 2009-2010, when they went 12-70. Thankfully, they’ve already hit that 12-win threshold, but there’s not much to smile about in Brooklyn. Only Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young are above the 15.0 league-average PER, and the team is 29th in total offense.
  28. Phoenix Suns (14-35) —
    The Suns are a ridiculous 2-16 since the Eric Bledsoe injury after starting 13-19. Now ahead of the Lakers by just 5.5 games, a nice lottery picking is looking like a possibility. Phoenix has some good trade bait in Brandon Knight and Mirza Teletovic, which they should consider if they want to tank this season (probably the smart move).
  29. Philadelphia 76ers (7-41) +1
    Philly is not dead last in this list for the first time this season after beating the Suns and playing marginally better over their last few. The most exciting part of their week, easily, was taking the Warriors down to the literal last second of the game, only to be thwarted by a Harrison Barnes’ three. The ROY race seems tight between Okafor, Porzingis, and Towns.
  30. Los Angeles Lakers (9-41) -1
    The Lakers’ tenth loss in a row, to the middling Hornets, has them tied for a franchise record. Anger, frustration and hopelessness are starting to build in L.A., and Kobe’s last hurrah is nothing much to hurrah about. In fact, the Fightin’ Kobe’s have put up 100 in just one of their last 12 games.

    Photo: USA Today Sports