1. Golden State Warriors (53-5) —
    Steph Curry continues to be ridiculous by every standard and has already broken the record for three-pointers made in a season…with 24 GAMES LEFT TO GO. Few players in any major sport have accomplished the kind of season he’s having. And oh yeah, in case you missed it, he drained a 30-footer to win in OT against the Thunder the other night. No big deal.
  2. San Antonio Spurs (50-9) —
    The poor Spurs are playing some great ball – in almost every season in the last decade, they’d have the best record by far, but they’re overshadowed by the even better Warriors. They’ve now scored 50 wins the past 17 seasons and solidified themselves as one of the best all-time franchises in the NBA.
  3. Toronto Raptors (39-19) +2
    The Raptors climb into the top three this week after a close win over the conference-leading Cavaliers. Sure, they couldn’t beat the Pistons with Kyle Lowry on the bench, but to be fair, Lowry is really integral to the team and the Pistons aren’t half bad. In fact, Lowry had a clean 43 in the win over the Cavs on 15-of-20 shooting.
  4. Cleveland Cavaliers (41-17) -1
    The Cavs hold a two game lead in the East but have struggled recently, losing three of their last four, all to Eastern Conference foes. The third of those losses came at the hands of the lowly Wizards while LeBron was on the bench. Does this team have the right stuff to make a deep run in the playoffs, or will they be thwarted early on? They’ve yet to prove themselves.
  5. Oklahoma City Thunder (41-18) -1
    The Thunder have also had a rough stretch, losing four of their last five. To be fair, one of those losses was due to Steph Curry’s sheer ridiculousness, but a loss to the Pellies and a dismantling by the Cavs raise some concerns. OKC has given up at least 120 in their last two; is their 18th-ranked defense enough to take down the best of the West?
  6. Los Angeles Clippers (38-20) —
    Another season, another above-.600 winning percentage for the Clippers. With recent wins over the Kings, Suns and Spurs, L.A. continues to roll to another generous seeding in the West. For the team that plays better without Blake Griffin, though, his looming return may beg a couple of questions.
  7. Boston Celtics (35-25) —
    The Celtics weren’t able to get rid of their many draft picks before the trade deadline, but they continue to roll and now seem like a dark horse in the East. They’ve won 12 of their last 16 and continue to score in showers; their seven-10+ PPG scorers are rare across most NBA teams.
  8. Memphis Grizzlies (34-24) —
    Besides a hiccup to the tumultuous Suns, the Grizz continue to win games by way of defense. Still, they’re on their way to one of the lowest winning percentages in a number of seasons, and having Marc Gasol out for the rest of the season doesn’t sit well for a team that rarely makes it deep into the postseason.
  9. Atlanta Hawks (33-27) +4
    The Hawks responded to three straight losses by limiting the Bulls to 88 and the Hornets to just 76 to get back to their winning ways. This is a team with many individual working pieces; when those pieces complement each other well (as they often do), the Hawks are tough to beat. Names like Teague, Schroder and Bazemore will be ones to look out for come the playoffs.
  10. Miami Heat (33-26) -1
    Joe Johnson is an exciting addition to this perplexing team, but his presence was made known in a resounding win over the Knicks on Sunday night. However, the Heat are going to need to start scoring if they want to move up the rankings, as they’re second to last in the NBA in PPG at 96.9 a game.
  11. Portland Trail Blazers (32-28) +1
    Portland is on absolute fire right now, having won eight of their past nine. They’ve failed to surpass 100 just once in that streak, and everything about the littlest Hoopers’ game (Damian Lillard, if you haven’t seen the commercials) is heating up. His 25.2 PPG have the Blazers looked poised to take down some teams down the stretch.
  12. Charlotte Hornets (30-28) -1
    The Hornets have played their last ten games against the Eastern Conference and have won seven of those games, losing to only the Cavs, Hawks and Heat. They closed out a tough road trip at a 4-2 clip. Though this is a team that has largely not had an identity this season, Charlotte’s playing well.
  13. Detroit Pistons (31-29) +6
    With the current lowliness of the Bulls, Detroit is approximately zero games out of a playoff spot. After winning four straight, including two over the top two teams in the East, now seems like the prime opportunity to jump into the playoff picture. With a big game coming up in San Antonio, can the Pistons capitalize?
  14. Dallas Mavericks (32-28) —
    The Mavs bounced back from a 2-6 stretch by winning their last two against the Nuggets and T-Wolves. Though the major pieces to this team are up there in age, they’ve got the talent to compete in the West, and are likely looking at a first round matchup against the Thunder or Spurs. Regardless, we’ve got some great basketball ahead of us.
  15. Indiana Pacers (31-28) -5
    The Pacers have hit a bit of a rough patch, now losing three of their last four. The key to this team will be not wearing out their starters. The upcoming stretch will be make-it-or-break-it time in Indianapolis: in the next ten games, the Pacers will at Cleveland, Charlotte, Dallas and Atlanta, and home against San Antonio, Boston, Toronto, and OKC.
  16. Chicago Bulls (30-28) -1
    With injuries plaguing an already confusing team, the Bulls are the number one contender to fall out of the playoffs in the East. Pau Gasol has stepped up, and Doug McDermott looks like the real deal, but still, the Bulls are 3-7 in their last ten, and have gone 5-11 against teams with winning records since the start of 2016.
  17. Washington Wizards (28-30) +1
    Two straight wins (including over Cleveland) have the Wizards sitting just two games out of an eight-seed, essentially the same place they’ve been at all season. John Wall continues to put up double-doubles consistently, but this team is going to need to make moves, and fast.
  18. Utah Jazz (28-30) -2
    It’s been a rough stretch for the Jazz, as they’ve gone 2-5 and fell out of the eight seed in the West. The good news: the Rockets look weak, as many of their recent losses have come against extremely hot teams, and the team is mostly healthy. The bad news: the Jazz will face the Celtics, Raptors, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Hawks, and Warriors in their next six.
  19. Houston Rockets (29-30) -2
    The Rockets remain in the playoffs by a half game, but continue to drop critical games against Western Conference playoff teams. Milwaukee, New Orleans and Philadelphia are all coming up on the schedule, and are important games for the Rockets to win. If they can take those and a couple against teams better than themselves, they’ll stay in playoff consideration.
  20. Orlando Magic (26-32) +1
    It may be just a season too early for the Magic as they continue to fall further from the hope of the playoffs this season. Still, there are some bright spots – they’ve averaged 120.3 PPG in their last four wins, and many of the young starters have showed immense raw talent this year. In the future, Orlando could use one big name to be the glue for the organization.
  21. New Orleans Pelicans (23-35) -1
    The last ten or so games have been a good glimpse into what New Orleans’ season could have been had things gone Alvin Gentry’s way. Despite a couple of embarrassing losses, wins in Detroit and home against the Thunder are nothing to scoff at. Oh, and Anthony Davis also put up 59-and-20 earlier this week.
  22. Sacramento Kings (24-33) +3
    After taking down the 76ers and the Nuggets twice in three nearly-identically scored games, the Kings have dropped two straight to some of the best of the West. The future is confusing for Sacramento, as they’ve got talent, just not enough to compete in the deep Western Conference. With management in a tizzy, the offseason will be an interesting one in Northern California.
  23. Milwaukee Bucks (24-35) +1
    The Steve Novak transaction ended up being disappointing already, as he’ll remain out for the rest of the season with a sprained MCL. The Bucks have been playing well as a team recently, but are not up to snuff this season with a deeper East. They’ll need to improve an 8-25 road record for next season.
  24. Denver Nuggets (23-36) -2
    A tough stretch has the Nuggets squarely out of the playoff picture this season, and with leading scorer Danilo Gallinari getting an MRI for a severe ankle injury, the Nuggets will be looking to next season. Rookie Nikola Jokic (9 PPG, 6 RPG) will definitely be a place to start.
  25. Brooklyn Nets (17-42) +1
    The Nets are easily on their best stretch of the whole season, winning five of their last nine, four of which to teams with better records than their own. Despite losing Joe Johnson, they’ve still got the core pieces to their mediocre team. They’ll need a lottery pick and then some before they’re ready to compete again.
  26. New York Knicks (25-36) -3
    Much like the Porzingis highlights we see on a nearly daily basis, the Knicks season has had a couple of highlights to break up the general nauseating play that surrounds the team. They’re just 2-10 in their last 12, with wins over only the Magic and T-Wolves to show for this stretch.
  27. Minnesota Timberwolves (19-41) —
    SST writer Trevor Mann recounted to me recently that he attended the last Timberwolves playoff game they played in, which was when he was in 3rd grade…that was 12 years ago. This team isn’t going to break that, and the Wolves are likely a few years and a few big moves out from a big franchise playoff push.
  28. Los Angeles Lakers (11-49) —
    The Lakers have lost eight in a row now, and with D’Angelo Russell now starting games, the team is doing their best to get over the final weeks of KobeMania. Strikingly, when Curry put up 12 threes the other night, the NBA’s Facebook page flashed back to when Kobe hit his 12 threes in a game. How the Lakers long for those days now.
  29. Phoenix Suns (15-44) —
    The Suns won just their third game since Eric Bledsoe’s injury on December 26th. They’re 3-24 since then, as their season has totally derailed. So who stepped up in the win against the Grizzlies? Smaller names, like Alex Len, Mirza Teletovic, PJ Tucker and Devin Booker. Is this the future of Phoenix?
  30. Philadelphia 76ers (8-51) —
    It’s been another disastrous stretch for the 76ers as they approach another season with the worst record in the league. A lottery pick in their future awaits, but after a few season of lottery picks, Philly might need to make a few trades before they’re anywhere close to contention. The future is murky in the City of Brotherly Love.

Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki.