10. Atlanta Hawks (21-13)
Will it be the same story for Atlanta? Middle of the pack, then a first-round bounce?
9. Oklahoma City Thunder (22-11)
They still have a long way to go if they want to contend with the Lakers, Mavericks, and Spurs.
8. Chicago Bulls (20-10)
Derrick Rose is stating his case for MVP with his outstanding play. Once Joakim Noah returns from injury, the Bulls can very well be a sleeper to the big three in the East.
7. Utah Jazz (21-11)
Injuries have really been a problem for the Jazz this season, but they quietly, continue to win games. They are currently tied with the Thunder for first in their division.
6. Los Angeles Lakers (22-10)
Even though the Lakers are slumping, I still expect them to make a run in the West. They simply look as if they are running through the motions, playing lazy basketball right now. Gasol and Artest have looked ordinary this month. Look for the defending champs to play up to their caliber come All-Star break.
5. Orlando Magic (21-12)
The Magic have been playing better since the huge trades, beating the Celtics and the Spurs. I still don’t think they are done making moves, as they are very thin at the center position. With their loaded offensive power, Orlando can very well pose a threat to Boston and Miami.
4. Boston Celtics (24-6)
With Kevin Garnett going down to a knee injury and Rajon Rondo nursing an ankle injury, I think the Celtics will struggle a little bit. Rondo is expected to return soon and Garnett will be out for a couple weeks. Let’s hope Paul Pierce can hold it down, as these two can recover.
3. Dallas Mavericks (24-7)
This dangerous, Dallas team isn’t too far behind the Spurs. Dirk Nowitzki’s minor injury may cause a little set back, but it shouldn’t be too big of a problem as he is expected back soon. Like the Spurs, the Mavericks have veterans all across the floor and will continue to be a top three team in the West. I’m looking forward to seeing another I-35 showdown in April-May.
2. Miami Heat (25-9)
After dismantling the Lakers on their home court on Christmas, the Heat are beginning to emerge into the team we expected. The Heat have won 16 of their last 17 games. The task of stopping Lebron, Wade, and Bosh looks virtually impossible at this point. Expect the Heat to give opposing coaches ulcers come playoff time.
1. San Antonio Spurs (28-4)
In my opinion, the Spurs are the best team in the league right now. The bench has been huge, especially Gary Neal. Also, with George Hill, Antonio McDyess, Matt Bonner, and James Anderson returning from injury soon, the Spurs may possibly have the best bench in the league. This Spurs team has championship caliber written all over them as Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, and Tony Parker continue to anchor the team.