1. Indiana Pacers (16-1)- The Pacers have lost one game in the first month or so of the season. Let that sink in. They are the league’s best defense, they have good offensive weapons, their bench is no longer weak, and it looks as if they can’t be stopped. With Paul George continuing to grow, the emergence of Lance Stephenson, and that defense, the Pacers look like they can keep this up all season.
2. San Antonio Spurs (14-3)- The Spurs lost to the Rockets and Thunder, so it may seem as if they are slipping, but the Spurs are fine. With Popovich, Parker, and their whole cast of characters, they will be hovering around the top seed in the West all season. They also have the NBA’s best three point shooter in Marco Belinelli, and they are a really good team.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (12-3)- The Thunder look like a team that has found their footing, and they are dangerous. Russell Westbrook seems to finally have found his footing after returning from injury. On any given night, the Thunder will roll out arguably the two most talented players on the floor, and that makes them great.
4. Miami Heat (14-3)- The Heat have thrown the rust off of them, and they look like title contenders again. LeBron James is putting up historic numbers in terms of efficiency, and the fact that they got Michael Beasley to try hard on defense and play in the flow of their offense is reason enough to put them on top. The Heat are the Heat–they will have slow starts at times, but their biggest enemy is themselves.
5. Portland Trail Blazers (14-3)- The Blazers could arguably be above the Heat with the way they’ve played this season, but do you really think they’re better than Miami? This Blazers team is very good, and they can contend to at least make the Western Conference Finals. Damian Lillard is improving, LaMarcus Aldridge looks solid, and their horrid bench from last year is actually pretty good. The biggest key for them is being able to keep this play up, and we shall see if they can.
6. Houston Rockets (13-5)- The Rockets have won 6 out of7, and they are starting to come together. Dwight Howard is hitting his free throws of late, and they finally have good play from their power forward spot. Terrence Jones is averaging 15 points and 8 rebounds in this 7 game stretch, and it has made them more formidable. They had a big win over the Spurs, and they look like a team on the rise.
7. Los Angeles Clippers (12-6)- The Clippers are an offensive juggernaut, but their defense needs to improve. They lost a game against the Pacers that could have been a statement win, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a good team. They are without J.J. Redick for 6-8 weeks, and that could hurt them in the long run.
8. Denver Nuggets (10-6)- The Nuggets looked like they would be in for a long year when the season began, but they have turned things around quickly. Once JaVale McGee went down, they have gotten good contributions from J.J. Hickson and Timofey Mosgov, and Brian Shaw has this team looking like a playoff team.
9. Golden State Warriors (10-8)- The Warriors are at a serious loss without Andre Iguodala, but they still have talent. Stephen Curry is a beast, Andrew Bogut is good, and they can shoot the lights out. They are better than their record says, and they have been good defensively. The Warriors are fine, but they need to get healthy.
10. Dallas Mavericks (10-8)- The Mavericks have surprised me. I didn’t think they’d be very good this season, but they have been playing at a pretty high level. Monta Ellis is playing smart, Dirk looks young again, and they should be in contention for the playoffs. Defense is something they need to get consistent at, but this team is pretty good.
11. Los Angeles Lakers (9-9)- I may get killed for this one, but I’m high on this Lakers team. They have a bunch of guys who are playing hard, they can shoot themselves into games, and they aren’t a mess on defense. They have played at a high level in most of their games this season, and they can beat anyone. Kobe and Nash are on the cusp of returns, and I am higher than most on this team.
12. Atlanta Hawks (9-9)- There are only 3 teams with a .500 record or better, and the Hawks are one of them. They move the ball well, they can shoot from everywhere on the court, and Paul Millsap and Al Horford are one of the best front courts in the league. They have been battling slow starts, but more time under Mike Budenholzer should mean they will improve.
13. Washington Wizards (8-9)- The Wizards have been one of the hottest teams in the league. They are getting all-star numbers from John Wall, and if they keep this up, they will be in the playoffs. They have the talent to contend in the East, it is just a matter of putting it together.
14. Phoenix Suns (9-8)- The Suns are much better than most thought they’d be, but they still need a lot of work. Eric Bledsoe is looking like a great player, and their young guys have been fun to watch. They may hover around .500 this season, but I don’t know if that will benefit them in the long run.
15. New Orleans Pelicans (8-8)- The Pelicans’ starting five looks really good on offense. They have some defensive issues, but they can score the basketball. They had a huge blow when Anthony Davis broke his hand on Sunday night, and they could be in deep trouble until he returns.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves (9-10)- The Wolves looked like they may be a top team early on, but they have slipped recently. They still have a lot of talent and a high ceiling, but they need to find a way to play consistent basketball every night. They gave up a huge lead to the Thunder on Sunday, and they gave to pull those games out if they want to be a playoff team this season.
17. Chicago Bulls (7-8)- The Bulls are without Derrick Rose, but they are still a good team. With Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, and Carlos Boozer, they can compete in a terrible Eastern Conference. Their system and coach do them a lot of favors, and the Bulls aren’t going anywhere.
18. Memphis Grizzlies (8-8)- The Grizzlies look like they may be going back to where they were last season, but injuries are killing them. When they get Marc Gasol back, they should start to right the ship, but this team is hard to trust this season.
19. Charlotte Bobcats (8-10)- The Bobcats have a lot of fight in them. They don’t have eye-popping statistics, but somehow, Steve Clifford has them playing well. They gave the Heat all they could handle on Sunday, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they finish .500, and make the playoffs.
20. Detroit Pistons (7-10)- The Pistons look like they might be figuring it out. They have a big front court, and they were lacking the ability to space the floor. Well, if Sunday was any indication, they look like they may have found an identity. Andre Drummond looks like a future star, and I like what this team’s ceiling is. They should have no problem making the playoffs if they keep this up.
21. Toronto Raptors (6-10)- The Raptors are 6-10, but they are leading the Atlantic Division. Rudy Gay is looking like an inefficient player, and they are very up and down. I wouldn’t be surprised if they sneak in as an 8th seed in a bad Eastern Conference, but this team isn’t very good.
22. Boston Celtics (7-12)- The Celtics’ good is really good, but their bad is one of the worst in the league. They are very inconsistent, and their record shows it. Rajon Rondo is set to return this month, so we will see how that effects this team.
23. Orlando Magic (6-10)- The Magic have some good young talent that could develop into a nice team overall. Aaron Afflalo is having the best season of his career, and when they get Tobias Harris back, they are going to be a feisty team. They are just one piece away from being a playoff team.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers (5-12)- The Cavs have been a disaster this season, but their last game was a positive sign for them. Andrew Bynum had 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 blocks, and if he can give them that, they will be a much improved team. Mike Brown needs to release this offense, and let Kyrie be Kyrie.
25. Philadelphia 76ers (6-12)-Remember when people were talking about how the Sixers were the surprise team in the league? Well, now they look like the team we’d thought they’d be. Look for them to trade Thad Young and Evan Turner, and look to the future.
26. Brooklyn Nets (5-12)- The Nets have played better as of late, but they really had nowhere to go but up. They got Brook Lopez back, and he will help them immensely. Whenever Deron Williams gets healthy, and they get more time together, this team should see a rise in wins. Just keep the soda out of Jason Kidd’s hands.
27. Sacramento Kings (4-11)- The Kings aren’t very good, but they are showing some good signs. They keep hanging in games that they should lose, but they haven’t gotten over the hump. Derrick Williams was a nice pick up for them, and he may have found a permanent home. They are fun to watch, but wins won’t be piling up in Sacramento this season.
28. New York Knicks (3-13)- The Knicks are clearly the big story in the NBA. After winning over 50 games last season, they are just 3-13, and things are not looking good. They miss Tyson Chandler, their offense is bad, and J.R. Smith’s contract is looking worse and worse. They need some changes to come quickly.
29. Milwaukee Bucks (3-13)- The Bucks have lost 11 straight, and nothing is looking good for them. They don’t have the talent to turn this around, and I’m not sure Larry Drew is the right coach for this team. They will be better when Larry Sanders returns, but I’m not sure it will matter.
30. Utah Jazz (3-15)- The Jazz aren’t very good.
As the season goes on, we are starting to see the contenders emerge. The Eastern Conference is off to a historically bad start, and the West looks strong.