Here is how the league is shaking out from my perspective:
1. Memphis Grizzlies (12-3)
Last Week: 3-1 (Wins over CLE, TOR, and DET, Loss to SAS)
Previous Ranking: No. 1
The Grizzlies were great while short-handed against the lower level teams in the league before nearly knocked off the well rested Spurs to cap off the week. They still sit atop the NBA, but it is all evening out as the other contenders are taking them very seriously.
2. Miami Heat (12-3)
Last Week: 2-0 (Wins over SAS and BKN)
Previous Ranking: No. 2
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (14-4)
Last Week: 4-0 (Wins over CHA, HOU, UTH, and NOH)
Previous Ranking: (3) +1
Championship teams beat who they are supposed to and get up for every game, that is exactly what the Thunder did this week knocking off four lower level teams.
4. San Antonio Spurs (14-4)
Last Week: 3-1 (Wins over WAS, ORL, and MEM, Loss to MIA)
Previous Ranking: (3) -1
Resting all your starters for a loss to win a overtime game that "mattered more" is just the Greg Popovich way, and apparently effective. The Spurs know what they are doing.
5. New York Knicks (12-4)
Last Week: 3-1 (Wins over MIL, WAS, and PHX, Loss to BKN)
Previous Ranking: No. 5
The Knicks rebounded well after a tough week last week. They are minus a few key pieces and getting better on both ends of the floor. Time to take them serious.
6. Los Angeles Clippers (10-6)
Last Week: 2-1 (Wins over MIN and SAC, Loss to NOH)
Previous Ranking: No. 6
Winning close games is not their strong suit, but when the Clippers are rolling behind a very good defense and with a Chris Paul led offense. They are also looking for the fountain of youth and some health with their veterans.
7. Brooklyn Nets (11-5)
Last Week: 3-1 (Wins over NYK, BOS, ORL, Loss to MIA)
Previous Ranking: (10) +3
A rough outing in Miami is to be expected, but the Nets have come into their own behind a stellar defense.
8. Atlanta Hawks (9-5)
Last Week: 1-1 (Win over CHA and Lost to CLE)
Previous Ranking: (7) -1
Balance has treated the Hawks well on both ends of the floor, but the lack of a go-to scorer may plague them down the road as seen in all five of their losses.
9. Los Angeles Lakers (8-9)
Last Week: 1-2 (Win over IND, Losses to DEN and ORL)
Previous Ranking: (8) -1
It is getting hard to defend this team. The defense has improved, but how couldn't it with Dwight Howard? More importantly the team is not healthy and has one of the worst benches in the league, a Mike D'Antoni staple.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (10-7)
Last Week: 2-1 (Wins over DAL and CHA, Loss to CHI)
Previous Ranking: (9) -1
Without Andrew Bynum this is a good basketball team and they may not need him going forward with the play of Jrue Holiday. Too early to call the trade a mistake, but the shake-up did push Holiday to another level.
11. Golden State Warriors (10-6)
Last Week: 2-0 (Wins over DEN and IND)
Previous Ranking: (14) +3
Is this brand of Warriors basketball sustainable? They are a Top 20 defense and a Top 5 rebounding team minus Andrew Bogut. All that while still scoring the ball and playing a fun brand of basketball with a youthful roster.
12. Milwaukee Bucks (8-7)
Last Week: 2-2 (Wins over CHI and BOS, Losses to NYK and MIN)
Previous Ranking: (13) +1
Larry Sanders has come into his own over the past two games averaging 14 PPG 14 RPG and a totaling 15 blocks filling that center void they desperately needed filled.
13. Boston Celtics (9-8)
Last Week: 1-2 (Win over POR, Losses to BKN and MIL)
Previous Ranking: (11) -2
Who are the Celtics? Maybe a trade or two away from figuring them out, but right now they are an average team at best struggling to keep all their players on the court for various reasons.
14. Denver Nuggets (8-9)
Last Week: 0-3 (Losses to UTH, GSW, and LAL)
Previous Ranking: (12) -2
The Nuggets are as streaky as they come this year after starting porous, winning four in a row, losing three in a row, winning four in a row, and then losing three in a row again. Will the real Denver Nuggets please stand-up?
15. Utah Jazz (9-9)
Last Week: 2-2 (Wins over DEN and NOH, Losses to OKC and HOU)
Previous Ranking: No. 15
They do not do it in a sexy or appealing manor, but the Jazz win games. As a group they come together well and play a good brand of basketball.
16. Chicago Bulls (8-7)
Last Week: 2-1 (Wins over DAL and PHI, Loss to MIL)
Previous Ranking: (17) +1
17. Minnesota Timberwolves (7-8)
Last Week: 2-1 (Wins over SAC and MIL, Loss to LAC)
Previous Ranking: (22) +5
The Ricky Rubio Return is around the corner and the team is playing well behind Kevin Love and undrafted rookie Alexey Shved. This team is just scratching the surface of how good they can be because they have yet to be fully healthy all season.
18. Dallas Mavericks (8-9)
Last Week: 1-2 (Win over DET, Losses to CHI and PHI)
Previous Ranking: (16) -2
When the answer to your problems is Derek Fisher you may want to reevaluate the questions.
19. Indiana Pacers (8-9)
Last Week: 2-1 (Wins over LAL and SAC, Loss to GSW)
Previous Ranking: (20) +1
Through 17 games last season the Pacers were 12-5 and rolling, minus Danny Granger and they are struggling mightily.
20. Houston Rockets (8-8)
Last Week: 1-1 (Win over TOR and Loss to OKC)
Previous Ranking: (23) +3
21. Charlotte Bobcats (7-8)
Last Week: 0-3 (Losses to OKC, ATL, and PHI)
Previous Ranking: (19) -2
All the early season Bobcats talk was premature, which is why they never cracked the Top 15 here. They are still young and growing as a team.
22. Phoenix Suns (7-11)
Last Week: 1-3 (Win over CLE, Losses to DET, TOR, and NYK)
Previous Ranking: (18) -4
The Suns have sunk to a new low this season losing three games in a row, four out of five, and all of that was highlighted by a laugher in Detroit. Through 18 games the Suns are without an identity, direction, and focus.
23. Portland Trail Blazers (7-10)
Last Week: 1-3 (Win over CLE, Losses to DET, WAS, and BOS)
Previous Ranking: (21) -2
It is tough for a young team to win with consistency, but even tougher when there is a severe lack of depth as they have the worst bench unit by far in the league.
24. Detroit Pistons (5-13)
Last Week: 2-2 (Wins over POR and PHX, Losses to MEM and DAL)
Previous Ranking: (27) +3
The changes in the rotations have paid dividends as the Pistons are getting more consistent and growing up together. Kyle Singler and Andre Drummond are playing at a high level right now.
25. New Orleans Hornets (4-11)
Last Week: 1-2 (Win over LAC, Losses to UTH and OKC)
Previous Ranking: (24) -1
It is tough for the young Hornets as they are up-and-down while getting used to their young pieces and adapting to playing without their future star Anthony Davis.
26. Orlando Magic (6-10)
Last Week: 1-2 (Win over LAL, Losses to SAS and BKN)
Previous Ranking: (25) -1
The hot start has fizzled as Glen Davis put the recent struggles into a few pointed words, "I suck." Then they went out and outclassed the Lakers (with former teammate Dwight Howard) not getting the better of the Magic this time.
27. Sacramento Kings (4-12)
Last Week: 0-3 (Losses to MIN, IND, and LAC)
Previous Ranking: (26) -1
Break up the Kings! No, seriously, this team may need to get separated piece-by-piece in order for them to evolve as a team.
28. Toronto Raptors (4-13)
Last Week: 1-2 (Win over PHX, Losses to HOU and MEM)
Previous Ranking: (29) +1
It took six heartbreaking losses for the Raptors to finally get on the other side of the win loss column in a close game.
29. Cleveland Cavaliers (4-13)
Last Week: 1-3 (Win over ATL, Losses to MEM, PHX, and POR)
Previous Ranking: (28) -1
30. Washington Wizards (1-13)
Last Week: 1-2 (Win over POR, Losses to SAS and NYK)
Previous Ranking: No. 30
Well, they got a win.