Here is how the league is shaking out from my perspective:
1. Oklahoma City Thunder (19-4)
Last Week: 2-0 (Wins over NOH and SAC)
Previous Ranking: (2) +1
The best team in the NBA is starting to appear that way with 10 straight wins, a No. 1 ranked offense, and a No. 11 ranked defense to compliment. They are putting tall the pieces together and are not missing a beat with James Harden so far.
2. Miami Heat (15-6)
Last Week: 2-1 (Wins over ATL and WAS, Loss to GSW)
Previous Ranking: No. 2
There are usually glitches in the system, no matter how good the system is, and that is what the loss to the Warriors was this week. Every now and again a team will catch the Heat off guard with their best punch and the primary reason is that the vaunted defense is vaunted no more -- at least for now.
3. Memphis Grizzlies (15-6)
Last Week: 1-2 (Win over UTH, Losses to PHX and DEN)
Previous Ranking: (1) -2
Teams are taking Memphis very serious now and it has nothing to do with them hiring John Hollinger as an executive. They are still as balanced as any team in the league and now have to endure being a target.
4. San Antonio Spurs (19-6)
Last Week: 2-2 (Wins over HOU and BOS, Losses to UTH and POR)
Previous Ranking: No. 4
A modest week for the team with the most wins in the NBA was bound to happen, but now they will just rattle off like 20 wins in a row to get back on track. Tim Duncan is admittedly feeling the toll of playing at a high level for big minutes at his age.
5. New York Knicks (18-5)
Last Week: 3-0 (Wins over BKN, LAL, and CLE)
Previous Ranking: No. 5
This is a team that wins smart, defensive, basketball games, which is a far cry from what they were just a year ago. They are creating turnovers, making situational stops, and also winning without Carmelo Anthony on the court. They are for real as Eastern Conference Finals contenders.
6. Los Angeles Clippers (17-6)
Last Week: 3-0 (Wins over CHI, CHA, and MIL)
Previous Ranking: No. 6
Another team streaking are the Clippers as they have won eight in a row behind a balance of offense, defense, Chris Paul, and Blake Griffin. The duo is accounting for 34.2 PPG, 12.5 APG, 10.0 RPG, and 4.0 SPG executing on both ends of the floor.
7. Atlanta Hawks (14-7)
Last Week: 2-2 (Wins over ORL and CHA, Losses to MIA and GSW)
Previous Ranking: (8) +1
Josh Smith trade rumors aside this is a team that has snuck up on the Heat and are going to make them earn the division this year.
8. Golden State Warriors (16-8)
Last Week: 3-1 (Wins over CHA, MIA, and ATL, Loss to ORL)
Previous Ranking: (11) +3
Outside of a hiccup in Orlando the Warriors just dominated a seven game road swing (6-1) beating three potential contenders out east. If you haven't taken them seriously yet, jump on board there is plenty of room still.
9. Chicago Bulls (13-9)
Last Week: 2-1 (Wins over PHI and BKN, Loss to LAC)
Previous Ranking: (16) +7
They win with defense, balance, and situational scoring as they are getting ready for the return of Derrick Rose to the basketball court. His injury has made this a better team than they already where.
10. Minnesota Timberwolves (12-9)
Last Week: 3-0 (Wins over DEN, NOH, and DAL)
Previous Ranking: (17) +7
If you missed the return of Ricky Rubio tune up the DVR or hit YouTube for the highlights because it was a special return to the court for the Spanish point guard as the team won again. They keep getting better with health.
11. Indiana Pacers (13-11)
Last Week: 3-0 (Wins over CLE, PHI, and DET)
Previous Ranking: (19) +8
The second to last (29th) offense has been bailed out by the best defense in the league this week with the team surrendering only 81 PPG. More impressive was the consistency, 81, 85, and 77 were the totals from their opponents.
12. Brooklyn Nets (13-10)
Last Week: 2-2 (Wins over TOR and DET, Losses to NYK and CHI)
Previous Ranking: (7) -5
The defense is not the issue overall as the Nets are still 5th overall in defensive PPG, but it has failed them as of late giving up 100+ points in five out of their last eight games.
13. Los Angeles Lakers (11-14)
Last Week: 2-2 (Wins over WAS and PHI, Losses to CLE and NYK)
Previous Ranking: (9) -4
Defense has always been the issue here. On the season the Lakers have given up 100+ points 12 times total and the team is 3-9 in those games, 8-5 when they play a little defense.
14. Philadelphia 76ers (12-12)
Last Week: 1-3 (Win over DET, Losses to CHI, IND, and LAL)
Previous Ranking: (10) -4
Just as the 76ers were getting on track as a middle of the pack Eastern Conference team they have a week like this dropping them right out of the playoffs if they started today.
15. Boston Celtics (12-11)
Last Week: 1-2 (Win over DAL, Losses to HOU and SAS)
Previous Ranking: (11) -4
This season the longest win streak was three and the longest losing streak has been two. They are not falling apart, but the old age is showing in that they cannot put together more wins in a row with their stars having knees that are collectively 762 years old in basketball years.
16. Utah Jazz (13-12)
Last Week: 1-2 (Win over SAS, Losses to PHX and MEM)
Previous Ranking: No. 16
The week started with an upset of the Spurs, but ended with two tough losses to the Suns and Grizzlies showing that the sound, but star deprived Jazz have some work to do still.
17. Denver Nuggets (13-12)
Last Week: 3-1 (Wins over DET, MEM, and SAC, Loss to MIN)
Previous Ranking: No. 17
Are we sick of talking about the Nuggets inconsistency on offense? No, ok. They are the 6th best offense and the 24th ranked defense which leads to the kind of inconsistencies of 0-3, 4-0, 0-3, 4-0, and so forth.
18. Milwaukee Bucks (12-10)
Last Week: 2-1 (Wins over SAC and CLE, Loss to LAC)
Previous Ranking: (14) -4
The Bucks are pedestrian on offense and the defense is not in the top tier like Head Coach Scott Skiles would like to see. They have a lot of good, young athletes, but lean heavily on Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings to score points.
19. Houston Rockets (11-12)
Last Week: 2-2 (Wins over WAS and BOS, Losses to SAS and TOR)
Previous Ranking: (20) +1
Another even week for the Rockets, which is exactly how I saw the season going for the team with a lot of talent and unfortunate dramatic circumstances they are currently working through.
20. Dallas Mavericks (11-13)
Last Week: 1-3 (Win over SAC, Losses to BOS, TOR, and MIN)
Previous Ranking: (18) -2
It took three overtimes and a freak blowout by the Raptors for the Mavericks to go 1-3 this week. The team is settling into the new look, but so is the rest of the league.
21. Portland Trail Blazers (11-12)
Last Week: 3-0 (Wins over TOR, SAS, and NOH)
Previous Ranking: No. 21
Behind Damian Lillard the Blazers are learning how to win with an upset over the Spurs and a game winner by the rookie to knock off the future Pelicans.
22. Orlando Magic (10-13)
Last Week: 2-1 (Wins over GSW and CHA, Loss to ATL)
Previous Ranking: (26)+4
All the young pieces are starting to play well for the Magic and, call it magic, but the Dwight Howard-less team is playing better than the team Dwight Howard is currently with. Go figure.
23. Phoenix Suns (9-15)
Last Week: 2-0 (Wins over MEM and UTH)
Previous Ranking: (22) -1
It is pretty simple. The Suns lost seven games in a row giving up 106.3 PPG to opponents and have now won two in a row giving up 82.0 PPG to opponents. Call it a case of desperation, the light switch flipping on, or a freak accident. Either way the team has positioned themselves to get back on track.
24. Detroit Pistons (7-19)
Last Week: 0-4 (Losses to PHI, BKN, DEN, and IND)
Previous Ranking: No. 24
Were the five wins in eight games the anomaly or is it this current stretch of six losses in seven games?
25. Charlotte Bobcats (7-16)
Last Week: 0-4 (Losses to GSW, LAC, ATL, and ORL)
Previous Ranking: (21) -4
Remember when the Bobcats were 7-5? Since then they have dropped 11 in a row, 7 by single digits, and the team is back to finding ways to lose games.
26. Sacramento Kings (7-16)
Last Week: 0-4 (Losses to DAL, MIL, OKC, and DEN)
Previous Ranking: No. 26
The Kings continue reeling down the standings with another winless week with Tyreke Evans averaging a career-low in points, assists, steals, and minutes.
27. New Orleans Hornets (5-18)
Last Week: 0-4 (Losses to WAS, OKC, MIN, POR)
Previous Ranking: (25) -2
Anthony Davis was welcomed back in a more minor role off of the bench, but with four straight losses they may need him to get back into his spot a little faster. On the other hand there was some good news in that Austin Rivers is finding his scoring stroke.
28. Toronto Raptors (6-19)
Last Week: 2-2 (Wins over DAL and HOU, Losses to POR and BKN)
Previous Ranking: No. 28
With the way the Raptors have been playing there is no telling if and when they are going to get a win or get blown out by a below average team. They have no consistency, but all the talent in the world on their roster.
29. Cleveland Cavaliers (5-20)
Last Week: 1-3 (Win over LAL, Losses to IND, MIL, and NYK)
Previous Ranking: No. 29
Kyrie Irving is the best young point guard in the NBA and almost was enough by himself (41 points) to upset the Knicks, but the team fell short. Alone he is great, but as a team the Cavaliers might be the worst team in the NBA.
30. Washington Wizards (3-18)
Last Week: 1-3 (Win over NOH, Losses to HOU, LAL, and MIA)
Previous Ranking: No. 30
Three weeks with at least one win after starting the season with three straight without one. The tides are not changing, but they have a few wins to hang their hats on.