Rankings (Last week's rankings) - NR = Not ranked
1. (1) San Antonio Spurs (12-1) - The Spurs have continued to play at a very high level. They've proven themselves as a contender out West. They are in the top 11 teams in each statistical category and are undefeated on the road thus far. They continue to receive great bench play from guard George Hill and power forward Matt Bonner (who leads the NBA in 3 point %).
2. (3) Los Angeles Lakers (13-2) - Out in L.A., the Lakers continue to prove why they're the champs and should be the favorites once again this year. Kobe Bryant is able to spend more minutes on the bench resting due to the excellent bench play of the Lakers. The bench is led by guard Shannon Brown, who is currently a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year. Kobe is once again leading the MVP race and is followed close behind by running mate Pau Gasol.
3. (2) New Orleans Hornets (11-3) - The team out of the Big Easy continues it's surprising success. A big part to the Hornets resurgence has been the play of their bench. The team is able to get contributions from about 10 guys on any given night. New Orleans made a traded Peja Stojakovic to Toronto but brought in guard Jarrett Jack. Expect Jack to make big contributions with the Hornet's second unit. The team will look to rebound after 2 straight losses (including one to the Clippers).
4. (4) Boston Celtics (11-4) - The Celtics have continued to be one of the most consistent teams in the NBA this season. Although Rajon Rondo is day-to-day with a hamstring injury and Delonte West is now out long term with a broken wrist, Boston is so deep that they are able to survive after losing players to injury (whether for short or long term). A very encouraging sign for Celtics fans has to be the play of Shaquille O'Neal. Shaq is quietly making huge contributions to this Celtics team and he seems to be comfortable in his limited minutes role. Last night, the big fella turned back the clock; scoring 25 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Knowing that Shaq is still capable of putting up these numbers should give the team a huge sense of confidence in being the "team to beat" in the East.
5. (6) Orlando Magic (10-4) - Orlando has continued to show us why they are one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. With Dwight Howard averaging over 21 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks a game, he is truly showing how dominant he can be. The team also receives huge contributions from their bench. Mickael Pietrus is one guy that is making significant contributions to the team. He is shooting the 3 at an astounding 49% and gives the team solid quality minutes. The Magic are the latest team to exploit the Heat in a 9 point victory last night. It should give Magic fans confidence knowing their team is still the big power is Florida (no matter who gets the most publicity).
6. (5) Utah Jazz (11-5) - The Jazz continue to play good basketball behind the leadership of Deron Williams. The low post tandem of Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson is also proving to be one of the best in the league. This team will end up grabbing a top seed in the West when it's all said and done. They proved they can after an 18 point drubbing of the Hornets last night.
7. (7) Dallas Mavericks (10-4) - Led once again by Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavs are continuing to show us all that they still have what it takes to get it done. Dirk is an MVP candidate once again this year and Jason Terry is shooting the 3 better than he has in each of the past 3 seasons. Tyson Chandler is giving the team a consistent defensive presence down low- which could be what separates the Mavs from other upper echelon teams in the Western Conference.
8. (10) Oklahoma City Thunder (10-5) - Sure, Kevin Durant leads the league in scoring. But the biggest reason for the Thunder's success? The play of Russell Westbrook. Westbrook is averaging over 22 points and 8 assists per game and is establishing himself into one of the best scoring point guards in the league. This young team is still growing but once they reach their full potential...it'll be scary.
9. (NR) Chicago Bulls (8-5) - The Bulls are continuing to excel behind the excellent play of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. But it seems as if every guy on this squad makes a significant contribution on a nightly basis. One guy giving them a huge advantage over other teams has been Kyle Korver. The former 3 point champion is showcasing his talents and shooting about 49% from behind the arc. He has also been very clutch for this young, but talented Bulls team.
10. (NR) Indiana Pacers (7-6) - What?! The Pacers are in these rankings? I know, I'm just as surprised as you are. But honestly, the Pacers have been playing some good basketball of late. I don't know how long it's going to last for, but Indiana is another one of the not much talked about teams in the East having some success this season. They beat the Heat on Monday in convincing fashion which shows me that they can compete with the "top" teams in the conference.
Outside looking in: The Atlanta Hawks (8), New York Knicks and Portland Trailblazers
Dropped from rankings: The Atlanta Hawks (8) and Miami Heat (9).
(So if I went on national television and announced where I was going to be taking my "talents", I'd probably want to actually showcase those talents. The Heat thus far in the season are very mediocre. It's becoming more and more clear that Dwyane Wade and LeBron James both need the ball in their hands too much to share with one another. If the Heat don't figure it out soon, there's going to be some problems in South Beach.)