The Los Angeles Lakers may not be on this list, but they are back on everyone’s radar. For as much hype and undue attention as they got heading into the season, the narrative has run the full gambit. Is it possible to go from being completely overrated to potentially (foolishly) underrated, IF they happen to make it in? Strangely, Tony Parker’s injury could actually help the MVP-case for guys like Chris Paul, if the Spurs are able to maintain their position in his absence.
MVP Race: I know what I just said…and do want to pay respect to some of the players that have been excellent this year (CP3, Parker, Durant), but LeBron James is going to run away with this award.
#1 Miami Heat 44-14 (1): The Heat have won 15-straight, and have the “who’s next?” expression these days. Sunday’s game with the visiting Indiana Pacers will be an interesting test. Dare I say, statement game?
#2 San Antonio Spurs 47-14 (2): The Spurs responded to losing Tony Parker to an ankle injury by thumping the Pistons by 39. The next month (reportedly) should be interesting, as the Spurs are battling OKC for the top seed out West. The Thunder roll into town on Monday, but only after the Bulls and Blazers provide the next tests for San Antonio.
#3 Oklahoma City Thunder 43-16 (4): OKC chopped down the Clippers at Staples, and are now in a prime position to chase down the West-leading Spurs. Trouble is, SAS isn’t going to simply “let” them back in it. The Lakers, Knicks, Bobcats, and Celtics are on this week’s schedule, before the showdown with San Antonio next week.
#4 Los Angeles Clippers 42-19 (3): After a tough loss at the ‘hands’ of OKC, the Clippers find themselves tied in the loss column with the Grizzlies. They are 2-0 vs. Memphis this year, so their remaining meetings with the Grizz (3/13 & 4/13) could prove to be huge if the two teams finish the season deadlocked. Bucks, Nuggets, and Pistons on the schedule this week.
#5 Indiana Pacers 38-22 (6): Some people are calling these Pacers the league’s best team. I’d probably pump my brakes on that notion, but will say they are one of the more complete and fun teams I’ve watched this season. Show me what you have when you go into Miami (Sunday), and we’ll see where you rank. Taking care of business against the Bulls and Magic along the way wouldn’t hurt, either.
#6 Denver Nuggets 39-22 (5): I assure you, the Nuggets’ dropping a spot has nothing to do with them, and is far more indicative of what the teams around them have done. The Pepsi Center may be the toughest place to play for an opposing team. This is key, as they are actually only 13-19 on the road. The Kings, Clippers, and Timberwolves are on this week’s schedule.
#7 Memphis Grizzlies 39-19 (7): Memphis hit a bit of a soft spot in their schedule and fully capitalized, as a good team should always do. Could Zach Randolph’s claim of “addition by subtraction” (Gay) be right? Next week’s road trip (@Blazers, @Clippers, @Nuggets, @Jazz) could end up saying a lot.
#8 Houston Rockets 33-28 (10): James Harden continues to impress, and his Rockets have scored 116+ six times over the past two weeks, including 140 and 136 against Golden State and Dallas (respectively). Put simply, these guys are the most potent offense in the league, and just added a familiar face in Aaron Brooks to the mix. Could this team stun one of the top-seeds once the playoffs roll around?
#9 New York Knicks 36-21 (8): Carmelo hurts his knee…the Knicks immediately erase a 22-point road deficit and knock off Kyrie Irving’s Cavs. Whether this is a fair assessment, that is the narrative that has dominated each of the Knicks’ past 2 seasons. If the Knicks stand a chance in the playoffs, Woodson is going to have to find a way to get all of those individual parts to fit.
#10 Golden State Warriors 34-27 (9): The Warriors finally stopped the losing streak once they returned home, but still have plenty of cause for concern. Unlike New York’s situation, the Warriors simply need Bogut to remain healthy to have a chance at advancing in the opening round of the playoffs. Easier said than done, as the highly effective big man hasn’t had a relatively healthy season since three years ago.