As has been the case for most of the season, our rankings continue to shift with teams moving up and down, in and out, and while the powerhouses at the top have remained consistent, the parity in the middle makes it far more difficult than it appears to pick out who belongs where.
In this week’s rankings, we are almost identical in the first six of our Top 10, but then it gets muddled. Meanwhile, the Bottom 5 has been pretty consistent, and there doesn’t seem to be much movement expected in the near future, either.
- Houston Rockets (24-4): The Rockets seemingly can’t lose right now. I have no idea how the night experiment is working, but it is. Not even Golden State wants any part of Houston right now.
- Golden State Warriors (23-6): The Warriors are dealing with injuries, but that isn’t stopping this all-star team. Kevin Durant is playing some of the best basketball of his career.
- Cleveland Cavaliers (23-8): The Cavs have made an amazing comeback on the season. After starting off with a losing record, Dwayne Wade offered to come off the bench. That could be the reason they have found success.
- Toronto Raptors (20-8): Toronto is playing some great basketball right now. They could be the second best team in the East. However, all that matters is how you play in June and July.
- Boston Celtics (25-7): After going on the longest win streak of this season, the Celtics have taken a few steps back. There’s a rumor that Gordon Hayward could make it back for the playoffs. That would certainly shake things up.
- San Antonio Spurs (20-10): Kawhi Leonard has returned to the lineup, and it’s taking a little bit for this team to adjust. Once they get settled in I expect the Spurs to be a top 5 team.
- Indiana Pacers (17-13): Victor Oladipo certainly deserves to be in MVP and Most Improved Player talks. He is single handedly leading this team to the playoffs as of now.
- Milwaukee Bucks (15-13): Hopefully the Bucks have figured out their coaching issues. It’s never good to have your star arguing with the head coach. However, this team remains in the top 10.
- New York Knicks (16-13): Welcome to the top 10 New York! Kristaps Porzingis is clearly more than capable of leading his own team. It is finally fun to watch the Knicks play again.
- Minnesota Timberwolves (17-13): The Timberwolves lost a heartbreaker a few nights ago, but it wasn’t enough to knock them out of the top 10. However, they will need to pick up some solid wins this week to keep their spot.
- Houston Rockets (24-4): It’s pretty simple at the top. Houston keeps winning, so they’re not going anywhere. The Rockets are riding a 13-game winning streak, and CP3 has yet to see a loss in Houston.
- Golden State Warriors (23-6): I haven’t had Golden State in my Top 10 all season long, but they’ve been mighty close the last couple of weeks. They’ve won eight in a row despite Steph Curry being out the last four games and Draymond Green missing the last two.
- Cleveland Cavaliers (23-8): Lebron helped turn Cleveland’s season around in a big way. The Cavs are 18-1 since starting the season 5-7, and Isaiah Thomas is expected to return at the beginning of January.
- Boston Celtics (25-7): The Celtics continue to drop in my rankings, but they’re still solid. They went 2-2 this last week, including an ugly loss to Chicago, but they’re still a threat to Lebron’s Cavs in the East.
- Toronto Raptors (20-8): I refer to this team as the “Sneakiest in the East.” Nobody is really talking about Toronto, but the Raptors continue to play solid basketball. They’re 9-1 in their last 10 games, and they have a somewhat favorable schedule to finish out December.
- San Antonio Spurs (20-10): Kawhi is back, and the Spurs have lost two games. Obviously it’s going to take a little while for him to get back into the flow of things, but San Antonio is going to be just fine.
- Portland Trail Blazers (16-13): The Trail Blazers have been up and down, and after losing five in a row, they recovered well by winning three in a row. They have a tough week ahead (Timberwolves, Spurs, Nuggets), so we’ll see just how good this string of wins is.
- Indiana Pacers (17-13): Paul George and the Thunder got the best of the Pacers in Indiana, and Detroit beat them two days later, but the Pacers are still in a solid position right now.
- New York Knicks (16-14): The Knicks grabbed a win over the Thunder in Carmelo Anthony’s return to New York to give them their fourth victory in a row. This team has been up and down throughout the season, but they’re definitely better than I thought they would be.
- Minnesota Timberwolves (17-13): This team just can’t seem to get anything going for more than a week or so. They haven’t beaten a team that is currently in a playoff position in over a month, and they have had several losses to really bad teams since then. I’m not sure how long they’ll remain in the Top 10.
3 To Watch
- Washington Wizards (16-14): The Wizards are on the brink of being a top ten team once again. If they can stay healthy, there’s no doubt they are worthy of a top ten spot.
- Miami Heat (15-14): The Miami Heat are doing big things once again. The eastern conference is so close that this team could actually be a top seed in the playoffs.
- Portland Trailblazers (16-13): The Trailblazers have the potential to be a top ten team. It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on them to see if they can string some wins together.
- Miami Heat (15-14): After narrowly missing the playoffs last year, the Heat had high hopes of returning this year. They’re on the brink of being in the top eight in the East, and they have performed well lately.
- Denver Nuggets (16-13): This team is so interesting. Losing Paul Millsap was bad, but then Nikola Jokic went down with a sprained ankle. That didn’t matter for the Nuggets, though, as they went 3-4 and still managed to move up in the Western Conference. Jokic is back now, and the Nuggets take on the Thunder in Oklahoma City tonight.
- Oklahoma City (14-15): The Thunder finally got back to .500 on the season after knocking off the 76ers in Philadelphia in triple-overtime on Friday night. It didn’t last long, though, as they dropped one in New York to the Knicks in Melo’s return. I’m not even sure what to think of this team anymore, but it seems like they could finally be on the brink of breakthrough.
- Atlanta Hawks (6-23): The Hawks are doing a solid job at being the worst team in the league. Even the Bulls are two games ahead of them now.
- Chicago Bulls (8-20): Chicago has definitely struggled in this rebuilding season. We knew they would struggle, but I expected them to at least compete.
- Dallas Mavericks (8-22): Dallas has pieced together a few nice wins, however, their losses far outweigh the wins. It could be a sad farewell season for Dirk.
- Sacramento Kings (9-20): I’ve said it before, but the Kings have great young talent. Keep an eye out on this squad if they stay together in the coming years.
- Memphis Grizzlies (9-21): In an effort to save the season the Grizzlies fired their head coach. Doesn’t seem like it’s working out for them so far.
- Atlanta Hawks (6-23): There’s a new bottom-feeder in the NBA. The Hawks have lost four in a row, and their next three don’t look too promising. They play the Mavs at home on Saturday, though, so maybe they can get a win then.
- Memphis Grizzlies (9-21): As the Grizzlies continue to descend into the bottom of the NBA, they have to feel like they can only go up from here. They play Phoenix twice in their next four games, so they might be able to pick up a win or two there.
- Dallas Mavericks (8-22): They’re not the worst in the league anymore, but Dallas hasn’t made much progress since stringing together a few wins a couple of weeks ago. They play the Suns tonight and the Hawks on Saturday, though.
- Phoenix Suns (10-21): For a team that has shown some signs of improvement, they really aren’t doing well right now. Despite defeating the Timberwolves in Minnesota, the Suns lost to Sacramento. That’s not a good look.
- Sacramento Kings (9-20): The Kings have had a few exciting wins this season, but there’s not much to be excited about except the youth of this team. Perhaps they have some good years ahead, but most fans want to win now.
Article written by Craig Hofeld and Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter, Instagram, and give us a like on Facebook.