Several of the league’s top teams have struggled lately, namely the Houston Rockets and the Cleveland Cavaliers, while the Boston Celtics had a solid week. Meanwhile, things get murky at the bottom as the Dallas Mavericks and Chicago Bulls have both been playing well lately. Take a look at this week’s Top 10, 3 To Watch, and Bottom 5, and let us know what you think.
- Golden State Warriors (29-8): Even in the absence of Steph Curry the Warriors are still the best team in the NBA. Although they’ve seemed to lose composure at many points during this season, they continue to win games.
- Toronto Raptors (25-10): Toronto has slipped a couple times in their last games, but I still have them as the best team in the East and in my number two spot. Although they’re behind the Celtics in the playoff seeding at the moment, there’s no doubt that Toronto has been the better team lately.
- Boston Celtics (30-10): The Celtics got off to one of the best starts in NBA history, but they have recently backtracked a little bit. They’ve earned a spot in my top three considering their overall record is one of the best in the league.
- San Antonio Spurs (25-12): The Spurs have been one of the more mysterious teams this season. They won games without their superstar, and as soon as he returned, they started to struggle. However, things are beginning to mesh for this team, and it could be happening at the right time.
- Cleveland Cavaliers (24-12): The Cavaliers have had quite the fall off since their loss on Christmas to the Warriors. They are still a top team, but they have to drop a few spots after their recent struggles.
- Houston Rockets (26-9): I’ve had Houston pretty high up all season long, but after going 5-5 in their last 10, it was time for them to drop. The Rockets are still one of the best teams in the league, and when it’s all said and done I expect them to be back at the top.
- Minnesota Timberwolves (24-14): Jimmy Butler is doing exactly what the Timberwolves need him to do this year. He has by far had one of the best impacts of any player landing on a new team. They have won eight out of their last 10, and I don’t think anyone wants to play these guys at the moment.
- Washington Wizards (21-16): The Wizard season has been full of ups and downs so far. They’ve had multiple injuries that have set them back. Scott Brooks has found a way to Ccoach this team to victory even through injuries. This team could cause trouble in the playoffs if they are healthy.
- Oklahoma City Thunder (20-17): Oklahoma City had just as good of a December as any other team in the league. Although they lost two winnable games lately, I think it’s safe to say that the Thunder are finally finding their stride.
- Detroit Pistons (20-15): The Pistons had quite an amazing start to the season, but they quickly faded for some reason. However, they are finally starting to play like we saw at the start of the season. If the Pistons make the 3rd or 4th seed, I would hate to be the 5th or 6th seed that has to play them.
- Golden State Warriors (29-8): A double-digit home loss to the Hornets is pretty bad, but the Warriors stay the best in the league. Steph Curry is back, so don’t expect too many losses moving forward.
- Boston Celtics (30-10): Several of the league’s top teams had a rough week, but the Celtics got back on track by winning three in a row, including a one-point victory over the struggling Houston Rockets.
- Toronto Raptors (25-10): After losing on back-to-back nights to the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder, the Raptors handled the Atlanta Hawks and held on in overtime against the Milwaukee Bucks. Despite the slight hiccup, Toronto is still rolling.
- Cleveland Cavaliers (24-12): The Christmas Day loss to the Warriors was rough, but they haven’t helped themselves by dropping road games to the Kings and the Jazz. Isaiah Thomas returns tonight against the Portland Trail Blazers, so it will be interesting to see how this team functions.
- Houston Rockets (26-9): Just a couple of weeks ago, the Rockets sat atop the Top 10, but a 5-game losing streak will knock you down a few tiers. They snapped the losing streak by holding on in double overtime against the Los Angeles Lakers, but that’s not exactly something to take pride in. They still have the second-best record in the league, though.
- San Antonio Spurs (25-12): Kawhi Leonard is back, but he’s only able to play every other game, and even then, he’s not even getting 30 minutes. The Spurs are continuing to maintain without him, but if they want to stay consistent, Leonard has to get back to full healthy soon.
- Minnesota Timberwolves (24-14): Winning seven of their last eight games makes the Timberwolves one of the league’s hottest teams. During their streak, Jimmy Butler has caught fire. Minnesota has some formidable matchups, taking on the Celtics in Boston and the Cavs at home, so we’ll see if their streak can continue.
- Oklahoma City Thunder (20-17): The Thunder held the league’s longest-active winning streak at six before dropping one to the Milwaukee Bucks in a controversial ending. Then, they lost on New Year’s Eve at home to the Dallas Mavericks. This team needs to get (and stay) healthy and keep doing the right things to string together some more wins.
- Washington Wizards (21-16): The Wizards seem to be figuring things out lately, despite losing to the Hawks in Atlanta. If they are able to play more consistently, then they will surely be able to make a push in the East.
- Detroit Pistons (20-15): The Pistons started to fall off for a bit, but they’ve made a resurgence as of late. Since losing seven straight a few weeks ago, the Pistons have won six of their last eight.
3 To Watch
- Miami Heat (19-17): Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters have led this Miami team to the current 7th seed in the East. They are a borderline top 10 team. If they can pick up a few more wins this week, they may break the Top 10 in my next rankings.
- Milwaukee Bucks (19-16): The Bucks have been in the top 10 all season up until this point. They’ve recently dropped a few winnable games, which puts them just outside my Top 10. It’ll be interesting to see how they respond to the first big controversy of the season.
- LA Clippers (16-19): After dealing with injury after injury, it almost seemed like you could write off the Clippers for this season. However, Blake Griffin is back, and this team is winning games. They are currently one spot out of the playoffs. With a few more wins, this Clippers team could be back in the Top 10.
- Portland Trail Blazers (19-17): The Trail Blazers have been streaky over the last month, but they have won three of their last four. The wins have not been against the most challenging foes, but winning is winning.
- Milwaukee Bucks (19-16): As controversial as the win over the Thunder in Oklahoma City was on Friday, the Bucks have looked pretty solid lately.
- Miami Heat (19-17): Take a look at the Heat’s roster, and they don’t have an all-star anywhere to be found, but they’re still finding ways to pick up wins. They’ve won eight of their last 12, which isn’t anything fancy, but for what they’re working with, it’s impressive.
- Atlanta Hawks (10-26): It turns out I was right about Atlanta being the last team to 10 wins. Despite their struggles all season, they have won 4 out of their last 10, which is better than some of the top teams in the league.
- LA Lakers (11-25): The Lakers have been struggling after injuries to Lonzo Ball and Brook Lopez. After winning only one out of the last 10 games, the Lakers are in my Bottom 5 for the first time this season.
- Orlando Magic (12-26): Not a lot of Magic is happening for this Orlando team. They’ve only won one game in the last 10 matchups.
- Memphis Grizzlies (12-25): The Grizzlies hit a rough patch and fired their coach. After weeks and weeks of only winning one or two games, they’ve put together four wins recently.
- Sacramento Kings (12-24): The Kings join the Grizzlies as another team who has been playing well lately. Unfortunately, when you dig yourself such a deep hole, it’s hard to get out, even after winning 4 out of your last 10.
- Los Angeles Lakers (11-25): The Lakers have lost seven in a row and 10 of their last 11. Lonzo Ball has missed their last five games, so maybe he’s actually important to the team being successful.
- Orland Magic (12-26): I should have trusted my gut in the preseason when I labeled the Magic as a Bottom 5 team. They’re back and here to stay for the foreseeable future. They somehow beat the Detroit Pistons this last week, so there’s that.
- Sacramento Kings (12-24): After beating the Cleveland Cavaliers by 14 points, the Kings turned around and lost to the Phoenix Suns and the Memphis Grizzlies. I don’t even understand.
- Memphis Grizzlies (12-25): The Grizzlies beat the Lakers and the Kings this last week, so they’ve got that going for them.
- Atlanta Hawks (10-26): The Hawks had a good week beating both the Washington Wizards and the Portland Trail Blazers by double digits, but they are going to have to sustain some winning before they break out of the Bottom 5.
Article written by Craig Hofeld and Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter, Instagram, and give us a like on Facebook.