1. Warriors (47-9)
– The Warriors are currently ranked first in offensive efficiency and second in defensive efficiency. While they have been playing great, it will be interesting to see if they make any moves to acquire another center before the trade deadline.
2. Spurs (43-13)
– Even with Pau Gasol out, the Spurs have continued to play at a high level. Their defensive efficiency currently tops the league. Kawhi Leonard has upped his game even more this season, but the question San Antonio is faced with, is if they have enough fire power to compete with the Warriors and potentially the Rockets.
3. Cavaliers (39-16)
– Injuries to Love and Smith have hurt the Cavs as they continue to try to find last season’s form. LeBron is playing the second most minutes per game in the NBA at 37.2 per. Will these minutes take a toll on an older LeBron during the playoffs? Korver is fitting in much better than a month ago,and he could play a big role off the bench come playoff time.
4. Rockets (40-18)
-The pickup of Lou Williams adds even more depth to their stacked bench. While the Rockets have a ton of fire power, the issue they will have to face is on the defensive end. Since the switch of Harden from SG to PG, the Rockets have really taken off (pun intended).
5. Celtics (37-20)
-Isiah Thomas has turned it up a notch the last month and a half, and it is no coincidence that the Celtics success followed. In order for them to have a chance at winning the Eastern Conference, they’re going to have to make some moves before the trade deadline. Rumors have surfaced that Griffin, George, or Butler could be making their way to Boston; those Brooklyn first round picks they have are enticing.
6. Wizards (34-21)
– After a horrible start to the season, the Wizards have turned things around hugely since the end of November. Wall and Beal have been playing much better and are starting to play to their potential. However, they’ll need to add some more depth to their bench if they want to make a deep playoff push.
7. Jazz (35-22)
– The Utah Jazz have been quietly playing well this season— Hayward is coming off his first All Star bid and Gobert is showing why he is one of the best defensive players in the game. Rumors say they’re interested in bringing back Deron Williams, so it will be interesting to see if they pull the trigger.
8. Clippers (35-21)
– Chris Paul is nearing his return and could play as soon as Thursday against the Warriors. The Clippers have had a lot of injury issues this season, and they haven’t seemed to improve much over the past 3-4 years. Trade talks have been swirling around the Clippers: do they want to make a big move to add to their “big three”? Or do they want to move one of their major pieces around to shake things up?
9. Raptors (33-24)
– Toronto got off to a hot start this season, but they’ve been playing at a much lower level since December. The addition of Ibaka will help the Raptors in the area they need improvement the most, and that is defense.
10. Pelicans (23-34)
– New Orleans made the move to acquire star big man DeMarcus Cousins as they look to make a late push towards the playoffs. On paper, no pf-c combo can hold a candle to the Pelicans duo. While they are set down low, they still have plenty of questions to answer about their outside shooting.
11. Grizzlies (34-24)
– Even through different coaches in the past few years, the Girzzlies have continued to stick with their “grit and grind” mentality. Their offense is holding them back and I am not sure they’re willing to do much before the trade deadline.
12. Thunder (32-25)
– The big gap between the seventh and eighth seed should give the Thunder a small sigh of relief. Westbrook is doing everything for them, and the workload has gotten even heavier with Kanter being out.
13. Hawks (32-24)
– The Hawks have been playing fairly well this season considering their current roster. I could see them willing to give away some of their pieces for future assets before the deadline; the Korver trade was telling.
14. Bulls (28-29)
– There has been a bit of controversy this year in Chicago surrounding Rondo, Wade, and Butler. Their three point shooting is the worst in the league and they are really on a path to nowhere. If the right deal comes around for Butler, you could definitely see him on the move.
15. Nuggets (25-31)
– Denver has continued to improve under the tutelage of Mike Malone, and their young talent has shown glimpses of why management should be very happy. Jokic is showing star quality as he is an elite passer, can score on the block, and can score from the outside. Also, after a very slow start to the season, Murray is beginning to hit his stride.
16. Pacers (29-28)
– Gloomy times in Indianapolis, as the Pacers are in the midst of a six game losing streak. The front office has to wonder if its time to part ways with Paul George before free agency in 2018 and begin to put all of their chips into the Myles Turner basket.
17. Trail Blazers (23-33)
– After overachieving last season, Portland is doing the exact opposite this season. Coming into the year they had the second highest payroll in the league and were trying to enter the contender conversation. They are lacking severe productivity from their front court and it is holding them back.
18. Pistons (27-30)
– The Pistons are trying to hold their spot in the playoffs in the east, but they really aren’t going anywhere. There was already talks of Drummond being a potential trade piece for them, so it will be interesting to see if they move him before the deadline.
19. Mavericks (22-34)
– After an extremely rocky start to the season, Carlisle has got his team playing inspired basketball. While their roster lacks, they are trying to make a late push to take the eighth and final playoff spot in the west.
20. Hornets (24-32)
The Hornets have really regressed in the past month, and they are really lacking a scorer. Walker and Batum have been playing fairly well for them, but outside of them, it is kind of a hodgepodge.
21. Bucks (25-30)
Milwaukee was disappointing in the first few months of the season and they were finally able to kick it into gear after that. However, the injury of Parker hurts them massively and it will be tough for them to get into the playoffs.
22. Timberwolves (22-35)
– The news about LaVine was a big blow to this Minnesota squad. In the past few games, Wiggins has played to the hype that surrounded him when he came into the league. Could they make a move for another guard before the deadline?
23. Heat (25-32)
– That double-digit win streak for Miami might be the biggest surprise of the season thus far. They have been decimated by injuries, and they seem to have their eyes set on the future.
24. Knicks (23-34)
– The Knicks have been a big mess this year and controversy continues to surround their franchise. The Oakley situation, Rose no-showing to a game, Carmelo Anthony trade talk, etc… Going forward, it looks like they need to hand the keys over to Porzingis.
25. Sixers (21-37)
– Philadelphia has played surprisingly well this season— especially since the top overall pick in the last NBA draft hasn’t played a single minute. Embiid is the runaway ROY and the future for the franchise looks much brighter than it had in previous years.
26. Lakers (21-37)
– New management in the front office could be exactly what the Lakers needed. Trading away Lou Williams shows they are committed to the rebuilding process and that they want to keep their first round pick (top three protected). Russell and Ingram have underachieved thus far, so it will be interesting to see if they improve at a higher rate.
27. Suns (18-39)
– The Suns have a lot of young pieces and are set up to grab another with a likely high pick in this year’s NBA draft. While this season hasn’t had much for the Suns to be proud about, Booker has been showing superstar potential in his first two seasons.
28. Orlando (21-37)
– The roster constructed heading into the season did not make much sense, and it has showed. They essentially gave up Oladipo for nothing since Ibaka got dealt away. They have a bunch of ok players, and they really need to snag a younger player to build around.
29. Kings (24-33)
– The reset button has been hit in Sacramento after the Cousins trade, and it has left their roster decimated. Hield, Cauley-Stein, and Papagiannis are the pieces for them to develop this season before they head into the NBA draft.
30. Nets (9-47)
– Brooklyn is stuck in purgatory right now. Over the next two years, their first round picks are in the hands of the Celtics— getting assets for Brook Lopez seems like the logical move for them to make moving forward.