1. Golden State Warriors (42-9, Last week: 2)
The Golden State Warriors head into the second half of the season back in control of the top spot. They dominated the first half of the season, outscoring opponents a league-best 12.3 points per 100 possessions. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have kept their offense potent, but having the NBA's best defense from the opening tip has been the feather in the Warriors' cap.
2. Atlanta Hawks (43-11, Last week: 1)
The Hawks turned an average start into a franchise-best winning streak and look fully bought into the team concepts Mike Budenholzer has laid out, as evidence by four All-Star game selections. Atlanta has played like the best team in the NBA through stretches and is on track to be the No. 1 seed out of the Eastern Conference. It's worth pausing to acknowledge Kyle Korver is on track to lead the NBA in three-point shooting percentage for the third year. His current .523 mark isn't even the best he's ever clocked.
Here's how he compares to the NBA's most effective three-point shooters over the last 20 years:
3. Memphis Grizzlies (39-14, Last week: 3)
Memphis is in hot pursuit of the top seed in the Western Conference, just four games back from the Warriors with plenty of big wins under their belt and a win in their lone game against Golden State. Tony Allen remains as the heart of their perimeter defense, helping the Grizzlies enjoy a 10.9 points per 100 possessions advantage while he's on the floor.
4. Portland Trail Blazers (36-17, Last week: 5)
Damian Lillard may dominate headlines for Portland, but LaMarcus Aldridge is scoring at the highest clip of his career and leading the Trail Blazers' offense. The Blazers average a team-best 107.8 points per 100 possessions while Aldridge is on the floor, which is a good final bullet point on his resume before he heads into free agency this summer.
5. Dallas Mavericks (36-19. Last week: 4)
The Mavericks have been great while undergoing personnel changes. Dirk Nowitzki is playing his lowest minutes per game since his rookie season, which allowed him to the vertical fortitude to throw down an alley-oop during the All-Star game:
We're waiting for a response one-legged fadeaway, Vince Carter.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers (33-22, Last week: 7)
The Cavaliers gave the NBA a taste of how good they can be when the wheels are rolling, but this still doesn't feel like their maximum capacity. There's still a big disconnect in the Kevin Love that was filling up the stat sheet in Minnesota vs. the one the Cavaliers currently have.
7. Houston Rockets (36-17, Last week: 6)
Houston's played at a top-five level most of the season, but there's plenty of reason to be skeptical about where this team is with Dwight Howard missing time. He's been the heart of the Rockets' rim protection and needs to be healthy for Houston to be a legitimate contender. On the other hand, James Harden might be the NBA's MVP right now.
8. Toronto Raptors (36-17, Last week: 8)
The last stretch of the season is huge for Toronto, a team that started out leading the East and quickly fell into the shadow cast by the Hawks' winning streak. DeMar DeRozan's absence was a big hurdle to clear, but they earned a nice break and have a chance to get back into the mix at the top again. They've won nine of 11 and now head out west.
9. San Antonio Spurs (34-19, Last week: 9)
The Spurs got some extra rest under their belt for the last leg of the season, which starts off with a bang. San Antonio faces the Clippers, Warriors and Trail Blazers, all during a six-game road trip. Cleaning house against playoff contenders would be a great way for the defending champions to kickstart a big run into the playoffs.
10. Chicago Bulls (34-20, Last week: 12)
There's still 28 games left for the Bulls in the regular season, and Jimmy Butler has already ran the floor for a total of 136.7 miles while leading the NBA in minutes per game. That kind of distance covers a trip from Los Angeles to San Diego, with some spare change to hit an In-n-Out afterward.
11. Los Angeles Clippers (35-19, Last week: 11)
The All-Star break made DeAndre Jordan's back-to-back 20-point, 20-rebound games a distant memory. They happened, he dominated and he's been cleaning the glass like a man possessed this season. Here's how Jordan stacks up against the rest of the NBA in contested rebounds (when another player is within 3.5 feet of him):
While Andre Drummond pulls down the most contested rebounds, Jordan grabs the highest percentage of available ones (71.7 percent) out of this group of elite glass eaters.
12. Phoenix Suns (29-25, Last week: 10)
The Suns may look like a different team once basketball starts up again. They're reportedly keeping their options open with Goran Dragic and/or Isaiah Thomas. The three-headed dragon attack has worked at times, but it's clearly a matchup issue at times, too. Phoenix might be looking for ways to ensure three of their best players are always able to play together.
13. Washington Wizards (33-21. Last week: 13)
The Wizards haven't enjoyed a quality win in quite some time. They've gone 6-8 since Jan. 17, and their wins have been against the Nets (x2), 76ers, Nuggets, Lakers and Magic. The ship needs to turn around. A game against the Cavaliers out of the break on Friday is a good opportunity.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder (28-25, Last week: 14)
Russell Westbrook has played brilliantly through the season and even through all of the knee issues looks as explosive as ever. His dominant performance during the All-Star game earned him MVP honors for the game. His high-flying alley-oop was arguably the highlight. He got so high up he hit his head on the backboard. Seriously;
There's no reason to believe Angry Westbrook is cooling off any time soon as the Thunder fight for their playoff livelihood. These next 29 games may be the most important stretch for Oklahoma City in years.
15. New Orleans Pelicans (27-26, Last week: 15)
If the Pelicans make the playoffs, it'll be solely on the strength of Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis. That group makes up four of the seven Pelicans players with a positive +/-, and the remaining three are deep bench players (Toney Douglas, Jimmer Freddette, Nate Wolters).
16. Milwaukee Bucks (30-23, Last week: 16)
If you pegged the Bucks to be comfortably in position for the playoffs with 30 wins despite Jabari Parker missing most of the season and Larry Sanders working toward a buyout, it might be time to start playing the lottery.
17. Brooklyn Nets (21-31, Last week: 18)
Brooklyn has been a team mentioned in trade rumors throughout the season, so don't be surprised if it makes changes before basketball is back in session. Most intriguing is if Kevin Garnett pushes for a buyout. The Big Ticket may be playing in the most minimal role of his career, but as a free agent he'll surely intrigue contenders in need of a bench big. How about a reunion with Doc Rivers?
18. Miami Heat (22-30, Last week: 19)
The Heat are at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff standings with teams biting at their ankles. Dwyane Wade needs to return ASAP with enough Flash in him to put the Heat over the top. Missing the playoffs would be a big blow to a franchise that, more than anything, wanted to stay competitive despite LeBron James' exit.
19. Charlotte Hornets (22-30, Last week: 17)
Can the Hornets hold on to their playoff seeding while Kemba Walker still misses time? Charlotte will have to hold on for dear life, but the next three games are against playoff teams, followed by an important meeting against the Celtics.
20. Boston Celtics (20-31, Last week: 21)
For all the tearing down the Celtics have done this season, they're still sitting at 20 wins and are another darkhorse playoff team in the East. It's a good sign for Boston that Marcus Smart has emerged as one of their best players right out of the gate.
21. Indiana Pacers (21-33, Last week: 20)
The Pacers are still in the Eastern Conference playoff picture with plenty of basketball to play, and Paul George's recovery from his devastating leg injury has gone smoothly. So smooth, in fact, that he may be eyeing a return on March 14. That would leave plenty of time for George and the Pacers to cover some ground and take a shot at a playoff run. Even whispers of George returning should send chills down the teams floating above the Pacers' spines.
22. Detroit Pistons (21-33, Last week: 22)
Did you enjoy your break Detroit? Good, because you have a gauntlet of games against the Bulls, Wizards (x2), Cavaliers, Pelicans and Rockets once you clock back in. There's a game against the Knicks as an olive branch of goodwill.
23. Denver Nuggets (20-33, Last week: 23)
The Nuggets are floating along in a very strange season and will surely entertain calls for their group of wing players. It'll be interesting to see where this team is headed once the trade deadline passes. Arron Afflalo is a player who could be a huge get for a contender, but will the asking price be too high?
24. Utah Jazz (19-34, Last week: 24)
The Jazz have a frontcourt logjam that became even more apparent with Rudy Gobert's fantastic Rising Stars game outing:
25. Sacramento Kings (18-34, Last week: 25)
It's a new era of Kings basketball. Again. The George Karl signing happened, which means the rest of this season will be a feel-out period followed by a potential roster shift once free agency hits. The Mike Malone firing was a blemish, but if Karl turns the team around, that'd go a long way in the damage control department.
26. Orlando Magic (17-39, Last week: 26)
The Magic have won just two of their last 14 games, but even those two wins may come back around to haunt them. Both the Lakers and Knicks need as many losses as possible to stay "ahead" of the Knicks in draft lottery chances, and teams like the Kings and Jazz are within games of Orlando. There's still a lot of help needed in Orlando, and there's plenty of talent at the top they may miss out on because of a few errant wins against bottom-feeding teams.
27. Philadelphia 76ers (12-41, Last week: 27)
The 76ers may have found a few pieces to keep around as their drastic rebuild moves ahead. The five-man lineup of Michael Carter-Williams, Robert Covington, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, K.J. McDaniels and Nerlens Noel -- their most-used lineup by far -- is outscouring opponents by 14.9 points per 100 possessions. This is the group that's carried the 76ers to 12th overall in defensive efficiency.
28. Minnesota Timberwolves (11-42, Last week: 29)
Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin are back. Andrew Wiggins is playing great. Zach LaVine may have brought the slam dunk contest back to life. Minnesota's trajectory is only up from here.
29. New York Knicks (10-43. Last week: 28)
New York has been battling at the bottom all season, and with Carmelo Anthony's (likely) impending shut down, things are only going to get worse for the Knicks. As Harvey Dent once said, "The night is always darkest just before the dawn."
30. Los Angeles Lakers (13-40, Last week: 30)
The Lakers have won a single game in over a month and there's no reason to expect this group of players will sudden forge ahead into progress. It's all about the draft lottery for the Lakers, and they're quickly tightening their control of their top-five protected pick.
*Data courtesy of NBA.com/stats unless otherwise noted.