1. Golden State Warriors (49-12, Last week: 1)
The Most Valuable Player race might come down to James Harden vs. Stephen Curry, but boy did Steph add some serious bullet points his case in the first full week of March. He capped off his campaign with a win over the Clippers and a sequence so ridiculous it'd make the most avid NBA 2K fan blush:
It's been an exceptional week of Stephen Curry making basketball look like art.
2. Atlanta Hawks (49-13, Last week: 2)
The Hawks are still breathing down the Warriors' necks, but resting Paul Millsap, Pero Antic and DeMarre Carroll turned into a loss against the Philadelphia 76ers. Atlanta begins a six-game road trip on Wednesday with a very winnable schedule leading up to the rematch against Golden State on March 18.
3. Memphis Grizzlies (44-18, Last week: 3)
The Grizzlies picked up a big win over the Rockets via a Marc Gasol game-winning shot. James Harden may have been fouled on the previous Rockets' possession, but the teams exchanged blows and did a great job of getting the juices flowing with the playoffs just over a month away.
4. Houston Rockets (43-20, Last week: 4)
The Rockets split their four games last week, but lost the two that mattered (Atlanta, Memphis). Houston has been a good team trying to survive through Harden's brilliance while Dwight Howard tries to get healthy. It's crazy to think Dwight's played in just 32 of the Rockets' 63 games.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers (40-24, Last week: 5)
LeBron James and the Cavaliers continue putting their slow start in the rear-view mirror, and Cleveland's now looking like the favorite to end the season as the No. 2 seed in the East. Locking up a 3-1 series against the Raptors last week was a big step for David Blatt's team.
6. Los Angeles Clippers (40-23. Last week: 7)
It would've helped to have Blake Griffin back for games against the Blazers and Warriors. Or, you know, before a gauntlet against the Thunder, Mavericks and Rockets this week. Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan need more than sporadic 20-point outbursts from Austin Rivers to survive the Wild West.
7. Dallas Mavericks (41-24. Last week: 8)
The Mavericks happily welcomed Chandler Parsons back on Sunday, just in time for a week they'll see both LeBron James and Kevin Durant as opponents. Dallas is still very much in position to move up the standings and seal up home court advantage in the first week, especially with Parsons back.
8. San Antonio Spurs (39-23, Last week: 9)
Tony Parker has been devastating lately, and his run of 15 consecutive points against the Bulls was masterful. The Spurs need Parker to continue stepping up his game as they look to close out the season with some momentum.
9. Portland Trail Blazers (41-20, Last week: 6)
Portland was barely hanging on to its top-five status anyway, but Wesley Matthews devastating Achilles injury changes everything. Matthews has been phenomenal at spacing the floor for Portland over his five seasons with the Trail Blazers and the continuity of the roster was a big selling point for this team. That Arron Afflalo trade just became even more vital.
10. Chicago Bulls (39-25, Last week: 11)
Chicago keeps tugging along, as they've done the last few years under Tom Thibodeau. Imagine if Pau Gasol didn't make his way to Chicago this season. Gasol's played the most games out of the Bulls' starting lineup, and though his defense is shaky, he's put up 18.3 points and 12.1 rebounds per game.
11. Oklahoma City Thunder (35-28, Last week: 12)
Russell Westbrook might actually be a Terminator the way he's notching triple-doubles:
12. Toronto Raptors (38-25, Last week: 10)
The Raptors' fall from grace has been remarkable. Toronto has won just two games since the trade deadline and one of them was against the 76ers. The Raptors have seen a significant drop in efficiency since their hot start to the season, as demonstrated by this graph from SB Nation's Tom Ziller:
13. Washington Wizards (35-28, Last week: 13)
Another team singing the post All-Star break blues? The Wizards. Washington's also won a meager two games since the break, getting outscored by 9.8 points per 100 possessions since basketball started back up. That's third-worst, behind Denver (-9.9) and New York (-14.5).
14. New Orleans Pelicans (34-29, Last week: 15)
Anthony Davis returned and immediately got back to his stat-stuffing ways. Putting up big games and getting back on the floor as soon as possible is a good way to repay his teammates for keeping playoff dreams alive even without him. The Pelicans are one game out with plenty of basketball left.
15. Milwaukee Bucks (33-29, Last week: 14)
Khris Middleton went off for a career-high 30 points against the Wizards and put the cherry on top by hitting the game-clinching three:
16. Phoenix Suns (33-31, Last week: 16)
Things are falling apart fast, as Jim Coughenour of Bright Side of the Sun writes:
After drawing rave reviews for his maneuvering up this point, McDonough is now placing a lot of faith in the future of Brandon Knight to quell doubts about a trade that some feel pushed the rebuilding process further down the road. For the first time, something seems like it might blow up spectacularly in his face.
Basically there have been issues raised at all organizational levels -- front office (integrity), coaches (authority) and players (character, discipline, toughness).
17. Charlotte Hornets (28-33, Last week: 18)
Charlotte is on a five-game winning streak, but the real winner this week is Lance Stephenson. It's been a regrettable season for Sir Stephenson, so let's appreciate these Lance moments:
1) He almost exploded after this slick pass:
2) He turned human bones into Jell-O for a few seconds:
18. Indiana Pacers (28-34, Last week: 20)
The Pacers are 11-2 since February and are suddenly the No. 8 seed in the playoffs. With Paul George's return on the horizon, they will be a tough out in April.
19. Miami Heat (28-34. Last week: 19)
The Heat enjoyed a 3-1 week, taking care of business against the Suns, Lakers and Kings, but losing to the Wizards. Sure, Miami turned a 35-point blowout into a two-point loss by riding the hot hand of MICHAEL BEASLEY, but it wasn't enough. The Heat will have to fight off the Pacers to push back into the playoff picture.
20. Brooklyn Nets (25-36. Last week: 17)
The Nets hit a three-game losing streak this week, but not before Jarrett Jack sunk the Warriors with a tough game-winning jumper over both Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry.
21. Boston Celtics (25-36, Last week: 21)
Isaiah Thomas has come on strong for Boston, putting up 21 points and 5.6 assists in 27.2 minutes per game. Maybe he'll settle in to a nice sixth man role behind Marcus Sma -- nope, Isaiah already made it clear he'd 'love' to start in Boston. Round and round we go!
22. Utah Jazz (26-36, Last week: 22)
The most definitive piece written on the Jazz right now? The great Paul Flannery dove into how great Utah's defense has been with Rudy Gobert taking the reins:
A trade deadline deal that sent Enes Kanter to Oklahoma City opened up a starting spot next to Derrick Favors, and suddenly Gobert became a cornerstone on the league's most improbable second-half success story.
The numbers are staggering. Utah has the league's top defense since February, allowing just 95.7 points per 100 possessions according to nba.com/stats, shaving almost nine points per 100 possessions from its previous total. Since the Kanter trade, the Jazz have allowed just 89.3 points per 100 possessions. It's a remarkable turnaround for a team that ranked dead last defensively the previous season.
23. Denver Nuggets (22-41. Last week: 25)
In completely non-shocking news, the Nuggets parted ways with Brian Shaw as the franchise continues cleaning house. Tack on a 56-85 record and second-year firing to the Phil Jackson coaching tree.
24. Detroit Pistons (23-39, Last week: 23)
The Pistons have dealt with all sorts of shifting since Stan Van Gundy came aboard. Here's how that looks as a timeline:
25. Orlando Magic (21-43, Last week: 26)
There haven't been enough Aaron Gordon highlights for the Magic this season, so enjoy one from their win over the Celtics on Sunday:
26. Sacramento Kings (21-40, Last week: 24)
Once upon a time, the Kings were 5-1 and filled NBA fans with dreams of DeMarcus Cousins going wild in the playoffs. Now 21-40, it's as good as time as ever to remind everyone that the beginning of the season is for the dreamers, while the end of it is filled with shattered hopes.
27. Minnesota Timberwolves (14-47, Last week: 27)
The Timberwolves can be dangerous when Ricky Rubio stacks up 15 assists and Kevin Martin dials in 29 points, which is exactly how Minnesota snapped a four-game losing streak with a win over Portland. Injuries really bogged this team down this season.
28. Los Angeles Lakers (16-46, Last week: 28)
The Lakers hit their fourth streak of at least five losses and are en-route to follow a franchise-worst season with an even uglier campaign. Very little good has come of this season in Los Angeles, but Jordan Clarkson has looked solid for a second-round prospect that was benched for a huge portion of the season.
SB Nation presents: Nick Young on how he went from wannabe to Swaggy P
29. Philadelphia 76ers (14-49, Last week: 29)
Mike Budenholzer foiled Brett Brown's tanking 76ers plans by resting three starters during the Hawks' loss to Philadelphia. Gregg Popovich surely approves of one of his disciples using some "rest" against another of his protégés.
30. New York Knicks (12-49, Last week: 30)
Knicks fans, think you're done with Andrea Bargnani in 20-some odd games? Think again! Phil Jackson is interested in bringing him back because of his "length, post defense and ability to score and pass," according to a report. That might be the nicest thing anyone's ever said about Bargnani.