1. Golden State Warriors (29-5, Last week: 1)
The Warriors' reign at the top continues. Andrew Bogut is working his way back into the rotation, which is great news for Golden State. A lot is made about their free-wheeling offense, but the Warriors have sticking power at the top because of their NBA-best defensive efficiency and depth. Golden State is allowing just 96.2 points per 100 possessions, nearly two full points better than the Houston Rockets at No. 2.
Great defense plus having two of the best offensive five-man lineups equals another top ranking for the Dubs:
2. Atlanta Hawks (29-8, Last week: 2)
The Hawks continue ransacking the NBA, as they're currently on the longest active winning streak in the league. Home, away, back-to-back, against the Pistons ... it hasn't mattered what the schedule threw the Hawks. They put another very impressive week in the books, ending it with a 30-point rout of the Washington Wizards.
3. Portland Trail Blazers (30-8, Last week: 3)
The Trail Blazers got to dance with the Lakers twice and Damian Lillard had on his blue suede shoes. He may have devoured their soul with this dunk Sunday night:
4. Dallas Mavericks (26-12, Last week: 4)
The Mavericks hit a bit of a snag against the Clippers in a 20-point loss. Rajon Rondo went 1-for-11 from the field and didn't stop Chris Paul enough (17 points, 13 assists) to make up for his poor shooting. It's still a growing process, but nights like that shouldn't be overlooked, especially against playoff opponents.
5. Houston Rockets (26-11, Last week: 6)
Houston started the week with a close loss to the Chicago Bulls, but followed it up with three wins over floundering opponents like the Utah Jazz, New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers. Moving Josh Smith to the bench has been beneficial, bumping his field goal percentage. He shot just under 34 percent from the field through his first five games with Houston, but is shooting nearly 54 percent since he slid down into a sixth-man role.
6. Memphis Grizzlies (26-11, Last week: 5)
The Grizzlies are about to shake things up with the addition of Jeff Green, all just in time for Zach Randolph to get healthy. The only thing that saved their week was the double-overtime win over the Phoenix Suns. Let's see how the forthcoming trade works out.
7. Washington Wizards (25-12, Last week: 10)
The Wizards nearly completed an excellent 4-0 week but ran into the buzzsaw Hawks on Sunday. The win over Chicago was a statement game and John Wall made sure to let Derrick Rose know how he felt about it.
8. Chicago Bulls (26-12, Last week: 7)
It's a little surprising Pau Gasol hit a new career-high with 46 points against the Milwaukee Bucks. Perhaps even more surprising is the Bulls desperately needed that scoring outburst to barely avoid losing three straight. Wednesday's third game against the Wizards in a month should be a doozy.
9. Toronto Raptors (25-11, Last week: 8)
So much for DeMar DeRozan's return being around the corner. Dwane Casey wouldn't put a timetable on DeRozan coming back, and the rest of the elite"East teams are preparing to pass Toronto. Games against Detroit, Atlanta and New Orleans while the Bulls and Wizards are within a single game of the Raptors will make for a very interesting week.
10. San Antonio Spurs (23-15, Last week: 9)
Judging the Spurs is hard to do while Kawhi Leonard continues to miss time, but he traveled with San Antonio for the first time since injuring his hand.
11. Los Angeles Clippers (25-13, Last week: 11)
The Clippers have the second-best offensive five-man lineup in the NBA (minimum 90 minutes played), but have looked good and not great through the season. Los Angeles' 20-point win over the Mavericks was impressive, but getting beat up by Hassan Whiteside (23 points, 16 rebounds, 29 minutes) and the Heat was not.
12. Phoenix Suns (22-18, Last week: 13)
The Suns three-headed guard monster has been on the floor for a total of 126 minutes this season. How has that gone? Phoenix averages 122.5 points per 100 possessions while Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas are in together and hold opponents to 102.4 points per 100 possessions. A 20.1 net rating is pretty darn good.
13. New Orleans Pelicans (18-18, Last week: 15)
Anthony Davis' numbers are still amazing this season, but what might be most impressive is how effective he's been at the rim and from mid-range. Davis is shooting 73.2 percent from the restricted area (13.3 percent higher than league average), and 46.1 percent from mid-range (six percent higher than league average). He's also shooting nearly as many shots from outside the paint than he is at the rim, spreading his shot distribution evenly.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder (18-19, Last week: 12)
The Thunder got walloped in back-to-back games against the Warriors and Kings and needed a fourth-quarter comeback (and Dion Waiters three) to barely get by the Jazz. They finally have Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant back, but it's starting to feel like Oklahoma City may have lost too much ground.
15. Cleveland Cavaliers (19-19, Last week: 14)
This week in unfortunate Cavaliers quotes: this gem from David Blatt following a blowout loss to the Sacramento Kings:
Reporter: "Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love they are two max players, they're here." Blatt responds quickly: "Kevin's not a max player yet."— Blake Ellington (@BlakeEllington) January 12, 2015
Come back soon, LeBron James, and healthy. This team needs a hero to get out of this nasty funk.
16. Milwaukee Bucks (20-19, Last week: 17)
You have to wonder if the Bucks missed having Larry Sanders while Gasol poured in 46 on them Saturday. They'll have some time to figure that situation out this week with just a single game (Thursday vs. New York Knicks) on deck.
17. Denver Nuggets (17-20, Last week: 20)
The Nuggets are on a four-game winning streak and have quietly made their way back into the race for the No. 8 seed. Not only that, but moving Timofey Mozgov means more Jusuf Nurkic, which means way more of this:
18. Miami Heat (16-21, Last week: 18)
It was a quiet week for Miami with just two games as they travel to face a handful of Western Conference teams. An unexpected win over the Clippers with Whiteside breaking out is a good start. Any help the Heat can find to keep it in the playoff race is plenty.
19. Brooklyn Nets (16-21, Last week: 16)
Brooklyn is falling apart. Deron Williams is out indefinitely with a busted rib, they're on a five-game losing streak, could conceivably lose out this week entirely (Houston, Memphis, Washington x 2) and Indiana is just two games out of the eighth seed, to say nothing of the streaking Pistons. The Nets are dangerously close to missing the playoffs in the East.
20. Sacramento Kings (16-21, Last week: 21)
The Kings have flip-flopped between wins and losses over the last two weeks, but the next four games are looking extra brutal with the Mavericks, Heat, Clippers and Blazers up next. Let's pause for a moment and acknowledge the Kings have the best defensive five-man lineup in the NBA (minimum 90 minutes played):
21. Detroit Pistons (13-24, Last week: 25)
The bad news is the Pistons' winning streak stopped at seven when they were pecked in the eyes by the Hawks. The good news is they immediately bounced back with a win over the Brooklyn Nets. Detroit is building a f***ing wall one winning streak at a time.
22. Indiana Pacers (15-24, Last week: 19)
Watching the Pacers flirt with a playoff spot is a sad reminder of how much better this team could be if Paul George didn't suffer that freak leg injury. The East is as wide-open as it's been since LeBron went down to Miami, but the Pacers can't take advantage of it this season.
23. Charlotte Hornets (15-24, Last week: 27)
Kemba Walker heroics have been turned up all the way up this season. This time, he clipped the Pelicans' wings:
Charlotte is on a surprising five-game winning streak as they try to stay respectable without both Lance Stephenson and Al Jefferson.
24. Utah Jazz (13-25, Last week: 23)
The Jazz caught the Bulls off guard in a 20-point win and nearly pulled off an upset against the Thunder, but Waiters shot that down. Dante Exum got his first career start against the Pacers, ending the game with 13 points (5-of-14 shooting) and .... zero assists.
25. Boston Celtics (12-23, Last week: 24)
The Celtics are wheeling and dealing the rest of their redeemable, non-future assets. What that leaves them with before the trade deadline is anyone's guess, but it's certain all eyes are already looking at the 2015 NBA Draft and beyond in Boston.
26. Los Angeles Lakers (12-26, Last week: 26)
The Lakers sound like they're headed to a dark place soon. Byron Scott floated the idea Kobe Bryant could shut it down for the season. The team will re-evaluate the possibility closer to the All-Star break.
27. Orlando Magic (13-27, Last week: 22)
The Magic are on a six-game losing streak and things aren't getting any easier going forward. Chicago, Houston, Memphis, Oklahoma City and Detroit are next in line. The Magic's next winnable game? Jan. 23 at Madison Square Garden.
28. Philadelphia 76ers (7-29, Last week: 29)
The 76ers won three games in a single week, which included a game-winning dunk from Nerlens Noel. That's one less game than they won through the first two months of the season.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-31, Last week: 28)
Andrew Wiggins is on some sort of tear over his last 10 games. He's averaging 21 points on nearly 50 percent shooting during that span, breaking double-digit scoring in each game.
30. New York Knicks (5-35, Last week: 30)
The Knicks hit two franchise lows in stride: their worst start and longest losing streak. When you're getting doubled up in points by the Hornets through the second half, things have gone terribly wrong.