Ranking the NBA from worst to first…
30. New Jersey Nets (1-19) — Brook Lopez is going to be this season’s Al Jefferson. His numbers should be enough to be an All-Star (18.9 ppg, 9 rpg), but his team’s record will ultimately keep him on the outside looking in.
29. Philadelphia 76ers (5-16) — The delirium of Allen Iverson’s return took about 40 minutes of game time to go back to the depression of a now 10-game losing streak.
28. Minnesota Timberwolves (3-17) — We would have paid Kevin Love a small bonus to keep wearing the WWE-style “loaded glove” all season. Especially if he pulled the glove out of his shorts and cracked Brian Scalabrine one good time.
27. Indiana Pacers (6-12) — Going back to Nov. 17, the Pacers are 2-9, with the only wins coming against the Nets and Clippers. They get the injury-riddled Blazers, the Nets again, and the inconsistent Wizards this week, so things could be looking up.
26. Golden State Warriors (6-14) — Anthony Randolph put in work against Orlando over the weekend with 28 points and 13 boards, but there was a play where Dwight Howard casually tossed him aside before a putback dunk that reminded everyone why Randolph still has a lot of work to do.
25. Chicago Bulls (7-11) — Seven losses in their last eight. Upset prediction: The Nets knock off Chicago on Tuesday night.
24. Memphis Grizzlies (8-12) — Do you realize Jamaal Tinsley has led Memphis in assists in three of their last four games?
23. Detroit Pistons (8-12) — If they still had the Comeback Player of the Year award, Ben Wallace would be a front-runner.
22. New York Knicks (7-15) — This contract year thing isn’t quite going the way Nate Robinson planned. He’s been Starburied as of late.
21. Milwaukee Bucks (9-12) — It’s hard to say they’re short-handed when the Bucks often seem to play better without Michael Redd and Joe Alexander, but something has to be behind this stretch of seven losses in eight games.
20. Washington Wizards (7-12) — Three national TV games in the next two weeks: Celtics at home this Thursday, then at Sacramento and at Golden State next week. By our count, Washington is 2-0 in national TV games so far this season.
19. Charlotte Bobcats (8-11) — They had a nice little four-game win streak going until the Celtics came into their gym and waxed ‘em, then the ‘Cats dropped one to the Nets.
18. Los Angeles Clippers (9-11) — Marcus Camby has averaged 16 rebounds and three blocks in his last five games, and the Clips are starting to sneak up on some folks.
17. Sacramento Kings (9-10) — Every time you think Donte Greene gets it and is ready to put together a string of consistently good games, he disappears for a week. He dropped 21 points on the Heat on Sunday; let’s see where he goes with it.
16. Toronto Raptors (9-13) — Chris Bosh is playing like a leader. Snapping a five-game losing streak with wins at Chicago and Washington while posting 28 points and 14 boards per, Bosh is full of energy and committed to playing defense.
15. New Orleans Hornets (8-11) — Chris Paul is back. And just in case Darren Collison had dreams of challenging for his job, CP handed out 15 assists and notched EIGHT steals in his first game back. Collison woke up and apologized.
14. San Antonio Spurs (9-9) — Blowing leads and failing to finish games isn’t like the Spurs we’ve come to know. And why isn’t Manu Ginobili getting more PT in crunch time?
13. Oklahoma City Thunder (12-9) — Everybody knows Kevin Durant will get buckets, but how about the defense? On Monday they had the Warriors stuck in the 70s well into the fourth quarter.
12. Houston Rockets (11-9) — Just when we said more people need to be talking about Carl Landry, he goes and slaps up 22.5 ppg and 9.0 rpg in back-to-back games. And still, nobody is talking about him.
11. Portland Trail Blazers (13-9) — Three months ago, Portland’s seemingly endless roster depth was a luxury. With the team being decimated by injuries lately, that depth has become a necessity.
10. Utah Jazz (12-8) — It seems almost silly now that the Jazz would trade Carlos Boozer. The reigning Western Conference Player of the Week dropped 26.7 points and 13.7 boards in three games last week.
9. Miami Heat (11-9) — Dwyane Wade went toe-to-toe with B-Roy, Carmelo, Kobe and Tyreke Evans last week, and were it not for Kobe’s incredible game-winner, would have gone 3-1 while putting up 26.7 points and 8.5 assists per night.
8. Phoenix Suns (15-6) — Blowout losses to the Knicks, Cavs and Lakers have exposed Phoenix’s defense. This is when Amar’e needs to step up and have a monster game if he’s really going to be the franchise guy.
7. Dallas Mavericks (14-7) — Dirk Nowitzki hosts Steve Nash and the Suns on Tuesday. We’ll set the over/under for how many times the announcers use the word “buddy” or “friend” or “pal” about Dirk and Nash at 14 and a half.
6. Atlanta Hawks (14-6) — Whether dumping 146 points in a track meet with Toronto or grinding out a road win at Dallas where they held the Mavs to 75 points, the Hawks are showing they can beat any team’s style.
5. Denver Nuggets (16-5) — Carmelo had his streak of 20-point games snapped when he put up just 14 on Monday night, but Denver’s backcourt was still strong enough to ruin A.I.’s return to Philly.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers (15-5) — If the Cavs can keep winning with Shaq playing limited minutes and LeBron not having to carry the offense by himself, it bodes well for their chances at enduring long enough to win a ring next spring.
3. Boston Celtics (16-4) — Kevin Garnett took home Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors after averaging 19.7 points and 7.3 boards in wins over the Bobcats, Spurs and Thunder. KG is in love with his mid-range jumper lately, and he’s rarely missing.
2. Orlando Magic (16-4) — They’ve overcome early-season injuries and suspensions and working new players into the mix, and now look as strong as anybody. And Dwight Howard (18.1 ppg, 12.1 rpg, 1.8 bpg) isn’t even really dominating yet.
1. Los Angeles Lakers (16-3) — Even the Lakers know they haven’t been tested too much, as it seems they’ve been playing home games all season. This week includes two more homes games (Utah, Minnesota) before a five-game road trip.