10. Los Angeles Lakers (6-4)
LW: 11, +1
Kobe catching reverse jams? The Lakers struggling game-to-game, never knowing what they’ll get out of their complementary pieces? This really does feel like 2006. Their demise last season was a defense that allowed J.J. Barea to get himself $19 million. But now, it’s the other end causing problems. Los Angeles: make a shot please. There’s no way a team with three All-Star caliber players should be average offensively.
9. Los Angeles Clippers (4-2)
LW: 10, +1
Defensively, the Clippers are throwaways. Blake Griffin is garbage on that end – and I love the dude. DeAndre Jordan is always out of position and the rest of the team is either too small (CP) or too old (Caron Butler) to make a difference. Still, I think this week was a turning point for them. They beat Portland, destroyed Houston and finished off a desperate Bucks team.
8. Atlanta (6-3)
LW: 8, —
Ah, I don’t even want to start in on this. It’s always the same reaction with these dudes: They tantalize, then lose because they’re a bunch of role players masquerading as stars, then catch heat, then their “fans” get heated because we’re criticizing a playoff team so hard, then everyone comes back and says they deserve it. But seriously, they beat Miami and the Big Three in South Beach, and then three days later lost in triple overtime at home to the same team, minus LeBron and Wade. How can you explain that?
7. San Antonio (6-3)
LW: 4, -3
Call me once Manu gets healthy, if that defense ever improves (25th in the NBA) and if “Daniel” Green keeps balling outta control. How rough could it get in San Antonio? My boy just picked up Gary Neal in our fantasy league, figuring Neal would take Manu’s minutes, all his shots and most of his points. In real life, if you’re leaning on Gary Neal to keep you in the top half of a conference, someone better sound the alarm. If Atlanta didn’t pull off disappearing acts every other game – hell, every other quarter – they’d have this spot.
6. Philadelphia (5-2)
LW: 12, +6
Hurry up. Grab something. Brace yourself. Steady yourself. The best offensive team in the league right now? Philly with an efficiency of 106.6. The best defensive team in the league right now? Philly with an efficiency of 90.2. Yes, technically the best team in the NBA is the squad that has all of it’s fans brainwashed into believing Spencer Hawes is a dominant, up-and-coming big man. Hawes is dropping 13 and 11 with two blocks a night on nearly 65 percent shooting. So why aren’t they higher? Even though they have won their last four games by a combined 94 points, they’ve played only one definite playoff team so far (losing in Portland).
5. Denver (6-3)
LW: 6, +1
After starting off the year with the best defense in the world, the Nuggets have come back to Earth (No. 7). Still, I started bumping Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) as I’m writing this because there’s no better comparison in the NBA. When you have three guys all averaging at least 15.8 points a night, and not one of them is Nene, you know you have serious depth. I’m putting in a call. They need to get introduced in the pre-game to “Bring Da Ruckus.”
4. Oklahoma City (8-2)
LW: 2, -2
I’ve always loved OKC. They’re fun to watch. The “Star Wars” thing they have going on is incredibly entertaining (even if it’s been blown WAY out of proportion). Whereas I was once convinced the West was theirs to lose, I’m beginning to doubt whether they could beat Portland in the playoffs. After KD, Harden and Westbrook, the next-best offensive player (Serge Ibaka) is averaging 7.5 points a game. They have no balance on one end, and then on the other, they’re just plain pathetic. How can a team win a title when their defense is rated No. 23 in the NBA?
3. Portland (6-2)
LW: 5, +2
The Blazers are quickly becoming my favorite team in the league. So many athletes. So much versatility. Their big win over the Lakers at the end of last week played out exactly like I knew it would. Portland is just too balanced and athletic for nearly everyone else in the league. They even have a budding superstar who’s completely underrated in LaMarcus Aldridge. Actually, he might be my pick for breakout star this year. Basketball heads know he can play. The rest of the country doesn’t. They’ll find out this year when Portland goes deep in the playoffs.
2. Chicago (7-2)
LW: 3, +1
Defense? The Bulls should be given another name for the way they’re smothering opponents. 83 points for Orlando. 74 for Atlanta. Freakin’ 64 for Memphis. Derrick Rose is learning to be more of a distributor off the pick-n-roll, and the rest of the Bulls’ lineup is falling into place offensively. The softest part of their schedule starts now. Come the end of the month when they play in Miami, they could seriously be riding a 12-game winning streak and a 19-2 record. It’s not out of the question.
1. Miami (8-1)
LW: 1, —
Not much needs to be said for the Galactic Empire. LeBron James is out of this world (36.83 PER), and the Heat are playing faster than Harold and Kumar riding a cheetah. They’re by far the best team in the league right now.
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