Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Fresh NBA Power Rankings: December 12, 2014


     Here are my NBA Power Rankings for Friday December 12, 2014. Enjoy!

#1. Golden State Warriors (19-2): The Warriors have now won 14 straight games and it hasn't been due to a herculean effort by Stephen Curry. Everybody is chipping in and contributing, making this team even more scary. That being said, Stephen Curry is putting up a strong case for league MVP at this point of the season (23.0 points, 7.7 assists, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.9 steals per game).

#2. Memphis Grizzlies (17-4): The game against the Warriors on Tuesday could decide who is ranked #1 next week. It should be fun to see if Tony Allen and Courtney Lee can slow down Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson on the perimeter. I can't wait!

#3. Houston Rockets (17-5):  James Harden is playing some fantastic basketball right now. He had 44 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 steals against the Kings on Thursday, and the previous three games, he scored 34 points, 15 points, and 38 points. If you want to know how the Rockets are still winning without Dwight Howard it's because of James Harden and his sensational play.

#4. Los Angeles Clippers (16-5): Nobody is talking about the Clippers' nine game winning streak that they have going into tonight's game in D.C..  These guys are playing really well right now.

#5. Portland Trail Blazers (17-5): Even with the Thunder getting on a roll, these guys still are in prime position to win the Northwest division. Their focus now needs to be on getting the #1 seed in the West, which will be no easy task.

#6. Atlanta Hawks (15-6): The Paul Millsap/Al Horford combo is starting to look good. They've won eight straight games and are gunning for nine straight wins tonight against the Magic.

#7. San Antonio Spurs (16-6): I know it doesn't feel like these guys are moving up the ranks, but in reality, they are doing all that they need to be doing in order to get back to the NBA Finals. All these guys care about is May and June, but unfortunately for them, caring only about that still requires them to be winning games at a solid clip.

#8. Toronto Raptors (16-6): They need DeMar DeRozan back. That simple.

#9. Cleveland Cavaliers (13-8): These guys are starting to wake up, having won eight out of their last nine games. With nobody in the East really taking control, I'd say the Cavaliers are the front runners to win the East at this point.

#10. Washington Wizards (15-6): The maturation of Bradley Beal and John Wall is fun to watch. They aren't as good of a backcourt duo as Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, but they are in that same zip code.

#11. Dallas Mavericks (17-7): Saturday's game against the Warriors at home is huge. If they beat the Warriors, that will really send a strong message to the rest of the NBA.

#12. Chicago Bulls (13-8): What really helps this team is that their conference is weak. If they get healthy, they have all the makings of a team that could run the table. They just need to stay afloat and get healthy by April.

#13. Oklahoma City Thunder (9-13): They are only a couple of games out of the #8 seed in the West. I'm confident they'll make the playoffs.

#14. Phoenix Suns (12-11): If Alex Len can actually become a productive center, he could vault these guys into championship contending status in the coming years.

#15. Milwaukee Bucks (11-2):  They will be tested on their upcoming Western Conference road trip: @Phoenix, @Portland, @Sacramento, and @Los Angeles Clippers. The trip starts on December 15.

#16. Sacramento Kings (11-12): Just like the Raptors, they need their star back. So long as DeMarcus Cousins is out, the Kings will struggle.

#17. New Orleans Pelicans (10-11): Eric Gordon has really let this team down.

#18. Denver Nuggets (10-12): I have faith in this team's ability to stay the course as a .500 team. I'm not worried.

#19. Miami Heat (10-12): Remember when people were like "Don't sleep on the Heat"? I may have been one of those people, haha. But it looks like they aren't going to be much of a threat. They obviously are not the same team without LeBron James.

#20. Brooklyn Nets (8-12): If they really are open to trading Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, and Brook Lopez, they might as well waive the white flag.

#21. Orlando Magic (9-15): Amazingly, they are staying in the playoff hunt as I predicted that they would.

#22. Boston Celtics (7-13): Marcus Smart's 23 points against the Wizards was a definite bright flash that this team needed in terms of giving them some hope.

#23. Indiana Pacers (7-15): They've lost six straight games and likely will have seven straight losses after tonight's game against the Raptors.

#24. Utah Jazz (6-16): They beat the Spurs at home. That says something good about this team.

#25. Charlotte Hornets (6-15): Several teams are interested in Lance Stephenson. These guys probably should listen to some offers.

#26. Los Angeles Lakers (6-16): Ronnie Price and Ed Davis starting over Carlos Boozer and Jeremy Lin is all you need to know about the current state of the Lakers.

#27. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-16): Andrew Wiggins is the real deal. These guys have a future with him on their team.

#28. New York Knicks (4-20): These guys are awful.

#29. Philadelphia 76ers (2-19): They went up a spot in my rankings!!!! Congrats to them!!!

#30. Detroit Pistons (3-19): They have fallen below the 76ers in my Power Rankings. It is that bad right now in the Motor City.


---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord  





Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bear Territory Thursday: Could Cal be better than last year?

   
     Before the season started, I thought that Cal was going to have a drop off from last season. It wasn't that I didn't believe in the team or didn't have faith, it just had to do with who was no longer on the team.

     Last season, Cal was led by Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon. Cobbs averaged 15.6 points and 5.8 assists per game and Solomon averaged 11.0 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Both guys were truly the heart and soul of the team even though they had talented players around them like Tyrone Wallace, Jabari Bird, and David Kravish. When Cal needed a basket in crunch time, Justin Cobbs was there to make a play. When Cal needed to make a big stop defensively, Richard Solomon was patrolling the paint ready to grab a rebound.

     With them now playing professionally, I wasn't sure if Cal had anybody who could fill their shoes. But now it looks like Cal does thanks to the emergence of Tyrone Wallace as a superstar. Wallace is averaging 19.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.3 steals per contest and in the process is willing to takeover games in crunch time. In addition, David Kravish, Jabari Bird, Sam Singer, and Jordan Mathews are all improved players from last year.

     The combination of Wallace's sensational play, the improvement of players around him, and Cal's fantastic 8-1 start has me thinking that perhaps this year's team is better than last year's team. I know it's early in the season and also that Cal has had some shaky wins, but the wins over Nevada and Wyoming this past week were really solid. Cal certainly seems likely to be 10-1 when #5 Wisconsin comes to town on the 23rd and should Cal stun Wisconsin, there will be absolutely no reason for Cal to not be ranked in the Top 25, which is something that last year's team never accomplished.

     Right now, Tyrone Wallace is doing more than Justin Cobbs was doing last year, and given that basketball is such a star driven sport, that in and of itself is enough of a reason to say that Cal has a better team this year. In addition, the freshmen from last year (Jabari Bird, Sam Singer, Jordan Mathews, and Kameron Rooks) all have a year under their belts, making them more mature and ready to contribute. The only real knock on this year's team is that they don't have as much size up front as last year, but actually, the emergence of freshman center Kingsley Okoroh has surprisingly given this team a more sound presence in the paint than anticipated.

     I know we have a long way to go in the season and that there is still plenty of basketball to be played before the final verdict is in, but right now I believe that Cal has a better basketball team than last season. Don't at all be surprised if instead of making a deep run in the NIT, you see Cal making a deep run in the NCAA tournament. They might actually be that good. Go Bears!

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday Fresh NBA Power Rankings: December 5, 2014

                                          (Credit: Matthew Addie. Click here for full image and source)

Here are my NBA Power Rankings for December 5, 2014. Enjoy!

#1. Golden State Warriors (16-2): The Warriors have won 11 straight games and are seeded #1 in the Western Conference.  The most impressive part about this run is that they are doing this without David Lee.

#2. Memphis Grizzlies (15-3): The Rockets got even with them earlier this week, handing them just their third loss of the season. I do not doubt that the Grizzlies will bounce back from this, but they have some tough opponents coming to town like the Spurs, Mavericks, and Heat.

#3. Houston Rockets (14-4): Defeating the Grizzlies without Dwight Howard is beyond impressive. That is a really encouraging win for this Rockets team.

#4.  Portland Trail Blazers (15-4): The Portland Trail Blazers are playing some really good basketball right now. They just need to hope the other good teams in the Western Conference like the Rockets, Warriors, and Grizzlies cool off.

#5. Toronto Raptors (15-4): The loss of DeMar DeRozan for the foreseeable future is a blow to this team, but it's a blow they can withstand due to the Eastern Conference being garbage.

#6. Dallas Mavericks (15-5): They have two legit closers in Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki. That makes them really scary.

#7. San Antonio Spurs (13-5): I rarely say that there are "big games" in December, especially for teams like the Spurs. But I actually think tonight's trip to Memphis is a huge game for the Spurs. They need to remind people that they are still the defending champs.

#8. Los Angeles Clippers (13-5): They are currently riding on a six game winning streak. With games against the Pelicans and Suns at home coming up, that streak should extend to eight before they head out on an Eastern Conference road trip.

#9. Atlanta Hawks (11-6): Remember how we wondered how good these guys would be with a healthy Paul Millsap and a healthy Al Horford? I think we are starting to have that questioned answered. These guys look pretty good.

#10. Washington Wizards (12-5): Bradley Beal may be back, but now Nene is hurt and Paul Pierce has been dealing with a toe injury. Injuries are the only thing holding this team back from perhaps being the best team in the Eastern Conference.

#11. Chicago Bulls (12-7): Speaking of injuries, this team too needs to get healthy. Derrick Rose is back, but now it's Taj Gibson who is out indefinitely with an ankle injury. This team needs to get all its key players healthy so that we can know how good they actually are.

#12. Cleveland Cavaliers (10-7): During his last three games, Kyrie Irving has scored 24 points, 28 points and 37 points. If he keeps playing like this, these guys will be as scary as we thought they would be. Evidence of this is that they are currently on a five game winning streak.

#13. Phoenix Suns (11-8): They have a three game road trip starting tonight: @Dallas, @Houston, and @Los Angeles Clippers. These three games will tell us a lot about how good these guys actually are.

#14. Denver Nuggets (9-9): If they can consistently figure out how to win on the road, they could be a playoff team. Denver is always a tough place to play even when the Nuggets aren't terribly good and this year, the Nuggets are pretty good.

#15. Milwaukee Bucks (10-10): With the way these guys are playing under Jason Kidd, maybe the Nets made a mistake in letting him go.

#16. Miami Heat (9-9): People were buying the Heat as a sleeper team to win the East at the beginning of the year, but now it looks like that was wishful thinking. They are still a competitive team, but not a team we should take seriously as a contender.

#17. New Orleans Pelicans (8-9): Getting blown out by the Warriors on Thursday is just a reminder that even with Anthony Davis playing like a beast, this team still needs to get a lot better and provide him with more quality players.

#18. Sacramento Kings (9-9): Hopefully they can get DeMarcus Cousins back soon. I heard it was only a two game absence, so odds are good that they'll have him back by Monday.

#19. Oklahoma City Thunder (5-13): Why the sudden jump in the power rankings? Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are back! These guys should be able to make the playoffs and start climbing up the power rankings. #19 is where they are gonna have to start.

#20. Brooklyn Nets (8-9):  Paul Pierce did well to get out of Brooklyn. These guys seem destined for another mediocre season.

#21. Indiana Pacers (7-12): They've been trying to tread water without Paul George and they are starting to look tired. I don't see them making the playoffs and perhaps another high draft pick would do this team some good. Yes, I just mentioned the draft in December!

#22. Orlando Magic (7-14):  The loss to the Warriors at the hands of Stephen Curry was heartbreaking given they actually played a championship contending team really well on the road.

#23. Boston Celtics (5-11): There isn't a lot for Celtics fans to be happy about. Rondo is still around and the team has lost 8 of their last 10 games.

#24. Utah Jazz (5-14): I honestly like what I've seen from this team. Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Enes Kanter, and Dante Exum look fine. They are just in a brutal conference.

#25. Los Angeles Lakers (5-14): For all this talk about Kobe Bryant playing so well for his age, his team still sucks.

#26. Charlotte Hornets (4-15): I wrote a blog piece about their struggles earlier this week, so feel free to check it out. The short version is as follows: Lance Stephenson, Kemba Walker, and Gerald Henderson are struggling.

#27. Minnesota Timberwolves (4-13): Losing to the 76ers is depressing.

#28. New York Knicks (4-16): Amare' Stoudemire is finally playing like he's worth one-third of his contract!

#29. Detroit Pistons (3-16): I actually think they'll lose to the 76ers on Saturday. That's how bad it's gotten.

#30. Philadelphia 76ers (1-17): They won a game!!! Next goal for them to is get out of the #30 spot in my power rankings. A win over Detroit on Saturday might do the trick!

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Bear Territory Thursday: Should Cal feel encouraged by close wins?



     Cal had a really close call on Wednesday night against Montana, winning 78-76 in double overtime. If it wasn't for a timely three by Jordan Mathews and a little bit of luck, Cal would have suffered an embarrassing home loss. The absence of Jabari Bird due to a foot injury didn't help, but even with him resting, Cal still should have defeated Montana by more than 2 points. Cal played sloppy basketball all night against the Grizzlies, turning the ball over at inopportune times while also finding ways to fall behind. But amid all these errors and mistakes, Cal still won the game, and that in and of itself is enough of a reason for Cal to feel encouraged.

     I don't doubt that Cal should feel like they have a lot to improve on after their close call against Montana as well as their single digit win over a mediocre Fresno State team on Sunday. Cal showed that when you don't make your free throws and in the process get careless with the ball, it's going to be hard to win games. If they continue to make those same mistakes, they will struggle once PAC-12 play begins.

     Fortunately, turnovers and foul shots are fixable mistakes. They are more mental errors than they are errors of being outplayed or outmatched. Tyrone Wallace for example repeatedly got to the foul line over these last two games and yet he really struggled to make his free throws. He can change that by practicing his foul shots and being more confident.

     The ability to correct these mistakes as well as the fact that they still found ways to win is why Cal should feel encouraged by these past couple of victories. They know that even when they have bad days and play poorly, they can still find ways to salvage the victory. I think experiencing wins like this will serve Cal well in the long-term provided they fix their mistakes and get better. It's never a bad thing to get tested early in the season. Especially when you still walk away with the win. Cal's next couple of games are Sunday at Nevada and Wednesday at home against Wyoming.

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord 


Wednesday Windmill: The Charlotte Hornets Need To Wake Up


     The Charlotte Hornets are currently 4-15, playing far worse than anybody expected. The expectations put on this team weren't terribly high, but they weren't low, either. Most basketball analysts including myself expected this team to be a threat to win an opening round playoff series, which is why this 4-15 start has all of us scratching our heads and asking "What is going on with this team?".
 
      One might point to the fact that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Noah Vonleh, and Gary Neal have been injured, but that doesn't explain such a poor start. What explains their poor start is that their "money players" haven't stepped up.
   
     Al Jefferson is averaging 20 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, so he is doing his part, but the other three main players on this team (Lance Stephenson, Gerald Henderson, and Kemba Walker) have all played well below their expectations. Kemba Walker is scoring only 14 points per game, which just won't cut it for a guy who is supposed to be the #2 player on this team.
   
     As for Lance Stephenson, his 9.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per contest is beyond disappointing for a guy who signed a three-year, $27M contract. Stephenson was supposed to be the #3 option on this team who would change them from a playoff pretender to a playoff contender. He has instead done nothing but disappoint and leave Charlotte fans wondering if he was really worth the money or if he was just a good system player in Indiana.

     Gerald Henderson, who averaged 14 points per game last year, is averaging only 6.8 points per game while also producing fewer rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. His drop off has been staggering and nothing short of alarming. Out of all the players who have been struggling, his struggles seem to be the most perplexing.

     Whatever the problem is, whether it's Lance Stephenson failing to deliver or Kemba Walker not playing like a legit #2 option, the Hornets have to change something and make a move to energize themselves. The return of the nickname "Hornets" has energized this city, but it looks like more needs to be done to make "Buzz City" a place where playoff teams don't want to go.

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday Fresh NBA Power Rankings: November 28

                                         (Credit: Sean Davis. Click here for full image and source)

Here are my NBA power rankings for November 28, 2014. Enjoy!

#1. Memphis Grizzlies (13-2): Their two losses to the Bucks and Raptors are by a combined 5 points. Also, they have won three straight games despite getting hit with a stomach virus. Nothing appears capable of slowing the Grizzlies down.

#2. Toronto Raptors (13-2): They've won six straight games and in the process have defeated some good teams like the Grizzlies, Cavaliers, and Suns. A key to their early success has been the emergence of Lou Williams as a legitimate third option to take the pressure of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. He dropped 22 points on the Hawks and a career high 36 points on the Cavaliers.

#3. Golden State Warriors (12-2): The scariest part about this Warriors team is that Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry haven't reached their ceiling yet.

#4. Portland Trail Blazers (12-3):  The Trail Blazers will be gunning for 10 straight wins against the Grizzlies tonight in Portland. This will really tell us where the Trail Blazers are at. I'm not taking credit away from their nine straight wins, but the only really quality win they've had in this winning streak is their win over the Bulls on the 21st.

#5. Houston Rockets (12-3):  With Dwight Howard out with a right knee issue, James Harden has taken it upon himself to carry this team. So far he's doing a pretty good job (25.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 6.7 assists).

#6. San Antonio Spurs (10-4): It didn't take long for the Spurs to wake up. They've won five straight games, and with games against the Kings, Celtics, and 76ers coming up, this winning streak should keep on going.

#7. Dallas Mavericks (11-5):  Interesting road trip coming up for the Mavericks: @Toronto, @Philadelphia, @Chicago, and @Milwaukee. The only "easy" opponent on this road trip is the 76ers and the Mavericks play them on the second half of a back-to-back on Saturday.

#8. Chicago Bulls (10-6): Derrick Rose came back for Friday afternoon's tilt with the Celtics and helped lead the team to the victory, scoring 21 points in 28 minutes of action. Great news for the Bulls.

#9. Los Angeles Clippers (9-5): They have gone 2-0 so far on their four game road trip, defeating the Hornets and Pistons. However, the Rockets and Jazz should both be much more challenging.

#10. Washington Wizards (9-5): The return of Bradley Beal should give this team a huge lift.

#11. Phoenix Suns (10-6): They have to trade Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, or Isaiah Thomas. This three point guard experiment is just weird and it has to end for the sake of this team's sanity.

#12. Sacramento Kings (9-6): I gotta give these guys credit. They are hanging tough and DeMarcus Cousins is delivering the goods: 23.5 points and 12.6 rebounds per game.

#13. Milwaukee Bucks (9-7): The Bucks continue to be an early season surprise. That loss for the Grizzlies suddenly doesn't look so bad with the way these guys are playing.

#14. Denver Nuggets (7-8): These guys had a five game winning streak snapped in Phoenix, which is not an easy place to win. The Nuggets appear to be hitting their stride and should finish right around the 41 win mark that I projected them to finish at.

#15. Atlanta Hawks (7-6): They remain a little bit up and down. Upcoming home games against the Hornets and Celtics ought to steady them.

#16. New Orleans Pelicans (7-6): The loss of Eric Gordon isn't as bad as some might think. He was only giving them 9.5 points per game and all he has ever done well is score.

#17. Miami Heat (8-7): They are doing better than the Cavaliers, which is kind of humorous. But all jokes aside, this team isn't going to be a serious factor so long as Dwyane Wade remains in and out of the lineup.

#18. Cleveland Cavaliers (7-7): Are they a work in progress? Yes. Is it time to panic? No.

#19. Brooklyn Nets (6-8): Everybody thought they would be the team to first fall to the 76ers, but they ended up pulling it out. Had they lost to the 76ers, things would really be coming unglued.

#20. Indiana Pacers (6-9): David West's return should give them a lift.

#21. Orlando Magic (6-11): The early injury to Aaron Gordon does have to concern them. They better hope they didn't draft a guy who always gets hurt because he is really key to their long-term future and success.

#22. Utah Jazz (6-11): They are much improved, no doubt, but the Western Conference is as vicious as ever and as a result, they will still struggle to win games even with all their improvement.

#23. Boston Celtics (4-9): With Marcus Smart returning, it'll be interesting to see if the Rajon Rondo trade rumors heat up should Smart play well.

#24. Charlotte Hornets (4-12): Even with Gary Neal's injury problems, this team should be better than 4-12.

#25. Oklahoma City Thunder (4-12): These guys desperately need Durant and Westbrook back. Fortunately, Westbrook is playing tonight against the Knicks.

#26. New York Knicks (4-12): And now Carmelo Anthony has back problems. Things have gone from bad to really really bad.

#27. Minnesota Timberwolves (3-10): Andrew Wiggins is looking like a great pick up, but they are still a long ways off from being competitive.

#28. Los Angeles Lakers (3-12):  After getting that boost from Nick Young's return, they have since lost three straight games.

#29. Detroit Pistons (3-12): A showdown with the Lakers on December 2 at home could vault them to #28 in my power rankings.

#30. Philadelphia 76ers (0-15): They don't have a game that they can be expected to win until December 15 against the Celtics. Looks like my beard will continue to grow.

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Fresh NBA Power Rankings: November 21

Here are my NBA Power Rankings as of Friday, November 21. Enjoy!!

1. Memphis Grizzlies (10-2): Despite getting hit with a stomach virus, the Grizzlies still played the Raptors tough on the road. Hopefully these guys can get healthy soon, but in the meantime, expect them to still fight, grind, and play hard.

2. Golden State Warriors (8-2): The Warriors so far have been taking advantage of this easy portion of their schedule, defeating the Nets, Hornets, and Lakers. Up next are the Jazz at home and the Thunder on the road.

3. Toronto Raptors (9-2): I'm still worried about their absence of a legitimate third option, but if Terrance Ross keeps playing like he did against the Grizzlies, the Raptors may have their guy.

4.  Dallas Mavericks (9-3): Monta Ellis is looking like a really good fit on this team, dropping 34 points on the Wizards in Wednesday's win. So long as Dirk can keep it up, this team is going to remain a legit title threat.

5. Washington Wizards (7-3): With Bradley Beal back, they should start to do some serious damage.

6. Portland Trail Blazers (8-3): They are on a very nice five game winning streak, and have good odds to keep winning for a while. They face a banged up Bulls team tonight, and then they go on a road trip @Boston, @Philadelphia, and @Charlotte before coming home to face the Grizzlies on the 28th.

7. Los Angeles Clippers (7-4): Chris Paul is still getting it done with 18.0 points and 9.9 assists per game. This team is staying relatively quiet, but all the same they are playing good basketball.

8. Houston Rockets (9-3): They've lost two straight, getting waxed by the Grizzlies and upset by the Lakers. Their next game is Saturday against the Mavericks at home. They have to win that game.

9. Chicago Bulls (8-4): Pau Gasol and Derrick Rose are both injured. At some point you just have to wonder how many injuries can this team withstand?

10. San Antonio Spurs (7-4): No shock, the Spurs are hanging around and looking prime to make another late-season surge.

11. Milwaukee Bucks (7-5): The early success of the Milwaukee Bucks is definitely the feel good story of the league so far. Can they keep it up? I don't see why not.

12. New Orleans Pelicans (6-4): I didn't have them as a playoff team before the season started, but so far they are proving me wrong. In addition to the dominant force that is Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson has been key to this team's success: 16.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game on 41.1% shooting from three-point range.

13. Sacramento Kings (7-5): I really like the Rudy Gay contract extension for 3 years and $40M. It gives them some stability for the foreseeable future but they aren't totally "committed" in case things don't work out. So far, things are working out just fine.

14. Phoenix Suns (7-5): The three point guard system is causing friction on the team. Goran Dragic recently told AZCentral.com why he thinks they are struggling: "Because there's only one ball and we're all point guards." Odds are good one of their point guards is gone before the trade deadline. Possibly Goran Dragic since there are reports that he will test the waters of free agency next summer.

15. Cleveland Cavaliers (5-5): It's still early in the season and they have plenty of time to get it together, but with that being said, they don't want to slip too far in the standings and have to win a couple of series' in the playoffs without home court advantage.

16. Miami Heat (6-6): Dwyane Wade is in and out of the lineup and Chris Bosh is cooling off. Bosh did have 28 points against the Clippers, but before that, he registered 15 points, 10 points, 20 points, and 9 points. In essence, as Bosh cools, so do the Heat.

17. Atlanta Hawks (5-5): I still think this team needs more time to gel with Paul Millsap and Al Horford both healthy together. DeMarre Carroll is returning tonight, so that helps as well.

18. Utah Jazz (5-7): I doubt they make the playoffs, but so far they are fighting hard and making things tough for all of their opponents. I like how Quin Snyder is making these guys play hard.

19. Indiana Pacers (5-7): This team is totally dependent on the play of Roy Hibbert. If he plays well, they play well. If he is cold, they're cold. So long as he continues to ebb and flow, they will follow suite.

20. Orlando Magic (5-8): They are starting to wake up and make me look good after I sang their praises at the start of the season.

21. Boston Celtics (4-6): Danny Ainge keeps denying any interest in trading Rajon Rondo and yet the rumors keep on coming. This is fun.

22. Brooklyn Nets (4-7): They have lost five games in a row. They better get it done tonight in OKC.

23. Denver Nuggets (4-7): They have won two straight games over the Cavaliers and Thunder. I doubt they get it done for a third straight time against the Pelicans, but if they do, they could be building something.

24. Charlotte Hornets (4-8): So far, this team has been a major disappointment. Good thing Gary Neal is back.

25. Minnesota Timberwolves (3-7): With Kevin Martin out indefinitely with a wrist injury, these guys are really gonna struggle.

26. Los Angeles Lakers (3-9): Nick Young has injected some life into this team. Not enough to make them a playoff team, but enough to make them a team you cannot ignore on any given night.

27. Detroit Pistons (3-9): These guys really do stink and Stan Van Gundy needs to not worry about what opponents say about his team.

28. Oklahoma City Thunder (3-10): I'm starting to think this team is actually going to miss the playoffs, which would really make the Western Conference wide open.

29. New York Knicks (3-10): I cannot think of one positive thing to say about this team.

30. Philadelphia 76ers (0-11): I am not shaving until they get a win, but perhaps they get it done against the Suns tonight or the Knicks on Saturday.

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord