With teams around or at the fifty game mark of their seasons, the top teams in the league are starting to assemble in their places in the hierarchy of the NBA. Some teams are rising, others are slumping, with the rest of the current playoff docket playing to keep their current seeding position.
While the playoff race and positioning is far from over, and teams around the league could shuffle around, there are roughly fifteen teams that look as if they could make a valiant playoff push. That may sound like a lot but with a loaded Western Conference as usual and a surging Eastern Conference, this season seems to be about the highs and lows. About half of the teams in the league are good, if not great, and the other half are bad, or even terrible.
Let’s take a look at arguably the top ten teams in the league right now from ten to one:
10. Washington Wizards – 32-20
This Washington squad has been outplaying expectations all year, but with a slump of sorts lately, the current three seed in the East finds themselves at the bottom of our current top ten teams in the NBA. However, they do knock the Bulls, Mavericks, Bucks, and Thunder from being in this countdown.
They have a lot of depth and veteran presence on the first and second units, as well as one of the best point guards in the league, John Wall. When this team is on, they can compete with anyone. Their streakiness as of late is somewhat troublesome, but regardless, the Wizards are a top ten team right now with the mix of young and experienced players on the team. It’s also worth noting that Bradley Beal went down with a minor toe injury recently.
9. Portland Trailblazers – 34-17
Ranking in the top ten in points per game, rebounds, assists and points allowed, it is a no-brainer that Portland is on this list. Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge combine to make one of the best duos in the league, and the Trailblazers could find themselves as legitimate title contenders come playoff time. The only problem with the Blazers is that they play in a stacked Western Conference where there are at least five teams that probably have the upper hand against them in a seven game playoff series. They have also recently lost eight of their last ten games and have fallen to the four seed. If this was a month ago, they may have cracked the top five.
8. LA Clippers – 33-18
The Clippers being where they are right now comes as no surprise to any basketball fan. With Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes, the Clippers are full of great talent. They are also led by one of the best coaches in recent history with Doc Rivers at the helm. Right now, they are easily a top ten team: despite dropping four of their last five games and with their current seeding of fifth, they could hover around the middle of the West’s playoff pack and make a sneaky, but unsurprising push as the season progresses and the postseason arrives.
7. Toronto Raptors – 34-17
Sitting at the two seed in the East, the Raptors have been one of the most consistent teams this year. They do not have very many big-name players on their team or superstars by any means, but they play well together as a whole unit. They have won seven out of their last ten making them one of the more persistently good teams on this list as they have yet to fall into any real slump over the first fifty games. Toronto does not have a single player averaging over 20 points a night, but they have three that average over 15, two more over 10, and anther pair of players who score just under 10 per game. With that being said, the Raptors are obviously spreading the ball around effectively and play as a cohesive unit. Immense team chemistry may play a role in their success which makes them a dangerous team to battle it out with when the playoffs come.
6. San Antonio Spurs – 32-18
The defending champs are always right where they need to be during the regular season. Currently, the seventh seed in the West, one might think there may be reason to panic for one of the most successful teams of the millennium, but the Spurs always find a way to get themselves into prime shape for the playoffs. Pop really knows how to utilize his team throughout the regular season in order to give them the best chance to make a deep run in the postseason while also getting each player a sufficient amount of rest along the way. Don’t be surprised if the Spurs once again get by some of the more flashier teams of the West during the playoffs. They have won nine of their last 11 contests and are looking like the silently scary team that they have been for the past decade.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers – 31-21
Having just been on a 12-game win streak before losing in the closing minutes to Indiana, your Cleveland Cavaliers are one of the hottest teams in the NBA right now. Recent additions, along with a healthy James, rising Irving, and consistent Love, have put the Cavs back into the serious champion contenders list. Right now, it is hard to say where they fit in the power rankings, but they are rising, and have definitely cracked the top five. They were favorites to win the title before the year started, but found themselves under .500 less than a month ago. However, this is a totally different Cleveland team from a month ago. They are playing with immense confidence, putting up ridiculous numbers and were outscoring their opponents by over ten points a contest over the course of the win streak. Arguably, the Cavs could be ranked higher or lower, but putting them at the middle of the pack in terms of top tier teams seems fitting. They honestly would not have even sniffed the top ten a month ago. In fact, they might have been closer to fifteen, so sitting at five shows how much can change over the course of a few weeks.
Look for the Cavs to rise even further than the four seed that they currently reside in, and a couple more weeks of outstanding basketball could once again make them the overall favorite again come the postseason. If they keep performing like they have been over the last dozen games, it would be hard to say that any team would be favored against them in the playoffs. Rise up Cavs Nation. The Cavs certainly are giving you a reason to be excited about this April, May, and hopefully June.
4. Houston Rockets – 35-15
The Houston Rockets have the best shooting guard in the league in James Harden, who is averaging just slightly more points per game than LeBron James, making Harden the frontrunner for the scoring title this year. His team isn’t too bad either. Dwight Howard, who is going to be out for at least a month, was having a solid year despite missing close to twenty games, and they have eight players who average more than ten points a game. The Rockets are stacked with talent from top to bottom. Their moves in offseason the past few years have paid off as they have risen to become the third seed in the challenging Western Conference and a decent bet to make a run to the Western Conference Finals. They have won seven of 10, and only look like they are continuing to get better as the season goes on.
3. Memphis Grizzlies – 37-13
If there is a surprise team on this list, it’s the Grizzlies. Not because they are on it, but because they are at number three. Sure, they are the two seed in the West right now, have won eight in a row, and are beating high level opponents on a consistent basis. And the result of them playing like one of the best teams in the league in terms of gameplay and overall record has them at number three. Whether or not they can keep it up for the last thirty or so games of the regular season and into the playoffs could be an interesting debate. They have the third best record in the NBA, but out of the top two seeds in both conferences, the Grizzlies would probably be the least surprising team to get upset in the first round of the playoffs. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol just don’t scream NBA title contenders. Not yet, at least. By the end of the regular season, whether or not the Grizzlies are legitimate threats in the West will be more clear. Right now, they look like the real deal, which is why they come in at number three on this countdown.
2. Golden State Warriors – 40-9
Without a doubt, The Golden State Warriors are among the top two best teams in the league right now. Not only do they have the backcourt in the league with The Splash Brothers, but Stephen Curry is the best point guard in the league right now. Fresh off of a 51 point night that left coach Steve Kerr shaking his head in disbelief, Curry is peaking at the right time. Klay Thompson put up 52 of his own just over a week ago, including his record breaking 37 in a perfect-shooting third quarter. This team is not only number one in points per game at 111, but also number one in assists per game at 27. They spread the ball and knock down shots like no other team in the league. If the season ended right now and it was playoff time, the Warriors would be overwhelming favorites to come out of the West and would be favorites to take home the title. The Warriors are simply an amazing basketball team that is clearly above the cut in the West. They have won nine of their last 12, seemingly cruising through opponents and having fun like they are playing a pickup game at the park. The Warriors have confidence, they are comfortable being as good as they are, and don’t appear to be ready to collapse any time soon. Curry and Thompson will lead this team to a deep playoff run, and if anyone knocks them off early in the West, that would be an incredible upset. It would come as no surprise if plenty of brooms came to the playoffs with the Warriors.
1. Atlanta Hawks – 42-9
No surprise here for who our number one team is. The Hawks did not lose a single game in January. Yes, they went 17-0, making them the first team in NBA history to achieve that feat. They ended up winning nineteen in a row before falling to Anthony Davis and the Pelicans about a week ago. After starting hte season at 7-6, Atlanta has won 21 of its previous 22 games and 35 of their previous of 38, arguably having the best starting five in the league while. The starters in Millsap, Teague, Horford, Korver, and Carroll are not the flashiest names in the league, but they are certainly one of the most effective. Korver is shooting 53 percent from downtown, an almost unbelievable statistic. They are the first team to hit 40 wins and are in prime position, as the number one seed, to make a trip to the Eastern Conference finals. It is extremely unlikely that they will lose that slot come playoff time with their eight game lead over the Raptors. The Hawks have played so well this season that they have essentially clinched a playoff birth with thirty-two games left on the schedule. They could lose out, finish at .500 and still nab a seven or eight seed. Of course, that will not happen, but that is just putting it in perspective as to how great they have performed throughout this historic season for the franchise. Barring any major mishaps or injuries, Atlanta can be penciled in to the Eastern Conference Finals. They are the most likely team to stop James and the Cavs. They would probably beat any team in the East in seven game series if it started today, but there is a lot more basketball to be played. Make no mistake, the Hawks are one of the best teams in the league not only this year, but for years to come.