10. Oklahoma City Thunder 32-26
After a rough start to the season, the Thunder are back in the playoff picture despite Kevin Durant missing more time due to soreness in his surgically repaired foot. Russell Westbrook has averaged 29.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 9.3 assists in the last month and has guided the Thunder to a two game lead over New Orleans and Phoenix with nine wins in their last 11 games. Oh, and letting go of Reggie Jackson while adding Enes Kanter, D.J. Augustin, and Kyle Singler has definitely provided the bench boost they needed to be contenders once again without all the locker-room fuss.
9. Washington Wizards 33-25
Washington was 31-15 after defeating the Los Angeles Lakers in late January behind the excellent play of John Wall. Since then? They’ve had two five-game losing streaks separated by two victories, putting them at 33-25 and only a half-game ahead of sixth place Milwaukee. The Wizards inexplicable losing ways could continue with eight Western Conference opponents in March.
8. Dallas Mavericks 39-21
The Mavericks have remained consistent throughout the year even through some mid-season trades. Head coach Rick Carlisle and point guard Rajon Rondo have butted heads a couple times in their short stint together, but reports have them trying to head in right direction with the Mavs at 39-21. It would be a terrible loss if Rondo decides not to resign with the Mavericks this season as they gave up key contributors in Jae Crowder and Brandan Wright.
7. Toronto Raptors 37-20
Toronto won six straight to end the month of January, but have won just four of their last nine games to allow Cleveland to get back into the mix for the second seed in the East. The good thing about them is that they’ve been relatively healthy this season. With Cleveland leading the season series 2-1, Wednesday’s game against the Cavs could have major playoff implications in terms of seeding.
6. Portland Trail Blazers 37-19
The Blazers got off to an excellent start this season at 31-11 until LaMarcus Aldridge suffered a torn ligament in his non-shooting hand. Since then, Portland has six wins and eight losses to get to 37-19. Damian Lillard is still playing at an all star level and Wesley Matthews is playing with a chip on his shoulder, but Portland’s success relies on how healthy LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez, and Nicolas Batum are. The addition of Arron Afflalo will help their bench scoring however.
5. Houston Rockets 39-18
Dwight Howard has missed more than half of the season with injuries, and yet somehow, the Rockets are in third place in the Western Conference behind just Memphis and Golden State. All that, thanks to the amazing play of James Harden, who in the last month, is averaging 28.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 7.3 assists, and 1.9 steals. Harden is clearly making his case for the Most Valuable Player award this season and if Houston can retain their top 3 spot, it’s hard to argue against Harden with all that he’s done for the Rockets this season.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers 37-22
Cleveland is easily the hottest team in the NBA right now with wins in 18 of their last 20 games, bringing them back from a mere 19-20 record to a solid third seed at 37-22. Kevin Love has been playing far better and consistent as of late and LeBron’s minutes are going down to the 32-35 range as opposed to the 39 minutes per game he was playing early on. The only worry would be the shoulder injury to Kyrie Irving, which was diagnosed as just a shoulder strain. Can Cleveland somehow catch Atlanta and grab the top spot if they can continue this play?
3. Memphis Grizzlies 41-15
Memphis has gone 12-3 in their last 15 games, allowing them to keep their lead over the other seven spots in the West while also staying right on the Warriors’ tail for the top spot. The key for them has been not only the health and consistency of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, but also the all-star play of Mike Conley and the mid-season acquisition of Jeff Green.
2. Atlanta Hawks 45-12
The Hawks have been this year’s model of consistency and ball movement as not a single player on the roster is averaging 20 points per game. Their starters are all averaging at least 12 points per game and led an incredible run of 19 straight victories at the end of December, all through January before losing in the first game of February to the Pelicans. No one in the East seems interested in giving the Hawks a run for the top spot other than possibly Cleveland, so it seems as though Atlanta will have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs this season.
1. Golden State Warriors 44-11
The Splash brothers have been remarkable this season despite the slight 8-5 dip they encountered at the end of January and through February. Curry’s remarkable point guard play has him up there with James Harden as a contender for the Most Valuable Player award. His team has been the number one seed in Western Conference since the beginning of the season, leading wire-to-wire, which could be an impressive feat if that were to hold by mid-April.