Ranking the League from worst to first…
30. Washington Wizards (21-52) — Because they’ve lost 16 straight, because they’ve gone 0-for-March, and because their best player (Andray Blatche) now believes he can get away with acting like a knucklehead. Team officials insist they’re sticking by Gilbert Arenas, but if the Lottery balls bounce their way and John Wall ends up in D.C. with a chance to give the franchise a completely fresh start, how long before Gil gets the boot?
29. Minnesota Timberwolves (14-60) — They’ve also lost 16 straight, with one more to go before also losing every game in March.
28. New Jersey Nets (10-64) — Now they can go back to being uninteresting again.
27. Detroit Pistons (23-50) — The Charlie Villanueva project hit a low point when a healthy CV played just five minutes against Chicago on Sunday. During Detroit’s eight-game losing streak, Villanueva has averaged 16 minutes a night.
26. Golden State Warriors (21-52) — You know how they say players like Shawn Marion and Richard Jefferson owe Steve Nash and Jason Kidd money? Reggie Williams is gonna owe Nellie money for putting him in the perfect system for him. Williams is averaging just under 15 points since coming up from the D-League, shooting 50% FG, 41% 3PA and 83% FT.
25. Sacramento Kings (24-51) — Did you actually see the play where Tyreke Evans hurt his jaw and had to site out a few games? He got stuck between Carl Landry and Ersan Ilyasova while they were fighting for a rebound. That’s like getting between two hyenas while they’re eating a wild boar. Tyreke’s lucky he got out of there with all of his fingers.
24. New York Knicks (26-47) — If Eddy Curry wasn’t cashing in his $11 million player option, the Knicks would only be committed to paying about $6 million in salaries next season. That’s like hot dog money for Curry.
23. Los Angeles Clippers (27-47) — Is the fact that Drew Gooden quickly became one of L.A.’s best players a sign that he’s better than we think, or that the Clippers are truly as bad as we think?
22. Philadelphia 76ers (26-48) — It took Thaddeus Young’s broken thumb and probably a decision to tank the season, but Jason Kapono is finally getting minutes and shots.
21. Indiana Pacers (28-47) — During a recent five-game win streak, Danny Granger averaged 33.6 points, including a 44-point effort against Utah. After a loss to Atlanta, Danny Buckets came back and hit the Kings for 33.
20. New Orleans Hornets (35-40) — People seem to think N.O. has to trade Darren Collison this summer. But is there anything wrong with having two really good PG’s on the roster?
19. Houston Rockets (37-36) — Despite missing their best offensive player (Kevin Martin) and best defensive player (Shane Battier) for the last few games, the Rockets are still keeping their head above water.
18. Toronto Raptors (36-37) — Jose Calderon isn’t quite qualified to crack this list yet, but check back in 2012 when he’s making $10 million and he still can’t guard a tire swing.
17. Memphis Grizzlies (38-35) — Whatever slim chance Memphis has of sneaking into the playoffs gets even slimmer considering the upcoming schedule: Dallas, New Orleans, at Orlando, Houston, at Dallas, at San Antonio.
16. Chicago Bulls (35-39) — Over the past 15 games, eight different guys have led the Bulls in scoring. Glass-half-full, it’s a sign of good balance. You don’t want your point guard (Derrick Rose) being the dominant scorer every night.
15. Charlotte Bobcats (38-35) — Michael Jordan immediately jumped what’s-his-name in Dallas as the NBA owner who gets the most camera cutaways during a game.
14. Milwaukee Bucks (41-32) — Brandon Jennings has had some big scoring games recently, and after QB’ing Milwaukee to an 11-3 March, he’s sporting 15.8 ppg and 5.9 apg averages while getting his team into the 5th seed in the playoffs. Don’t count him out for Rookie of the Year.
13. Miami Heat (40-34) — Eight wins in their last 10, with the only losses coming to San Antonio and Orlando. But when the team vowed to plays “balls-out” during this last stretch to ensure a playoff spot, Dorell Wright apparently got the wrong idea.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (45-28) — If the scoring title comes down to Kevin Durant (29.6 ppg) and LeBron (29.8 ppg) going at it on the last day of the season, KD would be the one we’d predict has a 60 or 70-point explosion in him.
11. San Antonio Spurs (44-29) — Beat the Thunder on the road, lost a competitive game to the Lakers, beat the Cavs, then destroyed the Celtics on the road. Then you lost to the NETS? Granted, Manu Ginobili was out for that one, but still. This team just can’t establish a rhythm.
10. Utah Jazz (49-26) — Carlos Boozer is averaging 19.5 points and 11.2 boards, just shy of being only the fourth player in the League dropping 20 and 10 every night.
9. Portland Trail Blazers (45-29) — Eight wins in their last nine. The front line tandem of LaMarcus Aldridge and Marcus Camby makes getting over the first-round hump a lot more likely.
8. Denver Nuggets (48-27) — The only thing between them and a six-game losing streak is Carmelo’s buzzer-beater in Toronto last week.
7. Atlanta Hawks (47-26) — Followed up the biggest win of their season against Orlando by losing to the Sixers. That problem of playing up or down to the competition won’t hurt the Hawks in the playoffs necessarily, but it could cost them a desirable playoff seed.
6. Phoenix Suns (48-26) — You could make a solid case that Amar’e has been one of the five best players in the League in the second half of the season.
5. Boston Celtics (47-26) — So the block by Manu didn’t look good at all, but otherwise Kevin Garnett has been playing well lately. He’s had double-doubles in his last three games, including a vintage 20-point, 10-rebound, 5-assist line against Denver.
4. Dallas Mavericks (49-25) — Shawn Marion put up 21 points in the win over Denver on Monday, plus he helped harass ‘Melo into 3-for-16 shooting. Marion has gotten stronger as the season goes on. If he keeps it up, Dallas are even more championship-ready than they were in 2006.
3. Los Angeles Lakers (54-20) — The OKC game was probably a fluke; sometimes you’re just inexplicably flat and it’s no more complicated than that. The Lakers bounced back strong in Houston, but then lost in New Orleans to a team with nothing to play for and nobody to guard Kobe. The defending champs are tough to figure out right now.
2. Orlando Magic (52-22) — Vince Carter stubs his toe two minutes into the Denver game, and J.J. Redick comes off the bench wearing a J.J. Redick-at-Duke mask and the Magic never miss a beat. Everything is clicking for this team, having gone 12-2 in March.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (58-16) — They’ve won nine of their last 10, with the only loss coming at San Antonio. And this is all without Shaq. LeBron has at least one or two MVP-clinching games left in him before the regular season is done; expect something big when the Cavs host Atlanta on national TV this Friday.