Ranking the NBA from worst to first…
30. Charlotte Bobcats (13-46)
Last week: 29, -1
Welcome back to last place, Charlotte. The Bobcats had another bad week, including a 68-point effort in Utah. But hey, at least the NBA Draft Lottery is only 79 days away.
29. Orlando Magic (16-44)
Last week: 30, +1
Rebuilding is never fun in the beginning. But the Magic have a few really nice, young players and newly acquired Tobias Harris played exceptionally well last week. He already has an above-average offensive game, and he’s only 20. I assume the Milwaukee Bucks are losing sleep over giving up on him so soon.
28. Sacramento Kings (21-40)
Last week: 28, –
The highlight of the Kings season may have come last Tuesday when they took the Miami Heat to overtime. Unfortunately they were demolished in the extra period, but it seems fitting that what might have been the best moment in their sad season came in a loss.
27. Washington Wizards (19-39)
Last week: 25, -2
A nice win at Toronto and a couple close losses to the New York Knicks and Detroit Pistons made last week not completely terrible for the Wizards. But at this point every extra win seems like another ping-pong ball slowly being removed from the draft lottery.
26. New Orleans Hornets (21-39)
Last week: 26, –
The Hornets continue to play better, but with the recent injury to Anthony Davis, it seems like they’ll never be fully healthy. I’m excited to see what this team could do if healthy for an entire season.
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (20-36)
Last week: 24, -1
Another tough week for the Timberwolves, but Ricky Rubio is currently healthy, playing large minutes and putting up gaudy assist numbers. So, it could be worse for Minnesota.
24. Phoenix Suns (21-39)
Last week: 27, +3
Things for the Suns seemed bleak last week. But then they went out and beat the Timberwolves, Spurs and Hawks. That’s impressive, no matter how horrible the rest of their season has been.
23. Philadelphia 76ers (23-35)
Last week: 21, -2
I’m genuinely worried about the current emotional state of Sixers fans. They’ve been through a lot and they deserve better. Also, I wish they would let Doug Collins leave so he could get back to announcing for playoff time.
22. Detroit Pistons (23-39)
Last week: 23, +1
With some extra losing over the next month and a half of the NBA season, the Pistons may be able to drop into the bottom six teams. More ping-pong balls!
21. Toronto Raptors (23-37)
Last week: 18, -3
There goes the playoff hope. After a promising start to the Rudy Gay era, the Raptors went 0-4 last week and fell 10 games behind the Milwaukee Bucks and the No. 8 seed. It was fun while it lasted.
20. Cleveland Cavaliers (20-39)
Last week: 22, +2
I really like watching Cleveland play. Sorry. Let me rephrase that. I really like watching Kyrie Irving play. Yeah. That’s more accurate.
19. Dallas Mavericks (26-32)
Last week: 19, –
This team is old. And with Brandon Jennings expressing interest in signing with them this offseason, the Mavericks could soon be old and inefficient. Not much to look forward to in Dallas. But I’ll never put it past Mark Cuban to surprise me.
18. Portland Trail Blazers (27-31)
Last week: 17, -1
The Blazers aren’t completely out of the playoff race, yet. But they will need to go on an impressive run in March to even have a chance. Otherwise, they’ll end the season in the unfortunate position of being not good enough for the playoffs and not bad enough for a good draft pick.
17. Milwaukee Bucks (29-28)
Last week: 20, +3
The first full week of the J.J. Redick era and the Bucks go 3-0, including impressive comeback wins in Dallas and Houston. Monta Ellis seems to be hitting his stride, and Brandon Jennings set his career-high for assists with 19 on Saturday. Things are going well, but it’s all marred by the Tobias Harris explosion going on in Orlando.
16. L.A. Lakers (30-30)
Last week: 16, –
The Lakers are at .500! The Lakers are at .500! Start planning the parade!
15. Boston Celtics (31-27)
Last week: 15, –
The Bucks continue to creep closer and closer to the Celtics and their coveted No. 7 seed. But big wins against the Jazz and Warriors have kept their one and a half game cushion alive for now.
14. Atlanta Hawks (33-25)
Last week: 14, –
What would have been a great week for Atlanta was ruined by an ugly loss to the struggling Suns. The Eastern Conference Playoff race is tightening up and the Hawks will need to avoid losses like that if they want to hold on to their homecourt advantage.
13. Utah Jazz (32-27)
Last week: 13, –
A couple tough losses to the Celtics and Hawks last week make their four-game road trip this week even more important. The Rockets and Lakers are quickly catching up to them.
12. Golden State Warriors (33-27)
Last week: 11, -1
Four games on the road against the Eastern Conference last week and four losses for the Warriors. A difficult stretch should be improved by home games against the struggling Raptors and Kings to start this week.
11. Houston Rockets (33-28)
Last week: 12, +1
They let a win slip away on Wednesday against the Bucks after Monta Ellis proved that he does indeed have it all. They have to be worried about the Lakers looming only two and a half games behind them for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
10. Brooklyn Nets (34-26)
Last week: 9, -1
Now only three and a half games behind the Knicks for first in the Atlantic Division, the Nets have a legitimate shot at claiming homecourt advantage in the playoffs. That would be a huge boost for what seems like a team that needs the extra motivation of the home crowd.
9. Chicago Bulls (34-26)
Last week: 10, +1
Losing to the Cavaliers this late in the season is never good. But tough loss against the Pacers aside, at least their last three games have proven that they at least somewhat remember how to play offense.
8. Memphis Grizzlies (39-19)
Last week: 7, -1
Their stifling defense continued with low-scoring wins against the Nets and Dallas, but they, like every team in the NBA, were unable to slow down the Heat. No shame in that.
7. Denver Nuggets (38-22)
Last week: 8, +1
A great week for the Nuggets with wins against the Lakers, Blazers and Thunder. Their offense is running on all cylinders and they will be a scary first-round matchup for any Western Conference team.
6. New York Knicks (35-21)
Last week: 6, –
Unfortunately, their good first half against the Heat was for naught as they had to endure the LeBron James show. As always with the Knicks, when they’re making their threes, they’re deadly. However, when the three isn’t falling, they have few other options on offense.
5. Indiana Pacers (38-22)
Last week: 5, –
A tough-fought win against the Bulls yesterday showed how well their defense can play. It was highlighted late in the game when they forced the Bulls into a 24-second violation due to their incredible rotations and help defense. This team can challenge anyone in a seven-game series.
4. L.A. Clippers (43-19)
Last week: 4, –
In their heartbreaking loss to the Thunder yesterday, the Clippers played 11 players. That deep of a rotation won’t work in the playoffs and it doesn’t work now. They need to tighten that up quick and figure out what’s their best rotation.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (43-16)
Last week: 3, –
Great win for the Thunder yesterday in Los Angeles against the Clippers. They dominated most of the game and were able to survive a late Clippers comeback. With Tony Parker out for at least a month, the first seed in the West is attainable.
2. San Antonio Spurs (47-14)
Last week: 2, –
The loss of Tony Parker may make it difficult for the Spurs to hold on to the top seed in the West. But it may turn out to be a blessing in disguise as the Spurs will be adding a healthy, fresh Parker right before the playoffs.
1. Miami Heat (43-14)
Last week: 1, –
I’m surprised that I’m still surprised by LeBron. He’s separated himself from the rest of the league this season and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. If he keeps this level of play up, then it might be a quick NBA Playoffs.
Which team is going to make the biggest jump before the playoffs start?
Follow Jon on Twitter at @jhartzell2.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.