*Team’s records are as of 12/30/12*
30. Washington Wizards (4-24)
The Wizards are headed toward another top lottery selection. The only question is whether that will be enough to turn this franchise around. John Wall has yet to play in a game this year, but it’s hard to imagine he would help improve this four win team all that much
29. Charlotte Bobcats (7-23)
Most media attention in the NBA is directed at the current Los Angeles Clippers streak of 17 consecutive wins. But what about the 18 straight losses the Bobcats have managed to pull off? It’s going to be a while before the Bobcats ever find themselves in the top half of this list.
28. Cleveland Cavaliers (7-25)
The Cavaliers have more losses than the Bobcats, but at least Cleveland has Kyrie Irving. The 20-year-old point guard is averaging 22.7 points per game, and appears ready to carry the franchise for years to come. It’s now just a matter of surrounding him with talent.
27. New Orleans Hornets (7-23)
The soon to be Pelicans had lost 11 in a row before winning two out of three games. Eric Gordon returned back to action for the first time this season on Saturday. He had 24 points and 7 assists in the game. New Orleans is very young and should only get better once their younger players gain more experience.
26. Phoenix Suns (11-20)
The Suns have had two separate losing streaks of five games or more this year, including an active five game losing streak. After trading Nash in the offseason, a rebuilding year was expected in Phoenix, but this may be worse than some thought. Key acquisition, Michael Beasley, has been a disappointment, averaging just 10.1 ppg and 3.5 rebounds per game.
25. Detroit Pistons (11-22)
Only four teams have lost more games than the Pistons. The Detroit organization is still in a state of acquiring young talent to rebuild with. The Piston have shown some promise in the past week, winning two consecutive games against current playoff teams, Milwaukee and Miami.
24. Orlando Magic (12-18)
Orlando needs to pull off some magic to end their current losing streak. The Magic suffered a 35-point defeat to the Toronto Raptors on Saturday, and on Friday became one of the Washington Wizard’s four wins. Things don’t get much easier as they take on the Miami Heat tonight.
23. Dallas Mavericks (12-19)
Losers of six in a row and nine of the last 10, the Mark Cubans are on a path toward NBA obscurity. In Dirk Nowitzki’s four games back, he is yet to crack the double-figure mark in points. Defense has been the biggest concern, as the Mavericks have only won three games all season when scoring less than 100 points.
22. Sacramento Kings (11-19)
Even with back-to-back wins against the Knicks and Celtics, Sacramento finds themselves here in the lower third. The Kings have talent, but that has not translated into very many victories. The organization is rumored to be shopping DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans. If they do make a trade, they should look for someone to help improve their 27th ranked defense.
21. Toronto (11-20)
Toronto would have found themselves even further on the back end of this ranking, but they have won seven of eight. The only loss in that stretch came to the San Antonio Spurs. Their recent success has been spurred by Jose Calderon, who recorded a triple-double against the Rockets on Dec. 16th.
20. Philadelphia 76ers (14-17)
Doug Collins had hoped the momentum gained from last year’s playoff run would propel them into this season. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, Andrew Bynum’s injury has set them back and struggling just to reach the .500 mark.
19. Utah Jazz (15-17)
Utah snuck into last season’s playoffs, but a current losing streak of three games won’t help them repeat that result. Derrick Favors has yet to take the next step that Jazz fans hoped he would. Don’t count Utah out yet. They are tough to beat at home, posting a 9-4 record in the EnergySolutions Arena.
18. Boston Celtics (14-16)
Since their Christmas Day win at Brooklyn, the Celtics dropped three straight games in the state of California. The Celtics will finally head back home to Boston, where they will play Memphis on Jan. 2. Avery Bradley is expected to return, and has many fans hoping for a turnaround similar to last year.
17. Portland Trailblazers (15-14)
Portland is stuck in the Western Conference which is as deep as it’s been in years. Despite their winning record, they still sit out of playoff position. Damian Lillard has been a bright spot thus far in the normally rainy Portland.
16. Brooklyn Nets (16-14)
The Nets dropped five out of six games, leading to Avery Johnson being fired. They have since won their two games with interim coach P.J. Carlesimo. The Nets are reportedly in pursuit of several options, ranging from Phil Jackson to Jeff Van Gundy.
15. Minnesota Timberwolves (14-13)
The Timberwolves are only one game over the .500 mark, but were able to end the Thunder’s 12-game win streak earlier in the month. Kevin Love missed the first three weeks of the season, but has returned to his form from last year. Minnesota will be one of the teams battling for the West’s final playoff spot.
14. Milwaukee Bucks (16-13)
The explosive offensive backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis has the Bucks fighting for the playoffs this year. The Bucks handed Miami a 19-point loss on Saturday night, but lost to the Pistons on Sunday. If the Bucks want to remain in playoff contention they’ll need to win games against the bottom dwellers.
13. Indiana Pacers (17-13)
Sure the Pacers’ record seems respectable, but when examining closer, there are some serious question marks. The last team the Pacers beat who currently has a winning record was the Portland Trailblazers on Dec. 5. Indiana’s defense is ranked second in the league, but without Danny Granger the offense has only mustered 92 ppg.
12. Denver Nuggets (17-15)
Denver has yet to find any consistent rhythm this year, but has still won 17 games. They are able to control the glass, and have become the league’s best rebounding team at 46.2 rpg. George Karl also has one of the deepest teams in the NBA, with six players averaging double figures.
11. Los Angeles Lakers (15-15)
Steve Nash has returned, and so have the Lakers. Los Angeles has won six of their last seven games. The offense is beginning to click as the Lakers have scored 100 or more points in eight straight games. Even at .500, the Lakers and their multiple stars are a team to be feared.
10. Chicago Bulls (16-12)
No Derrick Rose, no problem. If the playoffs began today, the Bulls would have home-court advantage in the first round. Not bad for a team missing their star player. Chicago’s defense remains its calling card, as they allow the third fewest points per game. Once Rose returns, the Bulls could make a strong leap in the rankings.
9. Houston Rockets (16-14)
James Harden has the Rockets in playoff position. Houston is 7-3 in their last 10 games, having beat the Knicks, Grizzlies and Bulls during that stretch. The Rockets score an average of 105.3 ppg, but the defense has struggled. In the last two games alone, they have allowed a combined 246 points.
8. Golden State Warriors (21-10)
Only five teams have more than 20 wins, and the Warriors are one of them. Marc Jackson has Golden State playing its best basketball in years, and is an early favorite for the Coach of the Year Award.
7. Atlanta Hawks (19-9)
The Hawks have not received much press, but currently are the third seed in the Eastern Conference. They are riding a four-game win streak, including a 17-point blowout against the Chicago Bulls. Led by Josh Smith, the Hawks allow 95 points per game on the defensive end, the seventh fewest in the NBA.
6. Memphis Grizzlies (19-8)
The Grizzlies hit a slight rough stretch losing two straight games, before defeating Denver on Saturday night. Zack Randolph is one the best rebounders in the league, and combined with Marc Gasol, they create one of the better frontcourts. They present one of the greatest threats to capture the Western Conference crown.
5. New York Knicks (21-9)
The Knicks have been inconsistent of late after that scorching start. Carmelo Anthony has missed the past two games because of a knee problem, while Raymond Felton will miss several weeks because of a fractured pinky. They still stand second in the Eastern Conference, but injuries could begin to derail their position.
4. Miami Heat (20-8)
The defending champions have been shaky as of late, losing two in a row to the Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pistons. Still, the Heat remain one of the NBA’s top teams and have yet to hit their stride. The Heat seem to be bored with the regular season, and will turn it to another level as the season progresses. They could easily claim the number one spot in the upcoming weeks.
3. San Antonio Spurs (24-8)
The Spurs always seem to fly under the radar. They have quietly won five in a row, and Tim Duncan is playing at an All-Star level. San Antonio has the second most wins in the NBA, and are only now starting to get completely healthy again with the return of Stephen Jackson and Kawhi Leonard.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (23-6)
Despite losing to the Miami Heat on Christmas, the Thunder have been sensational all year. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have both elevated their game, and Kevin Martin has fit in seamlessly. The Thunder have only lost two games at home this year.
1. Los Angeles Clippers (25-6)
They have won 17 games in a row. Enough said. They are most deserving of the number one spot. At least for now.