30. Knicks (10-41): Apparently the Knicks have surrendered after three hopeful years with Kristaps Porzingis as the franchise centerpiece. New York has retooled its roster once again with new arrival Dennis Smith Jr. taking center stage.
29. Cavaliers (11-41): Kevin Love may be nearing a return to action. But even then, the Cavs don’t hold much trade leverage with his large contract. Where does Cleveland go from here?
28. Bulls (12-40): I guess the Bulls’ season has been somewhat disappointing only because they’re following their blueprint: Rest players that have minor health concerns and give inexperienced players the green light.
27. Suns (11-42): Kelly Oubre Jr. has wasted no time being an excellent addition to Phoenix’s core. He is averaging 19.3 points per 36 minutes as a member of the team and remains a fearless competitor.
26. Hawks (16-35): This Hawks team is not faring all that bad considering its expectations. John Collins (19.3 PTS, 9.8 REB in under 30 MPG) seems to be emerging as a potential All-Star candidate in the near future.
25. Grizzlies (20-33): The Grizzlies (4-22 since December 14th) have fallen into a major slump and that has raised questions about both Mike Conley and Marc Gasol’s status with the franchise. Memphis might be better off rebuilding instead of aiming for mediocrity.
24. Magic (21-31): Nikola Vucevic’s play (ninth in league in both PER and estimated wins added) has been stellar and that serves him well due to his impending free agency. Orlando cannot afford to simply lose him for nothing.
23. Mavericks (23-28): Dallas has held its own and competed at a fairly high level up to this point. Its newest additions include Tim Hardaway Jr. and also Kristaps Porzingis, who looks to rejuvenate both his career and the Mavs once he gets healthy.
22. Pistons (22-28): The Pistons, despite being very hot and cold, have some desirable strengths such as leading the league in opponent three-point percentage and opponent offensive rebounds per game. Their three-point percentage is just the opposite – dead last.
21. Pelicans (23-29): The quest for Anthony Davis has begun. And for the Pelicans, the sooner they get a deal done, the better off they will be. This type of situation comes with pressure that affects the organization top to bottom.
20. Wizards (22-29): D.C. is currently 9-7 without star point guard John Wall in the lineup. The Wizards miss his explosiveness and ability to change the game but everyone else (Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, etc.) steps up as the offense appears to be more free-flowing.
19. Heat (24-26): Miami’s current financial situation looks something like this: Hassan Whiteside makes $27 million next year, Tyler Johnson and Goran Dragic have player options for $19 million, James Johnson makes $15 million next year, and finally, Dion Waiters has two years, $27 million left after this season.
18. Timberwolves (25-26): Karl-Anthony Towns (22.6 PTS, 12.1 REB) was worthy of his second All-Star appearance but also got the nod over other deserving players such as Tobias Harris and Rudy Gobert. The Wolves are an interesting team to keep an eye on in the playoff race.
17. Hornets (25-26): Kemba Walker (24.4 PTS, 5.5 AST) received the honors of representing the Eastern Conference as a starting guard. It’s easy to understand why; Walker is what LeBron James was to the Cavs. Well, not quite but you get the point.
16. Nets (28-25): Injuries to Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie have left the Nets shorthanded. With that said, Coach Kenny Atkinson has gotten the most out of role players, such as Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris, all season long.
15. Kings (26-25): Sacramento is still growing up as a defensive unit but the dynamic backcourt of De’Aaron Fox (17.4 PTS, 7.2 AST) and Buddy Hield (45.8 3P%, 20.2 PTS) has the offense firing on all cylinders. Both players have star potential, but more importantly, they play with a chip on their shoulder.
14. Clippers (28-24): Some might view the Clippers as the biggest overachieving team in the league thus far. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why – but excellent coaching and a bounce-back year from a relatively healthy Danilo Gallinari (21.9 PTS per 36 min., 44.6 3P%) have played a key role.
13. Lakers (27-25): L.A.L.’s 6-11 spell without LeBron James the past month gives them some boundaries to overcome. We knew it was coming sooner or later but management is already looking to shake things up by possibly making a blockbuster deal for Anthony Davis.
12. Pacers (32-19): Indiana has dropped four straight games since losing Victor Oladipo for the year. This is highly unfortunate because the Pacers were in a prime position to eventually lock up homecourt advantage in the playoffs. It doesn’t help that Tyreke Evans has well-known issues staying on the floor.
11. Jazz (30-23): Quin Snyder’s well-disciplined group has suddenly come to life, being 12-4 since the new year. The Jazz is reportedly discussing a deal with Memphis involving Ricky Rubio and Mike Conley, which further shows its lack of patience in trying to win now.
10. Spurs (31-22): The Spurs have suddenly become more Spurs-like (that makes sense, right?) as they have climbed up the Western Conference standings. DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge have evidently figured things out and Gregg Popovich continues to successfully over-utilize marginal role players.
9. Blazers (32-20): Rip City has a 22-7 record at home (including eight straight wins), which is good for second in the West behind Denver. Sometimes it’s not easy to notice but this team gets solid all-around contribution outside of Damian Lillard/C.J. McCollum/Jusuf Nurkic.
8. Rockets (29-22): James Harden is now averaging an absurd 36.2 points per game and isn’t slowing down anytime soon. We know about his mastery of getting to the free-throw line but he also hoists up a mind-blowing 13.3 threes per game.
7. Sixers (34-18): Philly is undeniably a stronger team on paper with Jimmy Butler and he’s posted respectable numbers in 30 games there (47.5 FG%, 18.6 PTS). He, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid still have to figure out how to share touches or sacrifice them without addressing it as a locker room issue.
6. Celtics (33-19): Let’s talk about Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown, who both continue to struggle finding a consistent niche with Boston’s overwhelming depth. Although it’s no guarantee, that typically is not problematic come playoff time as depth becomes even more vital.
5. Thunder (33-18): Credit Russell Westbrook’s unselfishness for Paul George’s career-best 27.6 PPG on 41 percent three-point shooting. Not to mention, PG-13 also a strong candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.
4. Nuggets (36-15): We generally mentioned Denver being one of the deepest teams over the past few years. Role players such as Monte Morris, Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez have provided the Nuggets with a fresh bundle of options off the bench and even filling in as starters.
3. Raptors (37-16): Toronto has excellent versatility throughout the roster. For example, Pascal Siakam is the ideal modern-day forward that can do damage pretty much anywhere on the floor – from the interior out to the perimeter. Additionally, Kyle Lowry doesn’t feel the need to score 20 points in every game.
2. Bucks (37-13): Who would have guessed Milwaukee would own the league’s best record through 50 games? Many backcourts these days are offensive powerhouses but Malcolm Brogdon and Eric Bledsoe both exemplify reliable two-way players that don’t take plays off.
1. Warriors (36-15): Your 2018-19 world champions!