What are the odds the Lakers win a title this season? How about all other 29 NBA teams?
There is a difference between the right-now team and the team that will stand last in the NBA playoffs.
Franchises may get hot for a stretch and climb the standings or power rankings, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're built as actual contenders.
The Milwaukee Bucks won't win a championship. But a team like the Dallas Mavericks just might.
So this isn't just a ranking or a recap of what's happened; this is the purest look at what teams have the best odds to win a title this season.
(All records and statistics are updated as of all games played prior to Nov. 27)
The winless Wizards will need John Wall back if they hope to increase their odds of winning.
Andray Blatche wouldn't put his money on the Washington Wizards to win a title.
The current backup center of the Brooklyn Nets recently blasted his former team for not having his back in hard times. You think the Wizards, who are known for bad times, would understand.
The Wizards are without a win in their first 12 games. John Wall, as reported by the Washington Post, still doesn't have a clear return date. Coach Randy Wittman said that things are progressing and there have been no setbacks.
It sounds like the Wizards aren't rushing Wall back, and that's a good thing, especially since the third-year guard certainly will not save the season.
Andrea Bargnani's season numbers have taken another dip.
Kyle Lowry isn't giving up, but the odds that the Toronto Raptors amount to much this season are incredibly low.
"It is very frustrating, but it is a learning process,” Lowry told reporters last week in after a loss to the Pistons, according to a team website. “We have to learn faster. We have time, but we can chip away and keep playing."
Well, the chips are low, and it will certainly take some time.
The Raptors need to start playing for their future. A guy like third-year power forward Ed Davis, a first-round pick, deserves as much or more opportunity than Amir Johnson. Davis's per-48-minutes rebounding numbers are eighth best in the league.
The Raptors backcourt of Lowry and DeMar DeRozan has kept the team competitive in contests, but there isn't the same push from Andrea Bargnani, whose season numbers show another decline.
Kyle Singler is an early bright spot for a bad Pistons team.
The Detroit Pistons' video of Kyle Singler hitting trick shots around Detroit is emblematic of the team's hope to distract from its current 4-11 record of woes.
But to find that bright side, the Pistons have won four of their last seven games, and Singler, along with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, can offer a deeper future for Detroit.
Singler, on more conventional shots, is hitting at a clip of 53 percent from the field. Monroe is becoming even more consistent at 17 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.
Drummond, in a limited 16.4 minutes per game, is shooting 57 percent, and his per-48-minutes rebounds (16.6) are top 15 in the league.
Tyreke Evans's recent surge won't be enough in Sacramento.
The Sacramento Kings are furthest from up-and-coming.
They are a team in disgrace. They are a team missing on-court leadership and are completely lacking in leadership from above. The Maloofs have completely run this one into the ground, and it's clear to just about everybody.
No one should want to be a part of that organization at this point. Columnist Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee is calling for the job of Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie. Once tagged a genius, Petrie has not been able to put together a winning team for too many seasons.
Now, the team is a bigger mess than ever.
Tyreke Evans is on his way out. His recent playing surge is indicative of the type of player he has the potential to be in this league, but it’s also proof of the team’s desire to showcase him as trade bait.
DeMarcus Cousins is going to completely tear the organization down unless he is given true leadership in the form of a quality veteran player or a coach able to handle him.
And after those names, there isn’t much to be excited about in Sacramento other than the nearby success of the San Francisco Giants and 49ers.
Rookie Thomas Robinson is about what everyone expected: a non-factor. Isaiah Thomas, who has battled a bum ankle, is far from impressive in his second season and offers perhaps further proof that the Kings cannot develop their young talent.
The team is astronomically far from becoming a contender.
The Cleveland Cavaliers will be without Kyrie Irving, whose broken finger will keep him out for roughly a month.
Life for the Cleveland Cavaliers without Kyrie Irving is like a Chipotle burrito without guacamole...no one is satisfied.
Irving's broken finger is not forever, but the guard's regular absences have to be a cause of concern for Cleveland.
In the meantime, the league will learn how Dion Waiters can fare as the backcourt's biggest threat and if Tristan Thompson will continue to make strides.
The team isn't being blown out, but it's also not showing signs that it has enough talent to push forward—at least not this season, especially without Irving for now.
Anthony Davis needs to stay healthy for the New Orleans Hornets.
Alert: The New Orleans Hornets are going to be inconsistent. When much of the foundation is set with two rookies, up-and-down play shouldn't raise an eyebrow.
Of course, Anthony Davis isn't going to get make great strides if he can't consistently stay on the court. The first pick has played in less than half of New Orleans's games. When he has played, he has been tremendous with 16 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
But he's beginning to dictate his career now, and it's funny how much people can ignore when a guy just can't stay NBA-healthy. It's just an alert, nothing serious yet.
Both Robin Lopez and Greivis Vasquez have had nice starts, and Ryan Anderson is proving he isn't a fluke. Anderson used all of his 6'10" size to shoot with ease over the Clippers on Monday night. That's valuable for any team.
This team isn't ready to win just yet.
Arron Afflalo isn't enough in Orlando.
While the Orlando Magic don’t sit, rocking in the expected post-Dwight Howard cellar, the team isn't primed to be anything more than blasé this season.
Playing better than most imagined, the Orlando Magic are still comprised of any true contender's fourth or fifth options. No, Arron Afflalo is not a superstar, and neither is Glen Davis.
Stop, just stop.
The Magic are destined for a season of indifference.
The good news for Orlando fans, however, is that if the team could land a top-flight draft pick, a good surrounding cast could be waiting. But for now, the odds don't look good.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have lost three straight since the return of Kevin Love.
Here's an obvious statement that needs to be made: Kevin Love is not bad for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Although Minnesota is 0-3 with its star forward back from injury, Love is averaging 24.3 points and 14 rebounds per game since his return. The team will adjust to a change on the court.
The reality is simply that the Timberwolves were never truly as good as some perceived early on.
Since beginning 5-2, the team has lost five straight. The team's early wins came against lowly Sacramento and Orlando, and the "yup, they are actually that bad" Indiana Pacers.
The team does have a pair of quality wins against the Brooklyn Nets and Dallas Mavericks, but that's it.
Goran Dragic is legit for Phoenix, averaging 16 points and 7.1 assists per game.
The mentality has not changed.
The Suns remain a generous opponent, allowing a league-worst 103.3 points per game. Defensively, the Suns must figure out how to manage their team defense with a group of capable individual defenders.
In the meantime, the offense of Goran Dragic and Marcin Gortat is not a fluke. Dragic is averaging 16 points and 7.1 assists per game. Gortat is averaging a near double-double at 11.9 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
With the added abilities of Luis Scola, the teams has consistent threats. As a squad, the Suns are ranked eighth in the NBA at 100.5 points per game.
Still, the Suns are a ways away from becoming a true title contender.
Damian Lillard is part of a young nucleus in Portland.
There's a lot of upside to the Portland Trail Blazers if they can become a cohesive group.
Portland's three-headed monster of young talent includes the nucleus of LaMarcus Aldridge (20.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game), Nicolas Batum (17.8 points and 6.1 rebounds) and rookie Damian Lillard (19.1 points and 6.1 assists per game).
Wesley Matthews is quietly shooting 45.8 percent for 17.6 points per game, and J.J. Hickson is averaging a double-double of 11.2 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.
The starting five can match up with most of the league. The issue is with the bench, which is ranked No. 26 in the league at minus-5.9 in efficiency recap difference.
If Portland can add depth, it can compete for a title in the not-so-distant future.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is part of the reason Charlotte has surged.
The Charlotte Bobcats aren't the next great team in the NBA.
But they are getting much better.
Featuring a youthful heart of Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the continued high-level play of Ramon Sessions, the Bobcats are showing signs of rising through the league's ranks.
They're still plenty young, and the Thunder offered a nice reminder of the Bobcats' place amongst title teams with a 114-69 blowout on Monday night.
As James Harden goes, so do the Rockets.
The pretty new girl enters the office.
Everyone is impressed. Very impressed.
Suddenly, shirts are tucked in, ties are coming on, sloppy beards are shaved, and desks are getting cleaned up a bit more.
Then, after a couple weeks, everyone returns to normal.
Enter James Harden, the pretty new face in Houston that made everyone look a bit better until reality returned.
As Harden goes, so do the new-look Rockets. When the Rockets win, Harden is scoring 32.2 points per game and shooting 55.1 percent. When they lose, he's scoring 19.1 points per game and shooting just 33.6 percent.
Jeremy Lin is settling into reality as well, pulling off what is about right to expect out of the guard: 10.2 points and 6.1 assists.
The Rockets might be a little more show than go, and chances at a title are very slim.
Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings offer an impressive backcourt, but that's about it.
Put down your beer mugs and calm down.
The Milwaukee Bucks are substantially improved, but they are not a threat.
The backcourt of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings offers surface-level success. But could you imagine this duo facing off against a backcourt of any size?
Milwaukee has beat up on the teams it is supposed to beat up on, but that doesn't make the Bucks a title contender. Milwaukee has just one quality win, its first of the season against the Boston Celtics, and even that isn't too impressive.
Other than that, the Bucks have beaten just one team over .500, the 76ers, in mid-November.
The Bucks are exciting, sure, but the odds are extremely low that they will contend.
Roy Hibbert is emblematic of the Pacers' struggles.
Or really missing Danny Granger. The Indiana Pacers need to stop worrying about weathering the storm and get back to playing the style of basketball that brought such success last season.
Waiting around is a losing mentality.
Instead, strive to win with what you have as if Granger isn't going to return.
Roy Hibbert is struggling. His shooting percentage is down significantly from 49.7 percent last season to 37.9 percent early this season. His rebounding and defense remains consistent, part of Indiana's fourth-ranked defense and top-ranked rebounding.
But the defense and rebounding can't compensate for the poor offense, at 29th in the league at 91.2 points per game.
David West's team-high 16.6 points per game won't be enough to preserve the Pacers until Granger returns in February. The odds are there, but everything must come together perfectly.
This dunk by Harrison Barnes woke up the league regarding the Warriors.
Hello League, my name is Harrison Barnes, and I am the real deal.
Barnes's massive "take that" on Minnesota Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic served as a public service announcement that the Golden State Warriors may have done something right.
Barnes completes a young perimeter that also features the evolving Klay Thompson and re-signed Stephen Curry.
Now if (and this is a big if) Andrew Bogut can return to health at a reasonable point, the Warriors also feature a legitimate frontcourt of Bogut and David Lee.
Furthermore, the Warriors offer a higher level of depth that the team hasn't had in years, led by Carl Landry (14.8 points per game) and Jarrett Jack (4.4 assists per game).
"We Believe" has been done before, but how about "Why Not?"
Al Horford won Eastern Conference Player of the Week
Al Horford earned Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors, the Hawks won five in a row, and all seems well in Atlanta despite the absence of Joe Johnson this season.
But it's never that simple in the NBA.
The Hawks have only three wins against opponents with records over .500, including wins against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first week of the season, and the Charlotte Bobcats and the Los Angeles Clippers in the team's last two games.
There is still much to be proven in Atlanta.
However, if the team continues to play at its current level as the third-best defense in the league, Atlanta can continue its success.
The reality is, though, there is simply not enough sustainable talent to push the Hawks into contending status.
Andre Iguodala isn't enough superstar to make Denver a true contender.
The Denver Nuggets have no clear superstar. That's not a recipe for a title.
You can make the argument for Andre Iguodala as a superstar candidate in Colorado. But despite making strides this season, the 28-year-old is still just one-third the amount of superstar offered by many true contenders.
The blue-collar mentality of the team is built for regular-season success, but it will take another trade to upgrade to where they need to be.
Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried are all nice pieces.
Al Jefferson is part of a Utah power package.
On paper, this is an overwhelming team.
Modeling the bruising success of the Memphis Grizzlies, the Utah Jazz present a lineup of thick challenge.
It's a unique blend of strength inside: Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors.
It might not be sustainable for long, though, as the demand for big men in the NBA is at a premium, and Utah will have to make some contract decisions following the season.
So are the Jazz already in win-now mode? Or trade-now mode?
The four-man rotation of bigs is an interesting experiment in Utah, and so far it has delivered mixed results. Presently, the Jazz are still mediocre long shots as title contenders.
Andrew Bynum will hold the future in Philadelphia.
In one way, this is exactly the point.
This is why the Philadelphia 76ers took the chance on Andrew Bynum. This is why the franchise ignored the warning signs and went after the young, talented center.
If Bynum returns to form, there is no reason not to include Philadelphia in the conversation as contenders.
Currently, it's easy to say the move to get Bynum isn't working out. He hasn't played yet, and the setbacks have become somewhat comical on the national stage. Meanwhile, Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young are carrying heavy loads and would love the help.
When, or if, Bynum does return with health, he will make the 76ers a viable contender in the East.
For now, though, the odds are predicated on the shaky knees of the big man.
Dirk Nowitzki will be back eventually, and when is, the Mavericks will be contenders.
Don't bet against Dirk Nowitzki just yet.
He's still just one season removed from a championship in Dallas, and he isn't retired yet.
The 34-year-old said that he's willing to take the time off now in hopes of a payoff later this season.
Nowitzki said the following of his return date (via Eddie Sefko, Dallas Morning News):
Unfortunately not as soon as we all hoped. I think the last statement we put out was it’s going to take six weeks before I do any basketball activity. Unfortunately, I tried, but I couldn’t cut the time down.
The move to wait actually helps Dallas in terms of seeking another title under the future Hall of Fame star.
The NBA isn't about winning in the winter. Hold off, stay healthy and come back in full force.
Currently, newcomer O.J. Mayo is keeping the team warm, and unexpected contributions from Brandan Wright and Jae Crowder are helping, too.
The team is hanging around without its superstar; imagine what they will be capable of upon his return.
With Derrick Rose, the Bulls will be contenders.
Last season, the Chicago Bulls were primed for their playoff run.
But just like that, Derrick Rose went down and the season quickly went up in flames.
So why can't the same work in reverse?
If the Bulls can just hang around the playoff picture in hopes of a Rose return, then the superstar point guard should be able to move his team along from there.
It could be March, at the earliest, before Rose returns. So for now, it's the job of Luol Deng, Richard Hamilton, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and replacements Nate Robinson and Kirk Hinrich to keep things somewhat warm.
Led by Deron Williams, things are heated in Brooklyn.
There are certainly doubters.
Brooklyn, as a borough, knows all about being made secondary.
But with each passing night, a reality of success is being proven in Brooklyn.
The Nets are 9-4 and coming off a remarkable overtime win against the New York Knicks.
Brooklyn has to prove capable of beating the best in the East, and they have made progress after knocking off the Knicks, in addition to a prior win against the Boston Celtics. Still, the Nets couldn't handle a matchup with the Heat or out West against the Lakers.
Brook Lopez is playing inspired, scoring 19.2 points per game on 54 percent shooting. Deron Williams is distributing 8.9 assists per night. Joe Johnson is scoring 15.2 points per game.
Doubt all you want, but the Nets have all the pieces.
Rajon Rondo is averaging 13.7 assists per game for Boston.
There's something comforting about the Boston Celtics.
They've become that last pair of boxer shorts out of the drawer, the pair that you always think should just be thrown out but ends up coming through right when things look dim.
The worst rebounding team in the league may be on its last leg, but there's still a few more bounces left.
The Celtics are 8-6 including a recent win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Big Three is doing its job: Paul Pierce (20.1 points per game), Rajon Rondo (13.7 assists per game) and Kevin Garnett (7.4 rebounds per game).
Brandon Bass (9.7 points and 5.7 rebounds) has been a help, as has the 50.5 percent shooting of Jason Terry. But the Celtics will need to find contributions elsewhere if they hope to slip back on as that last pair of boxers.
Carmelo Anthony may have to be the league's MVP if New York can win a title.
Carmelo Anthony will have to be the league's Most Valuable Player if the New York Knicks are to win an NBA title.
Anthony is that important to the team, and not just because of his ability to score. Despite some ill-advised shots, including some down the stretch in overtime against the Brooklyn Nets, Anthony is playing with a better head.
Despite the team losing three of its last four games, Anthony is continuing one of the best starts of his career. He is not only scoring, but he's rebounding near career-high levels.
The credit early was for his defense and being part of the Knicks' incredible defensive statistics. During this recent stretch of losses, though, the Knicks haven't held a team under 100 points.
The Knicks are at their best when Anthony is broadening his game, and the team is playing defense. Of course, Amar'e Stoudemire is still on the horizon.
The Memphis Grizzlies are one of the league's best teams, yet little credit is given.
The Memphis Grizzlies bandwagon is filling up.
The stock of a team dedicated to defense and rebounding takes awhile to move upward, especially without the prototypical superstar. But that stock is now high, and critics of the league are now taking notice of Memphis's winning methods.
There's still just one problem: Where is the superstar?
NBA titles are won with big-time players, and Memphis will continue to play second-tier until they find that player. Unless Rudy Gay can become that guy?
Jamal Crawford must keep scoring for the Los Angeles Clippers to keep moving forward.
There's so much to like about the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Clippers have the darling of point guard superstars in Chris Paul, the big-play potential of Blake Griffin and the deepest bench in basketball.
Times have changed for the other Los Angeles team.
But what's going on of late? After winning six consecutive games, the Clippers have dropped four in a row.
Suddenly, leading scorer Jamal Crawford is seeing more defensive pressure and double-teams, and he hasn't been able to handle it.
After allowing just one team, the Miami Heat, to score more than 100 points during the win streak, Los Angeles has allowed it to happen in three of its last four games.
The Clippers are showing weaknesses, but they're still a contender in a talent-heavy NBA.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook create one of the league's finest duos.
Oklahoma City has made the progression.
No longer an "up-and-comer," this team is a contender that is expected to reach elite levels each season.
The superstar tandem of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook is combining for an average of 47 points, 13.7 rebounds and 13.1 assists per game. That's tough to stop.
Additionally, Kevin Martin has stepped right in for James Harden, and the wing scorer is averaging 15.7 points per game on 45.6 percent shooting, including 49.3 percent from three-point land.
Serge Ibaka is getting in on the fun, proving his value more each season as something greater than just defense. The power forward is averaging 14.5 points per game.
All continues to be right for Oklahoma City and its hopes of returning to the NBA Finals.
The Spurs just keep rolling year after year.
The San Antonio Spurs, that song that never gets old.
Well, the song that gets old, that you might get tired of, but that never goes away.
Tim Duncan and his buddies Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are back again with one of the league's top records (12-3).
Each year seems like it's supposed to be the last for the Spurs. And each year, the quiet ones prove ready to go another three more.
The Spurs will have good odds of winning a championship as long as the trio stays together, and as long as fresh legs are continually added.
Getting Kawhi Leonard back healthy will also be important.
Kobe Bryant isn't finished.
Do you really think the Lakers are done?
The season is just getting warmed up, and by postseason, the Lakers regular-season record won't mean much more than what team they will beat in the first round of the playoffs.
Kobe Bryant is not finished. You still may not have seen the best of him yet.
Steve Nash and Dwight Howard are truly as valuable as you thought they would be.
Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace may not be the same players they once were, but they're still close.
Mike D'Antoni isn't focused on the month of November. And neither are the Lakers' odds of winning an NBA title. Los Angeles will continue to make the regular season its preseason and gear up when it counts.
The Lakers are the favorites to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals.
The most polarizing trio in sports is back.
Did you think they were going somewhere?
The most polarizing trio in the league is back to defend its title; the Miami Heat currently hold one of basketball's best records at 10-3, despite the time Dwyane Wade has missed.
LeBron James is the greatest player in the league, and he's proving again that the Most Valuable Player award belongs to him. Through 13 games, James is averaging 25.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game.
Bosh is having an improved season with 20.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. The addition of Ray Allen (12.8 points per game and a 52.9 three-point percentage) only adds to a greater team chemistry, making Miami an even stronger force.
The Heat maintain their position as the favorites to win the NBA title again this season.
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