The first quarter of the NBA season is in the rearview mirror, and the more cohesive teams find themselves at the top of the standings.
Now that we have reached the first true tentpole of the season, it's about time to draw conclusions about what the rest of the season may hold.
Success will be enjoyed by competent teams rather than stars on bad teams, as even the most talented players cannot win without a lot of help from their teammates.
Team chemistry is impossible to quantify, as numbers cannot truly explain how well a team works together.
Assists tend to be one of the key statistics to measure team chemistry, although there arefactors that are far more relevant.
The most cohesive teams are the ones that find a way to get the most out of their players, while creating gameplans that compensate for weaknesses.
While superstars win titles in the NBA, it takes tremendous teamwork and trust to hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy.
Note: Statistics and records are current through games played on Dec. 12.
The Toronto Raptors were viewed as a team that could compete for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference if things broke the right way for them.
Unfortunately for Dwane Casey and the city of Toronto, every break has gone against the Raptors.
After just a quarter of the season, the Raptors season is essentially over, as they are 4-19 for a winning percentage of .174.
The Raptors chemistry has been compromised by multiple injuries to new starting point guard Kyle Lowry, the poor shooting of 2006 first-overall pick Andrea Bargnani and a major step backwards on the defensive end of the court.
The schedule makers did the Raptors no favors, as 15 of their first 23 games were on the road. The Raptors are just 1-14 on the road, as the constant travel and assimilation of new players into the rotation has overwhelmed them.
It is a shame to call a team's season over prior to Christmas, but the Raptors poor play has left us without another choice.
The Washington Wizards have the worst winning percentage in the NBA, as they have only triumphed in three of their 19 games.
In the Wizards defense, they have been without their best player and offensive catalyst John Wall. They were also without Nene for the beginning of the season, which left them extremely thin in the frontcourt.
Without Wall running the offense, the Wiz were forced to turn to A.J. Price, who had a below league-average PER of 12.03 prior to fracturing his right hand against the Golden State Warriors.
The Wizards have been one of the worst franchises in the NBA for years now, and this season has been no different.
During the 12-game losing streak that they opened the season on, the Wizards were outmaneuvered and embarrassed on a nightly basis.
Washington has also failed to integrate Bradley Beal in an efficient way, although his slow start could be attributed to the team's nightmarish first quarter of the season.
Barring more injuries or setbacks, the Wizards team that ends the season will be much better than the one they run out on the court currently.
DeMarcus Cousins has already missed three games due to suspension this season, which epitomizes the struggles of the Sacramento Kings through the season's first quarter.
According to John Hollinger's team statistics, the Kings are ranked 26th in offensive efficiency and 23rd in defensive deficiency.
The Kings have the talent to compete in the Western Conference, but they cannot find a way to move forward as a team.
The fans in Sacramento haven't seen a cohesive team for years, and the thought of trading either Cousins or Tyreke Evans is getting even harder to ignore.
When the draft comes around in June, the Kings will be in the lottery for the seventh consecutive year.
It's scary to think about how bad the Cleveland Cavaliers would have been if they did not have Anderson Varejao, as he single-handedly kept the team somewhat competitive during Kyrie Irving's absence due to a broken finger.
Dion Waiters has showed flashes of excellence as a rookie, but he has struggled with consistency and injuries.
This has been Varejao's team, as the veteran has increased his value drastically.
Irving is a bona fide stud, but the Cavaliers are so bad that his talents go to waste most of the time.
According to John Hollinger's team statistics, the Cavs rank 27th in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
Cleveland has had three top-four picks in the last two drafts, so they have the young talent to emerge as playoff contenders for next season.
The future may be bright for the Cavs, but the present is gloomy, as their current roster is not getting the job done.
According to a Polish website named przegladsportowy.pl, Marcin Gortat voiced his frustrations in regards to his role with the Phoenix Suns.
When Steve Nash was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, Gortat assumed the role as the team's best player.
That assumption has not been correct, as Gortat's scoring and rebounding are down compared to his previous two seasons with the franchise.
The Suns assembled a makeshift team, and they don't have the talent to be competitive without strong contributions from Gortat. Nash's departure has certainly hurt Gortat's production, but he can still be effective without Nash.
Until head coach Alvin Gentry can get his entire team on the same page, the Suns will lose more games than they win.
The New Orleans Hornets have the worst record in the Western Conference, as they have compiled a record of 5-16 through 21 games.
Injuries to key players have plagued the Hornets once again this season. Eric Gordon has not made his season debut, and Anthony Davis has missed 13 games due to multiple ailments.
According to John Hollinger's team statistics on ESPN.com, the Hornets currently rank 20th in offensive efficiency and 29th in defensive efficiency.
The Hornets have struggled with team cohesion this season, as they have plenty of new faces.
Outside of Davis, the Hornets have also welcomed Austin Rivers, Robin Lopez and Ryan Anderson to the team this season, so it's going to take time for that group to feel comfortable playing alongside each other.
The Hornets are fortunate enough to have a franchise cornerstone in Davis, and that will have to be enough for now.
Indiana Pacers fans now know what life is like without Danny Granger, and it has not been pretty.
Granger has missed the vast majority of the season due to a patellar tendinosis, and the Pacers have struggled on the offensive end without him.
The Pacers are ranked 28th in John Hollinger's offensive efficiency category, which is a sharp decline from the 2012 season in which they finished tied for eighth in the NBA.
Prior to the season, the Pacers were viewed as a lock to qualify for the playoffs, but that may not be the case anymore.
They are currently ranked ninth in the Eastern Conference with an 11-11 record, although they are certainly favored to make the postseason at this point based upon their personnel and track record.
Indiana was once viewed as one of the league's best all-around teams, but that distinction is in serious jeopardy of being revoked.
The Portland Trail Blazers depend on their starting five as much as any team NBA.
According to the Simple Rating derived by 82Games.com, the Blazers only have four players that have positively affected the team across the span of the entire season. Not surprisingly, each of those players is a starter.
The Blazers hit the jackpot when they selected Damian Lillard in the draft, as he has emerged as the overwhelming favorite to win Rookie of the Year.
With Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews all under contract for the next three seasons, the Blazers have an excellent nucleus to build on.
The Blazers major weak point is their bench, an area that the front office must address in the offseason. Once Lillard and the rest of the starters have adequate backups, the Blazers will emerge as a legitimate threat in the Western Conference.
Portland's offense is not dependent on assists, as they are currently ranked 29th in the league in assisted buckets per game.
The Charlotte Bobcats are far better than they were during the 2012 season, but they still have a long way to go in order to compete in the Southeast division.
Under the tutelage of first time head coach Mike Dunlap, the Bobcats have been much better on the offensive end of the court. Charlotte is currently ranked 18th in points scored per game, which is a substantial improvement from the 2012 season in which they finished dead last in that category.
It will take some time for the Bobcats defense to catch up with their offense, as Kemba Walker and Ben Gordon are more talented offensively.
Charlotte has two good building blocks in Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and the duo will only become better as they gain more experience.
Dunlap has this franchise headed in the right direction, and he has done so far quicker than anyone would have anticipated.
The Detroit Pistons opened the season 0-8, but they learned from those losses and have been much more competitive since.
With Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond as the future frontcourt, the Pistons are on the cusp of being a tough out on a nightly basis.
The jury is still out on Brandon Knight, as he is averaging five assists per game while averaging 32 minutes.
Team chemistry has been a problem for the Pistons, as the majority of the offensive load is placed on Monroe and Knight, both of whom have a tendency to turn the ball over too frequently.
The Pistons have been a pleasant surprise since the middle of November and will rise in these rankings if they continue on their current path.
The Los Angeles Lakers have not lost sight of their goal, which is to win this season's NBA championship. While titles are not won in December, the Lakers team that we have seen this season is not deserving of a playoff spot, let alone a chance to win it all
The Lakers team has changed significantly since the 2012 season wrapped up, which is one of the reasons that they have struggled so far this season.
Head coach Mike Brown was relieved of his duties early on this season, and he was replaced by Mike D'Antoni. That change also led to a philosophical change, as D'Antoni's high-octane attack is now the order of the day.
D'Antoini's system will become even more explosive when Steve Nash returns from injury.
Nash only played six quarters before injuring his leg, while Pau Gasol is currently dealing with knee tendinitis that has caused him to miss five games.
Once Nash and Gasol return, the Lakers will start to look like the team everyone thought they would be when they pulled off the two blockbuster trades during the summer.
The Orlando Magic have already exceeded what was expected of them, as they upset Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center.
Jacques Vaughn has done a superb job maximizing his players' strengths, as evidenced by the way in which the offense is executed.
With no star, the Magic depend on strong performances by their entire rotation, meaning that everyone gets their fair amount of shots.
The Magic have four players who average 10 shots per game, with Glen Davis taking a team-leading 15.4 attempts from the field.
While there have been issues on offense, Orlando's defense has been solid, as they are ranked eighth in defensive efficiency according to ESPN.com writer John Hollinger's team statistics.
The Magic are currently 10th in the Eastern Conference and although a playoff berth is unrealistic, they are making the city of Orlando proud due to their hard work and hustle.
The Houston Rockets pulled off a blockbuster trade when they acquired James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder mere days before the regular season got underway.
Through the first quarter of the season, Harden has been productive, while the Rockets defense has been abysmal.
Houston is ranked third in the NBA in scoring but is dead last in scoring defense, as opponents have averaged 105.4 points against them.
Another area that needs to be addressed is ball security, as the Rockets have turned it over an average of 16.6 times per game. Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik and Harden are all prone to turnovers, but that core must lead by example and take care of the ball.
Fitting the Rockets into the list was difficult because they are elite in some areas and dreadful in others, so a middle-of-the-pack ranking seemed appropriate.
The Dallas Mavericks have performed admirably with a new cast of characters and without Dirk Nowitzki, as they currently hold the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
For the Mavs not to be ranked lower on this list is impressive because only one of their current starters was with the team during the 2012 season.
Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle continues to prove that he is one of the league's best coaches, although his team's performance in the 2011 NBA Finals should be enough.
The Mavericks are middle of the road in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency according to John Hollinger, as they are 15th on offense and 17th on defense.
This team will be much different once Nowitzki returns to the court, but his teammates held down the fort in his absence.
The Denver Nuggets are one of the deepest teams in the league, but that has not helped them much in the standings.
The Nuggets are ninth in the Western Conference with a record of 11-12, but their defense is the primary culprit for their sub-.500 record.
The arrival of Andre Iguodala has improved their scoring defense by about a point from the 2012 season, although the improvement should not be attributed to Iggy alone.
Ty Lawson got off to a slow start this season, although he has started to turn things around as he has found his range with his jump shot again.
The Nuggets are always going to play at one of the league's fastest paces as long as George Karl is the head coach, which means that watching them will continue to be exciting.
The Milwaukee Bucks have gotten off to an 11-9 start, and things were sailing smoothly for the first month of the season.
The Bucks have been the beneficiary of the rise of Larry Sanders, as he is amongst the league leaders in blocks.
Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis have the offensive talent to blow opponents off the court, but each of them also have the potential to shoot the team into despair.
The Bucks would be higher on this list if they had a happy and capable center, as Samuel Dalembert has not done enough to earn the minutes that he desires.
According to Yanis Koutroupis of Hoopsworld.com, Dalembert said the following about his feelings regarding his role with the team:
It is not working. It’s not quite, I thought my role would have been a little bit more. But, like I said it’s coaching and everybody is doing their best.
Dalembert tried to express his opinion in a professional manner, but he is clearly extremely frustrated with his role. Until it's resolved, Dalembert's feelings will affect the tone in the locker room.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are going to make the playoffs in the Western Conference, as they are currently seventh and are still awaiting the return of starting point guard Ricky Rubio.
The chemistry that the Wolves have shown this season has been remarkable, as they have quite a few new faces such as Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved.
With Kevin Love out of the lineup for the first three weeks of the season due to a broken hand, the players who normally played supporting roles were forced into more ambitious positions.
Nikola Pekovic, Luke Ridnour, Shved and Kirilenko all stepped up, and the Wolves posted a winning record without their best two players.
Head coach Rick Adelman has his athletes playing like a quality team and could be in the Coach of the Year conversation later on in the season.
In a perfect world, the Philadelphia 76ers would be welcoming Andrew Bynum to the starting lineup this month, but instead his return to the court is not within sight.
Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner have each progressed and are starting to look like All-Star caliber players.
The fact that Bynum may never play a game for the 76ers should be crippling, but the strong play from Holiday and Turner have softened the blow.
According to John Hollinger's team statistics, the 76ers are ranked ninth in offensive efficiency and are tied for 11th in defensive efficiency.
The 76ers core cut their NBA teeth together, and we are seeing the benefits of that continuity.
The Boston Celtics should appear higher on this list based upon reputation, but they aren't playing well enough to justify putting them in the top 10.
Rajon Rondo is a walking triple-double, and he creates more wide-open looks for his teammates than anyone else in the league.
The Celtics are breaking in a new bench, as Jeff Green, Jason Terry and Jared Sullinger all made their debuts with the team this season.
Boston is currently ranked 10th in defensive efficiency and tied for 13th in offensive efficiency, which would put them right about here in the rankings.
The Celtics need to get more production at the power forward position, as Brandon Bass has slowed down after a decent start to the season.
The Utah Jazz have one of the league's premier frontcourts, as Paul Milsap and Al Jefferson have become quite familiar playing alongside one another.
Mo Williams has provided a spark at point guard and has ignited the Jazz offense, which is ranked eighth in scoring offense.
The Jazz have a stable of young players who are becoming accustomed to one another, so when the organization decides to move on from Jefferson or Milsap they will have an adequate replacement.
The Brooklyn Nets opened the season 7-2, as the core that they assembled was dominant at home. Avery Johnson has done a good job making everything come together thus far, but he needs to find a way to get more out of his team against quality opponents.
They split their next 10 games down the middle, as the weaknesses of the team started to stick out.
At one point, the Nets dropped five games in a row to teams that were in the top half of their conferences.
The Nets success may come down to the success of their frontcourt, as they need to protect the rim and rebound well to compete against good teams.
Fortunately for the Nets, Brook Lopez has played very well when he's healthy and gives them one of the best centers in the Eastern Conference.
The Nets are ranked this high because they have the personnel to compete with the league's best, and the team chemistry is quickly improving.
The Chicago Bulls have done exactly what we expected them to do, play great defense and score just enough points to win games against the teams that they are capable of beating.
The ultimate success of the Bulls season is completely dependent on the return of Derrick Rose, as he is the offensive catalyst and MVP.
The Bulls are second in defensive efficiency, which should not come as a surprise considering Tom Thibodeau is the head coach.
Even though Chicago's bench underwent a major overhaul in the offseason, the new reserves have quickly learned the defense and have aided in their 12-9 record.
Stephen Curry and David Lee have led the Golden State Warriors to prominence in the Western Conference, as they are currently in fifth place.
The Warriors have been inconsistent at times, but that should be expected from a young team. For example, the Warriors lost to the Orlando Magic at home but beat the defending champion Miami Heat on the road.
With a backcourt of Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, Golden State could easily lay claim to having the distinction of most dangerous shooting backcourt in the league.
The Warriors are without Andrew Bogut who has a fractured ankle and could wind up missing the entire season.
Mark Jackson appears to be the right man for the job, as he led this young team to a 15-7 record.
The Atlanta Hawks were the third best team in the Eastern Conference during the first quarter of the season, as they have amassed a 13-6 record.
Josh Smith and Al Horford are the most important players on the team, but the scoring production is spread throughout the team pretty evenly.
The Hawks have five players that are averaging double-digits in scoring, which makes it difficult for opposing defenses to key in on any one player.
Smith is in his contract year, so he should be expected to have a monster season. The question is how far can he lead the Hawks once the playoffs roll around?
The answer is that Smith will need a lot of help from his teammates to make a deep run.
The defending champions are off to a good start, but the injuries that have plagued Dwyane Wade are concerning.
The Miami Heat need Wade's scoring punch if they hope to repeat as World Champions. Even LeBron James won't be able to lead them through the postseason while shouldering the entire offensive load.
Miami's struggles have come on the defensive end, as opponents have gotten the better of the team inside the paint and behind the arc.
LeBron James is the most dominant power forward in the NBA, and his defensive prowess makes the lives of opposing stars difficult in the final moments.
James makes everyone around him better due to his versatility, basketball intelligence and outrageous talent, so it's hard to have the Heat outside of the top five.
Chris Paul makes everyone around him better and that includes the Los Angeles Clippers coaching staff.
Since Paul matured into a superstar during the 2008 season, he has single-handedly guided teams to the postseason and won games his teams had business of winning.
The presence of CP3 ensures that the Clippers needed to be high on this list because he truly understands his teammates' strengths and knows how accentuate them.
Paul and Blake Griffin have led the Clips to a 16-6 record, which has them ranked fourth in the Western Conference.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, the Clippers are ranked second in the NBA in adjusted point differential per 100 possessions.
The Clippers are sixth in scoring offense and fifth in scoring defense, both of which are good representations of the team.
The Western Conference has a handful of elite teams, which means that the team that represents the conference in the finals may get there by the slimmest of margins.
The New York Knicks are thriving in Mike Woodson's system despite the absences of Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert.
The Knicks have only turned the ball over 10.8 times per game, which is by far the lowest total in the league. This can be attributed to Woodson's isolation-heavy offense and Raymond Felton's reemergence in his second stint in the Big Apple.
In their two matchups against the Miami Heat, the Knicks beat the defending champions by double-digits on each occasion.
Those victories catapulted the Knicks to the top of the Eastern Conference, an effort that has also been aided by their perfect 8-0 home record.
Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Felton have been the anchors for this team, so Woodson has to find a way to properly reinsert Stoudemire and Shumpert into the rotation without disrupting the chemistry of the team.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have been fine without James Harden, as they have have the NBA's highest winning percentage. Kevin Martin was acquired in the Harden trade, and he has assimilated himself into the rotation well.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, the Thunder are leading the league in adjusted point differential per 100 possessions.
The Thunder employ two of the NBA's top 10 players, as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook pack enough of a punch together to overcome most challengers.
OKC is first in offensive efficiency and 10th in defensive efficiency, as they are one of the few teams that rank inside the top 10 in both categories.
The Thunder will miss Harden in the playoffs, but his departure has far from crippled the chemistry of the team.
The Memphis Grizzlies allowed OJ Mayo to leave via free agency, and they are better off despite Mayo's quick start with the Dallas Mavericks.
Without Mayo's scoring pop off the bench, the Grizzlies have had to find other sources of production.
A fair amount of that production has come from Zach Randolph, who has been perfectly healthy through the season's first quarter.
The Grizzlies have also improved on defense, as each one of their starters plays hard on defense.
The improvement in the scoring defense has been dramatic, as they are leading the league in that category.
Memphis has done a great job in keeping their core intact, even when the pundits were clamoring for a major overhaul of the roster.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, the Grizzlies are ranked fourth in regards to point differential over 100 possessions, which is a good statistic for determining the league's elite teams.
The Griz are on a bit of a slide at the moment, as they have lost two in a row, but they deserve the second slot due to their excellent team defense
The San Antonio Spurs are in the midst of another incredible regular season, as they have triumphed in 18 of their 22 games.
The Spurs have amassed a win margin of 8.1 points per contest, which is second behind only the Oklahoma City Thunder.
What is more impressive than the Spurs overall record is their road record, as they are 11-3 on the road, with one of those losses coming when they were shorthanded against the Miami Heat.
According to John Hollinger's team statistics, the Spurs are ranked fifth in offensive efficiency and sixth in defensive efficiency.
The Spurs coaching staff perfectly utilizes its players' strengths while hiding their weaknesses, which is why they top this list.