A new year can present new opportunities and renewed hope for NBA teams.
The league is getting closer and closer to the midway point. That offers teams ample time to try and turn their seasons around.
It also offers the best teams in the league the chance to solidify themselves as a real threat for the NBA title.
Here are the NBA power rankings, with the teams that are primed to make a nice run in the new year in italics.
1. Los Angeles Clippers (27-8)
Their 17-game winning streak has of course ended, but the Los Angeles Clippers are still the best team in basketball. Chris Paul is the floor general, and the Clippers have one of, if not the best bench in the league.
They feasted on average and below-average offenses during that streak, but a 115-89 victory on Saturday over the Golden State Warriors was a huge statement that this team is most certainly for real.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (26-7)
It's a testament to the Oklahoma City Thunder that despite having Kendrick Perkins playing 20-plus minutes, the team remains one of the best in the league.
Losses in the past few weeks to the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets don't look too good, but there's no debating that come the playoffs, the Thunder will be one of the teams to beat.
3. San Antonio Spurs (27-9)
Are there any more superlatives left that could describe the San Antonio Spurs? Every year people argue that the team is too old to win a title, and yet each season, Tim Duncan and Co. continue to produce one of the finest team efforts in the league.
The Spurs are 8-2 in their last 10 games, and with the way that Gregg Popovich handles the team, there's no reason to expect that they will fade down the stretch.
4. Miami Heat (22-9)
In addition, the Miami defense is giving up six more points a game than it did last season. If the Heat want to repeat, they need to get back to the standard they set on the defensive end of the floor.
5. Golden State Warriors (22-11)
Scratch the aforementioned loss to the Clippers, and the Golden State Warriors have been one of the most fun teams in the league to watch.
A game with the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday is a good chance for Golden State to assert itself in the West.
6. Memphis Grizzlies (20-10)
The Memphis Grizzlies haven't won a game decided by three points or less, and they're only 9-8 against teams .500 and above.
The same goes for Memphis as it does for Golden State. A win for the Grizzlies would be huge.
7. New York Knicks (23-10)
There won't be anything said about Amar'e Stoudemire in this ranking, as seemingly everything has been said before. Games against the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers will be good tests for the New York Knicks.
8. Atlanta Hawks (20-12)
The Atlanta Hawks looked to be a team in stasis for so long. They'd be good enough to make the playoffs, but not good enough to make a deep run.
Along with the Joe Johnson trade, the offseason moves made by Atlanta have this team looking like a refreshed side primed for postseason success.
9. Houston Rockets (20-14)
As currently constructed, the Houston Rockets will make the playoffs. It's only a question now as to whether they can advance past the first round.
10. Denver Nuggets (19-16)
Some considered the Denver Nuggets to be a dark horse to make a run to the NBA Finals. While it hasn't quite worked out that way, the Nuggets have started to get things going.
11. Indiana Pacers (20-14)
The Indiana Pacers are scoring the fewest amount of points while giving up the fewest amount of points. That an interesting combination, but it doesn't make for fun basketball to watch.
12. Chicago Bulls (18-13)
It would have made sense if the Chicago Bulls simply tread water before the return of Derrick Rose. Far from it, the Bulls have continued to be a solid basketball team. If Rose returns at 100 percent this year, then Chicago is a team no one will want to play in the postseason.
13. Portland Trail Blazers (18-15)
Who could have thought the Portland Trail Blazers would be where they are now? No team faded down the stretch more last year than Portland.
Damian Lillard has been a big reason why. However, as a rookie, he could hit a wall as the season goes on.
14. Milwaukee Bucks (16-16)
Combining Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings could have produced great results or blown up in management's faces. So far it's been the former as the Milwaukee Bucks have been a very fun team to watch. It's too bad no one seems to be noticing.
15. Los Angeles Lakers (15-17)
Sooner or later, the Los Angeles Lakers are going to put it all together, right? It seemed like a curious combination when Mike D'Antoni was brought in to run his fast-paced offense in LA.
Sure the Lakers are becoming a more efficient team offensively, but it's all going to be for naught if they continue to surrender 100 points a game. Regardless, there's simply too much there for the team to miss the playoffs.
16. Brooklyn Nets (19-15)
The Brooklyn Nets might have won their last three games. But it's not enough to undo all of the backward momentum they've started with the poor run in December and the firing of Avery Johnson.
17. Boston Celtics (16-17)
The more Jason Terry struggles, the more Boston Celtics will continue to hover around .500. He hasn't been a suitable replacement for Ray Allen as defenses are started to figure out his game.
18. Utah Jazz (17-18)
The Utah Jazz are where the Atlanta Hawks were last year. Utah could make the playoffs, but it won't make an impact whatsoever. Personnel changes are necessary as the Jazz have accomplished everything they can with the team they have.
19. Minnesota Timberwolves (15-15)
With the injury to Kevin Love, the Minnesota Timberwolves could take quite a tumble down the standings. They've had to deal with injuries all season long and managed to do very well. Love re-breaking a bone in the hand is too much for the team to overcome.
20. Detroit Pistons (13-22)
You should really be paying attention to the Detroit Pistons because the fans in Detroit certainly aren't. The Pistons rank 29th in attendance, ahead of only the Sacramento Kings.
The days of Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, etc. winning a title seems like a lifetime ago.
21. Philadelphia 76ers (15-20)
It makes you wonder where this team would be with Andrew Bynum. Jrue Holiday is having a phenomenal seasons by his own standards, and it's being wasted by the big man's continued absence.
22. Toronto Raptors (12-22)
The Toronto Raptors need to move Andrea Bargnani; they're a much better team without him. Injury is keeping him out for now, so the Raptors could put a nice stretch of victories together.
23. Dallas Mavericks (13-21)
The Dallas Mavericks have been a fixture in the playoffs for over a decade. That's going to change this year. The Mavs are too old and ineffective to make a second-half push.
24. Sacramento Kings (13-21)
DeMarcus Cousins illustrates the problem the Kings have had with their first-round draft picks. All of their selections seem to have good first years but tail off. Tyreke Evans is the prime example.
25. Phoenix Suns (12-21)
The Phoenix Suns are one of the most frustrating teams to watch in the NBA. This season is essentially a lost cause. If you're absolutely committed to watching Phoenix, Marcin Gortat and Goran Dragic provide the only excitement.
26. Orlando Magic (12-21)
Give the Orlando Magic credit. Seemingly every NBA fan had the team pegged as the worst in the league. They've lost eight in a row, but injuries have been a big reason why.
27. Cleveland Cavaliers (8-27)
The Cleveland Cavaliers desperately need to get some help for Kyrie Irving. He's one of the best point guards in the league, but the team is running the chance of wasting his enormous talent.
Then he'll leave for greener pastures, much like LBJ did.
28. New Orleans Hornets (8-25)
Despite the record, big things could be happening in New Orleans. The Hornets have a solid young nucleus and the picks to set themselves up with success. The return of Eric Gordon could get this team close to .500.
29. Charlotte Bobcats (8-24)
The Charlotte Bobcats are simply a bad basketball team. They have some young talent, but there's no blueprint for the long term.
30. Washington Wizards (4-27)
There's only one true lock in these rankings, and that's the Washington Wizards. To say the Wizards are a hapless basketball team would be an understatement.
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