Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant
We're beginning to find out which NBA teams might have staying power this season.
The Atlanta Hawks came out the gate quickly but have since come back down to earth.
Meanwhile, the Miami Heat seem to have figured some things out despite struggling on the road.
The Western Conference is still home to the NBA's elite, however, and that divide is only getting larger.
Three Western Conference teams have earned a record good enough for first in the East through Thursday, while five rank among the league's top seven.
The class of the NBA is still the Oklahoma City Thunder. They appear as potent as any team offensively in recent memory.
The Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs, despite key injuries, are still close behind. Here's how it all stacks up heading into late January.
*All statistics through Thursday, January 17.
Charlotte Bobcats' Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
What would Michael Kidd-Gilchrist look like surrounded by a group of starters comparable to the ones Damian Lillard is playing with in Portland?
There's no question that Lillard is the league's Rookie of the Year this season, but Kidd-Gilchrist has played well on both ends of the floor for the NBA's worst team.
He's not simply putting up good scoring numbers for a bad team, either. As most expected, he brings an element of defense that was desperately needed in Charlotte.
Besides Kemba Walker, there's not much else in Charlotte to be excited about.
After flirting with the possibility of passing the Cavaliers, the Bobcats are still the NBA's worst team heading into the weekend.
Washington Wizards' Bradley Beal, John Wall
The Washington Wizards are 2-1 since John Wall's return to the lineup.
That's enough to momentarily dry your eyes in the nation's capital.
Wall's been as good as anyone could've realistically hoped in his return.
In Washington's only loss during the three-game stretch, he finished with a 14-point, 10-assist double-double.
Bradley Beal has been thriving alongside Wall of late too, and that's been encouraging to see.
Beal's averaged 17.5 points in his last 10—after only averaging 11.1 points in his first 10 games.
Cleveland Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving should be an All-Star.
He probably won't make it due to the awfulness of the Cavaliers' record so far, none of which is his fault specifically.
Tristan Thompson has played well with Anderson Varejao sidelined and Dion Waiters exploded for 33 points this week too.
Waiters continues to remain aggressive and has shown signs of improvement as a scorer recently. The Cavaliers' young core could be even better by season's end.
After those three players, along with rookie Tyler Zeller, there is nothing to be encouraged about in Cleveland.
Kevin Durant dunks on Phoenix Suns' Marcin Gortat
Hopefully Marcin Gortat knows what Kevin Durant did to him this week could've happened to anybody.
Not your fault Marcin, seriously.
Nor is it Gortat's fault that the Suns have lost eight of their last 10.
Gortat's gone for five double-doubles in eight games for the Phoenix Suns during the month of January despite the Suns going winless in that stretch.
Shannon Brown has scored in double figures for the last three games too. Besides that, the Suns rank 26 in defensive efficiency while playing an uninspired brand of basketball overall.
Sacramento Kings' DeMarcus Cousins
I'm happy for DeMarcus Cousins.
Since his suspension, he's come back to perform brilliantly for the Sacramento Kings.
He's recorded eight double-doubles since his return and averaged 20.7 points over his last 10 games.
Cousins is certainly capable of figuring things out, and it appears he has. Hopefully he can maintain the mental focus that has helped him recently for the remainder of the season.
Besides that, there's not much else to be excited for in Sacramento.
Not much else at all.
Toronto Raptors' DeMar DeRozan
The Toronto Raptors have lost three straight games after a slight uptick recently, despite the play of DeMar DeRozan.
DeRozan's shot over 41 percent and averaged 17.8 points in his last 10. The Raptors have gone 5-5 in that stretch and are unlikely to get into the thick of the playoff race in a very weak East.
The Kyle Lowry and Jose Calderon point guard experiment might work. They've been okay recently, but Toronto may explore trade options as the deadline approaches.
Orlando Magic's J.J. Redick
The Orlando Magic snapped a 10-game skid by beating the Los Angeles Clippers last week.
Despite that, they stumble into the weekend still just 2-8 over their last 10.
J.J. Redick is having a solid season, and he could be trade bait in the coming weeks. If he is traded, Orlando could fall pretty far very fast.
Glen Davis is back in the lineup now, but that only helps so much—no offense intended to Mr. Davis.
New Orleans Hornets' Greivis Vasquez, Eric Gordon
The combination of Greivis Vasquez and Eric Gordon is a sight for sore eyes.
During the month of January, the Hornets have gone 6-3 as a result through Thursday.
This, after only winning only seven of their previous 30.
Since Anthony Davis' return on December 11, they've also gone 8-12. Davis has been averaging 9.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game during that stretch as well.
Things are most definitely looking up for the Hornets, it seems—both this season and beyond.
Detroit Pistons' Andre Drummond
A week ago it appeared the Detroit Pistons might challenge for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.
They even beat the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat recently.
This week, however, they dropped two straight.
While I'm not completely convinced the Pistons do not have another run in them this season, I do think they'll finish squarely in the lottery.
Andre Drummond will continue to be fun to watch, regardless—especially as he continues to build with Greg Monroe.
Minnesota Timberwolves' Ricky Rubio
I really feel terrible for Minnesota Timberwolves fans.
The Kevin Love injury is devastating, and we still haven't seen Ricky Rubio at 100 percent this season.
Just when things started to look bright in the Twin Cities, the sky has fallen again.
The T-Wolves have lost five straight games and are in last place of the Northwest Division heading into the weekend.
Philadelphia 76ers' Jrue Holiday
The good news is that Andrew Bynum could be back by the All-Star break.
If he does return, maybe Jrue Holiday will have done enough in his absence to position the Philadelphia 76ers for a playoff run upon his return.
If Bynum returns later rather than sooner, though, the Sixers may run completely out of gas in the meantime.
They've lost eight of their last 10 heading into the weekend and are currently holding the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference.
Dallas Mavericks' O.J. Mayo
O.J. Mayo has averaged 18 points for the month of January.
He has helped the Dallas Mavericks manage the 10th highest scoring average in the league.
Scoring points, however, has not been the primary issue of concern for Dallas.
Dirk Nowitzki's return has not helped in that department.
Despite that, though, the Mavericks have won their last four games and could be turning a corner as the All-Star game approaches.
Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant
The Lakers are running out of time.
The midway point of the season is approaching, and they're still 3.5 games out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
Kobe has been picking up people all over the floor defensively this week, while desperately trying to light a spark, but it hasn't worked.
The Lakers are 2-7 over their last nine games.
L.A. currently ranks 26th overall in points allowed.
Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard
The Portland Trail Blazers' starting five is lethal.
If only they employed one bench player averaging more than five points to offer a collective breather.
Despite 18.1 points per game from Damian Lillard and 20.6 from LaMarcus Aldridge on the season, the Trail Blazers have now lost four straight games.
They desperately need help from their second unit.
They are no longer a playoff team right now, as a result, and they just lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
If there is a bench player to be had at a reasonable price in the trade market, Portland needs to find a way to acquire him.
Milwaukee Bucks' Brandon Jennings
The Milwaukee Bucks are an enigma to me.
Just as soon as it appeared that they'd improved this season, Scott Skiles was out.
Larry Sanders has emerged from the ranks of the forgotten to have a career year so far. He even went for 24 points and 15 rebounds on Thursday against the Phoenix Suns.
Brandon Jennings is up over his career average in terms of field-goal percentage and scoring, while Monta Ellis has remained effective scoring the ball alongside him at the same time.
Despite all that, I still don't feel comfortable saying this team is heading in the right direction.
At the moment, the Bucks are holding the seventh-best record in the Eastern Conference regardless.
Boston Celtics' Avery Bradley
Avery Bradley has been providing a spark for the Boston Celtics lately.
Hopefully for Boston fans, his rib injury doesn't keep him out Friday night against Chicago Bulls.
While only averaging eight points in 23 minutes per game, his return since January 2 has helped add some needed depth in Boston.
Jared Sullinger has averaged 7.7 rebounds in his last games to help improve the Celtics' woeful rebounding efforts this season as well.
The Celtics are back in the playoffs right now as a result, as they've won six of their last 10 games.
Houston Rockets' James Harden
As much as we all want to embrace the Houston Rockets, truth is, they've now lost five straight.
The Rockets also lead the league in turnover ratio at 14.8 per game.
Some of those turnovers are to be expected based on the pace they play offensively, but that number needs to be improved.
James Harden, though, has been spectacular.
This season is a win for Houston from the sense that it now has a franchise player to build around for years to come, regardless of what happens.
However, for those hoping for playoff basketball in Houston this season, the Rockets still have some work to do.
Atlanta Hawks' Josh Smith
The Atlanta Hawks are descending back down to planet Earth at the moment.
They've won only three games in their last 10 and have dropped to sixth in the Eastern Conference as a result.
Only a few weeks earlier, the Hawks had been among the top three teams in the conference.
Offensively, they're a middle-of-the-pack team right now, ranking 15th in overall efficiency.
Josh Smith scored only 20 points in his previous two games combined before missing Wednesday's win over the Nets.
From where we thought the Hawks would be heading into this season, they're still ahead of schedule.
To hang onto a playoff spot in Eastern Conference longterm, however, they'll need a second wind here shortly.
Utah Jazz's Gordon Hayward
The Utah Jazz are in a strange place.
Currently a playoff team in the Western Conference, they're almost playing too well to blow up their core by trading the likes of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap this season.
At the same time, though, it might be the better move longterm if they did.
Meanwhile, Gordon Hayward just went for 22 points in the Jazz's 104-97 win over the Heat on Monday.
He ranks third on the team in scoring on the season, behind Millsap and Jefferson.
Brooklyn Nets' Brook Lopez
I'm crediting the recent stretch of winnable games on the Brooklyn Nets schedule, along with Brook Lopez's return from injury, for the Nets' reversal of fortunes recently.
It's my opinion that Avery Johnson could've won these games too.
Though none of that is really the point right now in Brooklyn.
All that matters, I suppose, is that the Nets have won eight of their last 10.
As All-Star weekend approaches, the Nets are back trending upward.
Chicago Bulls' Joakim Noah
The start to the Chicago Bulls' season has been commendable.
I keep wondering how much longer they can hang on without the services of Derrick Rose, and they simply keep getting it done.
The Bulls have won seven of their last 10 games in amassing the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference.
They've put two straight wins together this week.
Joakim Noah is currently the NBA's eighth-ranked rebounder overall, at 10.7 per night, and is averaging a double-double on the year.
For some reason, though, the Bulls are only 11-10 at home, and that needs to improve.
Indiana Pacers' Paul George
Paul George has filled in nicely for the injured Danny Granger this season.
At 16.9 points per game, George is leading a mediocre offensive attack that should only improve upon Granger's return from injury.
From a rebounding standpoint, though, there is no team better than the Indiana Pacers.
They are collecting 46.4 boards per game as a team, which has been a big key in their defensive effort that ranks first in efficiency.
Roy Hibbert is leading the way on the glass, with 8.2 rebounds per night, while David West is grabbing eight per game.
Memphis Grizzlies' Marc Gasol
Defensively, the Memphis Grizzlies are a basketball clinic waiting to happen each time they step onto the floor.
Marc Gasol is having an All-Star caliber year at both ends, but specifically, he is anchoring the team's defense as well as any other center in the NBA.
The Grizzlies are grinding out a defensive effort that ranks second in the league in terms of efficiency.
Tony Allen continues to be one of league's best perimeter defenders, complementing to the Grizzlies' interior defense.
Offensively though, the Grizzlies are pretty bad.
When watching them play, you might even think they're worse than the 22nd overall position they claim in terms of offensive efficiency right now.
While defense wins out more often than not in this league, the Grizzlies' offense will need to improve to get out of their current funk.
Golden State Warriors' David Lee
Led by David Lee, the Golden State Warriors rank third overall in rebounding at 45.5 per game.
Lee is currently ranked seventh in the NBA at 10.9 rebounds for the season. His 19.7 points per night also rank Lee 10th in the league, and he's registered 24 double-doubles on the year.
The bad news for Golden State, however, is that Stephen Curry is out indefinitely.
After a remarkable start to his season, Curry suffered a sprain to his previously injured right ankle during a shoot-around on Wednesday.
The Warriors were trounced by the Miami Heat in their last game with Curry sidelined.
Golden State has proved to be a resilient group this year, but Curry's injury could be a real problem.
Denver Nuggets' Andre Iguodala
The Denver Nuggets are now 15-2 at home.
If the NBA scheduling gods had allowed for more of those home dates to open the season, we might not have been as worried as we once were about the Denver Nuggets.
Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson and Andre Iguodala are leading a balanced scoring attack in Denver right now that includes six players in double figures on the season.
Despite a thorough drubbing at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder this week, the Nuggets have still won seven of their last 10.
They are a team on the rise right now, and they are only getting better as the All-Star break approaches.
New York Knicks' Amar'e Stoudemire
What if Amar'e Stoudemire eventually works his way back into the rotation like he did on Thursday for the rest of the season?
Stoudemire only needed five field-goal attempts in London to score 17 points off the New York Knicks' bench in their latest win over the Detroit Pistons.
If he can duplicate that effort with any type of consistency moving forward, the Knicks will be an even better team.
After offering reason to doubt its staying power recently, New York has bounced back with two straight wins to remain one game behind the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks defensive efficiency needs to improve, though, as they rank 15th in that category. They do need to fix that longterm.
By and large, however, everything else is better than you might expect in New York these days.
Miami Heat's LeBron James
The Miami Heat must continue to travel better.
After beating the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers this week, the Heat have now won more road games than they've lost this season.
That's a start.
At only 10-9 away from home on the season, though, the Heat have the worst road win percentage of the six other teams with winning percentages greater than .600 overall through Thursday.
After exploding for 34 points against the Kings, Mario Chalmers looked to have gotten things going. He navigated his way back to double figures in his next two games but scored only four on Thursday in Los Angeles.
Chris Bosh, meanwhile, has only averaged nine in his last two games as well.
San Antonio Spurs' Tony Parker, Tim Duncan
Manu Ginobili is out again.
That's the bad news for the San Antonio Spurs.
After opening the month of January on a 15.6 points per game pace, Ginobili injured his hamstring during the Spurs' 21-point win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.
He's expected to miss upwards of two weeks with the injury.
The good news for Spurs' fans, though, is that they won't really miss Ginobili until the playoffs begin. The biggest reasons for that are the two other parts of their elite core.
Tony Parker and Tim Duncan are defying all principles of aging by playing like young All-Stars again this season.
Duncan, meanwhile, is averaging his highest total of points and rebounds in three years.
Gregg Popovich's group grades out as the fourth-best team in terms of defensive efficiency and fifth best offensively heading into its matchup with the Golden State Warriors on Friday.
Los Angeles Clippers' Eric Bledsoe
The Los Angeles Clippers are the NBA's deepest team.
After beating the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Thursday, they've now won three straight games sans Paul and seven of their last 10 overall.
Eric Bledsoe only scored two points in the 90-77 victory over the Timberwolves, but overall he's averaged 11.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 29.3 minutes as a starter in place of Paul.
Jamal Crawford is coming off the bench to average 16.7 as his team's third leading scorer. He's my pick for Sixth Man of the Year during the first half of this season.
The Clippers rank as a top-five team in terms of both offensive and defensive efficiency.
Vinny Del Negro also deserves some credit for how well his team is playing on both ends of the floor these days.
Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbook, Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have combined to average 64.5 points in their last two games.
Let that number marinate for a moment before I continue.
The Oklahoma City Thunder totaled 219 as a team in the process, winning both games by a combined margin of 32.
Hopefully your work week has been as productive.
The Thunder currently lead the NBA in offensive efficiency, as you might expect, but they are also excelling on the defensive end.
Heading into the weekend, the Thunder rank sixth in terms of defensive efficiency as well.
They are the NBA's best team at the moment, and it's not a debate.