It's official: We've reached the halfway point of the 2012-13 NBA season.
And what a wild picture it is. The Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder are right where we expected them to be (at the top), as are the Washington Wizards, Charlotte Bobcats, Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns (at the bottom).
The real intrigue lies in between. The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers appear to have swapped spots out West a la Freaky Friday, while the rivalry between the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets is actually of some consequence in the East.
And that's to say nothing of the season's real surprises, among them the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls.
With a helping hand from ESPN's John Hollinger, let's have a look at how near or far from a playoff lock each of the league's 30 teams currently are.
Washington Wizards (9-31)
The Wizards have won four of their seven games since John Wall returned from a tricky knee injury. Unfortunately for folks in D.C., the Wizards still have the worst record in the NBA.
Playoff Chances: 1 Percent
Charlotte Bobcats (10-32)
Remember when the Bobcats were the toast of the NBA at 7-5?
Yeah, me neither. They've dropped 27 of 30 games since, including an 18-game losing streak between late November and late December.
On the plus side, Kemba Walker is playing like a legitimate scoring point guard in year two, with rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist serving as his jack-of-all-trades sidekick.
Playoff Chances: 0.0 Percent
Cleveland Cavaliers (11-32)
Victories like that over the Boston Celtics on Jan. 22 provide a tantalizing glimpse into the talent and potential of the Cavs. A core of Kyrie Irving (40 points, five assists), Tristan Thompson (21 points, nine rebounds, five assists), Tyler Zeller (10 rebounds, three blocks) and rookie Dion Waiters could be something special in the not-so-distant future.
Unfortunately for long-suffering Cavs fans, Kyrie's bouts with the injury bug submarined the 2012-13 season long ago. The Cavs can look forward to welcoming in another top-notch draft pick from among a basket of selections they've racked up since LeBron James' "Decision."
Playoff Chances: 0.5 Percent
Phoenix Suns (14-28)
Fired coach? Check.
A god-awful roster that features Michael Beasley? Check.
Dust-ups between players and executives (per Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski)? Check.
Praying for Shabazz Muhammad? Probably.
Playoff Chances: 0.4 Percent
Orlando Magic (14-27)
The post-Dwight Howard Magic got off to a 12-13 start and seemed poised to sneak into the Eastern Conference playoffs.
That is, until they were reminded of how destitute they were supposed to be this season, at which point they promptly lost 14 of 16.
Still, the future looks bright in Orlando. The veteran backcourt of Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson looks like a solid foundation on which to engineer a rebuild, Nikola Vucevic has gone from a trade throw-in to a double-double machine (21 in 41 games), and rookie coach Jacque Vaughn has the team playing hard on both ends of the floor.
Playoff Chances: 2.2 Percent
Sacramento Kings (16-27)
Believe it or not, the Kings are just five-and-a-half games back of the eighth spot in the Western Conference and a game-and-a-half behind the free-falling Los Angeles Lakers. They're also a young and talented bunch led by the likes of Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins.
Realistically, though, the Kings are as good as dead as far as the playoffs are concerned. Beyond the obvious talent, Sacramento's roster looks like little more than a poorly thought out collection of misfit gunners who equate waving their arms with defensive effort.
Oh, and the team may or may not be on its way to Seattle.
Playoff Chances: 0.0 Percent
New Orleans Hornets (14-28)
Like the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Hornets have seen their fleeting postseason hopes fall by the wayside on account of injuries, namely to rookie Anthony Davis and newly paid guard Eric Gordon.
The difference, though, is that New Orleans looks like a competitive outfit with some serious potential for 2013-14. The soon-to-be Pelicans are 7-4 with Gordon in the lineup and, at the very least, have the chops to play spoiler in the Western Conference for the remainder of the campaign.
Playoff Chances: 4.7 Percent
Toronto Raptors (15-27)
Under normal circumstances, a team like the Raptors would look to sell, sell and sell some more at the trade deadline in pursuit of better results in 2013-14.
But Toronto came into the season with its sights set on the postseason and has some reason to think such is still a possibility. The Raps are five-and-a-half games back of the eighth-seed Boston Celtics in the East and are still awaiting the returns of Andrea Bargnani and rookie Jonas Valanciunas. Those absences didn't stop T-Dot from taking the defending-champion Heat to overtime in Miami on January 23rd.
Realistically, though, the Raptors can look forward to trying to offload Jose Calderon before the Feb. 21 trade deadline and watch as the Oklahoma City Thunder cash in their lottery pick in June.
Playoff Chances: 19.4 Percent
Detroit Pistons (16-26)
Slow starts seem to be the norm for the Pistons under Lawrence Frank. They lost 20 of their first 24 games before posting a .500 record (21-21) the rest of the way in 2011-12.
This season, Detroit dropped its first eight games and fell as far into the ditch as 7-21. But a recent run of nine wins in 14 tries has the Pistons sniffing the playoff picture in the East. They're just four-and-a-half games back of the final berth with a team of talented youngsters (Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, Andre Drummond) who are learning how to play together.
Another lottery for the Pistons still seems to be the most likely outcome, though not one with quite the same conviction as in years past.
Playoff Chances: 28.4 Percent
Philadelphia 76ers (17-25)
The 76ers season was always going to hinge on the health of Andrew Bynum, and the results thus far have only confirmed that suspicion. Not even an All-Star-caliber campaign from Jrue Holiday (19 points, 4.2 rebounds, nine assists) and strong performances by Evan Turner (14 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists) and Thaddeus Young (14.9 points, 7.3 rebounds) have been able to keep Philly from going 7-19 over its last 26 games.
Help may be on the way, though. According to Marc Narducci of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Bynum says his knees are pain-free and that a post-All-Star-break return might still be in the cards.
Still, Bynum alone may not be enough to save this squad. The Sixers have played one of the 10 easiest schedules in the league thus far, which means the competition only figures to get tougher from here on out. Consider, too, that Doug Collins' club, which has relied on its defense in the past, is merely middle-of-the-pack in defensive efficiency.
That wouldn't be so bad if Philly's offense weren't the fifth-least productive.
Playoff Chances: 8.2 Percent
Los Angeles Lakers (17-25)
What isn't there to say about the Lakers? Once a shoo-in for the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers are now nearing the brink of collapse, and not even for the first time this season.
L.A. is about to start its third season re-set, per Dwight Howard (via Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles), about whom trade rumors are swirling. Pau Gasol has been sent to the bench, which brought Mike D'Antoni's judgement into question for the umpteenth time. Kobe Bryant already seems to be losing steam from his first-half attempts to keep this struggling squad afloat. And the Lakers, as a whole, have hardly played a lick of defense all season.
Other than that, they're right where they should be.
Playoff Chances: 18.5 Percent
Dallas Mavericks (18-24)
The Mavericks are finally starting to get their collective act together now that Dirk Nowitzki is rounding into form. They've won five of six since falling a season-high 10 games below the .500 mark in early January.
The playoffs are still a ways off for this ragtag bunch of aging All-Stars (Dirk, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion) and short-term signees (O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison, Elton Brand, Chris Kaman). But this team has the requisite talent and experience to make some noise now that they have all hands on deck.
And if the Mavs somehow extend their postseason streak to an "unlucky" 13 seasons, expect head coach Rick Carlisle to get Coach of the Year consideration.
Playoff Chances: 20.7 Percent
Minnesota Timberwolves (17-22)
Somebody get the Timberwolves some insect repellent because they can't seem to avoid the injury bug. Kevin Love's turn on the operating table (for a broken bone in his shooting hand) was just the latest in a long line of visitors to the infirmary, along with Ricky Rubio, Chase Budinger, Andrei Kirilenko, Malcolm Lee, Brandon Roy and Nikola Pekovic, among others.
In fact, Luke Ridnour is the only member of the team to have played in all 39 games.
Kudos to Rick Adelman for keeping the T-Wolves competitive amid all the adversity, but this bunch will be hard-pressed to make a push out West unless/until K-Love comes back strong.
Playoff Chances: 9.4 Percent
Portland Trail Blazers (21-21)
The Trail Blazers are who we thought they were—a decent team that isn't quite ready for prime time on account of an alarming lack of depth.
That much has been made perfectly clear of late. Portland has lost six of seven since outlasting the Miami Heat on Jan. 10, with four of those defeats coming courtesy of likely playoff teams.
Never fear, though, Portlandians. A budding core of All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, emerging swingman Nicolas Batum, double-double machine J.J. Hickson, sharpshooter Wesley Matthews and Rookie of the Year leader Damian Lillard looks like something around which the Blazers can build over the long haul.
If not push for a playoff berth in 2013.
Playoff Chances: 23.9 Percent
Boston Celtics (20-21)
Four losses in a row—including consecutive defeats to the Pistons and the Cavs—since a season-high six-game winning streak have the Celtics thinking about blowing the whole operation to kingdom come for the second time in as many seasons. All the losing has gotten Doc Rivers particularly glum while wondering whether an "Extreme Makeover: Danny Ainge Edition" might do the trick.
On the bright side, the C's still own a three-and-a-half-game lead in the race for the eighth seed in the East with just eight games separating them from the top-seed Heat. What's more, Boston has dealt with midseason adversity before and finished up just fine (see: 2011-12). This team has the requisite talent and experience, along with added depth, to pull off a similar trick in 2013.
Playoff Chances: 71.3 Percent
Houston Rockets (22-22)
Like the Blazers, the Rockets are way ahead of schedule in their rebuilding project. The respective rises of James Harden as an All-Star, Omer Asik as a double-double danger and Chandler Parsons as, perhaps, the most productive per-dollar player in the NBA have overshadowed a pedestrian season by much-hyped point guard Jeremy Lin.
Defense remains a serious issue for this squad (20th in defensive efficiency), which just so happens to be the youngest in the NBA. That much was clear during a recent seven-game losing streak wherein Houston yielded 102.4 points per game.
But the Rockets have been plenty entertaining thanks to a style of play that emphasizes pushing the pace, attacking the basket and launching threes at will.
Playoff Chances: 52.2 Percent
Atlanta Hawks (24-18)
Injuries, regression and internal turmoil have come to derail what had been a surprisingly promising season for the Hawks. Once seemingly entrenched as a top-three seed in the East, Atlanta has since dropped eight of 12, including double-digit losses to the Cavs and the Wizards, to now find itself nesting at No. 6.
This team could fall even further now that Lou Williams is done for the season, especially if general manager Danny Ferry finds it most prudent to part ways with Josh Smith before the trade deadline.
In the meantime, the Hawks' mix of inside muscle (Smith, Al Horford, Zaza Pachulia) and perimeter prowess (Jeff Teague, Devin Harris, Kyle Korver) should provide foundation enough for the Hawks to hold on...for another first-round ouster.
Playoff Chances: 87.6 Percent
Utah Jazz (23-19)
The Jazz seem all but destined to make a deal or two before the trade deadline. Their roster is replete with quality players on expiring contracts, most notably Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Both are essentially impeding the progress of young giants Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors simply by soaking up playing time.
Utah can ill-afford to part ways with both of its veteran bigs if the postseason is to remain such a strong possibility. That being said, the Jazz must trade for a good guard (or two) if they're to make hay in the playoffs, be it this season or next.
Playoff Chances: 77.5 Percent
Milwaukee Bucks (22-18)
The Bucks are stuck in a similar predicament, albeit with less impactful players. They can settle for merely making the playoffs now—with Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings jacking up shots alongside a host of so-so bigs (Ersan Ilyasova, Larry Sanders, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, John Henson, etc.).
Or, newly extended (via Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski) general manager John Hammond can cash in some of his chips before the trade deadline to facilitate a bigger deal and freshen up the place in the process.
Chances are, the Bucks will do what they've always done: stand pat, bow out in the first round of the playoffs and overspend on another middling free agent over the summer.
Playoff Chances: 84 Percent
Denver Nuggets (26-18)
Things are finally turning around for the Nuggets. A more home-heavy schedule, combined with more frequent trips to the free-throw line and an up-tempo offense, has helped Denver to conquer eight of its last 10 opponents.
Still, the ceiling for this squad is only so high. Shooting remains a serious concern (29th in three-point percentage, dead last in free-throw percentage) as does the Nuggets' rotation of unconventional bigs, which includes Danilo Gallinari (an ice-cold perimeter shooter), Kenneth Faried (an undersized-but-productive rebounder) and JaVale McGee (a JaVale McGee).
There's plenty left for George Karl to squeeze out of this club, though Denver's fate will ultimately reside in the hands of Ty Lawson and Andre Iguodala.
Unless, of course, general manager Masai Ujiri swoops in for another sneaky move at the deadline.
Playoff Chances: 97.5 Percent
Chicago Bulls (25-16)
Help is on the way for the Bulls. According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, Derrick Rose has been cleared for "more contact," though the team still believes that he won't be back until after the All-Star break in mid-February.
Rose's absence, along with Luol Deng's ongoing hamstring concerns, haven't exactly hindered Chicago's rise through the Eastern Conference. The Bulls are currently fourth in the standings, just three games back of the Heat in the race for the No. 1 seed.
So long as they continue to defend at a top-three rate (which they have) and the All-Star-worthy duo of Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah carries the day on both ends (which it has), the Bulls may well make a late push for a top seed in preparation for a deep run through the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Playoff Chances: 98.9 Percent
Indiana Pacers (26-17)
The Pacers have had injury issues of their own, with Danny Granger having yet to suit up, but, like their Central Division rivals, have managed to thrive.
Head coach Frank Vogel has done a masterful job of molding this squad's defense-first identity. The Pacers currently lead the league in defensive efficiency and rank seventh in defensive rebounding percentage. The emergence of third-year swingman Paul George in Granger's stead has helped tremendously to bring this project together on both ends.
A painful offense (29th in offensive efficiency) could hold Indy back in the long run. But Granger's return should add some punch to the operation, while the Pacers' long-standing ability to grind out games should suit them well come playoff time.
Playoff Chances: 98.7 Percent
Golden State Warriors (26-15)
It's a credit to Mark Jackson's Coach of the Year candidacy that the Warriors are in the playoff picture at all this season. Injuries have limited Andrew Bogut and Richard Jefferson to four games and 21 games, respectively, while Brandon Rush was lost for the season to a crippling knee malady in early November.
Nonetheless, the Dubs are well on their way to their first postseason berth since the "We Believe" team of 2007. Stephen Curry (20.9 points, 45.1 percent from three, 6.6 assists) and David Lee (19.6 points, 10.8 rebounds) have both produced at All-Star clips. Klay Thompson is finally finding his shot again, and Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry are both in the running for Sixth Man of the Year.
The Warriors have already racked up impressive wins over the Heat, Nets (twice) and Clippers (three times). If Bogut ever gets back, they might be prepared to make some serious noise in the postseason.
Playoff Chances: 96 Percent
Brooklyn Nets (26-16)
Think the Nets didn't care for Avery Johnson's stewardship? They're 12-2 since the Little General was deposed, with wins over the Thunder, Pacers, Hawks and Knicks to boot.
The latest rumblings regarding Dwight Howard have thrust Brooklyn back into the limelight, though it needn't ignore the All-Star-caliber contributions of Brook Lopez (18.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.1 blocks).
Now, if only Deron Williams and Joe Johnson could start playing like the NBA's best backcourt and someone could step up to fill the power forward slot full time, then the Nets just might be able to stir the pot in the ever-shifting Eastern Conference.
Playoff Chances: 100 Percent
New York Knicks (25-14)
The Knicks have come crashing back down to Earth since their scorching 18-5 start. Their three-point shooting has cooled off considerably, as has their once-stifling defense. Injuries and old age have cost the team the likes of Raymond Felton, Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby, among others.
But Felton is due back soon, Amar'e Stoudemire is starting to hit his stride off the bench and Carmelo Anthony remains one of the game's scariest scoring threats. If this team can get back to spreading the wealth and hustling on D like they did in the early going, they may well break through with a playoff series victory or two in the spring.
Playoff Chances: 99.8 Percent
Memphis Grizzlies (27-14)
Trade rumors involving Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph distracted the team to no end, and a recent money-saving deal with the Cavs left the team's already-thin bench even thinner than before. Throw in the Grizzlies' continued dearth of three-point shooting, and this team could be in big trouble before too long.
That is, if Randolph and Marc Gasol slow down for some reason and/or if the defense (second in the NBA in efficiency) begins to relent. Otherwise, like the Pacers in the East, the Grizzlies should be able to bump and bruise their way to some success in the postseason.
Playoff Chances: 99.2 Percent
Los Angeles Clippers (32-11)
The Clippers' loss to the Thunder on Jan. 22 was their first such result without Chris Paul, who's missed four of the team's last six games with a knee injury. Even so, L.A. is well on its way to the first 50-win season in franchise history and sits just a game behind OKC for the top spot in the Western Conference.
What's more, Blake Griffin is set to make his third trip to the All-Star Game in as many seasons, the Clippers second unit is as dominant as any in recent memory and the team as a whole is one of two to rank in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
So why, pray tell, aren't the Clippers included among the top title contenders?
Simple: Because they've won one playoff series together. They lack the requisite experience (particularly under championship circumstances) that separates the top three teams from everyone else.
Also, the fact that the Clips thrive on opponents' mistakes and pushing the pace doesn't necessarily bode well for them in the playoffs, when execution and toughness are paramount to ultimate success.
Playoff Chances: 100 Percent
Miami Heat (27-12)
Slowly but surely, the Heat are starting to play the way most would expect of defending champions. Their offense is already among the two most efficient in the NBA, and their defense is quietly creeping toward top-10 territory.
Rebounding remains an issue for this undersized squad, so much so that Miami recently inked Chris Andersen to a 10-day contract. The bench has also struggled some due in no small part to the inconsistent contributions of Ray Allen and the ongoing decline of Shane Battier.
But so long as LeBron James is still playing at an MVP level, the Heat will remain the team to beat in the Eastern Conference, if not in the entire NBA.
Playoff Chances: 100 Percent
San Antonio Spurs (34-11)
Another year, another successful regular season for the Spurs. They currently have the most wins in the league.
And, as usual, the credit belongs largely to Tim Duncan (17.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.7 blocks) and Tony Parker (19.8 points, 7.4 assists) for leading the way. The improvement of young role players like Tiago Splitter, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard has also served to propel Gregg Popovich's bunch back toward the apex of the West.
But this team will only go as far as Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili take them, and unless those three stars are healthy come playoff time, the Spurs can expect to see their season end all too early once again.
Playoff Chances: 100 Percent
Oklahoma City Thunder (33-10)
So much for the James Harden trade submarining OKC's championship campaign. All the Thunder have done is string together the best record in the NBA through the first half of the 2012-13 season with an offense that is tops in efficiency and a defense that checks in sixth.
Kevin Durant is playing like an MVP in search of his fourth straight scoring title, Russell Westbrook is back to passing the ball in between his wild scoring expeditions and Serge Ibaka is rewarding general manager Sam Presti's faith in his abilities with a much-improved offensive game.
As for Harden's old role, Kevin Martin (15 points) has stepped in seamlessly while establishing himself as a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year candidate. Simply put, this team seems destined for a return trip to the NBA Finals with the Heat once again impeding its path to the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
Playoff Chances: 100 Percent