The NBA is currently in Week 14 of the 2012-13 season, and the power rankings look strikingly similar at the top to they way they did down the stretch of the 2011-12 season.
While San Antonio and Oklahoma City dominate the Western Conference, Miami continues to do the same in the East. However, newcomers to the top 10 from last year's contender list include the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Clippers, as well as the upstart Golden State Warriors.
Many of these teams have already addressed needs in the offseason and early part of the season, but the Feb. 21 trade deadline will prompt others to make one final push before it's too late.
While the Clippers and Knicks are the most improved teams from last season 'til now, there are plenty of other teams that need help to make a run at the Heat and the Thunder.
That being said, there are also teams that have the pieces to take care of business the way things sit right now. Between the two distinctions, we'll look at the former. Here's a look at where all 30 NBA teams sit in the middle of Week 14, and which teams need to make a deadline deal to even sniff contention in either league.
Note: Records accurate before game times on Feb. 7.
1. San Antonio Spurs (39-11)
No Tim Duncan, no problem for the league's best team. The Spurs have won 11 straight games, but injury concerns will continue to keep this team from being the clear-cut NBA Finals favorite if Duncan can't get healthy and stay that way.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (37-12)
The Thunder are just trying to fly under the radar, and they have for the most part. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are the league's best one-two punch—hands down. Despite some bad losses, this team will regain focus down the stretch in an attempt to avenge last year's Finals loss.
3. Miami Heat (32-14)
The Heat have had some defensive issues and the league basement (Charlotte, Washington) has given them problems this year. Still, the Heat have the best player on the planet in LeBron James and aren't worried in the slightest about finishing strong after the All-Star break commences.
4. Los Angeles Clippers (35-16)*
The Clippers have been linked to Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett in recent weeks, and the players heading back to Boston include DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe.
Although refuted by both sides (h/t CBS Sports), the fact that the Clippers are looking at that kind of trade shows that they know a trade is needed. With injuries to Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and now Jamal Crawford all bogging the Clippers down, the team could use a lift.
Trading for a rental doesn't seem like the best idea, but if LAC wants to beat the Thunder and/or Spurs in the playoffs, it's going to need a full squad of healthy players. Look for the Clips to be buyers at the deadline.
5. Denver Nuggets (31-18)
Without an All-Star, the Nuggets continue to exemplify hard work and the team-first attitude that young coaches try to teach their high school teams. The Nuggets have plenty of weapons, though, so don't be fooled—this team is dangerous to the rest of the West.
6. New York Knicks (31-16)
Injuries and fatigue have slowed down the Knicks after a fast start. However, the return of Raymond Felton looks poised to spark this team yet again. The best NYK basketball is out in front, not behind.
7. Indiana Pacers (31-16)*
Whether it's Danny Granger or someone else, the Pacers need to make a move. Although they are a quality young team with a budding star in Paul George, it appears the rest of the East is just a little bit ahead of them in overall quality.
Danny Granger's name continues to pop up, and because the team has done so well without him, it seems prudent to both dump his salary and get back a championship-type piece in the process.
Whether that piece be a guard or a forward is really up to management, but either way, the Pacers should use the Granger chip to their advantage and get back someone who can push them over the top this season.
8. Golden State Warriors (30-19)
Golden State took care of trades last year, picking up Richard Jefferson and Andrew Bogut in separate deals. Both of those are paying dividends, and with a healthy Bogut and Curry in two, the sky seems to be the limit for the suddenly defensive-laden group of players under head coach Mark Jackson.
9. Chicago Bulls (29-19)
Marc Stein @ESPNSteinLine
Just going online: ESPN sources say Bulls & Raptors have had exploratory talks on potential trade featuring Carlos Boozer & Andrea Bargnani2013-2-7 22:55:29
10. Memphis Grizzlies (30-18)
The Grizzlies have already made two trades this season and appear set after new additions Tayshaun Prince and Ed Davis have already cracked the rotation. However, the chemistry is lacking right now, and it's going to take some time for the Grizz to get it back.
11. Brooklyn Nets (29-20)*
Brooklyn have had talks about freeing up playing time for Mirza Teletovic, but it can't do so without making room. With Reggie Evans and Brook Lopez the two bigs that P.J. Carlesimo trusts the most, it appears Andray Blatche and/or Kris Humphries could be headed out the door.
Deron Williams has underperformed this year, and Brooklyn needs a steady presence that can calm this locker room down the stretch while also contributing. I'd imagine the Nets would take a veteran with an expiring deal, but a trade just to rid themselves of Blatche or Humphries might be addition by subtraction.
12. Houston Rockets (27-24)
Houston is fresh off of a 23 three-point field goal game against the Warriors and continues to prove it is one of the league's best on offense. That kind of firepower will be hard to stop in the playoffs if this trend continues.
13. Los Angeles Lakers (23-26)
Winners of three straight games, LA is now in a little bit of a groove and has Earl Clark to thank for it. If Dwight Howard gets his head on straight, look out, Western Conference. The Lakers are always in the market for a trade, but I think this roster is constructed well enough to compete if it got to the playoffs.
14. Milwaukee Bucks (25-23)
Monta Ellis helps keep this team in the mix, but he also helps shoot them out of games at other times. So goes life with Monta—just ask Golden State. Still, the defense has picked up behind Larry Sanders, and the Bucks remain an intriguing team to watch.
15. Boston Celtics (25-23)*
The Celtics need a trade more than any other team in basketball, specifically to get under the luxury tax threshold and also pick up a piece that can help replace the loss of Rajon Rondo in the Celtic backcourt.
While Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce being traded would signal a full-scale rebuild for the team, a smaller move might help them make one last run at a title. No matter the case, the Celtics could be buyers or sellers at the deadline—we'll have to wait and see.
16. Utah Jazz (28-22)
Utah isn't bad enough to tank in the West but don't have the pieces to contend, either. I'd put them in this category, but I'm not sure trading Al Jefferson to the Spurs will be the best option for this season. Long-term, maybe, but the Jazz will struggle to make the playoffs without him.
17. Atlanta Hawks (27-21)
It's amazing to me that Atlanta has lasted this long in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, and they continue to defy odds with great outside shooting and a ton of athleticism from Josh Smith and Al Horford. Still, the Hawks will likely save their cap space for a run at Dwight Howard this summer rather than make a trade that helps them this season.
18. Portland Trail Blazers (25-24)
Portland is sitting with Utah in terms of placement, and it too is right there in the "no-fly zone" when it comes to both contending and sinking. With a young core being built around LaMarcus Aldridge, this team will arrive on the scene in the next two years.
19. Philadelphia 76ers (21-27)
Philly is on the outside looking in, but an Andrew Bynum return might change its fortunes. The 76ers have managed to stay afloat, and with a strong second half, could push for a seventh or eighth seed in the East.
20. Dallas Mavericks (21-28)
Dallas' playoff run is coming to an end, and that's likely fine for a franchise in need of more young talent at key positions. The Mavericks still have a strong core, but can't finish games—something that continues to haunt them.
21. Detroit Pistons (18-32)
Detroit looks poised to retain Jose Calderon, even into next season. If he sticks around and Andre Drummond continues to develop around Greg Monroe, the Pistons could make a big statement to the rest of the league in the second half of this season.
22. Toronto Raptors (17-32)
Toronto is all about 2013 after this year's trades, and why not? Kyle Lowry, Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas looks like a formidable starting five to me. Now it's up to Dwane Casey to get the most out of this team.
23. Cleveland Cavaliers (15-34)
I really like the Mo Speights trade to Cleveland, and he's averaged close to 15 points per game since coming over from Memphis. With two draft picks in the first round in 2013, you have to wonder when Cleveland will have enough talent to finally compete.
24. Minnesota Timberwolves (18-28)
One word: injuries. This season has been defined by them in Minny, and it's a shame that Brandon Roy couldn't mesh with the current core sooner. It's going to be an interesting final two months for the Timberwolves as they try to push for the playoffs before Kevin Love returns.
25. Washington Wizards (13-35)
Washington has made nice strides since John Wall returned, and he and Bradley Beal are now a nice one-two punch for the Wizards to hang their hat on for the next five years or so. The rest of this season will be about finding out what Jan Vesely and Trevor Booker's true value is going forward.
26. New Orleans Hornets (16-33)
The Hornets have played competitive basketball all season, and another draft or two will put them in position to not have any excuses about wins and losses. Eric Gordon has been his usual self since injury, but how long will he be able to stay healthy this time?
27. Phoenix Suns (17-33)
Since Lindsey Hunter took over as head coach, the effort has been noticeably better on defense, even if the win-loss hasn't come along the way the Suns want. Look for Hunter to try lineups that include both Goran Dragic and Kendall Marshall going forward.
28. Charlotte Bobcats (11-37)
The Bobcats still have the league's worst record, but they don't play like it on a night-to-night basis. Charlotte is still without Michael Kidd-Gilchrist after a concussion, but hopefully the time off will help him clear his head and return to early-season form after a tough January.
29. Sacramento Kings (17-33)*
If anyone needs a trade, it's the Kings. Big-time personality DeMarcus Cousins just isn't working anymore, and the franchise needs to start fresh before it makes the move to Seattle in the coming seasons.
Between Cousins and Tyreke Evans, there's plenty of talent that would rake in a nice return from the rest of the league. If for nothing else than to mix it up, the Kings should be sellers and try to rid themselves of some of the drama that is keeping them from winning basketball games.
30. Orlando Magic (14-35)
I expected the Magic to tank at some point, and after Glen Davis went out with injury, the Magic followed suit to my prediction. Losers of 11 straight, the Magic still have room to go down—but won't for long if they can't muster up some pride to stay above the bottom of the win-loss rankings.