We are more than halfway through the season, and the NBA playoff race is really starting to take shape.
Things are so close in both conferences between the teams in the hunt that one bad week for any squad could mean a major slide in the conference standings.
There are some teams that are on the verge of collapse and their respective positions in the playoff picture are in serious trouble.
Let's take a look at teams who are at risk of folding down the stretch.
*Note: Teams this piece focuses on are in italics.
1. Miami Heat (38-14)
I don't care what records say. The Heat have the best player on the planet right now in LeBron James and a stellar supporting cast led by Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. There's no question Miami is the favorite to win another NBA championship, and they once again showed that after a decisive win over the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night.
2. San Antonio Spurs (44-12)
The Spurs are sporting the best record in the NBA and are getting healthy now that Manu Ginobili has returned to the lineup. They should have no problem completing another great regular season, but it remains to be seen if the same roster from last season is enough to make an NBA Finals run. A Thursday night win over the Clippers proved the Spurs are still the class of the West.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (39-15)
OKC has been in a bad way of late after losing its last three games—one of which was a double-digit loss to the Heat. The addition of Ronnie Brewer at the trade deadline should help this team on the defensive end moving forward as the Los Angeles Clippers continue to breathe down its neck.
4. Los Angeles Clippers (39-18)
L.A. was riding high on a four-game winning streak, but that streak was snapped by the Spurs on Thursday night. No major deals at the deadline took place for the Clippers, but they should have more than enough talent to remain a top team the rest of the way.
5. Memphis Grizzlies (35-18)
The Grizz are red hot of late with a five-game winning streak being their latest impressive feat this season. Memphis was relatively quiet at the deadline with nothing of note to speak of, and the early concerns over the departure of Rudy Gay have subsided for now thanks to some wins.
6. Indiana Pacers (33-21)
Indiana completely squashed the New York Knicks on Wednesday night and have emerged as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. This team plays incredible defense, and the addition of Danny Granger in the very near future will be a huge lift for the Pacers.
7. Denver Nuggets (34-21)
Denver just notched an impressive win over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night, and that ended its three-game slide. Defense continues to be an issue and the Nuggets did nothing to help that at the deadline, but they can still score a ton of points night in and night out.
8. Chicago Bulls (31-23)
Chicago is another team that thrives on great defense, but unfortunately, this team is lacking a serious scoring punch. With no moves made at the deadline, Chicago will wait for Derrick Rose to come back in order to get the boost it needs.
After a loss to Miami on Thursday night, the Bulls have now lost five of their last seven games and are teetering on the brink of a collapse that could send them down the standings in the East.
I can't say I necessarily blame them for this recent slide, as guys like Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer have gone above and beyond their limits while trying to plug the hole their injured star point guard has left.
With Rose in the lineup, the Bulls will become a much more complete team and will shoot up the power rankings overnight. As long as they can hold it together until Rose returns, this team will be a major threat in the playoffs no matter what seed they earn.
9. Brooklyn Nets (33-22)
The Nets are winners of their last four games, and the early-season problems have been swept away with the firing of Avery Johnson. P.J. Carlesimo has done a great job getting the most out of this talented roster, but the health of Deron Williams is a big problem for this team's hopes of making a run in the playoffs.
10. New York Knicks (32-19)
Since an 18-5 start, the Knicks have been nothing more than a .500 basketball team, and it appears they have lost the desire on the defensive end that made them so successful early in the season. Adding insult to injury, New York was smoked by Indiana on Wednesday night and didn't appear to belong on the same floor as their Eastern Conference foe.
Aside from defensive issues as a whole, the Knicks are lacking a solid interior presence off the bench with the injuries to Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace. Both Wallace and Camby have been in practice, but there's still no date given for their return.
On top of Camby's return, the Knicks did add Kenyon Martin to the roster on a 10-day contract, although only time will tell if he can actually make enough of an impact to help the Knicks.
Guard play is another issue the Knicks have. In what has been a puzzling move the entire season, head coach Mike Woodson has overexposed the aging Jason Kidd in the starting lineup. Iman Shumpert has yet to return to his 2011-12 form and has been playing out of position since coming back from an ACL injury.
Amar'e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith have been too inconsistent, and that has left New York without a second scoring option to rely on. If things don't improve quickly, the Knicks could lose their standing atop the Atlantic Division.
11. Golden State Warriors (31-23)
Golden State was once one of the best teams in the West this season, but that all changed after the Warriors went on a horrid six-game losing streak heading into the All-Star break.
The Warriors have been able to stop the bleeding since then, thanks to a gift-wrapped game against the lowly Phoenix Suns that ended with a victory.
Head coach Mark Jackson's squad has talent on both sides of the floor, but the Warriors' biggest issue is on the defensive end.
Despite ending their recent skid, the Warriors will have a tough stretch of games coming up, as they will first host the Spurs, then Golden State will hit the road for five straight against teams like the Pacers, Knicks and Boston Celtics, amongst others.
If they don't come out of that road trip with at least a 3-2 mark, the Warriors could find themselves as the No. 8 seed in a hurry.
12. Utah Jazz (31-24)
With all the talk about potential deals involving Paul Millsap and/or Al Jefferson, nothing major ended up happening for Utah at the deadline. The Jazz are currently riding a three-game winning streak and could move up some more spots in the West standings should their success continue.
13. Houston Rockets (30-26)
The Rockets look to be doing just fine after a nice win over the Thunder on Wednesday night. Houston added Thomas Robinson, Francisco Garcia and Tyler Honeycutt, but the jury is still out as to just how well those three players will work out this season.
14. Atlanta Hawks (29-23)
Atlanta's loss to Miami on Wednesday night proved this team still can't hang with the elite squads in this league, but that isn't necessary to make it to the playoffs in the East. Before that, the Hawks had won three of four, with one of those victories coming against Memphis. While holding onto Josh Smith may end up hurting the Hawks in the long run, it's a big positive for the short term.
15. Los Angeles Lakers (26-29)
Did anyone believe they'd see the Lakers this far down the power rankings at any point during the season when the 2012-13 campaign began? L.A. played one of its best games of the season against the Celtics on Wednesday night when they trounced their old rivals by 14 points. Hopefully for the Lakers and their fans, that impressive performance is a sign of things to come.
16. Boston Celtics (28-26)
You've got to love the addition of Jordan Crawford to this roster, as it gives the Celtics some youth and scoring punch in their rotation. Boston is in the midst of a two-game losing streak, but that should end with three road games against the Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz.
17. Milwaukee Bucks (26-27)
Milwaukee's attempts to land Josh Smith failed, however, the Bucks were able to improve by adding J.J. Redick, and they did so without surrendering either Monta Ellis or Brandon Jennings. Redick should prove to be a nice boost as this team continues to hold onto the No. 8 seed.
18. Dallas Mavericks (24-29)
Dallas added a perimeter threat at the deadline by acquiring Anthony Morrow, although they were forced to give up a solid perimeter defender in Dahntay Jones. The Mavs have won four of their last five games, but they have a lot of work to do if they hope to grab the No. 8 seed.
19. Portland Trail Blazers (25-29)
The Blazers traded for point guard Eric Maynor from the Thunder, and he'll attempt to bolster Portland's non-existent bench as its season continues to spiral out of control.
Portland was once two games over .500 and in position to make a run at the playoffs. Since then, the Blazers have lost six games in a row and are quickly falling out of contention. Their last two losses came against two of the worst teams in the NBA: Phoenix and New Orleans.
The biggest problem this team has is a lack of bench production, and Portland's defense has not been up to par.
On top of that, Wesley Matthews is hurt and his timetable for return is unclear at the moment.
That's a tough blow for a team already lacking scoring, and that could send their season south even faster. Things won't get any easier either, as the Blazers have to meet the Lakers, Celtics and Nuggets in their next three games.
20. Philadelphia 76ers (22-30)
The Sixers have lost three of their last four games and are set to take on the Heat, Knicks and Bulls in three of their next four games. This team has done what it can to survive the absence of Andrew Bynum, but it's clearly catching up to head coach Doug Collins' squad.
21. Toronto Raptors (22-33)
The addition of Rudy Gay has certainly made the Raptors better, as evidenced by their recent five-game winning streak that was snapped after a loss to the Grizzlies. A guy like Sebastian Telfair should help in the depth department and give Gay some extra support. Granted, this team still has plenty of work to do, but they are on the right path out of irrelevance nonetheless.
22. Detroit Pistons (22-34)
If not for a horrendous start to the season, the Pistons would be in a much better position than they are now. Another problem has been the fact that this team can't string together more than two wins in order to make a run, so that will keep them near the bottom of the Eastern Conference for the remainder of the season.
23. Minnesota Timberwolves (20-31)
After losing four of five, the Wolves bounced back with a win over the 76ers on Wednesday night. The loss of Kevin Love has hurt this team significantly, and they don't stand a chance of recovering this season without him.
24. New Orleans Hornets (19-36)
New Orleans has struggled of late after losing two straight games, but two winnable games against the Mavs and Sacramento Kings could help the Hornets snap out of it. At this point, the Hornets are better off just losing as much as possible in order improve their chances of landing a better draft pick.
25. Sacramento Kings (19-36)
For a team that is trying to develop their talent en route to competing, it was a bit puzzling to see the Kings deal Thomas Robinson at the trade deadline. They did add Cole Aldrich, Patrick Patterson and Toney Douglas, but none of those players have the potential upside that Robinson possesses. We'll see if these new players can help Sacramento stop its three-game skid.
26. Phoenix Suns (18-37)
After losing five of their last six, the Suns made a few minor additions to their roster when they traded for Hamed Haddadi and Marcus Morris in separate deals. Neither move will make this team much better, so look for the Suns to have plenty of ping pong balls for the draft lottery.
27. Cleveland Cavaliers (17-37)
Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving) is quickly emerging as one of the best players in the NBA today. Sadly for Cavs fans, the rest of their team isn't exactly following suit. Cleveland lost their last three games before the break but have since recovered with a win over New Orleans on Wednesday night.
28. Washington Wizards (15-37)
The Wizards said goodbye to Crawford on Thursday, but that isn't likely to be much of a loss, as he had fallen out of favor anyway. It'll be another failure of a season for Washington, and fans have nothing to look forward to but the draft lottery.
29. Orlando Magic (15-39)
J.J. Redick was one of the few valuable pieces the Magic had left, and he's now a member of the Bucks. With that deal, Orlando acquired some nice pieces in Beno Udrih, Doron Lamb and Tobias Harris. There's nothing that can help this team this season, but those young players will be important in the Orlando's rebuilding process.
30. Charlotte Bobcats (13-41)
The Bobcats are once again the worst team in the NBA this season and were unable to move the problem that is Ben Gordon at the deadline. On the bright side, things couldn't possibly get any worse for this organization.
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