Predicting Every NBA Team's Final Record Entering March

Josh Cohen@@arealjoshcohenCorrespondent IIFebruary 27, 2013

Predicting Every NBA Team's Final Record Entering March

0 of 30

    The home stretch of the NBA regular season is looming, and the time is ripe to predict how each team will finish off its schedule.

    Though the trade deadline passed with a whimper rather than a bang, that stasis will actually have a very interesting effect on the rest of the season.

    We already know teams like the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs are locks for the postseason; all that's left to watch for with them is how aggressively they'll jockey for the league's best record. But with so much of the NBA's middle class standing pat, the race for the final playoff spots will be that much more intense.

    As we go through the prognostications on each team, we'll break it down with three stats: Its current record, how it's on pace to finish and where we think it'll actually end up.

Eastern Conference No. 15: Orlando Magic

1 of 30

    Current Record: 16-41

    Projected Record: 22-60

    Predicted Record: 19-63

    Orlando Magic fans must be getting tired of hearing about their 12-13 start to the season, but we have to acknowledge it to quantify just how far the team has fallen.

    On Dec. 21, the Magic were on a four-game win streak and sat just outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Then, Glen Davis began dealing with multiple injuries, and a surprising start turned into a disastrous season, with Orlando losing 28 of its last 32 games.

    Curiously enough, those four wins have come versus the Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers and at home against the Indiana Pacers and Portland Trail Blazers. No way to speculate on why these specific opponents fell victim to the Magic because, y'know, small sample size.

    Now that J.J. Redick is out of town, the cupboard is as bare as ever in Orlando. That's enough to drop the Magic into last place in the East and last in the league.

Eastern Conference No. 14: Charlotte Bobcats

2 of 30

    Current Record: 13-44

    Projected Record: 19-63

    Predicted Record: 20-62

    Prepare yourselves, folks: We're about to be semi-optimistic about the Charlotte Bobcats.

    Is their roster still a glut of one-dimensional guards and unproven big men? Yes. Did trading Hakim Warrick for Josh McRoberts help anything? No. Does this organization appear to have anything even resembling a plan for how to construct this team? Not quite, but there's a glimmer of hope.

    Kemba Walker's sophomore season just keeps getting better. Since the All-Star break, he has scored at least 24 points in four of his five games, and he has shot better than 50 percent from the field in three of them.

    After a disappointing first year, it looks like Kemba has what it takes to be a worthwhile building block alongside Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. As laughable as the Bobcats will be the rest of the way, there is that silver lining.

Eastern Conference No. 13: Cleveland Cavaliers

3 of 30

    Current Record: 19-38

    Projected Record: 26-56

    Predicted Record: 24-58

    Taking into account the loss of Anderson Varejao, this Cleveland Cavaliers team is incredibly disappointing.

    The Cavs are still reeling from the loss of LeBron James, but at least they've found a bona fide star in Kyrie Irving. When your 20-year-old point guard averages 23.3 points and 5.6 assists per game and puts up a PER of 22.65, rebuilding a contender gets that much easier.

    Unfortunately, Irving's supporting cast—with the exception of Varejao—has let him down mightily. Marreese Speights has played efficiently since coming to Cleveland, but Dion Waiters has been a disappointment in his rookie year and Tristan Thompson doesn't yet have the polish to start on a playoff team.

    Those young players could form a solid nucleus down the line. Right now, Irving is the only guy the Cavs can really count on.

Eastern Conference No. 12: Washington Wizards

4 of 30

    Current Record: 18-37

    Projected Record: 27-55

    Predicted Record: 31-51

    It's amazing how difficult the Washington Wizards front office makes it look.

    On the one hand, the Wiz are bouncing back from a 5-28 start with a cohesive on-court product. John Wall is healthy again, he's developed a nice chemistry with Nene and he's given Washington its floor general back. Since his return, the Wizards have gone 13-11.

    That said, this team just traded Jordan Crawford to the Boston Celtics for Jason Collins and Leandro Barbosa, who tore his ACL just before the All-Star break. It was probably best that the two sides parted ways, but he's still an intriguing bench scorer for whom Washington got nothing of value in return.

    The revitalized Wizards will be a pesky team down the stretch, but you can't help but think that they'll drop a game they could have won with Crawford's scoring punch. It's irrelevant in a lost season, but it makes you worry for this team in the long run.

Eastern Conference No. 11: Detroit Pistons

5 of 30

    Current Record: 22-37

    Projected Record: 30-52

    Predicted Record: 33-49

    Even if Jose Calderon doesn't stick around after this season, he will still have a nice impact on the Detroit Pistons in the short term.

    Though Detroit traded for Calderon primarily to get Tayshaun Prince's contract off the books, it will be nice to have a true point guard to run with the big-man tandem of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. The more time they spend playing with a pure distributor like Calderon, the easier the game will be for them.

    However, Brandon Knight is the guy who really should be taking notes. Two seasons into his NBA career, Knight is still a mediocre shooter with an incomplete understanding of how to play the point guard position.

    Hopefully Calderon can teach him something while he's a Piston. If Knight doesn't show some development soon, though, Detroit will be on the lookout for someone like Calderon to permanently take over at the point.

Eastern Conference No. 10: Philadelphia 76ers

6 of 30

    Current Record: 22-33

    Projected Record: 33-49

    Predicted Record: 33-49

    Aside from Jrue Holiday's great strides and some nice improvement from Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young, the Philadelphia 76ers have been below average and bland.

    The only thing that can save this team this season is Andrew Bynum. Reintegrating the star center would change everything, but ESPN's Brian Windhorst has on Doug Collins' authority that Bynum is nowhere near ready to return.

    "He looked like a guy who hadn't played in nine months," Collins said. "I don't think any bells and whistles should be sent off that he's close to playing."

    From the way things are looking, if Bynum does get back on the court this season, he'll be playing beneath a thick layer of rust. The Sixers rolled the dice with the injury-prone big man, and they're regrettably enduring the brunt of the worst-case scenario.

Eastern Conference No. 9: Toronto Raptors

7 of 30

    Current Record: 23-34

    Projected Record: 33-49

    Predicted Record: 37-45

    The Toronto Raptors are playing with pretty natural synergy from a hodgepodge of scorers.

    Rudy Gay was the biggest acquisition of the NBA trading season, yet he joined a team that already had two starters who score mainly off the bounce. Though he immediately became the best of the bunch, it was uncertain whether Gay was the star Toronto really needed.

    Nevertheless, the Raptors have been making it work. Toronto is 7-4 since Gay has come to town, with five wins over teams sure to make the postseason.

    It's still possible that Gay, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan aren't the best core for Toronto to build around, but they're giving Raptors fans reason to be excited for a change.

Eastern Conference No. 8: Milwaukee Bucks

8 of 30

    Current Record: 27-28

    Projected Record: 40-42

    Predicted Record: 41-41

    Pulling off the most significant deal of deadline day, the Milwaukee Bucks got a nice asset in J.J. Redick. What's unclear is where he will play.

    The electrifying, maddening duo of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis is already manning the backcourt. Having such dynamic slashers is what makes a floor spacer like Redick so valuable. But now, Jim Boylan has a conundrum on his hands in terms of minutes.

    Redick is a fine defender, but asking him to guard small forwards in a small-ball lineup is a stretch in more ways than one. The guards have a dishearteningly apathetic approach to defense; compromising another position on the floor could be catastrophic for the Bucks.

    The alternative is for Redick to take minutes away from Jennings and Ellis. Considering both are playing 37.2 per game, they could probably benefit from a bit more rest, though the idea of Ellis getting consistent minutes at the point is frightening in its own way.

    This pickup will probably help Milwaukee, but it should be interesting to watch how this team deals with the adjustment period.

Eastern Conference No. 7: Boston Celtics

9 of 30

    Current Record: 30-27

    Projected Record: 43-39

    Predicted Record: 42-40

    We're not going to get a proper sense of the Boston Celtics from their record alone. We need their home/road splits.

    After Rajon Rondo tore his ACL, the Celtics shocked the league with seven straight wins sans their elite point guard. Six of those victories came at home, where Boston is currently 20-9 on the season.

    That stretch ended with a loss in Charlotte in the second of back-to-back games. Boston has gone 3-4 since the streak, with just one of the games (an ugly win against the Bulls) coming at home; the Celtics are 10-18 in road games.

    In just 14 games since his injury, it's tough to say if we've learned what Rondo's true value to this team is. That said, it's abundantly clear what home court means to the Celtics.

Eastern Conference No. 6: Brooklyn Nets

10 of 30

    Current Record: 34-24

    Projected Record: 47-35

    Predicted Record: 46-36

    After a tumultuous start to the season, interim coach P.J. Carlesimo has all but secured the Brooklyn Nets a spot in the playoff picture.

    Things are about to get tougher for Brooklyn, though.

    The Nets have played just 26 games away from the Barclays Center, the second-fewest road games of any team so far. Even with Brook Lopez continuing his great play and Brooklyn's high-priced guards stepping their games up, it's tough to go on the road for 15 of your final 25 games.

    Brooklyn has still been decent on the road, but playing away that much late in a long season takes its toll. It won't affect the Nets' chances of making the playoffs, but it will knock them down a seed or two.

Eastern Conference No. 5: Chicago Bulls

11 of 30

    Current Record: 32-25

    Projected Record: 47-35

    Predicted Record: 46-36

    There are two explanations for the Chicago Bulls' recent struggles: a grueling game plan and an unforgiving schedule.

    With Derrick Rose still working his way back from last season's ACL tear, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah have had to shoulder a much larger burden. Deng is the team's leading scorer in 39.0 minutes per game, while Noah is making up for the loss of Omer Asik in 38.2 minutes per game.

    It's no wonder those guys are slumping with such a heavy workload, but it might just be the Bulls' recent opponents. Chicago has played just three home games in all of February, two of which were against the Heat and Spurs. Of the 12 games the Bulls have played this month, nine were against teams in line for a playoff spot.

    Things should get easier for the Bulls going forward. Deng and Noah are both capable workhorses, and they should make sure that no one makes the mistake of taking Chicago lightly.

Eastern Conference No. 4: Atlanta Hawks

12 of 30

    Current Record: 32-23

    Projected Record: 47-35

    Predicted Record: 47-35

    To everyone's surprise, Josh Smith is still a member of the Atlanta Hawks, and that actually makes this team harder to understand.

    Smith's borderline star play and increased leadership helped Atlanta jump out to a 20-10 start after ditching Joe Johnson in the offseason. On the other hand, his infamous moodiness amidst a 2-8 stretch led to a one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team, per InsideHoops.

    So, which Smith will the Hawks get for the rest of the season? His expiring contract limits the incentive he might otherwise have to play hard, though the prospect of earning a max deal should give him all the motivation he needs.

    Atlanta's chances are inextricably linked to Smith's effort. If he plays hard and plays smart, the Hawks are going to be an unenviable first-round matchup in the postseason.

Eastern Conference No. 3: New York Knicks

13 of 30

    Current Record: 33-20

    Projected Record: 51-31

    Predicted Record: 49-33

    Remember how only one team has played fewer road games than the Nets? It's their crosstown rivals, the New York Knicks, who are 13-12 away from Madison Square Garden.

    Despite the encouraging resurgence of Amar'e Stoudemire, the Knicks are having issues. Carmelo Anthony has been merely great rather than MVP-caliber lately, Jason Kidd is now a liability on offense as well as defense and this team's depth is a serious question mark moving forward.

    That said, Anthony and Amar'e are still playing like stars, Tyson Chandler is a force of nature inside and J.R. Smith helps alleviate some of the depth concerns. There's a reason this team came on so strong at the beginning of the season, and the pieces still exist to do it again.

    More likely than not, though, this ancient squad is waiting to flip a switch in the playoffs. Whether that is the right idea remains to be seen, but the Knicks won't be ending the regular season with a head of steam.

Eastern Conference No. 2: Indiana Pacers

14 of 30

    Current Record: 36-21

    Projected Record: 52-30

    Predicted Record: 54-28

    As surprising as it was for the Knicks to start so strong without Amar'e, it's even more amazing that the Indiana Pacers have just gotten Danny Granger back.

    Of course, we're going to have an adjustment period here. Granger has been ineffective coming off the bench in his short time back, but that's nothing unexpected. Indiana will give him all the time he needs to readjust to the pace of the game—so long as he does it by the postseason.

    In the meantime, Granger has to come off the bench, which is a good thing for Paul George and Frank Vogel. George has come into his own this season playing at small forward in place of Granger. Easing back into a lineup with Granger and George is the best for all parties, as it gives George and Vogel time to make their own adjustments.

    With the way the Pacers have defended this season, it's unlikely Granger will make them that much better. But he is definitely an improvement; for a team playing this well, that's scary.

Eastern Conference No. 1: Miami Heat

15 of 30

    Current Record: 41-14

    Projected Record: 61-21

    Predicted Record: 63-19

    There's scary, there's terrifying and there's the Miami Heat.

    Though the defense isn't quite as staunch as it was last season, LeBron James is playing an unprecedented kind of basketball, somehow running away with the MVP race even as Kevin Durant puts together a 50-40-90 campaign.

    Wade has fully assumed the second fiddle role this season, but Chris Bosh has reemerged as a star in his own right. LeBron exploded in the 2012 playoffs only after Bosh got hurt; to face all three Heat greats at their best seems to be an impossible task.

    The Miami Heat are superb. Nothing more needs to be said. Let's move on.

Western Conference No. 15: Phoenix Suns

16 of 30

    Current Record: 19-39

    Projected Record: 27-55

    Predicted Record: 25-58

    Much like the Magic, the Phoenix Suns are a floundering team with little sense of direction.

    Any intentions of building around Goran Dragic and Marcin Gortat were clearly misguided. Both are solid players who could be nice contributors on a playoff team—as are Jared Dudley and Luis Scola. But if any of those guys are among your three best players, let alone all of them, you have serious problems.

    Looking deeper, the Suns have very little to work with in terms of prospects. Marcus and Markieff Morris are both in Phoenix now, and along with Kendall Marshall, that gives the Suns three young players who will be lucky to crack a postseason team's rotation someday.

    It's a good thing Phoenix is bottoming out. There's a lot of work to do here.

Western Conference No. 14: Sacramento Kings

17 of 30

    Current Record: 19-39

    Projected Record: 27-55

    Predicted Record: 28-54

    There is nothing more inspiring to a downtrodden basketball fan than the idea of the Maloofs selling the Sacramento Kings.

    Maybe then they'll get a collection of players that's actually compatible. DeMarcus Cousins is a physical freak seemingly allergic to restraint and awareness. Tyreke Evans is a combo guard with no instinct to pass or will to defend. Isaiah Thomas leads the team with 3.4 assists per game.

    It's a mess, and the cash-strapped departing owners are only making things worse. Swapping a top-five pick in Thomas Robinson for a low-ceiling guy in Patrick Patterson is a greed-driven travesty. Patterson saves the Maloofs some money, but any argument that he represents fair value is a lie.

    Take solace in the fact that the Maloofs will soon be gone. It would have been foolish to expect them to be dignified about it; it doesn't seem anything about the Kings is.

Western Conference No. 13: Minnesota Timberwolves

18 of 30

    Current Record: 20-34

    Projected Record: 31-51

    Predicted Record: 29-53

    And now, a eulogy for the Minnesota Timberwolves' 2012-13 season.

    This team is the embodiment of the phrase "walking wounded." Kevin Love has played just 18 games this season, and Rubio has appeared in 28; neither was in prime playing condition for most of them. Look further down the roster and nearly every contributor on the T'Wolves has missed time.

    Minnesota was supposed to leverage its young talent and make it back to the postseason this time around. Instead, only two T'Wolves have appeared in over 50 games thus far: Luke Ridnour and Dante Cunningham. That is certainly not a playoff recipe.

    In a way, Minnesota is an even sadder team to watch than a team like the Magic or the Suns. The T'Wolves don't just remind you of everything they aren't, but of everything they could have been.

Western Conference No. 12: New Orleans Hornets

19 of 30

    Current Record: 20-38

    Projected Record: 28-54

    Predicted Record: 32-50

    What has looked like a lottery team has played like one this season, but the New Orleans Hornets might have more pieces in place than expected.

    It all starts in the frontcourt, where the future Pelicans have displayed surprising depth. Ryan Anderson has been raining threes as a sixth man, while Anthony Davis and Robin Lopez have established a strong inside presence. Throw in oversized point guard Greivis Vasquez, and it's hard to match New Orleans' height.

    But the real key to the Hornets' season has been Eric Gordon. His return ended the reign of the rookie Austin Rivers at shooting guard, turning an 8-26 squad into a team playing .500 ball.

    Most of these guys still have tons of room to improve, and Gordon hasn't even been playing up to his usual level. This New Orleans team could end up with some unexpected wins down the stretch that foreshadow a breakout season to come.

Western Conference No. 11: Dallas Mavericks

20 of 30

    Current Record: 25-31

    Projected Record: 37-45

    Predicted Record: 35-47

    Give the Dallas Mavericks credit for fighting to prove they're not over the hill.

    Efforts to remain in contention with O.J. Mayo as more or less the only weapon at Dallas' disposal went exactly like you thought they would. Dirk Nowitzki's return from injury was slow, but he is finally starting to resemble his old self, and the Mavs are starting to give teams trouble again.

    Unfortunately, they're about to run into a buzz saw. In their 26 games left to play, the Mavericks will face a team currently slated to make the playoffs 17 times. That includes slightly more home games than road trips, which is some consolation, but not enough for a Dallas team facing long odds.

    This is not the graceful finish any envisioned for Dirk's Mavericks. Alas, it seems like this diminished team is going to come up short.

Western Conference No. 10: Portland Trail Blazers

21 of 30

    Current Record: 26-30

    Projected Record: 38-44

    Predicted Record: 36-46

    The Portland Trail Blazers' issues are similar to those of the Chicago Bulls, but Rip City is facing a more dire situation.

    Like the Bulls, the Blazers recently looked gassed, as they lost seven consecutive games. Upon further review, though, six of those defeats came on the road, which makes total sense for a team as overworked as Portland.

    Make no mistake: The Blazers are definitely running their starters too hard, which is the difference between them and Chicago. LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Damian Lillard are all playing 38 minutes per game, which is especially dangerous for the rookie Lillard in his first NBA season.

    Portland did nothing to solve its bench issues at the trade deadline, so the heavy minutes will continue for the rest of the regular season. That's where it will end for the Blazers, though; this strategy is simply not sustainable.

Western Conference No. 9: Utah Jazz

22 of 30

    Current Record: 31-26

    Projected Record: 45-37

    Predicted Record: 43-39

    It was a calculated risk for the Utah Jazz to stand pat at the trade deadline, but even the logical decision might go wrong.

    Utah opted to keep both Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson—both of whom are in the last year of their contracts—rather than trade them to open up playing time for Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.

    The rationale for that inaction is threefold: Utah can still sign-and-trade both this offseason, it wants to keep the vets around to continue mentoring the prospects and it would like the young guys to get some playoff experience.

    That's where the Jazz's plan might go awry. Playing in the competitive West without Mo Williams at point, Utah's going to fall a bit short of the projection. Even if the Jazz finish over .500, it might not be good enough for the playoffs.

Western Conference No. 8: Los Angeles Lakers

23 of 30

    Current Record: 28-30

    Projected Record: 40-42

    Predicted Record: 44-38

    When Kobe Bryant started passing, the entire complexion of the ludicrous Los Angeles Lakers season changed.

    The Lakers were 17-25 before the Black Mamba dished out 14 assists in consecutive games. It seems that Kobe realized that L.A. wins when he passes more and shoots less. This season, he is averaging 23.9 points and 6.9 assists in Laker wins as opposed to 30.1 points and 4.5 assists in losses.

    Bryant is putting up 6.8 assists per game in the month of February; not coincidentally, the Lakers have gone 11-5 since those 14-dime shockers in late January.

    No one can begrudge Kobe for shooting as much as he has this season. The man has been pretty efficient with his selection this season, and his output was a point of stability amidst the tumult earlier in the season.

    Now that the drama is calming down and the time for the playoff push is upon them, the Lakers are rising to the occasion. It's been a total crapshoot trying to predict anything about this team, but it looks like the Lakers have what it takes to pull this off.

Western Conference No. 7: Golden State Warriors

24 of 30

    Current Record: 33-24

    Projected Record: 47-35

    Predicted Record: 46-36

    The Golden State Warriors have certainly proven themselves worthy of a Western Conference playoff berth, but they've run into some issues in the second half.

    To start with the good, the shooters are still terrorizing opposing defenses with a barrage of three-pointers. Klay Thompson's efficiency has dropped off as the season has progressed, but as long as Stephen Curry and Jarrett Jack are around, no lead is safe against this team.

    However, the return of Andrew Bogut has strangely corresponded with the Dubs' interior defense becoming increasingly porous. If it is a communication problem Bogut is having with Golden State's other bigs, that should work itself out over the course of the season.

    Hopefully it comes down to something fixable like that. Mark Jackson's upstart team has played captivating basketball this season; it would be a shame for its success to falter from a starter's return.

Western Conference No. 6: Houston Rockets

25 of 30

    Current Record: 31-27

    Projected Record: 44-38

    Predicted Record: 47-35

    Let's start with this: The acquisition of Thomas Robinson actually hurts the Houston Rockets in the short term.

    Houston's high-octane offense is built like an efficiency nerd's dream; it's all all close-range shots and three-pointers, particularly corner threes. Both Patrick Patterson and Marcus Morris gave the Rockets a corner three threat from the power forward position—something Robinson cannot provide.

    That said, having an elite scorer like James Harden makes it a lot easier to work someone into a system. Between Harden and Jeremy Lin's unceasing drives to the rim and Houston's wealth of young power forwards, the Rockets will likely take all of this in stride.

    If they can find a way to integrate Robinson effectively now, then great. If not, this team has actually been outperforming its record and ends the season with a very favorable schedule. Expect the short-term Rockets to make it work.

Western Conference No. 5: Denver Nuggets

26 of 30

    Current Record: 36-22

    Projected Record: 51-31

    Predicted Record: 53-29

    The Denver Nuggets' schedule was front-loaded with road games, and the fast-paced Nuggets struggled as they travelled early.

    After going 17-15 over the first two months of the season, Denver has compiled a 19-7 record in January and February. Compared to their 12-19 mark on the road, the Nuggets have won 24 of their 27 home games thus far.

    Fortunately, the Nuggets' reward for their early trial by fire is that they only have 10 road games remaining. The friendly confines of home court will pay even bigger dividends for George Karl's squad down the stretch; forcing opponents to run late in the year in Denver's high altitude is going to be brutal.

    If you were wondering what was wrong with the Nuggets earlier in the season, don't. They were fine all along, and they're only going to get stronger.

Western Conference No. 4: Memphis Grizzlies

27 of 30

    Current Record: 37-18

    Projected Record: 55-27

    Predicted Record: 55-27

    It hasn't happened the way anyone thought it would, but the Memphis Grizzlies have emerged just as tough following the Rudy Gay trade.

    The general theory was that Tayshaun Prince's three-point shooting and floor spacing would offset the loss of Gay's off-the-dribble offense, though that's not what happened.

    Prince is attempting just one three-pointer per game for Memphis, instead doing most of his work inside the arc. Due to his interior passing ability, that hasn't served to crowd the floor, but instead to work with Marc Gasol's facilitating skills to create open looks for their teammates.

    Gasol's greatest strength on offense is how his passing as a big man confuses opposing defenses. Having the 6'9" Prince able to help out with the ball movement is a nice addition.

    Of course, Prince's defense has also been a step up from Gay's, but that was to be expected. Thanks to their alternative approach to scoring, the Grizz were able to trade their primary scorer without missing a beat.

Western Conference No. 3: Los Angeles Clippers

28 of 30

    Current Record: 41-18

    Projected Record: 57-25

    Predicted Record: 56-26

    Chris Paul has returned to the Los Angeles Clippers—and with him, the team's title hopes have returned as well.

    As galvanizing as Eric Bledsoe has been as a quick, athletic point guard off the bench, he is not ready to carry a team on his own. That much was clear during the Clippers' 2-7 stretch, during which Paul struggled with a knee injury for a game before sitting the next eight.

    In games Paul has played this season, L.A. has gone 35-12. Without him, the Clippers are 6-6, and they know that level of play will not be good enough in the postseason.

    The Clippers will keep competing to secure playoff positioning, but look for Bledsoe to get some more run down the stretch. If L.A. decides a game's outcome is decided, then Paul will sit; best to save his energy and health for the games that count most.

Western Conference No. 2: Oklahoma City Thunder

29 of 30

    Current Record: 41-15

    Projected Record: 60-22

    Predicted Record: 61-21

    There's nothing left for the Oklahoma City Thunder to prove in the regular season.

    They have a high-paced, high-efficiency attack based on the skill and athleticism of their young stars. That's a time-honored strategy that has worked for decades—particularly in the regular season. What matters for Oklahoma City is if it will get them through the grueling playoffs and to an NBA championship.

    After all, even Kevin Durant's 50-40-90 quest is being rendered meaningless by LeBron's onslaught. The best shooter of a generation is pursuing the pinnacle of scoring efficiency while leading the league in points per game, and yet he's a clear second in the MVP race.

    We're familiar with the Thunder's spiel. As exciting as it is to watch on the court, it will inspire a collective shrug of indifference when they break 60 wins. We'll start caring about their wins in the postseason.

Western Conference No. 1: San Antonio Spurs

30 of 30

    Current Record: 45-13

    Projected Record: 64-18

    Predicted Record: 64-18

    If the San Antonio Spurs are on pace to have the best record in the NBA—and they are—then you know they'll get it. That's just the kind of impeccable clockwork they go by.

    Gregg Popovich is really outdoing himself this season. Tim Duncan is having a revival season, and Tony Parker is having a career year when they're a combined 66 years old. Both Spurs legends are putting up PERs over 24 in their 12th season together—a testament to how compatible their greatness is with Pops and his system.

    It's not just the stars who are shining, though; Parker is the only Spur averaging 30 minutes per game, but eight of his teammates are averaging at least 20 minutes per game this season.

    That represents an absurd reliance on depth, particularly for a juggernaut in the post-Decision NBA. But it's par for the course in San Antonio. It's what this organization has done for years, and the system has aged like fine wine.

    At this point, it's not even worth it to ask how the Spurs are still doing it so well. Better to just sit back and appreciate it.