Updated 2013 Win-Loss Predictions for Every NBA Team Entering Critical Stretch

Bryant Knox@@BryantKnoxFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2013

Updated 2013 Win-Loss Predictions for Every NBA Team Entering Critical Stretch

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    The 2012-13 NBA season has given us plenty to talk about. The New York Knicks have surprised, the Los Angeles Lakers have disappointed, and the Miami Heat are finally rolling the way we expected them to early in the year.

    With less than two months remaining, it's become clear which teams are for real and which teams don't stand a chance. The Eastern Conference has all but locked up its eight playoff seeds, while the West is still battling at the bottom to see who gets in.

    While there's no true science to predicting a team's final record, with the year winding down, it's time to examine recent trends and project how teams will finish the regular season.

     

    *All standings are accurate as of March 13, 2013, at 12:00 AM PT.

    *The predicted records do not take division standings into account.

Eastern Conference No. 15: Charlotte Bobcats

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    Record: 14-50

    Predicted Record: 18-64

    The Charlotte Bobcats are not a good basketball team, and there's really no delicate way of putting that.

    After starting the season 7-5—an average mark for any true competitor—this team had dreams of relevancy. It was coming off a catastrophic 2011-12 season, and while the playoffs were always a long shot, it appeared destined to escape the basement of the Association.

    Nearly four months later, the Bobcats have gone 7-45 since that surprising start, and the only thing they have to hope for is luck in the lottery.

    To begin the year, the question was whether the Bobcats or Washington Wizards would finish last. As soon as John Wall returned to Washington's lineup, that answer became painfully clear to fans in Charlotte.

    The Bobcats need to add talent, and that's not going to happen before the end of the season.

Eastern Conference No. 14: Orlando Magic

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    Record: 18-47

    Predicted Record: 22-60

    Like the Charlotte Bobcats, the Orlando Magic need to add talent to a rebuilding roster.

    Following the departure of Dwight Howard, we all knew the Magic would struggle. They made a few good acquisitions to build toward the future, but the 2012-13 season was never supposed to be their return to glory.

    It's been clear that this team lacks leadership, as it has lost a number of close games. Finishing is something young teams have difficulty doing, and it all starts with playing a consistent brand of basketball.

    The Magic have been anything but consistent in the post-Howard era. They'll play hard against teams like the Los Angeles Clippers, then get blown out by the Washington Wizards. They've been plagued by poor execution, and that's something that takes time to fix.

Eastern Conference No. 13: Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Record: 22-42

    Predicted Record: 27-55

    It's been a rough year for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    Following a surprisingly impressive 2011-12 campaign, the Cavs have been a huge disappointment. They've been led by one of the best point guards in the game, but the fact is, Kyrie Irving can't do it on his own.

    This team has been bitten hard by the injury bug. Through 64 games, the only players with perfect attendance are Tristan Thompson and Alonzo Gee. 

    Now, with Irving out at least three weeks (according to The News-Herald's Bob Finnan), it's going to be tough for the Cavs to maintain their current No. 12 Eastern Conference spot. Finnan reports that the Cavs hope Irving can play again this season, but even if he does, we're looking at the No. 13 spot as a best-case scenario.

Eastern Conference No. 12: Detroit Pistons

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    Record: 23-43

    Predicted Record: 28-54

    The Detroit Pistons began the 2012-13 season as poorly as any team in the NBA. They lost nine of their first 10 games, making it clear that this was not the year they'd be returning to the postseason.

    A quick turnaround made you believe that they had it in them to stay competitive, but that hope turned out to be a facade for fans in the Motor City.

    Entering the final 16 games of the season, Detroit has once again lost nine of its last 10 outings. This team is fun to watch when Andre Drummond and Brandon Knight are clicking, but the injury to the big man proved to be disastrous in its chase for the eighth seed.

    The future is bright for the Pistons. But with 11 games separating them and the final spot in the playoffs, the current struggles are just too much to overcome at this point.

Eastern Conference No. 11: Washington Wizards

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    Record: 20-42

    Predicted Record: 29-53

    To start the year, the Washington Wizards were a safe bet to finish with the worst record in the NBA. They lost their first 12 games, and it took them until Jan. 12 to earn their first back-to-back wins.

    But when John Wall made his long-awaited return on Jan. 12, things turned around and the season had purpose after a 5-28 start.

    Since Wall's return, the team has gone 15-14. The Wizards are not going to make the playoffs, but they have shown that they have what it takes to surprise people as they prepare for 2014.

Eastern Conference No. 10: Philadelphia 76ers

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    Record: 24-39

    Predicted Record: 31-51

    Things haven't gone as planned for the Philadelphia 76ers.

    Following an exciting 2011-12 season, the Sixers made the roster changes they felt were necessary to get them to the next level. The absence of Andrew Bynum has been disappointing for fans, and it's also been a big reason for Philly's offensive struggles.

    After trading away a scoring option in Andre Iguodala, the team has yet to replace those points with Bynum. The big man, who was becoming known for his low-post game, would have been a potential go-to scorer, but it's still not clear when he'll return to the floor.

    Jrue Holiday has done a marvelous job of leading the way, but he can't do it by himself. The team has lost 12 of its last 14 games, and it's not getting any easier with the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers right around the corner.

Eastern Conference No. 9: Toronto Raptors

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    Record: 25-39

    Predicted Record: 33-49

    Before acquiring Rudy Gay, the Toronto Raptors were the not-so-proud owners of a 16-30 record. Since then, the team has gone 9-9. While that hasn't negated the Raps' awful start, it's certainly helped them move up the ranks of the Eastern Conference.

    Trailing the eighth-place Milwaukee Bucks by eight games, Toronto doesn't figure to make the playoffs. The 2013-14 season could prove to be a different story, but this year is about the new-look roster jelling as a unit.

    What you can expect, though, is for the Raptors to finish ahead of the struggling Philadelphia 76ers. Once upon a time, Toronto occupied last place in the Atlantic Division, but that shouldn't be the case if the Raptors finish with confidence.

Eastern Conference No. 8: Milwaukee Bucks

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    Record: 32-30

    Predicted Record: 42-40

    The backcourt duo of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis survived the 2013 trade deadline, and it appears they're headed to the postseason for the first time together.

    The problem is that the eighth seed will only be good enough for a first-round matchup with the Miami Heat.

    Despite having two dynamic players at the guard positions, this team improved its shooting when it picked up J.J. Redick. The former Orlando Magic gunner hasn't been great from deep since his arrival, but he's a major threat outside.

    Milwaukee will be tested down the stretch, which is perfect for a team in its position. The Bucks' playoff position is essentially secured, so remaining games against the Heat, Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder can only help them prepare for what's to come.

Eastern Conference No. 7: Boston Celtics

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    Record: 34-29

    Predicted Record: 44-38

    Inconsistency has plagued the Boston Celtics during the 2012-13 season, which is why you're bound to hear arguments for them finishing anywhere between fourth and eighth in the East.

    Before a March 10 matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Celtics had won five straight. They were showing once again that they can win without Rajon Rondo and have enough in the tank to compete the rest of the way.

    This team is tough to trust, though, as we've seen it suffer inexplicable losses after decent winning streaks.

    Boston still has to face the Miami Heat twice, the New York Knicks twice and the Indiana Pacers once. Those games will prove how seriously we should take this team; unfortunately for the Celtics, it might expose that they just don't have it in them this time around.

Eastern Conference No. 6: Atlanta Hawks

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    Record: 34-29

    Predicted Record: 45-37

    The most surprising move at the trade deadline was the Atlanta Hawks' decision to keep Josh Smith for the rest of the season.

    That non-move makes the future of this roster even more unclear, but it also gives them the best shot to play well at the end of the season.

    For all the attention Smith received in February, the player who truly deserved the spotlight was Jeff Teague. The 24-year-old point guard averaged 18.3 points and 9.3 assists per game and helped lead the team to seven wins in 11 games during the month.

    Like the Boston Celtics, the Hawks are a team that we'll likely see fluctuate the rest of the way. If they can get strong play over the final 19 games, they could move into the top five in the East. However, with a 1-6 start to March, that seems unlikely.

Eastern Conference No. 5: Brooklyn Nets

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    Record: 38-27

    Predicted Record: 47-35

    Like so many teams, the Brooklyn Nets have been fickle during the 2012-13 season.

    Winning streaks and losing streaks are scattered all over their schedule. It's difficult to picture them making a deep run in the playoffs, but it's also tough to imagine them falling out of the top five with their talent.

    Deron Williams has looked like an elite point guard as of late. Brook Lopez still looks like the best center in the East, and Brooklyn's defense is quietly allowing the fourth-fewest points in the NBA.

    In their final 17 games, the Nets play just six playoff teams. Of the six, only the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Clippers have a better record than they do.

    The Nets have more to do before they contend for a title, but they're going to be challenging for home-court advantage as the year wraps up.

Eastern Conference No. 4: Chicago Bulls

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    Record: 35-28

    Predicted Record: 49-33

    According to ESPN's Melissa Isaacson, Derrick Rose has been medially cleared to play, but he will not return to the court "until he can confidently dunk off his left foot."

    Although we don't know exactly when Rose will see the floor, we know that if he comes back, this Chicago Bulls team will be one of the best in a top-heavy Eastern Conference.

    Even without Rose, the Bulls have established themselves as contenders. They don't have the best record, and their offense certainly needs work, but they've won games and dominated the competition with their efforts on defense.

    This team has been more reliable than the Brooklyn Nets. If Brooklyn's offense gets hot, it could spell trouble for Chicago, but if both teams play at a similar pace the rest of the year, home-court advantage should go to the Bulls in a first-round No.4/No. 5 matchup.

Eastern Conference No. 3: New York Knicks

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    Record: 38-23

    Predicted Record: 53-29

    The New York Knicks have given fans in NYC a reason to cheer. But is it all false hope?

    The Knicks have been good in 2013, and it's tough to ignore their hot start. But it's also tough to forget what this team did in the 2012 postseason. A disappointing showing left fans with a sour taste in their mouths, and it gave critics something to harp on until the Knicks win a playoff series.

    Heading into the stretch, Carmelo Anthony is still a top scorer, but he's playing less than 100 percent (according to ESPN New York). Amar'e Stoudemire is also injured and will miss "up to six weeks," according to the Associated Press (via ESPN).

    The Knicks have shown that they can do great things without Stoudemire, but this is the part of the year when competition is at its highest. They've done a good job of not showing their age for much of the season and will have to continue that if they hope to find success.

Eastern Conference No. 2: Indiana Pacers

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    Record: 39-24

    Predicted Record: 54-28

    When predicting the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference, you have to ask yourself what you trust more: the star power of the New York Knicks or the defense of the Indiana Pacers?

    Both teams are right there when it comes to the second seed, and while New York has been better than most anticipated, it's the Pacers who are holding teams to the second-fewest points per contest.

    When the Pacers visit the Knicks on April 14, playoff seeding could be on the line.

    Indiana has played well all year, and it's done so without Danny Granger. If he comes back and plays well, the idea is that he'll boost an offense that has struggled.

    However, if he returns and proves to be a nonfactor, this group has shown that it can win without him, largely due to its defense.

Eastern Conference No. 1: Miami Heat

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    Record: 48-14

    Predicted Record: 63-19

    The Miami Heat are the team to beat in the East, and there's no denying it.

    Despite a lackadaisical stretch between Dec. 28 and Feb. 1, Miami has flipped the switch and put nine-and-a-half games between itself and second place in the East. LeBron James' historic month of February helped turn things around, and the team is rolling heading into the home stretch.

    Having won 19 games in a row, it appears nobody can slow down the Heat. Their once-criticized defense has given up just 93.9 points per game during the winning streak, and when they finally lose, it's going to be downright surprising.

    As if things weren't already in their favor, the Heat will finish the year with a more-than-favorable schedule. After they play the New York Knicks on April 2, the rest of their schedule holds nobody better than the fifth-seeded Chicago Bulls.

    The Charlotte Bobcats, Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers don't stand a chance, and the Heat are going to be as hot as anyone when the playoffs finally roll around.

Western Conference No. 15: Sacramento Kings

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    Record: 22-43

    Predicted Record: 26-56

    The Sacramento Kings have been a mess this season.

    Whether it's drama surrounding a potential relocation, attitude problems involving DeMarcus Cousins or just bad basketball being played on a nightly basis, there's little evidence that the Kings won't be the worst team in the West when it's all said and done.

    Sacramento only has two East Coast teams remaining on its schedule, and neither the Chicago Bulls nor the Philadelphia 76ers will be easy opponents.

    The only thing the Kings have to look forward to is a pick in the lottery, but not even that worked out for them in 2012.

    The future of this team is up in the air in more ways than one, but it's time to consider 2012-13 a complete loss.

Western Conference No. 14: Phoenix Suns

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    Record: 22-42

    Predicted Record: 27-55

    It used to be that the Phoenix Suns were a great offensive team that couldn't play defense. Their defense is still a major concern, but the problem is that their once-touted scoring ability has shriveled into mediocrity without Steve Nash leading the way.

    A flurry of moves in the offseason gave fans in the desert hope that they could move on quickly following Nash's departure. As it turns out, that hasn't been the case, and it's caused more confusion as to where this team is headed.

    The problem for the Suns is that no player on the roster looks like a franchise option. Goran Dragic has done a great job at point guard, but he's not someone who is going to turn around this team without help.

    Talent and time are what this team needs most, and while the 2013 draft lottery isn't the best in recent memory, it will help this team continue to rebuild.

Western Conference No. 13: New Orleans Hornets

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    Record: 22-43

    Predicted Record: 29-53

    The New Orleans Hornets are headed back to the lottery, and it's the best thing that could have happened to them in 2013.

    After picking up Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers, it's clear that this team still needs to add pieces. Davis can't win games on his own, Rivers has been a complete disappointment, and Eric Gordon's future is seemingly still up in the air.

    This group has a few winnable games ahead, but 13 of its 17 remaining games are against Western Conference opponents.

    With the Sacramento Kings falling apart and the Phoenix Suns as confusing as ever, the Hornets won't likely finish last in the West. Most teams in their position would prefer better placement in the lottery, but remember that they struck gold in 2012, and they'll be hoping to do the same in back-to-back offseasons.

Western Conference No. 12: Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Record: 22-39

    Predicted Record: 31-51

    The final six weeks of the NBA season is when teams are hoping to be at their best. However, the Minnesota Timberwolves are playing some of their worst basketball of the year.

    Between Feb. 22 and March 10, the Wolves went 2-8. That's not exactly trending the right direction, and it unofficially puts to rest any thoughts they had of finishing strong.

    This team has winnable games left on the schedule, but those games are scattered among games against Western Conference contenders.

    If the Timberwolves were healthy, they'd likely be in the mix for the playoffs. Unfortunately, they've struggled with injuries all season, and they'll have to wait another year.

Western Conference No. 11: Portland Trail Blazers

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    Record: 29-34

    Predicted Record: 37-45

    The Portland Trail Blazers have two things working against them at this point in the season—a brutal schedule and the worst bench in the NBA.

    Portland has played up to its competition in 2013, which gives Rip City's most optimistic fans reason to believe. But the problem is, the team has also played down to its competition, and inconsistency has been a problem all year.

    After taking down the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center by 30 points, the Blazers fell to the New Orleans Hornets by two. Winning the winnable games is crucial down the stretch, and Portland hasn't shown it's reliable enough to do that at this point in its rebuild.

Western Conference No. 10: Dallas Mavericks

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    Record: 30-33

    Predicted Record: 40-42

    Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks haven't missed the playoffs since the power forward's second year in the NBA. However, that trend is about to come to an end, as the Mavs have set themselves up for a difficult finish.

    Consider this year an anomaly toward the end of Nowitzki's career. The big man was injured to begin the season, and with the roster full of new faces, the team never jelled the way management predicted.

    The team is full of one-year contracts, which means we could well be looking at another facelift once the 2012-13 campaign comes to an end.

    Will Dallas finish strong? Its last six games indicate yes, as it's won five since March 1. The problem, though, is that we're looking forward, not into the past.

    The Mavericks will take on 11 teams with a better record in their next 12 contests. Nothing comes easy in this league, which is especially true with the backloaded schedule Dallas has drawn.

Western Conference No. 9: Utah Jazz

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    Record: 33-31

    Predicted Record: 41-41

    The Utah Jazz were looking like a playoff team most of the 2012-13 season, but a recent stretch of losses has pushed them out of the picture with the year coming to a close.

    Between Feb. 23 and March 9, the Jazz went just 1-7. Seven of those games were against Eastern Conference opponents, and their schedule is only getting tougher.

    Utah will face the Memphis Grizzlies and the Oklahoma City Thunder two more times, and it also has games against the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets.

    Even with a rough schedule, this team would be close to the playoffs if it weren't for those pesky Los Angeles Lakers. L.A. has emerged as a playoff team, and its late-season push will likely force the Jazz to watch from the sidelines.

Western Conference No. 8: Houston Rockets

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    Record: 34-30

    Predicted Record: 44-38

    Entering the 2012-13 season, nobody knew what to expect out of the Houston Rockets. They missed out on their No. 1 target in Dwight Howard, landed a surprising star in James Harden and stole Jeremy Lin from the New York Knicks with an over-the-top contract offer.

    Along with Omer Asik and a slew of rookies, this team looked as different as any in the NBA.

    With the season winding down, we know two things about this team. It's arguably the best scoring team in the league, and it doesn't play a lick of defense.

    That is cause for concern against the NBA's best, as even a poor shooting night makes the Rockets vulnerable against bottom-tier teams. 

    Chalk up their inconsistencies to youth and sloppy execution, but don't ignore the talent on the roster. This team is going to struggle in the postseason without a defense to its name, but it has the scorers to get there.

Western Conference No. 7: Golden State Warriors

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    Record: 36-29

    Predicted Record: 45-37

    The Golden State Warriors have been one of the surprises of the 2012-13 season. We all knew from looking at their roster that they'd be improved, but few expected them to be as efficient as they were early in the year.

    After looking like they'd fight for home-court advantage, this team dropped off a bit before the All-Star break. The Dubs have come back down to earth, but they're still as dangerous as anybody outside of the West's top three seeds.

    The main reason they're so dangerous is Stephen Curry. He has had a number of signature performances throughout the season, and he'll be the No. 1 option as long as he can stay healthy.

    Entering the playoffs, Golden State won't have the high seeding for which it once hoped, but having a dangerous scorer is just as important for a good, young roster.

Western Conference No. 6: Los Angeles Lakers

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    Current Record: 34-31

    Predicted Record: 46-36

    The Los Angeles Lakers have been arguably the biggest story of the 2012-13 season. From their losing ways before the All-Star break to their winning ways ever since, they're hands down the most talked-about team in the NBA.

    With things trending in the right direction, L.A. is not only looking like a playoff team, but it's looking like one of the scariest opponents for any of the top four seeds.

    Kobe Bryant has gone through phases of scoring dominance and unselfish facilitating this season, but he seems to have found the appropriate balance heading down the stretch. There's no better time for this team to jell. While fans would have welcomed it earlier, as the old cliche says: better late than never. 

    This team isn't perfect by any means, and winning a playoff series will be a long shot. But give credit where credit is due: The Lakers are 9-2 since All-Star Weekend.

Western Conference No. 5: Denver Nuggets

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    Record: 43-22

    Predicted Record: 52-30

    Like the Los Angeles Lakers, the Denver Nuggets are choosing the right time to get hot with the playoffs around the corner.

    With 17 games to play in the regular season, the Nuggets are riding a nine-game winning streak. They're the second-hottest team in the league behind the Miami Heat, and their offense is putting up triple digits on a nightly basis.

    The only thing going against Denver is its strength of schedule. Although the Nuggets have had impressive victories during their nine-game stretch, they also took down teams that had no business being in the same gym.

    Tough competition between March 13 and March 19, and then again between March 27 and April 10, could keep them from gaining home-court advantage.

Western Conference No. 4: Memphis Grizzlies

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    Record: 43-19

    Predicted Record: 56-26

    There are a number of words to describe the Memphis Grizzlies, but the one that might be the most accurate is "physical."

    This team is as physical as it gets, both on the block and on the perimeter, and that physicality shows in its defense. The Grizzlies are holding opponents to the fewest points per game in the league, and they never take a night off when it comes to doing the dirty work.

    Entering the postseason, you have to wonder if the Grizzlies have the scoring ability to keep up with high-octane offenses. But with the end of the year nearing, this team is going to continue dominating lesser competition, and it will be a challenge for any team it meets in Round 1.

Western Conference No. 3: Los Angeles Clippers

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    Record: 45-20

    Predicted Record: 58-24

    One of the biggest stories during the 2012-13 season was the Los Angeles Clippers' 17-game winning streak. Between Nov. 28 and Dec. 30, they didn't lose a game, making people believe that they were true contenders for the No. 1 spot in the tough Western Conference.

    While the team has remained a difficult opponent, it has also shown that it's not as perfect as some once thought.

    The top two seeds in this conference belong to the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs. It would take a drastic turn of events to overtake one of those two, but staying ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies is another story.

    As good as Memphis is on defense, you have to wonder if it will find the scoring necessary to compete with teams such as the Clippers. Los Angeles is a much better team when looking at both sides of the ball, and it should lock up the No. 3 seed before the year is done.

Western Conference No. 2: Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Record: 47-17

    Predicted Record: 61-21

    The Oklahoma City Thunder opened the year with a surprising 21-4 record—surprising considering the trade that sent James Harden to the Houston Rockets—and while they haven't maintained that pace the whole season, they've confirmed the notion that they're still one of the best teams in the NBA.

    We know about the offensive prowess and superstar status that comes when you have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but it's the maturity we've seen of late that should be the focus. The team remained dominant after losing a vital part of the rotation, and an improved defense shows its devotion to getting back to the NBA Finals.

    Westbrook has always had the emotions and the ferocity on the floor, and we're even starting to see some of that in Durant as the year goes on.

    A friendly schedule down the stretch won't make life too tough on this crew, and that's all a team can ask when it's chasing the No. 1 spot.

Western Conference No. 1: San Antonio Spurs

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    Record: 49-16

    Predicted Record: 62-20

    The San Antonio Spurs are going to be without Tony Parker for much of the home stretch. That means they're going to finish behind the Oklahoma City Thunder, right?

    Think again.

    The Spurs, sans Parker, recently took down the Thunder, 105-93. One game means little over the course of a season, but this one showed that the depth of the Spurs roster should keep them from falling out of the No. 1 spot.

    San Antonio has a nice balance of top- and bottom-tier adversaries in the final month. It alternates between contenders and lottery-bound opponents, which should keep it honest while rolling through the competition.

    The Spurs are quietly one of the most dangerous teams year after year, and that will be the case once again for the 2013 playoffs.