NBA Power Rankings 3 Months into 2014-15 NBA Season

Josh Martin@@JoshMartinNBANBA Lead WriterJanuary 30, 2015

NBA Power Rankings 3 Months into 2014-15 NBA Season

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Time flies when you're having fun, and the 2014-15 NBA season has been nothing if not that—devastating injuries aside, of course.

    Which is to say, this campaign has gone by quickly, hasn't it? I mean, can you believe that, save for injury replacements, the All-Star teams have already been picked?

    Perhaps greater indignation is due for some of those who weren't selected. At the very least, Damian Lillard, DeMarcus Cousins, Mike Conley, DeAndre Jordan and Brandon Knight may have bones to pick, depending on who Commissioner Adam Silver chooses to replace Kobe Bryant and, if need be, Dwyane Wade.

    However that situation shakes out, All-Star Weekend will be hard-pressed to reach the bar of fun raised by the three-and-a-half months of basketball that will have preceded it. By record, the Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors have separated themselves from their respective conference packs, but by ability, the races are still as open as ever.

    We'll do our best to handicap the competition by ranking the league's 30 teams according to recent performance and available personnel.

    Click here to see how we did it last week.

30. Philadelphia 76ers

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    Michael Carter-Williams will once again participate in All-Star Weekend, though he won't be the Philadelphia 76ers' lone representative. This time, he'll have Nerlens Noel, the Sixers' rookie big man, by his side on the U.S. Team in the Rising Stars Challenge.

    K.J. McDaniels has performed well enough in his first year to garner consideration for the event, though he has bigger fish to fry at this point. Chief among them: whether he's better suited to starting or coming off the bench in Philly.

    "I’m still trying to figure that out myself," the second-round draftee out of Clemson told The Philadelphia Inquirer's Keith Pompey. "I’m just going out there trying to not do too much and try to let the game come to me."

    That worked well enough for McDaniels on Wednesday, when he chipped in 10 points, four rebounds, a steal and a block off the bench during the Sixers' 20-point pounding of the sliding Detroit Pistons.

29. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Say this much for Byron Scott's Los Angeles Lakers: They play hard and with spirit, especially when the occasion calls for it. A nationally televised home game against the Chicago Bulls, in Pau Gasol's return to Staples Center, on the heels of a nine-game skid, was as good an occasion as any for L.A. to summon some semblance of resilience. 

    To that end, the Lakers delivered. They led by as many as 15 points before fending off Chicago in double overtime, 123-118. Jordan Clarkson, in his fourth start as a pro, poured in a career-high 18 points. Jordan Hill paced five other Lakers in double figures with 26 of his own.

    Let's not get carried away here, though. It's all well and good that the Lakers avoided tying a franchise record for consecutive futility, but that doesn't mean this team is in good shape. If anything, Hill's big game may move him one step closer to being a desirable get on the trade market and, in turn, push the Lakers even further into the tank.

28. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    The Minnesota Timberwolves won't have anyone partaking in the main event during All-Star Weekend, though they won't be short of representation. 

    On Friday of that week, Shabazz Muhammad and Zach LaVine will suit up for the U.S. Team against Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng and the World Team during the Rising Stars Challenge. Come Valentine's Day, LaVine will return to the floor at Barclays Center to win over hearts and minds with his feats of flight in the Slam Dunk Contest.

    And don't expect LaVine, whose past high-flying exploits have earned him early buzz, to wait long to do so. "Gonna let 'em know I'm there," LaVine told The Associated Press' Jon Krawczynski.

27. New York Knicks

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    Things are looking up for the New York Knicks these days—which isn't saying much, considering this club was only recently reeling at rock bottom.

    Still, four wins in five games is plenty to be happy about. So, too, were Carmelo Anthony's contributions over that stretch: 26.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 42.9 percent shooting from three.

    Better yet, Anthony's presence may not preclude the Knicks from seriously courting Kevin Durant in 2016. "No question about it," a source close to Durant told The New York Daily News' Frank Isola of New York's chances with the reigning MVP. “Kevin loves Carmelo (Anthony). It could work in New York. But never rule out the Thunder."

    Knicks fans would do well to enjoy these more positive times while they last. It's entirely possible Melo will take his leave to go under the knife after the All-Star break...and that the Knicks will find themselves behind the proverbial eight-ball when Durant hits free agency in a year-and-a-half.

    Until then, a 21-point loss to the Indiana Pacers on Thursday should suffice as a reminder of the Knicks' actual state of affairs.

26. Orlando Magic

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    Like DeMarcus Cousins in Sacramento, Nikola Vucevic's All-Star case was likely dragged down, in part, by the putridity of the team for which he plays. Vucevic's 19.5 points and 11.3 rebounds are impressive, but on a team that's now lost seven in a row, he's hasn't done much to rescue the Orlando Magic from punching their third straight lottery ticket.

    To be sure, there are signs of progress in the Magic Kingdom, particularly between the growth of Vucevic's game and the tantalizing potential of the Victor Oladipo-Elfrid Payton backcourt. For Vice Sports' Colin McGowan, though, these glimpses don't constitute a coherent path forward for a franchise that's still trying to find itself nearly two-and-a-half years after trading Dwight Howard to the Lakers:

    The Magic have the fifth-worst record in the NBA. On the court, nothing quite fits. Head coach Jacque Vaughn seems not to know what he's doing. None of this means Rob Hennigan's venture is doomed, but without any explanation as to what we're looking at when we watch the team play, or what Hennigan hopes to achieve this season, we're left to our own powers of observation, which indicate that the Magic are just plain bad. To see anything else requires a powerful imagination.

25. Brooklyn Nets

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    You don't need a formal inquiry to figure out what's wrong with the Brooklyn Nets, but according to's Marc Stein and Ohm Youngmisuk, that's what the team's higher-ups have opened.

    The concern is certainly warranted. The Nets have lost 11 of their last 13 games, including back-to-back losses by 35 points or more—just the fifth time in NBA history that's happened to a team, per Stein and Youngmisuk.

    The slide doesn't come as any big surprise. Brooklyn has fallen out of the playoff picture since word spread that team owner Mikhail Prokhorov was looking to sell his stake. General manager Billy King's attempts to offload the salaries of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez have only unsettled things further, as has head coach Lionel Hollins' use of the media to rip his players.

    Without control over one of their own first-round picks until 2019, the Nets can, at best, hope to save some face as the season proceeds. That's not a good look for the league's most expensive roster, which only figures to get worse in the years to come, as the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks (i.e., the teams that hold the Nets' upcoming draft rights) feast on Brooklyn's futility.

24. Boston Celtics

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    Logic would dictate that Tayshaun Prince, a veteran of championship esteem, isn't long for the lottery-bound Boston Celtics. According to the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett, that is, indeed, the case:

    Acquired as a moveable asset in the Jeff Green trade, the Celts have been trying to roll Prince over into another draft pick for their satchel. Failing that by the Feb. 19 NBA dealing deadline, the club will resume talks with Prince’s side regarding a buyout.

    You could understand, though, if the C's decide to hang onto Prince. The 34-year-old has been a tremendous help to Boston's inexperienced roster on the court. He's hit 68.4 percent of his field goals (66.7 percent from three) and scored in double figures during each of his last two outings.

    More importantly, Prince, a consummate professional, has acted as a mentor of sorts to the Celtics' store of precocious youngsters, as he told the Herald:

    Hopefully the things I do, the guys can recognize it and pick up where I left off when they come in the game. If I can do that, that means I’m sending a message to these guys and I’m letting them know how to play the game the right way. I just try to keep encouraging the guys. I’m not a rah-rah loud type of guy, but I will pull guys aside and let them know when I see things. Hopefully that stuff helps.

    Don't get it twisted, though: Prince would prefer to play for a winner and will probably get his chance sooner or later.

23. Indiana Pacers

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    Apparently, the basketball gods are working overtime to keep the Indiana Pacers' playoff hopes alive.

    The Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets, the seventh- and eighth-place teams in the East, both lost star guards to serious injuries this past week. So, too, did the Detroit Pistons, who were poised to pounce on a postseason spot until Brandon Jennings' Achilles tendon snapped.

    Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nets continue to be a mess, and the Boston Celtics, by all accounts, are more concerned with lottery balls than those bounced in the playoffs.

    It's a good thing, then, that the Pacers have now won two of three since dropping seven straight. Otherwise, the seemingly omnipotent effort to crumble Indy's Eastern Conference competition would be for naught.

22. Utah Jazz

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    Between Trey Burke, Dante Exum and Rudy Gobert, the Utah Jazz won't be short of representation at All-Star Weekend. But among Utah's newer faces, Joe Ingles certainly deserves some shine for himself.

    The 27-year-old European champion-turned-NBA rookie has seen his play pick up considerably of late. This past week alone, he hit four threes in a blowout win over the Brooklyn Nets and contributed 10 points, five rebounds and seven assists in a narrow loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, the team with which Ingles originally signed this past summer.

    "I do feel like I'm getting more comfortable in my role," Ingles said after the Jazz's latest defeat in Salt Lake City, via The Salt Lake Tribune's Tony Jones. "When you do something a lot, you tend to feel better in time at doing it. But I'm not worried about myself. It's nice to have a decent game, but I'll take a win over stats any day."

    On a young, rebuilding team that's still learning how to win, an attitude like Ingles' is crucial.

21. Sacramento Kings

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    Let's take a moment to pour one out for DeMarcus Cousins. The Sacramento Kings' studly center has once again been left off the Western Conference All-Star roster, despite ranking fifth in scoring (23.8), third in rebounding (12.3) and first in the hearts of those (like yours truly) who believe that Boogie is the best offensive big man, particularly down low, in the game today.

    To be sure, there are holes to poke in Cousins' candidacy—namely, the 11 games he's missed (10 to illness) and his team's 16-28 record.

    But it's tough to hold Boogie accountable for Sacramento's collapse. Things were going well for the Kings before ownership and management used the team's struggles in Cousins' absence as cover to fire Michael Malone, who seemed to have gotten through to his gifted center.

    Perhaps Malone's peers in the coaching profession still aren't so fond of Boogie, even though he's matured considerably. Whatever the case may be, Cousins can only hope that Commissioner Adam Silver sees what he's done and concludes he should replace the injured Kobe Bryant on the final Western Conference roster.

20. Detroit Pistons

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    Like any coach worth his salt, Stan Van Gundy is not about to let himself or his team succumb to excuses. To be sure, the Detroit Pistons aren't short of those, now that Brandon Jennings—their goat-turned-MVP at point guardis done for the year on account of a torn Achilles.

    But even Jennings' injury, as devastating as it is, can't explain the Pistons' 89-69 stink-bomb-of-a-loss in Philadelphia on Wednesday. What it can (and did) do, though, was light a fire under Van Gundy.

    "We weren't ready to play," Van Gundy said after the defeat, via the Detroit Free Press' Vince Ellis.

    He continued:

    I don't think I've ever coached a game where one team's effort was that much better than my team's effort. It was a joke. They played so much harder. They ran harder, they cut harder, they drove harder, they defended harder, they were into us more, they went to the boards harder. Everything. It was embarrassing and humiliating and I told them in there, 'I'm embarrassed as a coach that I did that poor a job and if they're not embarrassed, they don't belong in the NBA.'

    Those are harsh words, indeed, but not without warrant for a squad that's now lost four in a row and five of six to fall two-and-a-half games back of a playoff spot in the East.

19. Denver Nuggets

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    A middling squad can only hold out for so long before reality comes home to roost. Just ask the Denver Nuggets, who've lost eight of nine since winning five straight in early January.

    To be sure, the Nuggets have had some good moments of late: close losses to the Wizards and Clippers and a win in New Orleans.

    Denver's 30-point loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday clearly doesn't belong in that category. The Nuggets posted season lows in points (69) and field-goal percentage (33.3 percent) in the River City.

    Granted, that result is well within the realm of explanation. Denver had played the night before in New Orleans, and wasn't likely to have much success against a Grizzlies squad that's looked like a legitimate title contender all season.

    If the Nuggets are to look like a bona fide basketball team before their campaign spirals completely out of control, an upcoming stretch of games against Charlotte, Philadelphia, Boston and Detroit seems as good a time as any to make something happen.

18. Miami Heat

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    Good news: The NBA chose the Miami Heat's two cornerstones (Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) to fill out the Eastern Conference All-Star reserves.

    Bad news: One of them may not be able to fulfill that honorable duty. Wade's right leg has him on the shelf on account of a fairly severe strain in his hamstring. There's no telling when he will be able to play again, though he could be out for several weeks.

    "You can’t put a time on it," Wade told The Miami Herald's Joseph Goodman. "You can’t look at the hamstring and say you’re going to be out this amount of games. Like many muscle strains, you’ve got to go day-by-day."

    Fortunately for the Heat, the weakness of the East's lower half leaves Miami with much more leeway than a 20-25 team would normally enjoy in its attempt to qualify for the playoffs. With any luck, Wade won't be out too long, if only to give fans another glimpse of him and LeBron James as teammates (however temporarily) during the All-Star Game.

17. Charlotte Hornets

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    Calling in an exterminator may not be the best idea for a team whose mascot is an insect, but for the Charlotte Hornets, they could use all the help they can get to rid themselves of the injury bug.

    The latest victim of this infestation? Kemba Walker, who's expected to miss at least six weeks after going under the knife to repair the lateral meniscus in his left knee. According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the Hornets have kicked the tires on Sacramento's Ramon Sessions and Miami's Norris Cole as possible additions to replenish their depth at point guard in the interim.

    One can't help but wonder, though, if this isn't the perfect opportunity for Charlotte to see if Lance Stephenson can be a productive player in the Queen City. With Walker out, the Hornets will need someone to handle the ball, create shots for his teammates and score on his own. Stephenson has shown in the past that he has those skills, sometimes even in spades.

    Then again, Stephenson's ongoing struggles (0-5 versus the Spurs on Wednesday, 37.9 percent shooting on the season) suggest that Charlotte would do well to seek external help. 

16. New Orleans Pelicans

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    Anthony Davis Watch took an unfortunate twist Wednesday when the All-Star starter left the New Orleans Pelicans' loss to the Nuggets with what turned out to be a Grade 1 groin strain.

    At present, the injury doesn't appear to be a serious one. "He's walking around doing some stuff but nothing to break a sweat," Pelicans coach Monty Williams told The New Orleans Times-Picayune's John Reid. "He's walking around normally.''

    New Orleans can ill-afford to be without The Brow for long. The Pelicans are already running thin without Jrue Holiday and have had to scrap for wins even when they've had their core guys healthy this season.

    And with games against the Los Angeles Clippers, Atlanta Hawks, Oklahoma City Thunder (twice) and Chicago Bulls on tap for the next week or so, the Pelicans will need all the help they can get.

15. Milwaukee Bucks

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    Don't weep for Brandon Knight just yet. If Dwyane Wade isn't healthy enough to play in the All-Star Game, Knight could be the commissioner's pick to replace the Heat's future Hall of Famer.

    Knight would be a worthy choice. The 23-year-old out of Kentucky has posted career highs nearly across the board while leading a Milwaukee Bucks squad that's won 24 of its 46 games so far this season, despite losing Jabari Parker to injury and Larry Sanders to suspension.

    If Knight doesn't get the nod, Bucks fans (and, really, all hoops heads) can look forward to seeing Giannis Antetokounmpo in the Rising Stars Challenge and the Slam Dunk Contest. The Greek Freak plans to huddle with his brother Thanasis, a D-Leaguer with the Westchester Knicks, to determine how best to approach wowing the world with his hops.

    "We're going to see what we're going to do," Antetokounmpo told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Charles F. Gardner. "I'm going to try to do something crazy, something fancy. Are you sure I cannot do a layup?"

    Only if you want to disappoint all of Basketball Twitter, Giannis.

14. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook can survive on their sterling reputations, as their All-Star selections—in spite of games missed and strong competition—suggest. The same doesn't correspond, though, to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    OKC has lost three of its last four games, including an embarrassing 100-92 shortfall to the Knicks on Wednesday, to fall not only to .500 but also three-and-a-half games back of eighth place in the Western Conference.

    Those struggles may not soon abate, not so long as Durant's toe is still bothering him and the Thunder, as a whole, are being bothered by Memphis, New Orleans and the Clippers. Such will be the case prior to Durant and Westbrook taking their leave to New York City for All-Star Weekend.

13. Phoenix Suns

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    The Phoenix Suns can thank their lucky stars that the Thunder are still struggling to find themselves and that OKC won't likely right its ship until Kevin Durant heals up. The Suns were fortunate to fend off the road-weary Washington Wizards on Wednesday, after suffering consecutive home losses to the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers.

    Phoenix isn't out of the woods just yet. The coming week will see the Suns take on the Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers. That's about as daunting a stretch as any schedule-maker could dream up right now.

    If not for the struggles of OKC and New Orleans, Phoenix's immediate future would look much more like a potential nightmare for the team's playoff hopes.

12. Portland Trail Blazers

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    If Damian Lillard wasn't used to being snubbed before, he should be now. The West's 14 other coaches passed over the Portland Trail Blazers' point guard for a spot among the conference's All-Star reserves.

    This, despite averaging 21.8 points and 6.2 assists while becoming arguably the NBA's most lethal crunch-time killer for a Blazers squad that, at 32-14, is just a game behind last season's 54-win pace. And, as's John Schuhmann pointed out, Lillard has played almost as many minutes for the West's three seed as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (both All-Stars) have combined to play for an OKC team that's still on the outside looking in.

    But hey, at least Portland will send LaMarcus Aldridge to the All-Star festivities for a fourth straight season. And, at the very least, Lillard could still get the nod from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to replace Kobe Bryant. That would only be fitting, after the way the Mamba stumped for Lillard last year.

11. Dallas Mavericks

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    Barring a surprise selection from Adam Silver, the Dallas Mavericks won't have any of their own playing in the All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden.

    Frankly, with the way this team has been performing of late, one could argue the Mavs don't deserve serious representation in NYC. They've lost four games in a row, albeit to teams with winning records.

    It doesn't help that Rajon Rondo, one of Dallas' former All-Stars, has been scuffling of late. Head coach Rick Carlisle called Rondo's benching during crunch time in New Orleans "an aberration," via The Dallas Morning News' Eddie Sefko, though the point guard's subsequent performances—seven points, five assists and three turnovers against Memphis; no points, six assists and five turnovers in Houston—suggest otherwise. 

10. Chicago Bulls

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    The start of the Chicago Bulls' six-game road trip has been a microcosm of their season so far—which is to say, a mixed bag.

    Derrick Rose misses 20 of his 33 attempts and turns the ball over 11 times in Oakland but is still able to come through in the clutch. Two nights later, he misses 19 shots, racks up five turnovers and doesn't have any legs left during two overtime periods in L.A.

    Jimmy Butler goes for a career-high 35 points on the same night he's named an All-Star but seems troubled by his knee in the end. Pau Gasol racks up 20 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and four blocks against his old team, but the Bulls lose to the lowly Lakers...within 48 hours of beating the Warriors.

    Though the Bulls can survive theses inconsistencies for now, they'll have a tough time contending in the East if they can't strike a better balance—between interior attacking and perimeter shooting, offense and defense, and individual production and team play.

9. Toronto Raptors

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    Don't let the Toronto Raptors' four-game winning streak (all against lottery-bound squads) fool you; all is not well north of the wall. Toronto's defense, a top-10 outfit last season, has slipped into the bottom half of the NBA this time around.

    As Sports Illustrated's Rob Mahoney detailed, the Raptors' issues stem from a troubling inability to shut off dribble penetration:

    Breakdowns happen. Even the stingiest teams in the league will make their coaching staff hoarse from yelling. When a team's perimeter defenders allow opponents to get into the lane so consistently, however, it tends to yield high-percentage shots, fouls from late rotations, and offensive rebounds as described above. It is not a coincidence that the Raptors rank in the bottom third of the league by each of these relevant metrics, and in terms of the shot attempts per game surrendered in the restricted area.

    According to the Sporting News' Sean Deveney, Toronto won't try to solve its problems by sacrificing the recently benched Terrence Ross on the trade altar. Thanks to the futility of the Atlantic Division, the Raptors needn't worry about losing a top-four playoff seed to their suspect defense.

    As for this team's ability to win a series...well, that's another story entirely, unless Toronto's perimeter defenders get back to hounding opponents at the point of attack.

8. Houston Rockets

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    James Harden, get ready for (another) MVP closeup.

    According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, Dwight Howard "could miss extended time" while dealing with a balky right knee that's bothered him throughout the 2014-15 season.

    Less Howard means more responsibility for Harden, who was picked for his third straight All-Star Game as a reserve for the Western Conference this week.

    So far, The Beard has been anything but fearful of life without Howard. On Wednesday, Harden propelled the Rockets to a 99-94 win over the Mavericks—their 10th in 14 games sans Howard this season.

    The more Houston pulls out results like that in the coming weeks, the stronger Harden's already-sturdy MVP case will inevitably become.

7. Los Angeles Clippers

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    The getting's been good for the Los Angeles Clippers of late. DeAndre Jordan won't be joining Blake Griffin in New York for All-Star Weekend, but Chris Paul will. So, too, will J.J. Redick, who'll be competing in the Three-Point Shootout.

    On the court, the Clippers have won six games in a row to pull into a dead heat with Portland for third place in the Western Conference.

    L.A. had better savor these boom times. It has seven games left on its Grammys road trip and will host the Rockets and San Antonio Spurs upon returning home in mid-February. 

6. Washington Wizards

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    The Washington Wizards did what any team would do during a stretch of four games in five nights on the road out West: They huffed and puffed their way through it. The Wizards escaped with close wins over the Nuggets and Lakers, in between narrow losses in Portland and Phoenix.

    It didn't help that John Wall, Washington's lone All-Star, was battling migraines and a bum ankle.

    “It’s just been killing me, man, to be honest," Wall said of the severe headaches, via The Washington Post's Jorge Castillo.

    A bit of home cooking should do Wall and his teammates some good. The Wizards will host the Raptors on Saturday and the Hornets on Monday before hitting the road again to face Atlanta and Charlotte.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    You know things are going well for the Cleveland Cavaliers when they're beating good teams without LeBron James.

    It certainly helps to have a budding superstar like Kyrie Irving to pick up the slack. The reigning All-Star MVP exploded for 55 points—a high for his career and the entire league this season—to carry the Cavs past the visiting Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, 99-94.

    "It was a total team effort," Irving said afterward, even though he scored most of his team's points.

    Of course, Irving didn't have to praise himself, what with everyone else doing it for him. James, in particular, used seemingly every forum at his disposal—including Bleacher Report's Uninterrupted—to sing his point guard's praises.

    On Thursday, the Eastern Conference's coaches paid their respects to Irving by sending him to his third straight All-Star Game.

4. San Antonio Spurs

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    Some things don't change.

    Like the San Antonio Spurs having their longevity called into question, as Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding did: "A first-round playoff exit, even as defending NBA champions, would not be a surprise. Failing altogether to qualify for the playoffs in the stacked Western Conference is not out of the question, either."

    Like Tim Duncan playing in the All-Star Game, courtesy of the coaches. "It’s an honor," Duncan told the San Antonio Express-News' Dan McCarney. "I missed it last year, and I kind of thought those days were done. It’s good to be back in the mix."

    Like Duncan offering up a morsel of dry wit. He added, via the Express-News"I’d rather be lying on a beach somewhere, but obviously it’s an honor and I’m happy to do it."

    Like San Antonio winning three in a row now that Kawhi Leonard is back in the lineup.

    Never change, Spurs.

3. Memphis Grizzlies

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    The Memphis Grizzlies could pick nits with their current situation if they wanted to. Mike Conley has missed their last two games with a left wrist injury and won't be joining Marc Gasol at the All-Star Game unless Adam Silver picks him to be Kobe Bryant's replacement. Zach Randolph, who logged his 11th straight double-double against the Nuggets on Thursday, won't be there either.

    That aside, things are going rather swimmingly in the River City. The Grizzlies have won five in a row and eight of nine to solidify their standing as the West's second-best squad.

    Better yet, veteran NBA reporter David Aldridge told Memphis Flyer's Kevin Lipe that Gasol, Memphis' lone All-Star, seems a solid bet to re-up with the Grizzlies this summer: strong suspicion is that he’s going to stay in Memphis. I think it’s a perfect place for him. He’s very comfortable there—he’s been there a decade now—they love him down there… I just can’t imagine someone leaving a championship contending team to go to a bad team, and really, when you look at the teams who can afford to pay what Marc has earned, in terms of a new contract, they’d be bad teams.

2. Golden State Warriors

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    Steve Kerr is no stranger to tough decisions that most other coaches would envy. Since taking over the Golden State Warriors, he has installed Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green as starters—to great success, albeit while relegating two former All-Stars (i.e., Andre Iguodala and David Lee) to reserve duty.

    He'll have another difficult choice to make next month when he arrives in New York to coach the Western Conference All-Stars. With Kobe Bryant done for the season, Kerr will have to figure out whether to start James Harden, the MVP front-runner, or Klay Thompson, his own starter at shooting guard in Golden State.

    Again, it's a tough decision, but one that every coach would probably be more than happy to make.

1. Atlanta Hawks

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    The good times are only getting better for the Atlanta Hawks. Their franchise-record winning streak is up to 17 games, but that is merely the most remarkable part of an amazing 30-2 run since Thanksgiving.

    For their efforts, the Hawks, who are currently seven games clear of the Raptors in the "race" for the East's top seed, will be well-represented at next month's All-Star Game in New York City. Jeff Teague, Al Horford and Paul Millsap will be among the reserves on Mike Budenholzer's Eastern Conference squad, and with Dwyane Wade a possible scratch, Kyle Korver could have his number called as well.

    Either way, Korver will be in the Big Apple on Valentine's Day to make fans fall in love with his sweet stroke during the Three-Point Shootout.

    Josh Martin covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.