2015 NBA Power Rankings: Who's Hot and Who's Not at All-Star Break?

Josh Martin@@JoshMartinNBANBA Lead WriterFebruary 13, 2015

2015 NBA Power Rankings: Who's Hot and Who's Not at All-Star Break?

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The City That Never Sleeps will be a bit rowdier than usual as the NBA and its affiliates descend on New York City for All-Star Weekend.

    The tumult of the 2014-15 season so far has certainly taken its toll on the festivities. Three of the Western Conference's starters (i.e., Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin and Anthony Davis) won't be participating on account of injuries. The same goes for Dwyane Wade in the East, along with a whole host of other health-related withdrawals from the events leading up to the game on Sunday.

    These myriad absences underscore just how crucial this year's extended break could be for teams across the Association, particularly those in pursuit of postseason glory. While much of the league will be busy mingling, partying and entertaining in the frigid Big Apple, everyone else will be getting some much-needed R&R—most likely in warmer climes.

    That means less must-see TV for hoops heads everywhere, especially those who don't care for the pomp and circumstance of All-Star Weekend, to keep up with. However you feel about the annual midseason festivities, be sure to see how all 30 teams compare to one another, based on recent performance and present personnel, before getting engulfed in dunks, three-pointers and the frenzy of the trade deadline to follow.

30. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Bleacher Report

    The Los Angeles Lakers must be thanking their lucky stars that the All-Star break has finally arrived. They head into the hiatus having lost six in a row and 15 of 16, with an abysmal 13-40 record.

    According to Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding, Kobe Bryant won't be in New York City for the festivities, but not because of his team's dismal state of affairs. Rather, he'll be taking it easy at home as he recovers from shoulder surgery.

    Meanwhile, Nick Young figures to be on holiday with his significant other, hip-hop starlet Iggy Azalea, and may or may not spend some of his time facing his fear of dolphins"I'm going to get my revenge on a couple dolphins and go to Hawaii," Young said after the Lakers' 102-86 loss in Portland, via ESPN.com's Baxter Holmes.

    Let's just hope he doesn't get taken under by any aggressive sea mammals this time around. Otherwise, the last 29 games of L.A.'s season could really be miserable.

29. New York Knicks

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    Bleacher Report

    Sunday could be the last time that NBA fans, those of the New York Knicks and otherwise, see Carmelo Anthony suit up at Madison Square Garden this season.

    "It's very likely. It's very likely," Anthony said on ESPN Radio, when asked if he planned to shut himself down for the season after the All-Star break. "Now I've got to start thinking about the future. This season is this season. So I really want to just sit down with my team and sit down with the proper people to just kind of plan this thing out and see exactly what I have to do to get done and just to fix it."

    Anthony has been battling soreness in his left knee for much of this season and will need to go under the knife at some point to repair the damage.

    As it happens, Melo might not be the only big-name Knick to see his season in New York come to an end before the regular season resumes. Amar'e Stoudemire's days in the Big Apple appear to be winding down, and not just because he'll be a free agent at season's end. Happy Walters, Stoudemire's agent, recently acknowledged that his client is, indeed, seeking a buyout so he can finish out the campaign on a competitive club.

    "Amar'e and I have talked about what to do and, you know, it is an ongoing discussion and I've talked to the Knicks a little bit about it, but we haven't gotten to anything substantive," Walters told Frank Isola on SiriusXM (h/t the New York Daily News' Peter Botte). "And we'll kind of see how things go. Amar'e wouldn't do anything unless (Dolan) was cool with it, that's for sure."

    Who knows? Maybe Stoudemire and the Knicks will part ways over a luxurious red wine bath.

28. Orlando Magic

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    Bleacher Report

    Oh, the times, they are a-changin' for the Orlando Magic, and they're not done yet, even after head coach Jacque Vaughn's dismissal.

    According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, the Magic are open to trading Andrew Nicholson, in light of their glut up front and Nicholson's desire for greater opportunity elsewhere. Per Bleacher Report's Howard Beck, they might also buy out veteran guard Willie Green.

    And then there's James Borrego, Vaughn's interim replacement, who's been given no assurances that he'll finish out the season as the Magic's coach but is approaching his job as though he will. "I can't really do it any other way," Borrego told the Orlando Sentinel's Brian Schmitz after his squad wrapped up an 89-83 win over the Knicks.

27. Philadelphia 76ers

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    Bleacher Report

    Bad news for Philadelphia 76ers fans: Michael Carter-Williams won't be participating in the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend. According to Liberty Ballers' Derek Bodner, Carter-Williams' sudden withdrawal comes on account of a recent toe injury in his right foot, on top of discomfort in his shin and ankle.

    Good news: Fellow sophomore Robert Covington will be taking his place. The former Houston Rockets prospect-turned-D-Leaguer has averaged 13.2 points and 4.7 rebounds while knocking down 38.9 percent of his 6.2 three-pointers in 43 games (31 starts) since getting the call from the Sixers.

    Better news: Philly has looked like an honest-to-goodness basketball team of late. The Sixers went 4-4 over their last eight games and nearly upended the mighty Golden State Warriors just before the break.

26. Denver Nuggets

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    Bleacher Report

    If there's any team that could look dramatically different after the trade deadline, it's the Denver Nuggets. According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, Arron Afflalo, Jameer Nelson and Randy Foye are all on the market.

    As for the club's core of Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler and Jusuf Nurkic...well, not so much.

    With those aforementioned veterans potentially on the outs, the Nuggets can dedicate the remainder of the 2014-15 campaign to building toward a brighter future around their youngsters.

    Whether Brian Shaw will be around to lead them there is another story. As TNT's Rachel Nichols reported on Tuesday, Shaw is doing his best to brush up on how to relate to the millennials on his roster.

    That conundrum gives Shaw something more in common with Eric Cartman beyond their residence in Colorado.

25. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Bleacher Report

    The Minnesota Timberwolves enter the All-Star break in a bit of a predicament.

    On the one hand, they're starting to play quality ball—the kind of ball Flip Saunders figured they would at the start of the season, before Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin succumbed to serious injuries. Those three have since returned, giving the Wolves a base of established talent from which to spring victories over the Heat, Grizzlies and Pistons and push the Hawks and Warriors precariously close to defeat.

    On the other hand, at 11-42, Minnesota isn't going anywhere this season, other than straight to the draft lottery. Given those stakes, some more player movement could be in order over the next week or so.

    This past week, the Wolves traded Mo Williams to the Hornets in exchange for Gary Neal. As the Star Tribune's Jerry Zgoda pointed out, Williams is the third 50-point scorer to be traded out of the Twin Cities in the last six months, joining Kevin Love (Cleveland) and Corey Brewer (Houston).

    It's possible, though, that will be the extent of Minny's activity leading up to the deadline. Saunders added Hawks rookie Adreian Payne in a separate deal with the idea of building up their already impressive base of prospects.

    "Adreian fits the mold of a young, athletic and talented player who we believe will fit in well with our young and talented core," Saunders said in a statement, via Fox Sports North's Phil Ervin. "We've liked him for a while and look forward to seeing him grow with us in a Wolves uniform."

    As for Martin, Minnesota's most tradable veteran, The Associated Press' Jon Krawczynski tweeted that he doesn't see the swingman leaving the Land of 10,000 Lakes prior to the Feb. 19 deadline: "I don't get the impression wolves are too interested in moving Kevin Martin. They like him."

24. Sacramento Kings

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    Bleacher Report

    For the second time this season, the Sacramento Kings have a new head coach. This past week, the team announced that former NBA Coach of the Year George Karl would take over for Ty Corbin, who, in turn, had previously replaced Mike Malone on an interim basis. According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, Karl's contract will pay him nearly $15 million over the next four years.

    Whether this is good or bad for the Kings right now is another story. Shaking things up again in Sacramento midseason may not seem like the most prudent move, especially when it's done to introduce a personality as notoriously cantankerous as Karl's.

    But the Kings weren't going anywhere with Corbin, under whose directive Sacramento won just seven games in 28 tries. At the very least, the Kings can approach the remainder of the 2014-15 campaign as an extended training camp of sorts, wherein they build toward a brighter future under Karl rather than play out the string as they would have under Corbin.

23. Utah Jazz

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    Bleacher Report

    If Enes Kanter had his druthers, he wouldn't be in a Utah Jazz uniform by the time the team resumes its season against the Portland Trail Blazers on Feb. 20. According to the Deseret News' Jody Genessy, Max Ergul, Kanter's agent, is trying to get his man out of Salt Lake City and has been for some time.

    From Utah's perspective, Kanter would appear to be expendable at this point. The 22-year-old Turk will be a restricted free agent this summer, and the Jazz already have a talented replacement—second-year big man Rudy Gobert—waiting in the wings, along with veteran forward Trevor Booker.

    The problem? Per the Deseret News, the market for Kanter's services is tepid, at best. That may have something to do with his contractual availability this summer.

    Either way, if Kanter is, indeed, concerned about his role in Utah, he may want to check his career highs in minutes (27.1), points (13.8) and rebounds (7.8).

22. Brooklyn Nets

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    Bleacher Report

    Those earlier rumors about the Brooklyn Nets hosting a pre-deadline fire sale may turn out to be much ado about nothing.

    According to Bleacher Report's Howard Beck, Kevin Garnett has no desire to leave Brooklyn and, as such, won't push for a buyout.

    In a recent interview with Evan Roberts and Joe Benigno on WFAN (h/t Nets Daily), Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski suggested that Deron Williams and Joe Johnson won't likely be going anywhere, either, on account of their onerous contracts. As for Brook Lopez, "Their talks with Denver, they haven't reconnected on Lopez in well over a week, almost two weeks, at least 10 days, they haven't spoken to Denver," Woj said.

    Woj went on to note that discussions regarding Lopez's departure—be it to Denver, Oklahoma City or elsewhere—remain a possibility. For the time being, though, the Nets figure to finish up their eight-game road trip after the All-Star break with largely the same cast of characters that contributed to their 0-3 start to this particular swing.

21. Detroit Pistons

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    Bleacher Report

    The Detroit Pistons will return from the All-Star break with just a game-and-a-half separating them from a playoff spot. Just don't expect Stan Van Gundy to give up any of his young talent to close that gap.

    "Basically, our philosophy coming in is first-round draft picks and rookie deals, you're giving those up to either get similar back, or if there's a star," Van Gundy explained to MLive.com's David Mayo. "If there's one of the real stars in the league, then obviously, everything changes. But other than that, no, those guys on rookie deals are too important, and we really like our young guys. So no, that's not going to happen."

    Nor should it. Prior to Wednesday's home loss to the San Antonio Spurs, the Pistons had won four of six. And in that defeat to the defending champs, Andre Drummond and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, two of Detroit's most promising prospects, combined for 30 points and 12 rebounds.

20. Boston Celtics

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    Bleacher Report

    The Boston Celtics finished their pre-All-Star schedule on about as high of a note as anyone could have anticipated. Evan Turner's floater over three defenders gave the C's an 89-88 win over the East-leading Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday—their fourth victory in their last five games.

    The other three wins in that span (at New York, vs. Denver and Philadelphia) aren't nearly as impressive, but they do fit a pattern. Throw in a three-point loss to the red-hot Milwaukee Bucks and two others (to the Houston Rockets and Miami Heat), and Boston hasn't allowed an opponent to score more than 100 points in over two weeks.

    All told, the C's defense has been the league's sixth-stingiest on a per-possession basis over that span, per NBA.com.

    It's no wonder, then, that general manager Danny Ainge doesn't seem to be chomping at the bit to make a trade prior to the Feb. 19 deadline, despite having enough draft picks over the next few years to field a basketball army.

    "There's a lot of different things that can happen," Ainge said during his weekly interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub's Toucher & Rich (via CBS Boston). "I don't anticipate, because right now we don't have anything imminent. But you never know what happens at the trade deadline. But we're ready, we have a lot of bullets in our arsenal right now."

19. Charlotte Hornets

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    Bleacher Report

    The Charlotte Hornets did well to fortify their depth chart at guard when they sent Gary Neal to Minnesota in exchange for Mo Williams and Troy Daniels. They'll need all the help they can get at the point while Kemba Walker recovers from knee surgery.

    But Charlotte's fortunes, while clearly better with Walker in the field, may be even more closely tied to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's health. The Hornets have dropped three in a row since MKG succumbed to a strained right hamstring. All told, Charlotte is 3-13 this season when Kidd-Gilchrist doesn't play, as opposed to a respectable 19-17 with him in the lineup. 

18. Miami Heat

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    Bleacher Report

    The Miami Heat got an up-close-and-personal look at life on the other side on Wednesday, during a 113-93 stomping at the hands of LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers.

    This time, though, they did so without Dwyane Wade, who racked up his 17th DNP of the season, once again on account of a balky hamstring. That injury will keep him out of his 11th All-Star Game this weekend, with Atlanta's Kyle Korver taking his place.

    Fortunately for the Heat, Wade will be back in action next Friday, when Miami plays the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. His presence will be crucial to the Heat's attempt to hang onto a playoff spot over the next two months, as Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick wrote:

    But no one knows anymore how hard he can push his body, without it pushing back, not after three separate hamstring pulls this season. He and the Heat are hoping he can push through the final 30 games, to stave off flawed squads from Charlotte, Brooklyn, Detroit, Indiana and Boston.

17. Phoenix Suns

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    Bleacher Report

    The writing on the wall may be too much for Goran Dragic and the Phoenix Suns to ignore. With Isaiah Thomas joining Eric Bledsoe in the Suns backcourt this season, Dragic has been forced to adjust to an off-ball role with which he clearly isn't comfortable.

    "Nobody likes when they're used to playing a certain way and have them do something else," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said of Dragic, via AZCentral.com's Paul Coro. "We still try to keep him involved and have the ball in his hands."

    Phoenix has fared well when Dragic has been afforded the opportunity to shine. The Suns are 12-5 in the games Dragic has scored at least 20 points. But after topping that mark 37 times in 76 games last season, Dragic's 17 such performances through 52 games this time around represent a significant reduction.

    "He's an attack guard," said Houston coach Kevin McHale (via AZCentral.com). "He makes plays. I was just a big fan of Goran, always have been. I think he's playing now more off the ball. He was more on the ball with us."

    Dragic may have that opportunity again. As The Journal Times' Gery Woelfel recently tweeted: "Hearing Suns want a first-rounder for Goran Dragic and, rest assured, they'll get it. Rockets got to be tempted."

16. New Orleans Pelicans

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    Bleacher Report

    Basketball fans everywhere (yours truly included) were bummed to hear that Anthony Davis would not be participating in this year's All-Star Game on account of a right shoulder sprain. He'll be replaced by Dirk Nowitzki on the Western Conference roster, and by either James Harden or Klay Thompson, in no particular order, in Steve Kerr's starting lineup.

    But supporters of the New Orleans Pelicans can't be upset that Davis, who had the support of his teammates and coaches to play on Sunday, chose his long-term health over playing in a meaningless exhibition.

    "I just want to get back to 100 percent so I can get back on the floor with my team," Davis said on Thursday, via the AP's Brett Martel.

    "You know, everybody wants to play in the All-Star Game, especially me—just being a starter the first time is huge," Davis went on. "I've got a lot of family coming out. But everybody understands where my shoulder is and knows if I could play, I would."

    The Pelicans will need their All-Star forward to be as healthy as possible for their stretch run. New Orleans is still fighting for its playoff life after losing three in a row in the wake of Davis' latest setback. With the race as tight as it is, the Pelicans' 2-5 mark sans Davis could mean the difference between sneaking into the postseason and slipping into the lottery.

15. Indiana Pacers

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    Bleacher Report

    Lo and behold, the Indiana Pacers head into the All-Star break within striking distance of a playoff spot, despite Paul George's ongoing absence and the rash of injuries that have befallen so many of his teammates this season.

    At 21-33, the Pacers sit just two games back of the Hornets and Heat, who are challenging each other for the last two postseason seeds in the East.

    As Grantland's Zach Lowe noted, Indy has George Hill, among others, to thank for its present position: "Hill can defend multiple positions, and he's a decent 3-point shooter. You're just not going to score enough playing some combination of Donald Sloan, Rodney Stuckey, and Solomon Hill with two post-up players; Indiana ranks just 28th in points per possession."

    That's been apparent over the Pacers' last five games, during which Hill has averaged 15 points and six assists while knocking down 56.3 percent of his threes. Coincidentally (or not), Indy has gone 4-1 over that span.

14. Washington Wizards

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    Bleacher Report

    Perhaps no Eastern Conference contender is in greater need of the All-Star break than the Washington Wizards. They've lost six of their last eight games to see their bead on a spot in the East's top four slip to a mere half game. 

    Marcin Gortat has been stuck in a slump, to the extent that head coach Randy Wittman hasn't been using him much in fourth quarters of late. "It's tough. It's really tough especially the last year I played pretty much every fourth quarter," Gortat told The Washington Post's Jorge Castillo. "It's a coaching decision. You guys have to ask him why I'm not playing."

    Of greater concern is the stress reaction in Bradley Beal's lower right leg, which, per ESPN.com, the Wizards discovered when the shooting guard had his sore right big toe evaluated.

    If Washington is to recapture a slice of home-court advantage going forward, it will need all it can get from a healthy Beal and a happy Gortat.

13. Dallas Mavericks

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    Bleacher Report

    The Dallas Mavericks probably won't mind the extended break, either.

    Dirk Nowitzki won't get much of a reprieve, since he'll be replacing Anthony Davis on the Western Conference All-Star roster. But the time off could prove crucial to Tyson Chandler, who left Dallas' loss to the short-handed Los Angeles Clippers with a left ankle sprain.

    The time off can't hurt Monta Ellis either, though his hip injury didn't prevent him from competing in the Mavs' 87-82 win over the Jazz on Wednesday.

    Better yet, Dallas could find Jermaine O'Neal on the pine by the time it returns to action next Thursday. As The Dallas Morning News' Eddie Sefko said during a recent Q&A:

    Jermaine is pretty much a given. The Mavericks are pretty sure he wants to join them. It's just a matter of when. They would have liked to have had him two weeks ago. But they'll take him when they can get him. At this point, the only thing surprising would be if he didn't join the Mavericks.

12. Houston Rockets

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    Bleacher Report

    Wherever you come down in the debate over analytics that's bubbled up once again between Charles Barkley and Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, keep in mind that there may be more to it than meets the eye. As the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen detailed:

    The Rockets have long felt that Barkley is biased against the Rockets, an argument that Barkley does not dispute. Barkley has said on the air that he has what he considers good reason, believing that the Rockets did not sufficiently pay him back after he took a $1 million contract for the 1998-99 season to leave open the cap room necessary for the Rockets to sign Scottie Pippen.

    Regardless of how you feel about analytics, there's no denying that the Rockets, at 36-17, have done well to weather the storm of injuries with which they've been beset this season. In fact, prior to Wednesday's loss to the Clippers in L.A., Houston had won a higher percentage of its games without Dwight Howard (.700) than those with him (.688).

    Much of the credit for that success belongs to James Harden, whose own MVP efforts and injuries to Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin and Kobe Bryant have paved the way for him to start for the Western Conference in Sunday's All-Star Game.

11. Los Angeles Clippers

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    Bleacher Report

    Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers described DeAndre Jordan's latest All-Star snub, in light of Anthony Davis' shoulder injury, as a "travesty," via ESPN.com's Arash Markazi. And, frankly, the man has a point.

    "What I keep saying about DJ that you don't like is you play both sides of the floor," Rivers said after L.A.'s win over Houston on Wednesday. "Just one side of the floor keeps getting all of the credit, and not the other side of the floor. And the other side is more important."

    As it happens, Jordan has been playing well on both sides of late. His 24-point, 20-rebound effort against the Rockets was crucial to the Clippers' survival sans Blake Griffin, who's due to sit out at least three weeks after undergoing surgery to remove a staph infection from his elbow. Jordan's 22 points and career-high 27 rebounds in Dallas were just as crucial to L.A.'s victory in that game, too.

    In fact, the first three 20-20 games of Jordan's career have all come within his last six outings. With extraordinary efforts like those, it would be understandable if Jordan, who has taken his snubs in stride, were to return from his break in Houston as a 7-foot Rodney Dangerfield.

10. Portland Trail Blazers

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    Bleacher Report

    Blake Griffin's sudden staph infection cleared the way for Damian Lillard to join LaMarcus Aldridge on the Western Conference All-Star squad. Now, Anthony Davis' shoulder sprain could open the door for Aldridge to start at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. Steve Kerr told ESPN.com's Marc Stein that he has yet to decide whether Aldridge or Kevin Durant will replace Davis in the West's starting lineup.

    As it happens, the Portland Trail Blazers, winners of four of their last five games, may have an even bigger decision of their own to make before Lillard and Aldridge rejoin their teammates in Salt Lake City next Friday.

    According to ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne, the Blazers could be in the mix to snag Arron Afflalo from the Nuggets. Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy reported Portland's interest in another of Denver's wings, Wilson Chandler.

    It'll be up to Blazers GM Neil Olshey to determine which swingman he'd prefer in support of the struggling Nicolas Batum—or if Portland should part ways with a first-round pick at all—prior to the Feb. 19 trade deadline.

9. Toronto Raptors

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    Bleacher Report

    According to Ryan McNeill of Hoops Addict, the Toronto Raptors were feeling rather chipper at the start of their All-Star break: "The door to locker room was shut, and I could still hear the players hooting and hollering. Team was fired up after this win. Great way to go into the All-Star break."

    As well they should've been. DeMar DeRozan's buzzer-beating jumper gave the Raptors a crucial 95-93 win over the Wizards, with whom Toronto has been battling in the standings all season. In the bigger picture, that victory was the Raptors' third in a row and 36th overall—a pre-All-Star record for Canada's lone franchise.

    Toronto will need all the good mojo it can muster from this respite, much of which Kyle Lowry will spend at All-Star Weekend as a starter for the Eastern Conference. The Raptors will play nine of their next 11 games on the road, beginning with a brutal four-game swing through Atlanta, Houston, New Orleans and Dallas.

8. Chicago Bulls

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    Bleacher Report

    The Derrick Rose of old has come out to play mostly in fits and spurts this season, but far more frequently over the last two weeks.

    Rose exploded for 30 points and seven assists in a 113-98 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday. That marked his fifth 20-plus-point performance in his last six games.

    More importantly, the Bulls are starting to string some victories together. They've now won four in a row to move a game-and-a-half ahead of the red-hot Cavs, with a so-so stretch of opponents to greet them once the All-Star break is through.

7. Milwaukee Bucks

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    Bleacher Report

    The Milwaukee Bucks, at 30-23, have already doubled their entire win total from 2013-14, despite suffering through injuries to Jabari Parker, Ersan Ilyasova, John Henson, Zaza Pachulia and Kendall Marshall—not to mention Larry Sanders' suspension-filled campaign.

    How have they done it? The same way Jason Kidd's Nets battled back from a slow start last season: with stifling, switching defense. As Grantland's Brett Koremenos wrote:

    But what has really made things click is Kidd's use of his collection of Swiss Army knives: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jared Dudley. These three players, particularly over the team's recent stretch of eight wins in 10 games, have been helping their head coach dial up a variety of lineups capable of causing problems on both ends of the floor.

    Kudos to those three for the outstanding work they've done on the defensive end, but even more so to Kidd for turning lemons into lemonade for the second time in as many seasons for as many teams.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Bleacher Report

    Steve Kerr told ESPN.com's Marc Stein that he has yet to decide whether Kevin Durant or LaMarcus Aldridge will get the nod to start in place of Anthony Davis on the Western Conference All-Star squad on Sunday. A quick glance at Durant's recent play should help clear that up.

    Over his last three games, Durant has averaged 31.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists while shooting a sizzling 65.3 percent from the field, including 61.9 percent on seven three-point attempts per contest. Not surprisingly, the Oklahoma City Thunder have won all of those games going away, with a 16-point drubbing of the Memphis Grizzlies just prior to the All-Star break standing out as the most impressive.

    The fact that Durant has started each of the last four All-Star Games and just so happens to be the reigning MVP can't hurt his candidacy, either.

5. San Antonio Spurs

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    Bleacher Report

    Gregg Popovich secured his place on the Mount Rushmore of NBA coaches long before he scored his 1,000th win, but becoming just the ninth person to ever do that counts as a significant milestone nonetheless. Joining that prestigious fraternity while with one team—only Jerry Sloan can claim such successful fidelity between him and his team (the Utah Jazz)—makes Pop's latest accomplishment all the more remarkable.

    "I've been here a long time, and I've had good players. That's the formula," Popovich said after his San Antonio Spurs eked out a two-point win over the Pacers to put their coach in the Millennium Club, via The Indianapolis Star's Candace Buckner. "Getting the players is difficult, but I've been fortunate to have good ones. The time, that's the most important element. You have to be around for a while, I guess."

    He's also fortunate to have all of his key players back healthy, after an injury-plagued start to the 2014-15 campaign. Pop will need all of the fit bodies he can muster when the All-Star break is done, with six games to go on the annual rodeo trip.

4. Memphis Grizzlies

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    Bleacher Report

    The week leading up to the All-Star break was nothing if not a roller coaster for the Memphis Grizzlies—the highs of beating the vaunted Hawks and their old coach Lionel Hollins' Brooklyn Nets were bookended by a heartbreaking loss to the Wolves and a thrashing in OKC.

    Fortunately for the Grizzlies, they can now take a week to relax and gear up for the grind they're due to face during the final two months of the regular season.

    Well, not all of the Grizzlies. Marc Gasol will be plenty busy in New York City over the weekend, though he'll have the honor not only of being the first Memphis player to start in an All-Star Game but also of jumping center opposite older brother Pau Gasol.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Bleacher Report

    The Cleveland Cavaliers looked out of whack in Chicago on Thursday—no surprise, considering Kevin Love couldn't play on account of a corneal abrasion he suffered on Wednesday against the Heat. Cleveland's offense stagnated without Love's shooting and passing to keep things moving.

    The result? Just 98 points on an abysmal 43.5 percent shooting.

    But it was Cleveland's defense, which let up 113 points to the Bulls, that really set the Cavs back. To the casual observer, that wouldn't seem at all connected to the absence of the ground-bound Love.

    Except, according to NBA.com, Cleveland has allowed 4.4 points per 100 possessions more when Love has sat compared to when he's played this season.

    Clearly, the UCLA product is key to what the Cavs do all around, thanks in no small part to his elite rebounding abilities. Whether Love's fitting out or fitting in, Cleveland will need him in the lineup if it's to continue its recent roll after the All-Star break.

2. Atlanta Hawks

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    Bleacher Report

    Dwyane Wade's long-awaited admission that he wouldn't be playing in this year's All-Star Game opened the door for Kyle Korver to join three of his Atlanta Hawks teammates (and his head coach) in New York City this weekend.

    Korver may not put up the glossy scoring, rebounding and assisting numbers of some of his peers, but his efficiency as a marksman has made him more than a worthy choice in today's shooting-obsessed NBA. He is currently on pace to lead the league in three-point percentage for the third time in his career, and if his shooting splits (.512/.523/.911) hold, he'll become the charter member of the 50-50-90 club.

    "It was never my dream to be an All-Star," Korver told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Chris Vivlamore. "I just love the game, and I love playing."

    Hopefully, he still loves it just as much after shooting 1-of-5 from the field (all from three) in Atlanta's stunning loss to the C's on Wednesday.

1. Golden State Warriors

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    Bleacher Report

    When watching Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson start alongside each other on Sunday, under the direction of Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, take a moment to remember that there was a time when those two repping their squad together in the All-Star Game seemed like a pipe dream.

    For Curry, it was a series of ankle injuries that made his rise from oft-injured talent to one of the NBA's most popular players so improbable. For Thompson, it was the lobbying efforts of Kerr and Warriors consultant Jerry West that allowed him to stay in the Bay rather than have to pack his bags as he traded places with Kevin Love.

    As a result, the Splash Brothers will be taking their act to Madison Square Garden this weekend, with the league's best team waiting in the wings once the festivities are done.

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

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