1. Cleveland Cavaliers (50-15)
In 2008 and 2009, the first teams to reach 50 wins both won the NBA championship. The Cavaliers are the first team to grab win No. 50 this season. Just saying…
2. Los Angeles Lakers (46-18)
If I were a Lakers’ fan, I wouldn’t really worry about too much. Sure, the Lakers are in a bit of a slump but, 90 percent of fans out there should have the Lakers as the current favorite to win the West again this year.
3. Orlando Magic (44-20)
Other than the Bucks, the Magic are the hottest team in the East. As long as Dwight Howard stays healthy, the Magic really doesn’t have much to worry about until the second round of the playoffs.
4. Utah Jazz (40-22)
As long as their offense stays consistent, the Jazz could have a decent chance of getting to the Western Conference Finals.
5. Denver Nuggets (42-21)
The Nuggets’ offense seems to be clicking very well, but if they want to get far into the playoffs, their defense has to step it up more.
6. Boston Celtics (40-21)
Mainly because of their defense, the Celtics still have a great shot at getting at least to the Eastern Conference Finals.
7. Atlanta Hawks (40-23)
Joe Johnson continues to play great and is one of the ten best players in the league right now. But the rest of the team might not be able to get to the Eastern Conference Finals with teams like Cleveland, Orlando, and Boston still ahead of them.
Once the Hawks get into the playoffs, then it’s going to be a rocky road to the Finals, which they are not going to make.
8. San Antonio Spurs (36-25)
The Spurs are the only top eight team in my rankings to have a losing record (18-22) against teams with a winning record. Not very exciting to hear if you’re a Spurs’ fan, but it’s true.
9. Phoenix Suns (40-25)
When Phoenix gets to the playoffs, they (once again) will not get very far. Why you ask? Well, they can’t play defense to save their lives.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder (38-24)
Kevin Durant and company are surprising many, but they might not get past the first round of the playoffs. They are only 17-22 against teams with a plus-.500 record.
11. Portland Trail Blazers (37-28)
The Blazers could make some noise down the stretch if their defense continues to play great. Marcus Camby was a great addition to the team and can help them in the rebounding category, which is a great way to keep their defense solid.
But their 20-23 record against plus-.500 teams is a bit disturbing, which leads me to believe that they might not make it far in the playoffs.
12. Dallas Mavericks (44-21)
Despite them going streaking right now, I’m still not going to believe that they can get past the Western Conference Semifinals if they don’t play defense a little better.
13. Milwaukee Bucks (33-29)
Surprisingly, the Bucks are the hottest team in the Eastern Conference. They are the only team that have won at least nine of their last ten games and they continue to play well defensively. They could make the playoffs but might not win a series.
14. Miami Heat (32-31)
Like the Bucks, the Heat play very well on the defensive side of the ball, but might not make much noise in the playoffs if they make it.
15. Charlotte Bobcats (30-31)
The Bobcats are 0-12 lifetime against the Mavericks and 7-2 against the Lakers since February 2006. The Cavs are the only other team with a winning record in that span.
16. Houston Rockets (31-31)
As long as Luis Scola keeps playing like he has been over the past three games, the Rockets will soon completely forget about the loss of Carl Landry in the Kevin Martin trade.
17. Memphis Grizzlies (33-31)
About a month ago, I thought the Grizzlies could have a great chance to make the playoffs, but now I’m not so sure. They don’t play very well defensively.
18. Toronto Raptors (32-29)
Like the Grizzlies, the Raptors are the same way. They can’t play defense very well and they have been slumping recently. If they get to the playoffs, they won’t make much noise.
19. Chicago Bulls (31-31)
Joakim Noah sat out his fourth straight game with plantar fasciitis on Saturday. His absence is starting to affect the team. The Bulls, who haven't dropped five straight since November, have allowed an average of 110.8 points and have been outrebounded by an average of 7.5 boards during the skid.
This will not be a very good time for other players go get injured with the fifth- through ninth-seeded teams in the East are crammed at the moment.
20. New Orleans Hornets (32-32)
Once Chris Paul comes back, it might be too late. The Hornets are 10-15 since Chris Paul went down after their 21-17 start.
21. Philadelphia 76ers (23-39)
I wonder if the Sixers are going to miss Allen Iverson very much? It’s not going to make much of a difference on the court. They are already 16 games below .500, their offense ranks in the 20’s, have only won three of their last ten games, and have a terrible 11-28 record against +.500 teams this year.
22. New York Knicks (22-41)
Every time the Knicks lost another game, the Jazz look over and smile even bigger while knowing that they hold the Knicks’ first round pick in the upcoming draft.
23. Washington Wizards (21-39)
The Mavericks made the Wizards team look pretty dumb during the trade deadline. They gave the Wizards a good-but-not-great-and-now-injured Josh Howard.
He could’ve helped an offense that ranked 25th in the league but now he’s hurt and the Wizards are going absolutely nowhere in the NBA right now.
24. Golden State Warriors (17-46)
If the Warriors knew how to play defense, they would have 30 wins by now.
25. Sacramento Kings (21-42)
The only good thing that might come out of the Kings’ season is that Tyreke Evans is mostly likely going to win Rookie of the Year.
26. Detroit Pistons (22-41)
If the Pistons had some offense, they would have about 30 wins by now.
27. Los Angeles Clippers (25-38)
Even if Blake Griffin would’ve played this season, I still don’t think it would’ve made much of a difference. A 27th-ranked offense would’ve have gotten much better.
28. Indiana Pacers (20-43)
Tough times unless you happen to be watching the new Reggie Miller documentary on ESPN.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves (14-50)
Kevin Love is making a strong push for the Sixth Man of the Year Award even though his team is getting tossed around night in and night out. He leads the league in double-doubles off the bench with impressive 14.
30. New Jersey Nets (7-56)
Extending Memphis' home losing skid to nine would give the Nets their first back-to-back wins of the season. But it didn’t happen. Don’t count on this team to win a game against a good team. They are 2-36 against plus-.500 teams this year.
Carter’s NBA 2009-10 Award Races:
Most Valuable Player:
1. LeBron James (Cavaliers)
2. Kevin Durant (Thunder)
3. Kobe Bryant (Lakers)
4. Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks)
5. Dwyane Wade (Heat)
6. Amare Stoudamire (Suns)
7. Carmelo Anthony (Nuggets)
8. Joe Johnson (Hawks)
9. Monta Ellis (Warriors)
10. Chris Bosh (Raptors)
Coach Of The Year:
1. Mike Brown (Cavaliers)
2. Phil Jackson (Lakers)
3. Stan Van Gundy (Magic)
4. Rick Carlisle (Mavericks)
5. George Karl (Nuggets)
Defensive Player of the Year:
1. Dwight Howard (Magic)
2. Zach Randolph (Grizzlies)
3. David Lee (Knicks)
4. Marcus Camby (Blazers)
5. Carlos Boozer (Jazz)
Rookie of the Year:
1. Tyreke Evans (Kings)
2. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
3. Brandon Jennings (Bucks)
4. Jonny Flynn (Timberwolves)
5. Marcus Thornton (Hornets)