Almost two months into the NBA season, the more talented teams are starting to distance themselves from the rest of the pack. Here’s a rundown of the top 10:
1. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have rested their stars at times and have dealt with various injuries, yet still boast the league’s best record. Steph Curry has been on fire and they remain a threat to score 120 points every night. Golden State have done nothing to cast doubt on their status as championship favourites.
2. Boston Celtics
The Celtics defense continues to be terrific and they remain the likeliest team to grab the number one seed in the East. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have incredibly bright futures as athletic wings perfectly designed for today’s NBA.
3. Toronto Raptors
DeMar DeRozan is playing the best basketball of his career. He has added a three-point shot and has embraced more playmaking responsibility. The Raptors’ bench has caught the eye too. Their January schedule is tough, though, and Kyle Lowry (back) is banged up.
4. Houston Rockets
The Rockets have wobbled a little with James Harden recovering from a hamstring injury but otherwise they have made a terrific start. If they are healthy, they could give Golden State a real test. Clint Capela has quietly become one of the league’s premier big men, and around him they are jacking up a staggering number of three-pointers.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
Isaiah Thomas’ return has sparked the Cavaliers offense but it will be tough to judge this team until the playoffs. The number one seed is likely not a priority but the defense has to improve. LeBron James is putting together another gem of a season and is right in the MVP mix.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves
With do-it-all star Jimmy Butler growing into his lead role, the Timberwolves have the look of a dangerous playoff team. They have been solid on the road but need to take another step defensively to worry the Western Conference powerhouses.
7. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs would be higher on this list, but for the disappointing news that Kawhi Leonard (shoulder) faces more time on the sidelines. Still, LaMarcus Aldridge’s play has returned to an All-Star level and San Antonio still look like a top four seed.
8. Miami Heat
The Heat roster may not set the pulse racing but Erik Spoelstra is one of the best coaches in the league. That counts for a lot. Goran Dragic is having a nice season and Josh Richardson has stepped up. They play hard every night and are looking more and more like the team that finished last season so impressively.
9. Washington Wizards
After some bleak moments without John Wall early in the season, the Wizards are clawing their way back up the standings. Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter can go toe-to-toe with the league’s best. A shaky bench remains the big concern. More consistency is needed.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder
Every time it looks like the Thunder are figuring things out, they drop another head-scratching game. Recent losses to the Phoenix Suns and a Portland Trail Blazers team missing Damian Lillard are the latest examples. Russell Westbrook has re-asserted himself as the main man, but something still is not clicking. Speculation over Paul George’s future is heating up too.