1. Cleveland Cavaliers (39-11) Question: What do you get when you mix a nine game winning streak, a 20-3 home record, and five straight upcoming home games? Answer: The perfect time for Mo Williams and Delonte West to get injured, and Daniel Gibson to become relevant again (13.5 points, 16-36 from the 3-point line in six straight starts).
2. Orlando Magic (33-16) The Magic need to keep dropping Roosevelts. In games where Orlando records more or an equal number of assists as their opponents, they are 24-4. Vince Carter, as per usual, needs to prove that his 17 point, 10 rebound, and seven assist performance against the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday is a true return to form.
2. Atlanta Hawks (31-17)
Props to Josh Smith for becoming the youngest player to reach 1,000 career blocks and Jamal Crawford for setting the record for four-point plays in a career in consecutive games this week. Crawford also leads the league in points per game for non-starters (19.2). Is it too early to give him Sixth Man of the Year?
4. Boston Celtics (31-16) The same principle that applies to the Patriots applies to the Celtics: Slumps don't dictate an entire season or organization. Boston is bruised and broken, but it's too early to expect a head on collison because there's a big drop off in quality teams after this point. Corny, I know, but I'll never get the chance to use a New Found Glory reference again.
5. Toronto Raptors (27-23) Chris Bosh continues to tear down anyone standing in his way, and averaged 20 points and 15 rebounds from Jan. 27 through Feb. 2. Although Toronto is 16-0 when holding opponents below 100 points, four of their last six wins have come with both teams in triple digits. That should say at least a little something about the Raptors' recent surge.
6. Charlotte Bobcats (24-24) Perhaps Gerald Wallace's selection as the Bobcats first All-Star EVER is a harbinger of good things to come. Finishing a six game West coast road trip 3-3 after facing four potential playoff teams is something to hang their hat on as well. They'll be rewarded with Washington, Minnesota, and New Jersey over the next two weeks.
Bulls (23-24) Derrick Rose is playing as well now as he has at any point in his career. Last season, he had no 30 point games and led the team in scoring 18 times. After 47 games in 2009-10, Rose has five games of 30 or more points and was the team's leading scorer in 20 games.
8. Miami Heat (24-25) The Heat have wilted against tough competition lately, but losing Jermaine O'Neal, Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem and Michael Beasley at various points haven't helped. If anything, it's made Miami appreciate D-Wade more.
Bucks (21-26) Monday's win in Miami is the closest the Bucks have come to a signature road victory all season, and it's pretty clear at this point in the season that Milwaukee beats who they are supposed to beat and lose to clearly more talented teams. With five of their next six games coming against opponents with inferior records, the Bucks have a good chance of moving up the playoff ladder.
10. New York Knicks (19-29) More David Lee love (because let's be honest, there's not much else to talk about with this team right now): He's second in PER and scoring by centers, first in assists by centers, is one of two players averaging at least 19.7 points and 11.5 rebounds a game, is first in field goals by centers from the 16-23 foot range, and is fifth in the league in double-doubles.
11. Philadelphia 76ers (17-31) Since starting 7-22, the Sixers have played above .500 (10-9) since Dec. 28, mostly due to increased health. Philadelphia's top six scorers have missed a total of 35 games this season after six of their top eight in 2008-09 played at least 79 games. It's hard to string anything together with a young team when the lineup changes so consistently.
12. Indiana Pacers (17-32) Pacer fans can relive the glory days of Reggie Miller through one of ESPN's "30 for 30" documentaries about his rivalry with the New York Knicks, because the 2009-10 season of Pacer basketball isn't going to get much better than reminiscing about Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference finals.
13. Washington Wizards (16-32) And so the Gilbert Arenas media rounds and pack to redemption begins. The injury to Caron Bulter not withstanding, the Wizards could pull a Timberwolves and flush their entire roster before the start of next season, and it would be tough to argue against that.
Ben Wallace is having his own Allen Iverson-like "ride into the sunset on a crappy donkey" moment. He became the 17th player in league history to record 2,000 career blocks on Tuesday and rookie Jonas Jerebko was selected to play in the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge. Those are probably the most exciting things going on in Detroit right now.
15. New Jersey Nets The Nets fourth win of the year and their subsequent celebration was reminescent of my high school's homecoming win the year after I graduated. It was their first win since my freshman year, but you would've sworn the state title was on the line. Then they got waxed by reality the next week.
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My top 5 players in order