1. Oklahoma City Thunder (26-8) – This season, former Nuggets’ assistant coach Scotty Brooks and his talented team will not be stopped. The Thunder have the NBA’s number.
2. Miami Heat (23-9) – The Heat have the terrific trio of James, Wade and Bosh but even the addition of former Nuggets center Chris “Birdman” Anderson, will not help Miami soar above OKC.
3. San Antonio Spurs (27-10) – Yes, they’re getting older; but the Spurs, like fine wine, seem to grow better with age. Gregg Popovich’s squad plays the Association’s best team basketball.
4. Memphis Grizzlies (22-10) – Lionel Hollins’ crew makes life miserable for opponents with its defense, which leads to transition offense and lots of wins for the Grizzlies.
5. Los Angeles Clippers (27-8) – Times are a changin’ in Tinseltown. Kobe and the Lakers are creaky and complaining while the Clippers are becoming contenders.
6. New York Knicks (23-11) – Melo appears to actually care these days and in a seven-game series down the road, there’s enough talent on Mike Woodson’s roster to, perhaps, make a splash. Somebody wake me up please!
7. Denver Nuggets (20-16) – The Nuggets are, for their fans, better than any roller coaster in the world. Up and down and twisting all around. If Gallinari and Igoudala played more consistently, George Karl’s crew could be an elite team.
8. Golden State Warriors (22-11) – An emerging team in the tough Western Conference. Coach Mark Jackson was a great player, excellent commentator and appears to have the ability to motivate young men to play well together.
9. Chicago Bulls (19-13) – The Bulls are hanging tough in anticipation of Derrick Rose returning to the roster in the near future. The star guard is working out and hope, like blow-hard politicians, is not difficult to find in the Windy City.
10. Boston Celtics (17-17) – There appears to be, at least from the recent on- and off-court spat between Garnett and Melo, some fight left in this old dog. The Celtics are running out of gas but as long as the 36-year-old is around, they will battle to the end.