By: Louis Prejean
The Eastern Conference is continuing their impressive play after ten weeks of NBA action while the Western Conference is slowly restoring a lost reputation. Players will be fighting for All-Star spots, thus leading to better overall play from teams. Who are the top ten teams after ten weeks? Time to find out.
1. Golden State Warriors
Draymond Green failed to get a triple-double against the Lakers, but after posting three straight, he has locked in a spot in the All-Star game this year. Some may say he is the most improved player this season and others would go as far as to say he has turned into a top ten player. We all know Green is playing tremendously and he deserves the spotlight on this week’s list. Stephen Curry has a nagging leg injury, but the Warriors are in good hands until he is 100% with the recent play of Klay Thompson and Green.
2. San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs will most likely remain in the number two spot until they face the Warriors on January 25th. That match up will show just where the Spurs are at, and vice versa with the Warriors. The Spurs have been just as dominating as the Warriors have and Kawhi Leonard has placed himself into the MVP conversation. The way he is scoring the ball while still playing great defense on the other end is remarkable for a guy that was traded for George Hill. This week was another flawless week for the San Antonio Spurs. What more can one say?
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
Things are starting to truly click for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Kyrie Irving is back and looking like his old self with quite the performance against the Toronto Raptors. The Cavs surpass the Oklahoma City Thunder this week as they have rattled off four straight wins. Another note is that Cleveland has jumped to third in defensive efficiency, which is a great sign for a team known for their prolific scorers. Defense wins championships and with a healthy roster for the rest of the season, the run starts now.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
Add a sprained toe to the list of injuries that Kevin Durant has dealt with over the last couple of seasons. Durant missed a home game against the Kings with a toe injury and the Thunder were defeated. This is only a minor setback as the injury is, fortunately, not serious. Kevin Durant will be back and the Thunder will start another winning streak. The reason for the drop is that they do not seem to be in the same groove that the Cavaliers are. This is more about Cleveland rolling than the Thunder taking any steps back.
5. Miami Heat
The Miami Heat have won three straight and they are finishing games how a team full of veterans should. They will need the veteran leadership and experience because their schedule is taking a huge turn. Between January 8th and January 29th, the Miami Heat only have one home game on the schedule. If the Heat are really a top five team in the NBA, they will find a way to escape this part of their schedule by still being a top seed in the Eastern Conference. With a defense like they have, do not be surprised if the Heat come away above .500 on the road this month.
6. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors have loss two games in a row to the Chicago Bulls and the Cavaliers, but their schedule lightens up in their next four. While the rest of teams in the Eastern Conference face tough roads going into the All-Star break, Toronto can win a good amount of games to maintain their status of one of the better Eastern teams. Their roster can only get healthier from here and do not look for the dynamic backcourt of Lowry/DeRozan to slow down anytime this season.
7. Chicago Bulls
It is official. The Chicago Bulls are Jimmy Butler’s team this season. Butler is now the unquestioned leader for the 2015-16 Bulls and you can check his recent stats to get a better understanding. The Bulls have won five straight and hold the number two spot in the Eastern Conference. This is an impressive bounce back after seeming to be spiraling out of control. Chicago still has a deep roster that Fred Hoiberg can play with, but if Jimmy Butler keeps this up the Bulls will be scary going into the second half of the season.
8. Los Angeles Clippers
Down goes Blake Griffin, up come the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers have won six straight with five of those wins coming on the road since Blake Griffin went down with a shoulder injury. Los Angeles also has a good shot at winning the next three with their schedule lining up the way it is. DeAndre Jordan has really stepped up in Griffin’s absence. He has been crashing the boards harder and looking to score a little bit more. Chris Paul is more aggressive and a more aggressive Chris Paul is always a good thing for the Clippers.
9. Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks were finding their rhythm until they ran into the New York Knicks. The Knicks and Hawks met twice in three days and the Hawks came out a losser on both occasions. However, the Hawks will not lose their winning ways because of a minor slip against an improved team in the Eastern Conference. The Atlanta Hawks can still challenge anyone in the East with their brand of basketball. The Hawks are capable of playing solid defense while dissecting opposing defenses with their ball movement. They will get back on track and rise in the power rankings within the next couple of weeks. No worries, Atlanta fans.
10. Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers have loss three of their last four games, which does not seem promising for a team wanting to be competitive in the Eastern Conference. Sitting at 19-15, the Pacers are still in good shape with the career-best play of Paul George. However, we should not only focus on George. We need to focus on the team. The Pacers are one of the more balanced teams in the NBA. They can score 100 or more points per game while holding their opponents under 90 or less. This will be a nice test to see just how Indiana bounces back from some recent struggles.
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