As the all-star break nearing, it is becoming more clear as to who are the contenders, the pretenders and simply the Washington Wizards.
With the all-star teams set, we will get a good look into which stars to keep an eye out for as the season continues. Starters Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are the obvious superstars, but reserves Joakin Noah, David Lee and Jrue Holiday are expected to shine as well.
As of late, there are many questions that surround a number of teams, specifically the Lakers who have come away with only two wins thus far in January. The Dwight Howard trade has not turned out as expected and their season could end without a playoff spot if things don't change. Stemming from the Howard trade, Andrew Bynum has yet to step foot on the court as a Sixer this season. Questions remain as to what his future will be with the team.
With all of that said, let's get to this week's rankings:
1. Oklahoma City Thunder (33-10)
The Thunder continue to make the case for their spot at No. 1, especially with their 109-97 win over the Clippers on Tuesday night. All-Star Kevin Durant has averaged 33.4 points per game in his last 10 outings. But a loss at the Warriors finally took them to double-digit losses.
2. San Antonio Spurs (34-11)
Despite being on a six-game winning streak, the Spurs almost gave up games to both the Hornets and the Sixers, but managed to win both games. Tony Parker put 24 points on the board along with an impressive 13 assists against the Hornets. The Spurs are currently 19-2 at home, but will embark on a nine-game road trip after the break. It will be a tough test for the aging Spurs.
3. L.A. Clippers (32-12)
After a record-breaking start, the Clippers have lost three in a row, including a 93-88 loss to the Phoenix Suns Thursday. There seems to be trouble in "Lob City", especially with injury to point guard Chris Paul. We'll see if the Clippers can weather the storm over the next week.
4. Miami Heat (27-12)
LeBron James scored a season-high 39 points in the Heat’s win over the L.A. Lakers last Tuesday. They also held off the Raptors, 123-116 in OT Wednesday to up their win streak to three. The Heat may be behind the Clippers for right now, but they are definitely on the upswing as oppose to the Clippers..
5. Brooklyn Nets (26-16)
Winners of 10 of their last 11, the Nets are right behind the New York Knicks Atlantic Division who sitting at the top. The Nets have all the momentum and may be days away from taking over the their New York neighbors for the top spot.
6. Memphis Grizzlies (27-14)
The Grizzlies handed the Lakers their fourth consecutive loss in a 106-93 win on Wednesday night. They face a tough test in the Nets Friday night.
7. Chicago Bulls (25-16)
The Bulls earned their place atop the Central Division this week with a key win over the Pistons. On Friday, they'll face the Warriors who are riding a three-game win streak.
8. Indiana Pacers (26-17)
Sliding to No. 2 in the Central Division, the Pacers were trampled by the Trailblazers 100-80 on Wednesday night. Things do not get easier for Indiana as they will take on the Jazz Saturday.
9. Golden State Warriors (26-15)
Back-to-back wins against two of the best teams in the NBA (Clippers and Thunder) have the Warriors on the move. Guard Steven Curry took his all-star snub personally and ripped off 31 points Wednesday night against the Thunder, nearly tying his career high.
10. New York Knicks (26-14)
A three-point loss against the inter city-rival Nets has the Knicks clinging for their perch at atop the Atlantic. The Knicks bounced back nicely, however, defeating the slumping Celtics Thursday, 89-86.
11. Denver Nuggets (26-18)
A win over the Rockets was a milestone for coach George Karl as he earned his 1,100th career victory as a coach. The Nuggets also came up big Jan. 20 as they snubbed the Thunder, 121-118, at home.
12. Atlanta Hawks (24-18)
Other than the Heat, the Hawks don't have much competition in their division and are staying competitive. They've topped the 100-point mark in each of the last two games and a win at home against Boston Friday would give them three consecutive victories.
13. Utah Jazz (23-19)
The Jazz are finding themselves hot on Denver’s trail for second place in the Northwest divison now that they are on a four-game win streak. Paul Millsap scored 16 points during the Jazz's win over the Washington Wizards Wednesday.
14. Milwaukee Bucks (22-18)
Ersan Ilyasova had a great game for the Bucks with 27 points in their win over the Sixers Tuesday. Milwaukee will face another below-average team — the Cavaliers — Friday looking to extend an already four-game winning streak.
15. Portland Trailblazers (21-21)
After losing six straight, the Trailblazers were able to roll past the Pacers Wednesday night. But they face a tough matchup this weekend with a home-and-home against the Clippers.
16. Boston Celtics (20-22)
Times are tough of late. And after their loss Thursday to the rival Knicks, they are now losers of five in a row. The Celtics have little time to collect themselves as they will square off against the Hawks Friday.
17. Houston Rockets (22-22)
With the Royce White drama occurring off the court and the team underperforming on it, there isn’t a lot of excitement in Houston right now. A win against the New Orleans Hornets (Pelicans) Friday could prepare them for the tough schedule ahead, which includes the Nets, Jazz, Nuggets. The latter two are on the road.
18. Detroit Pistons (16-26)
Aside from Sunday's game against the Magic, the Pistons find themselves in the midst of a tough stretch of their schedule. Their loss to the Bulls snapped a short-lived win streak that could have given them the boost they needed. it has been that kind of season for the Pistons.
19. Minnesota Timberwolves (17-22)
The Timberwolves have won only three games in the month of January, which leaves them in last place in the Northwest. They will be searching for wins this weekend against a pair of less-threatening teams — the Wizards and Bobcats.
20. Philadelphia 76ers (17-25)
Newly christened all-star Jrue Holiday continues to be outstanding individually, but as a team, the Sixers have continued to struggle. They can turn things around in a hurry with a successful eight-game homestand, which starts this weekend. But it will not be easy with games against the Knicks, Grizzlies, Pacers and Clippers.
21. Sacramento Kings (16-27)
The soon-to-be Seattle Kings are coming off back-to-back losses this week and face the top-ranked Thunder on Friday. Things only get more bleek in Sacramento.
22. Dallas Mavericks (18-24)
An OT loss to the Thunder last week snapped their four-game winning streak, but they bounced back with a win over the Magic Sunday. Off since then, the Mavs return to the court on Friday when they host the in-state rival Spurs.
23. L.A. Lakers (17-25)
Despite a 29-point game from Kobe Bryant, the Lakers fell to the Grizzlies Wednesday night to extend their losing streak to four. Not only that, but center Dwight Howard left the game with a shoulder injury.
24. New Orleans Hornets (14-27)
Sitting at the bottom of the Southwest Division, the Pelicans err Hornets show little sign of moving up anytime soon. They are set to play five consecutive games on the road starting this weekend, but are just 7-14 away from home.
25. Toronto Raptors (16-27)
The Raptors put up a fight Wednesday night in taking the Heat to ovetime, but eventually lost, 123-116. Toronto bounced back with a dramatic win over the Magic, 97-95
26. Orlando Magic (14-28)
Even with J.J. Redick’s 26 points, the Magic couldn’t find a way to beat the Pistons. The loss to Toronto Thursday made it four in a row Orlando.
27. Phoenix Suns (14-28)
It has been a tough ride for the Suns as their coach, Alvin Gentry, was fired last week in the midst of a 3-7 January. The Suns did, however, beat a Chris Paul-less Clippers team Thursday night meaning there is some life out in Phoenix.
28. Cleveland Cavaliers (11-32)
Kyle Irving’s 40-point game helped the Cavs’ win over the Celtics on Tuesday. They face the Bucks Friday.
29. Charlotte Bobcats (10-32)
Ramon Sessions came off the bench and scored 27 points Wednesday night against the Hawks, but the Bobcats still couldn't come up with a win, giving them their third loss in a row. A five-game road trip starts on Monday for the 'Cats, but first they look to snap their losing streak with a win at home against the Timberwolves Saturday.
30. Washington Wizards (9-30)
Road games are not in favor of the last-place Wizards as they were handed their 18th loss on the road against the Jazz on Wednesday. They look to at least be competitive at home in their upcoming three-game home stand. That's about all you can ask for from the Wizards these days.