5. Milwaukee Bucks
Dropping two places from their spot last week, this has less to do with the Bucks looking any worse and more to do with other teams looking scary good. However, they still looked formidable in each of their games notwithstanding, and, barring any unfortunate injuries or bad funks that may come their way, seem poised to move up this list before the drop out of it. The only potential issue for Milwaukee lies in their weak depth, but if D.J. Augustin can play to his full capacity and Bobby Portis can maximize his effectiveness off the bench (his rebounding has raised some eyebrows), then this team will tear a war path to a championship.
4. Los Angeles Clippers
The only thing keeping the Clippers above the Bucks is the fact that they play in the West. This week should have been relatively easy for a team vying to secure the top slot in their conference, but they played a little too close in wins against the rebuilding Thunder and the disappointing Heat, and they dropped their game against the Hawks. Sorry to spoil some of the coming picks (again), but no team dropped out of the list from last week to this week; however, the Clippers seem the favorite to get replaced. They look great, but other teams have started to look a little better.
3. Los Angeles Lakers
In what easily seems the most controversial pick, the Lakers have dropped two slots. LeBron and Anthony Davis still look great, but they cannot win everything by themselves. The spotty production from the rest of their team needs to refine with some serious off-ball and defensive play if they want to make it back to the Finals. After all, Davis is fantastic, but on a night that he sits, should any team with LeBron lose to the Pistons? Until the rest of the Lakers’ squad starts playing at a professional level, this team will have to sit at the middle of these rankings — or maybe even drop.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
No team seems to continually impress quite like Philly. I seriously had to consider placing them at the top of this list, and the only reason I did not is they lost to the Pistons too, themselves without Joel Embiid due to back tightness from the hard foul he received from LeBron. Perhaps the Pistons merely have found themselves ideally positioned to exploit defenses missing their usual post presence (after all, Blake Griffin is no slouch), but I still feel like a truly elite team just does not lose to this year’s Detroit team. Ever. It would have to take more than one absence to convince me that they could not beat a team scraping the bottom of the East.
1. Utah Jazz
While certainly hinted at last week, the Utah Jazz have successfully locked their place as the best team in basketball right now. Honestly, even if they drop a winnable game or two here in the coming weeks, they can probably hold onto this spot if they look good enough doing it. If the postseason started today, not one team in the league could win four out of seven against the ravenous and unstoppable scoring power of Donovan Mitchell and the humiliating shutdown defense of Rudy Gobert. Did I mention that every other person on this team is playing their best too?
Hot Seat: Denver Nuggets
These guys are a few big wins away from making a serious run for the West. Nikola Jokic, save for Joel Embiid, is playing the best post game in the league right now, ousting Anthony Davis from a spot he typically reserves. If they beat the Lakers this coming week, look for them to pop into the list and boot out either the Bucks or the Clippers. If the Lakers choke against the Nuggets and against the Pistons in their upcoming rematch, then definitely see them sitting on the outside looking in. Of course, I speculate, but I would never take such a heretical position if I thought it could never become true. After all, stranger things have happened.