20. Philadelphia 76ers (20): 14.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game aren’t wowing numbers, but how many of you thought those would be the numbers of Elton Brand nearly halfway through the season? Rookie Evan Turner continues to be a work in progress, but he still has shown the potential to become a solid player in this league.
19. Indiana Pacers (19): The Darren Collison hype is long gone, Danny Granger is nearing that category as well and the Pacers haven’t won two games in a row since November, but somehow, at 14-20, Indiana surprisngly remains in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt.
18. Phoenix Suns (18): A 25-point rocking at the hands of the New York Knicks in Amaré’s first return to Phoenix was tough to swallow; nevertheless, they are finding was to score (105.9 PPG) – even with a less-than-imposing roster. Posting the 28th worst rebounding numbers in the NBA at 38.8 pull downs per game really makes you worry about the team’s future, which has invested a large portion of their future in the contracts of Channing Frye (6.0 RPG), Marcin Gortat (6.0 RPG) and Hakim Warrick (4.3 RPG).
17. Golden State Warriors (21): Could the Warriors surprise everyone and snag a playoff spot this year? Behind Monta Ellis’ 25.2 scoring average to go along with a plethora of lethal shooters, it could happen. They’ve won six of their last 10 and with the Lakers, Spurs and Jazz penciled in as the only tough opponents for the rest of January, the first month of the new year could be good to the Warriors. If David Lee can start playing like a $60 million player as opposed to a $45 million player, watch out.
16. Houston Rockets (15): The potential is all there: Kevin Martin, Aaron Brooks, Luis Scola, Shane Battier – even Kyle Lowry, but after going 11-4 during December, Clutch City has yet to win a game in 2011. Granted, their opponents have been: Portland and Denver on the road, Portland at home, Orlando on the road and Utah at home – but with Boston, Oklahoma City, New Orleans and Atlanta next up, it makes you wonder when this team will pickup its first win of the new year.