15. Denver Nuggets (10): The Nuggets need to hurry up and decide if they are going to trade Carmelo or not, because the new rumors that flash across ESPN after every commercial break aren’t helping this Denver team that has lost three in a row and six of its last 10. Whatever the Nuggets decide to do, it’s starting to seem like this season is slowly slipping out of their control. Unless some sort of midseason revival happens, don’t be surprised to see Denver fall out of the playoff race in favor of hungrier teams, such as the Clippers, Warriors and Grizzlies.
14. Memphis Grizzlies (16): Is Memphis for real? They are nearing .500 after knocking off the Lakers, Thunder and Jazz; and with the exception of four contests against the Mavs, Bulls, Hornets and Magic, their entire schedule for the rest of January could have them at 25-24 by the months end. They aren’t extremely deep, but top-five players: Randolph, Gay, Mayo, Conley and Marc Gasol are as talented as any starting five in the NBA.
13. New Orleans Hornets (13): The Hornets are so desperately lacking in depth department that they look like a D-League team whenever CP3 and David West are off of the court. They try to keep one of the two on the floor at all times, but here’s the problem: When West is in and Paul is out, no one can get West the ball; and when Paul is in and West is out, Paul has nobody to pass to. Ariza and Okafor are solid, but if this team wants to last longer than four games in the playoffs, they need to get some help off of the bench.
12. Portland Trail Blazers (14): Brandon Roy who? Even though their franchise player is appearing less and less so, the tandem of LaMarcus Aldridge and Wes Matthews is keeping Portland’s playoff hopes alive. They fell apart in overtime to Miami last night, but they are scheduled to play only two teams above .500 for the rest of the month, which has to help their spirits moving forward. Aldridge and his 20.5 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1.26 BPG should have a spot on the all-star team, but with how loaded the West is at the forward spot, that might not be as easy as it would be if Aldridge was playing in the East.
11. New York Knicks (12): Their starting five of Felton, Fields, Chandler, Gallonari and Stoudemire resembles the mid-to-late 2000s lineup of the Suns more and more every day, but with no depth down low, it will be tough for the Knicks to knock off teams such as the Celtics, Bulls and Magic who are loaded down low. There’s no doubting this team’s excitement level, however, which is putting up a league best 107.6 PPG.