10. Atlanta Hawks (11): They’ve had an easy schedule to start the new calendar year and they have reaped the benefits, going 4-0 since entering 2011, including an impressive 23-point win on the road against Utah. Joe Johnson hasn’t been scoring at the rate, which most would expect a $20 million per year player to; however, the Hawks haven’t needed him to post big numbers, as Al Horford, Jamal Crawford and Josh Smith are all providing assistance in that area, guiding Atlanta to eight wins in their last 10 games.
9. Utah Jazz (9): Elias Sports Bureau offers a nice stat about the Utah Comeback Kids – err Jazz: After allowing the Rockets to take a 16-point lead on Saturday, the Jazz stole the victory way from Houston – marking the seventh time this season that the Jazz have won a game after trailing by 15-or-more points. They like to do it the hard way, but the Jazz seem to always find a way to come out with a win.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder (8): It’s starting to sink in for the rest of the NBA that the most lethal offensive duo is not located in Miami or Los Angeles – instead, the pair of Kevin Durant (28.2 PPG) and Westbrook (21.9 PPG) can be found in OKC, where the Thunder are continuing their rise as one of the NBAs best. However, with Serge Ibaka (6.7 RPG) as their only legitimate threat on the glass, Thunder U is going to need to find a greater presence on the boards if they want to contend with the West’s best.
7. Chicago Bulls (5): Derrick Rose may not have the same assist numbers as Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Steve Nash, but he still might be the best of the bunch. No point guard in the league has the ability to play the role of scorer and facilitator as well as Rose this season who is on pace to be only the second player (the other being LeBron James last season) and the first point guard since Gary Payton in 1999-2000 to average over 24 points, while dishing out over eight assists per game.
6. Dallas Mavericks (4): Shawn Marion is a solid replacement for the injured Caron Butler, who is out for the rest of the season; but if the Mavs are thinking championship, they are going to need to find a more offensively-savvy talent on the wing if they want to contend for a title. Rumors have mentioned Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala and Charlotte’s Stephen Jackson as possibilities.