10. Portland Trail Blazers (12): Yes, Kobe Bryant closed them out in dramatic fashion last night, but the Blazers still have won seven of their previous 10 and don’t look to be slowing up despite the loss. For how thin they are up front, they have a team full of fighters, and aside from the Spurs and Lakers, they are as good as just about any other team in the West right now.
9. Orlando Magic (7): I still don’t understand how Gilbert Arenas isn’t playing a bigger role on the Magic. I understand he came in via trade midseason, but he’s got star power in his game that no one else on this team does. He’ll take and make big shots, he’ll get that last minute steal and he’ll cooly sink free throws when the pressure is on. Dwight Howard is finally becoming a monster down low, but he’s going to need a stud on the perimeter to keep the defense at bay.
8. Denver Nuggets (9): Who would have thought, that almost a month after trading Melo, that the Nuggets would be in better shape than the Knicks? I sure didn’t. The Nuggets are a unique blend of thug, tattoo and talent. They won’t win championships, but they will make you earn your victory and aren’t afraid to play a little dirty when making you do so.
7. Miami Heat (6): Anyone else think that LeBron James has looked considerably less happy this year in comparison to his first seven years in Cleveland? I don’t think I’ve seen LeBron dance on the court once since coming to Miami and with the tough about to really get going for the Heat, I don’t expect to see any smiles from “King” any time soon.
6. Boston Celtics (4): I get the feeling that Nenad Kristic doesn’t inspire the same fear in opponents that Kendrick Perkins did. Like he did with Perkins, I’m sure Kevin Garnett is still screaming in Kristic’s ear, but I’m not sold on the idea that Kristic can even understand him.
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