5. Dallas Mavericks (5): While Dallas is only one game behind the Lakers for second place, and they are playing some superb basketball this season – don’t be fooled. The Mavericks are regular season pretenders. Once the playoffs start, they will show their true colors when they are exposed by the Lakers, Spurs and Thunder.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (8): Prior to All Star Weekend, the Thunder were allowing 101.1 points and were allowing their opponents to shoot around 46 percent. However, since the Perkins trade, and Serge Ibaka’s insertion into the starting lineup, the Thunder have allowed just 95.3 points per game on 43.5 percent shooting. For a team whose biggest hole used to lie on the defensive end, other teams must be getting scared of the powerhouse that is being constructed in Oklahoma City.
3. Chicago Bulls (1): They have the MVP (Derrick Rose), possibly the coach of the year (Tom Thibodeau) and a fantastic supporting cast (Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Taj Gibson). Not only are they the best team that no one is talking about, but they are the clear-cut best team in the Eastern Conference. Their combination of youth, size and speed makes them matchup nightmares for nearly every other NBA team.
2. San Antonio Spurs (3): Gregg Poppovich has rested the Spurs for playoff perfection and Tim Duncan is going to be a killer in the playoffs, but this team has to start fizzling at some point – it’s just a question of when.
1. Los Angeles Lakers (2): Maybe the league issued Bynum’s two-game suspension because they were worried that his recent stretch of stellar defense (2.9 blocks and 14 rebounds per game) would be enough to stop Dwight Howard from three-peating as Defensive Player of the Year. Regardless, the Lakers are looking more and more like back-to-back champions and there’s no doubt that the rest of the league has taken notice. We’ve been waiting all year, questioning when they would finally flip the switch; and now it’s March and they are ready to go.