10. Memphis Grizzlies (11): Injury has forced Rudy Gay out of the lineup, but that doesn’t seem to matter for the streaking Grizzlies, who, with the additions of Shane Battier and Leon Powe, suddenly have a great deal of depth and even some added experience. They are so well-rounded at every position that they look better than most teams on paper.
9. Portland Trail Blazers (10): For how injury-prone the Blazers have been (and still are), they are insanely deep, which is why they have failed to falter. They may be extremely thin down low, but the Blazers are a really gritty team. As long as LaMarcus Aldridge doesn’t go down (forcing Gerald Wallace to play center), they could give an upper-seeded team quite a scare in the first round, if not upset them.
8. Miami Heat (6): Someone on Twitter made a good point the other day: The entire world knows that LeBron took his talents to South Beach, but when is he going to take them to the fourth quarter? Miami is 1-15 on shots taken in the last 10 seconds of a game when trailing by three points or less. Right now, Eddie House might be their best fourth quarter option, which is a bad sign considering LeBron and D-Wade are also on the roster.
7. Orlando Magic (7): Dwight Howard is at his 16th technical already and is set to serve his one-game suspension tonight. He’s going to have to keep his mouth shut for Orlando’s final 19 games, as him being on the court is an obvious necessity for the Magic to do well.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder (8): It’s scary to think how good the Thunder are going to be when Perkins is in the lineup and gelled-in with their chemistry. They have two elite players in Durant and Westbrook, a steady set of role players in Harden, Ibaka, Perkins, Sefolosha, Maynor, Mohammed and Collison; and now with Perkins and Mohammed they have a presence in the paint as well. If they start playing some defense, someone will need to tell the Lakers and Spurs to watch out.