20. Golden State Warriors (18): The Dubs have lost four of their last five, but the strong play of their “Big Three” (Ellis, Curry and Lee) has helped keep them afloat in the treacherous Western Conference. A playoff berth is unlikely; however, they are only six games out, and with nearly half a season to play, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
19. Charlotte Bobcats (20): After a rough start to the season, in which the Cats hit 9-19 near the end of December, they have bounced back in January and are now in possession of the eighth seed. Their February schedule is going to be slightly more difficult, so it’ll be interesting to see how long they can hold onto that final playoff berth.
18. Houston Rockets (19): I think a trade would be extremely beneficial to the Rockets, who seem like they are only one player away from being competitive. Luis Scola and Chuck Hayes are great, strong bodies up front, but they need some more height if they want to bang with the best of the West.
17. Philadelphia 76ers (21): Philly has really come on strong since starting the season off as one of the worst teams in the conference. No. 2 pick Evan Turner has been less than impressive, but Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand have really come together to form a formidable trio. They need to work on coming out in close games, as they are currently 1-7 in contests decided by three points or less.
16. Phoenix Suns (17): They ended the month of January with two big, momentum shifting wins over Boston and New Orleans. I still think the playoffs is a long shot for them, but Marcin Gortat is starting to come along nicely for the Suns. In the two wins, the Polish Hammer is posting averages of 22 points and 14 rebounds per game. That’s the kind of inside presence the Suns have lacked all season long. Unfortunately for them, it took longer than half the season to find that presence.