15. Phoenix Suns (16): Are the Suns on the rise? They lost by only four points to OKC on Friday night – but before that they were on a three-game winning streak after picking up big time wins over Boston and New Orleans. With Steve Nash running point they definitely have a shot at the playoffs, but with Memphis playing at the level they are right now, it might be tough for the Sun to shine in the spring time.
14. Portland Trail Blazers (13): LaMarcus Aldridge’s career-high 40 points and 11 rebounds propelled the Blazers to a 13-point victory over the Spurs at the onset of the week; unfortunately for the Blazers, they followed up a possibly momentum building win with two stinkers against Denver and Indiana. They ended the week by barely eeking by the lowly Cavs, however, if they want to fight for a playoff spot, they are going to have to battle, because Memphis and Phoenix are within striking distance.
13. Memphis Grizzlies (14): Although they ended the week with an OT loss to Houston, the Grizzlies have been the NBA’s hottest team as of late. Before the loss, the Grizz had won five-straight and eight of their last nine. Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay are one of the best forward tandems in the league, and although OJ Mayo’s status with the team remains up in the air, Memphis is going to continue to battle all the way until April.
12. Utah Jazz (12): The Jazz have had a tough schedule, and if wasn’t for their 27-13 start, they would be looking much worse than they do now. Don’t expect them to fall to .500 or below, but if they don’t step up their play soon, they could be leapfrogged by some of the West’s streaking teams.
11. New Orleans Hornets (8): Was their rise to the third-best record in the West a fluke? Not necessarily. However, they surely weren’t going to remain among the West’s elite, especially with recent injuries to starters Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. On the other hand, If Chris Paul can keep the Hornets among the top-three teams in the conference by season’s end, he’s got my vote for MVP, because there is no way this Hornets team has any business messing around with first-round homecourt advantage. Not at all.