10. Los Angeles Lakers (5): No, this doesn’t mean that the Lakers are the 10th best team in the league. All it means is that right now, the Lakers are playing at a No. 10 level. While other teams, who might not be as good or talented or proven as the Lakers, are playing more consistent and cohesive basketball.
9. Memphis Grizzlies (10): Although the Grizzlies have been playing great without OJ Mayo, if they can somehow rework him into their starting five effectively, they are going to be a tough team to battle against in the opening round of the playoffs. Even if they are the eighth seed going against the Spurs, their youth, size and energy is going to be hard to match.
8. Portland Trail Blazers (12): I still don’t understand how this team hasn’t fallen down to Houston or Golden State territory. With no Roy, no Camby, no Pzryzbilla and no Oden, this team has no business even being in the top-10 teams in the conference. However, that shows how much of a snub LaMarcus Aldridge was from this year’s All-Star Game.
7. Orlando Magic (8): While I pray to the basketball gods every night before I go to sleep that Dwight Howard will end up on the Lakers in 2012, I find it extremely annoying when reporters ask Howard if he plans on signing with the Lakers when he becomes a free agent. What makes them think he’s going to answer that question in any way that’s even close to provocative?
6. Oklahoma City Thunder (7): Durant is likely headed for his second consecutive (and second of many) scoring titles. He’s got a great supporting cast in Westbrook, Harden, Green and Ibaka, but the Thunder are just too thin up front to compete with the front courts of the Lakers, Spurs and Mavs.