1. L.A. Lakers – Andrew Bynum has looked good since his return from the Playboy Mansion. The Lakers are cruising into the playoffs and should have no problem advancing to the NBA Finals.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers – LeBron looks primed to win his first MVP award, and the Cavs continue to dominate at home. Cleveland looks to improve to 40-1 at home Wednesday against Philadelphia.
3. Houston Rockets – I can’t believe it, but a long chain of events has vaulted the Rockets into the # 3 spot. If Rick Adelman doesn’t win coach of the year, there should be an investigation.
4. Denver Nuggets – Denver is a dangerous team if it plays under control. J.R. Smith has quietly had a great season, but needs to play big in the playoffs. A healthy, productive Kenyon Martin could be the key to the Nuggs’ playoff hopes.
5. Boston Celtics – The Celtics couldn’t have looked much worse yesterday, but help is on the way. Kevin Garnett is expected to be ready for the playoffs. Even if he in only about 85%, KG’s presence will help Boston’s defense.
6. Portland Trail Blazers – LaMarcus Aldridge has really played well lately, and the Blazers are really talented. I’m not sure if it has enough experience to advance in the playoffs, but Portland could surprise.
7. New Orleans Hornets – CP3 won’t win MVP, but I think he should get some consideration. Without him, New Orleans is the worst team in the NBA. With him, the Hornets could pull an upset in the playoffs.
8. Orlando Magic – Everything is going wrong for the Magic at the wrong time. A lack of depth will really show up now, with Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkgolu banged up. Both should be back for the playoffs, but may not be effective.
9. Utah Jazz – I thought Utah would be better, but a 15-25 road record and some horrible losses – including Saturday’s loss to Rob Kurz and the Warriors – have me confused. The Jazz could win a playoff series, or get swept, depending on which team shows up. Andrei Kirilenko looks like an emaciated punk rocker – minus the tatts.
10. Atlanta Hawks – Marvin Williams has made a surprising return, and the young Hawks gained valuable experience in last year’s playoffs. The matchups don’t look good for Atlanta, but the Hawks have a shot.
11. San Antonio Spurs – This is the lowest I have ever ranked the Spurs. With Tim Duncan ailing and Manu out for the year, things don’t look good in San Antonio.
12. Dallas Mavericks – Now that Josh Howard has decided to play again, the Mavs don’t look so bad. I can see Dallas winning a game or two against the Lakers. Where will Jason Kidd end up next season?
13. Miami Heat – D Wade makes the Heat a dangerous team, but I don’t expect much from Miami in the playoffs. Michael Beasley could be a key in the playoffs.
14. Chicago Bulls – The Bulls are charging hard, but it might be too late. I think the Bulls can challenge the Celtics if KG is still slowed by his bad knee, but there isn’t enough experience to win a playoff series.
15. Detroit Pistons – I’m not sure why just about every “expert” on ESPN and TNT warns against playing the Pistons in the first round. Detroit has experience, but is woefully inconsistent. The Pistons host the Bulls tonight in a crucial matchup that will help determine playoff seeding.