Photo via Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports
The best day in the NBA is right around the corner and we are looking forward to some huge matchups on that day. However, let’s look at the top ten in the league right now just nine days away from Christmas.
10. Toronto Raptors(17-8)
The Raptors are still a part of the big four that I have separated in the Eastern Conference from everyone else but they are really struggling to find their identity as they have dropped four of their last six games. Toronto should be able to find some stability this week as they take on bottom-dwellers this week: Cavaliers, Pistons and Wizards.
9. Denver Nuggets(17-8)
After winning three straight, Denver re-enters the rankings. They own the best scoring defense in the league by over a whole two points less than the second-place Los Angeles Lakers. However, this team is still unwatchable and they cannot find any offensive consistency. They are a balanced scoring team when it comes to individual stat line but they, currently, do not have that one guy that can take full control of a game. Denver will close the week looking for redemption in their 2nd matchup with the Lakers on Sunday.
8. Indiana Pacers(18-9)
The Pacers were winners of three straight last week after falling to the Clippers at home with one of those wins coming against the Boston Celtics. Indiana is in that 2nd tier of Eastern Conference contenders with the Miami Heat but I believe they are bigger threat than Miami. The Pacers move up from 10 to 8 and are not looking to slow down. They have a tough schedule before Christmas that includes games against the Lakers, Bucks, and Raptors.
7. Boston Celtics(17-7)
The Celtics are losers of two straight at the hands of Indiana and the Philadelphia 76ers. Their performances are night and day at home and on the road. Boston is 10-1 at home but only 7-6 on the road. The Celtics have one of the top starting lineups in the league not will need to find more consistency from their guards in the scoring department. Boston will have a big matchup against Dallas on Wednesday night.
6. Dallas Mavericks(17-8)
One of the rarer cases here. The Mavs are 9-2 on the road but only 8-6 in the Big D. Dallas could see a major drop off in performance as they will miss their star and current MVP frontrunner Luka Doncic for multiple weeks. Dallas will be thrown the kitchen sink this week as they consecutively take on the big four of the East in the Bucks, Celtics, 76ers, and Raptors. Pray for Dallas.
5. Philadelphia 76ers(20-8)
The 76ers may have finally figured it out as they won some big games recently against Denver, Toronto and Boston. They are still undefeated at home after 13 games and have the third-best defense in the NBA. They still need to figure out who is going to be a key contributor off the bench but Philly is starting to cruise.
4. Miami Heat(19-7)
The Heat have been nothing short of outstanding to start this seaon but at the end of the day, I still think they are the 6th-best team in the entire conference; behind the big four and Indiana. They are great in these one-off games but do I really think they can beat a Boston or Milwaukee in a best-of-seven series? No. They have boasted a solid offense and defense but I do not think they have the experience to make a deep run come mid-April.
3. Los Angeles Lakers(24-3)
Being undefeated on the road is remarkable at this point of the season and they picked up a big win in Miami. However, they struggled to scrape out wins in two of their last three games against the mediocre Magic and the lowly Hawks. The Lakers will have a revealing four-game stretch coming up that includes trips to Indiana and Milwaukee before coming home for a rematch against Denver and the biggest game of the NBA season on Christmas Day against the Clippers.
2. Los Angeles Clippers(20-8)
For a team that has had nearly every player miss multiple games due to injury, you would not have thought they would win 20 of their first 28 games. That is exactly what the Clippers have done and why I still place them higher in the Lakers. It’s easy to win when you have a healthy LeBron and AD on the team but try doing it with rotating lineups nearly every game because of players sitting out with injuries. Christmas cannot come soon enough.
1. Milwaukee Bucks(24-3)
18-game winning streak, best offensive in the league and they have Giannis Antetokounmpo.
You can question the legitimacy of their resumé at this point but they play the Lakers this week. Milwaukee may be the scarier than the Warriors dynasty.