Photo via Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports
Christmas Day was a dud and NBA TV ratings continue to tank but that’s not stopping us from ranking the ten best teams in the league heading into 2020.
10. Dallas Mavericks(21-11)
Luka Doncic is finally back for Dallas but it didn’t help as Dallas fell in the third and final game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Doncic missed all six of his three-point attempts but ended up being the highest scorer with only 19 points. Dallas will have a favorable next stretch of games that include a road trip to the highly underrated Oklahoma City Thunder and then home games against Brooklyn, Charlotte and Chicago.
9. Philadelphia 76ers(23-12)
Another week has gone by where the Sixers still don’t know who they want to be this year. They wowed the NBA universe with their destruction of the Milwaukee Bucks and Christmas Day just to drop two straight against Orlando and a gut-wrenching overtime loss in Miami. A tough two weeks await this Philly team that includes two trips to Indiana, a trip to Houston, a trip to Dallas and home games against Boston and OKC.
8. Houston Rockets(22-11)
The Rockets had their most Rocket week of the season. They lost to the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day and then were blown out by the New Orleans Pelicans yesterday. They are sitting in the top ten by virtue of their record but don’t look for this team to rise in the ranking anytime soon.
7. Toronto Raptors(22-11)
Another team that is still struggling to find their identity; mainly because they do not have a reliable second scorer. Pascal Siakam is the clear MVP of the team but Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet need to prove that they can be effective on a nightly basis; not every other night. Splitting road wins with Boston was quite interesting but the loss to OKC either proves that the Thunder are the team we need to start talking about or Toronto just isn’t a real threat.
6. Los Angeles Lakers(26-7)
YOU LOST TO THE CLIPPERS AGAIN. AGAIN!
I do not care what your record is if you can’t defeat the one team that you have to this season. Everyone thought that the Lakers were the clear best team in LA and that has been disproven. The Lakers will have to wait until the late Spring to prove their worth in their own city.
5. Los Angeles Clippers(23-11)
Even I can admit that the Clippers have had some pretty disappointing results this year, including losses to Chicago, Houston and most recently, the Utah Jazz. However, the Clippers have shown that at their best, they are capable of being the best team in the league and they proved that on Christmas Day with a gritty, comeback victory against their in-arena rival Lakers. 2-0 against the Lakers, just saying.
4. Denver Nuggets(23-9)
An identity has been re-established in the Mile High City as the Nuggets are winners in nine of their last ten games, with that lone loss coming on Christmas Day against the….PELICANS! Nikola Jokic is finally asserting his dominance once again as he averaged 20.8 points per game in the month of December, which is the first time he averaged over 20 points for a month this season. Denver heads on the road this week with games against Houston, Indiana, and Washington.
3. Boston Celtics(22-8)
Jaylen Brown, WOW. The Cal alumnus has been nothing but sensational this season for Boston. In the month of December, he averaged 23 points per game while shooting 56% from the field. We knew Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum were going to carry the offensive load for Boston but Brown has been a quite a surprise and deserves All-Star votes as we near February.
2. Miami Heat(24-8)
If the Heat, indeed, prove me wrong with an impressive run in the postseason, I will happily admit it and give Erik Spoelstra an automatic walk into the basketball hall of fame. Miami is currently on a five-game winning streak that includes two wins against Philadelphia. The Heat are scary good and I might now just have to put them into my top tier in the East with the established four.
1. Milwaukee Bucks(29-5)
The Bucks had a slip-up against Philadelphia on Christmas but that was only their fifth loss in 34 games this season. We know who Milwaukee is. They are the 1A team while everyone else is 1B or lower. The road to the Larry O’Brien Trophy runs through Fiserv Forum.