9. San Antonio Spurs (48-34): Last time: 9th
San Antonio faced two teams with >.500 records and two with sub .500 records in their last four. Continuing a season long trend, they beat the two bad teams and lost to the two good teams. With the worst record against top ten teams and against playoff teams generally, the Spurs have not been competing at the highest level. Their record when at full strength is only slightly above .500. That's why they are in 9th place.
Chances of winning: 1.3%
8. Boston Celtics (53-29): Last time: 8th
Three straight wins for the Celtics look nice on paper and probably give them some confidence going into a showdown against the Magic today. Still, apart from their top-3 record when at full strength, they have not been able to do anything against top teams, opponents against whom they have a win% of 30. A win over Orlando would go some ways toward letting them leapfrog the Magic.
Chances of winning: 4.3%
7. Dallas Mavericks (50-32): Last time: 7th
Their last three opponents are 53-90. Yet Dallas lost two of those games. The Mavs continue to win just enough games to finish with a nice playoff position and a decent shot at the second round. That is really all they can say for themselves at this point.
Chances of winning: 5.4%
6. Atlanta Hawks (53-31): Last time: 4th
Atlanta's ego took a bit of a hit with a loss to the Thunder (who will be on this list next week if they continue to play as they have been). They gained a measure of revenge by beating two decent but sub .500 teams in the Clippers and Bulls. The Hawks do not excel in any area, but they are consistently average to above average as far as the Wannabes go. At present, they are neck and neck with Orlando and Boston in the East.
Chances of winning: 7.5%
5. Orlando Magic (55-27): Last time: 6th
The Magic have won seven of their last ten, had a nice streak going before Caron Butler hit a jumper to sink them. Orlando may be turning it on at just the right time. A win over Boston would secure their standing as second best in the East, possibly paving the way for an ECF rematch against the Cavaliers.
Chances of winning: 9.0%
4. Utah Jazz (53-29): Last time: 5th
Two weeks ago the Jazz were not among the Wannabes. Now they are knocking at the door to the top three. Their last three wins have all been against Western Conference teams with at least 29 wins. They have won 55% of their games against top ten teams (3rd best among Wannabes), and they have beaten the Lakers and Nuggets this season. Circle February 10th on your calendars. The Lakers will be in Utah. A win for the Jazz would be a further testament to their home court dominance and their deadliness in the playoffs.
Chances of winning: 11.8%
3. Los Angeles Lakers (61-21): Last time: 3rd
Kobe has finally taken a game off, but the Lakers smashed Portland in Portland, for the first time in a long while. A big loss to the Nuggets and a surprising loss to the Grizzlies reveal that the Lakers are lacking consistency. Their next two games see them facing the Spurs and Jazz, with their top4 records against top10 and playoff teams on the line.
Chances of winning: 12.5%
2. Denver Nuggets (55-27): Last time: 1st
Without Carmelo Anthony the Nuggets humiliated the Lakers. Yet that win was sandwiched between losses to the Sun and Jazz. Now both those teams will probably make the playoffs, but it does not remove the fact that Denver is playing inconsistently without their leading man. Still the owners of the best record against top10 teams, the Nuggets handed the best record against playoff teams to the Cavaliers. In fact, they handed something else over to the Cavs as well.
Chances of winning: 18.9%
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (67-15): Last time: 2nd
No one is playing better than the Cavs right now. It's true that Memphis is the only .500 or better team the Cavs have played since January 23rd, but the Cavs have won 11 straight, own the best record against playoff teams, and are top3 in all Wannabe categories. February 11th will see the Cavs facing the Magic. That game will be telling, as the Cavs have beaten up on softies of late while the Magic have been doing battle against very good teams.
Chances of winning: 29.2%