(Last week’s record in parenthesis; last week’s ranking in brackets)
1) Golden State Warriors (3-1) : Stephen Curry’s back, all’s cool with the world.
2) Boston Celtics (3-1) : Every time I see Jayson Tatum in person, he’s even more impressive than he is on TV.
3) San Antonio Spurs (2-1) : Fresh off an December 11-5, their 15th consecutive winning full month (not counting your various Octobers and/or Aprils, where teams don’t play over the entire 30 or 31 days in the regular season) since December, 2014 (8-10).
4) Minnesota Timberwolves (3-1) : Tyus Jones has been good behind Jeff Teague; now he’ll have to hold up under starter’s minutes for a while. Tall order for the third-year point guard.
5) Houston Rockets (1-3) : Newly-signed Gerald Green was so caught off-guard when the Rockets contacted him last week to sign, he had to wear Trevor Ariza’s shoes for his first game, against the Celtics.
6) Toronto Raptors (1-2) : Getting C.J. Miles and Delon Wright back in the rotation gives Dwane Casey even more potential small-ball options.
7) Cleveland Cavaliers (0-3) : LeBron James’s teams have lost their last seven games in Utah, the latest the Jazz’s 104-101 win in Salt Lake City Saturday. James is winless in Utah since returning to the Cavaliers, lost three of four games there while with the Heat and has only won there five times in 15 career games there. And this, happily, gives me an excuse to roll the tape of one of my all-time favorite moments covering a game: yes, it’s Sundiata Gaines time again!
8) Milwaukee Bucks (2-1) : Big week coming up for Bucks: two games apiece with Toronto and Indiana, and a road game at Washington.
9) Detroit Pistons (2-1) : Can’t dig deeper than beating the Spurs without Reggie Jackson, Avery Bradley and Stanley Johnson.
10) Washington Wizards (3-1) : Get Otto Porter more shots. Get. Otto. Porter. More. Shots.
11) Oklahoma City Thunder (2-2) : Their defense has become elite: tied with Toronto for fifth-best in the league in Defensive Rating (102.3), third in points allowed (100.5 per game).
12) Denver Nuggets (1-2) : Never thought a Nikola Jokic-Mason Plumlee frontcourt would work as well as it has.
13) Portland Trail Blazers (1-1) : Shabazz Napier providing a solid lift in absence of Damian Lillard.
14) Miami Heat (2-1) [NR]: Another remarkable Erik Spoelstra coaching job keeping the Heat above water with all the injuries.
15) New Orleans Pelicans (1-2) : Home losses already this season to Orlando, Sacramento, Dallas and New York.
Dropped out: Indiana 
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