As the NBA hits Christmas Day, the top fifteen has been shaken up from the opening week rankings. Golden State and Atlanta have jumped into the top ten with great play while the Celtics have floundered and are on pace to fall outside the top fifteen and into the bottom half. Take a look at your teams ranking and see who their Pre-Christmas day MVP is this season.
15. Los Angeles Lakers
Slowly but surely the Lakers are starting to prove that there is still time for this team to become one of the best in the league. With Steve Nash’s return, the Lakers got a hard fought 3-point victory over the Warriors in overtime. Nash clearly is the missing piece to this Lakers puzzle as he facilitates Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard and is one of the best game-managers in all of basketball. With or without Nash though, Kobe Bryant is a man on a mission this season—the Black Mamba is putting up an average of 29.7 points a game, fourth best of his career.
Last Week: 20
Pre-Christmas MVP: Kobe Bryant
14. Boston Celtics
The Celtics are doing what they did last season; they may not get the same result, a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics may be in store for an overhaul this year. They are flirting with an under .500 record and this week they saw themselves lose by 11 on the road in Chicago, and drop a close one to the Bucks at the TD Garden. At the age of 35, Paul Pierce has been as great as ever, posting a PER of 21.14, fifth highest of his illustrious career. With the return of Avery Bradley coming soon, maybe the Celtics can turn around their season, but I’m not convinced just yet.
Last Week: 11
Pre-Christmas MVP: Paul Pierce
13. Minnesota Timberwolves
With their lineup at full strength, the Timberwolves proved how great they can be in their victory at home over the Thunder on Thursday. Even without Kevin Love, the Timberwolves almost took out another great team in the Knicks on Sunday. Ricky Rubio is still not at 100 percent so even if this team has shown flashes of greatness with their lineup at full strength, they have by no means hit their peak. The Timberwolves boast a very balanced roster that includes Nikola Pekovic, who replaced Love as a force in the middle, and it has continued even with Love’s return to the lineup. Pekovic is averaging 16 points and eight rebounds, and is shooting 50 percent from the floor. With a roster that includes seven double-digit scorers, the Timberwolves need to be competitive in nearly every contest.
Last Week: 15
Pre-Christmas MVP: Nikola Pekovic
12. Brooklyn Nets
Another Atlantic Division team that is at a crossroads, the Nets dropped two this week to the Jazz and rival Knicks at Madison Square Garden. The Nets did take down the Sixers at home despite a sloppy display and Kris Humphries being benched. Deron Williams shooting woes continue and will be a constant issue for Brooklyn if these losses continue. At 14-12 in a tight race in the Eastern Conference, there is plenty of time for the new look Nets to become the elite squad that they hinted at during their 11-4 start, but the clock is ticking and many are waiting to see what they can do.
Last Week: 10
Pre-Christmas MVP: Gerald Wallace
11. Houston Rockets
The Rockets have continued to be one of the most outstanding stories thus far. With a roster that seemed to just have trade assists for a potential Dwight Howard trade and destined for the lottery, the Rockets opted to trade for James Harden and have him be the face of the franchise. Now, the Rockets have the best offense in all of basketball, posting an average of 105 points a game and in the month of December alone, they have beaten the likes of the Lakers, Celtics, Knicks, and Grizzlies. A team that made so many baffling signings and trades over the course of the offseason now have their doubters thinking twice because this team seems bound for success this season.
Last Week: 16
Pre-Christmas MVP: James Harden
10. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets continue to knock off the Western Conference elite, taking down the Spurs this week. Although the Nuggets can be exploited very easily—their three-point shooting. This season they are shooting 32 percent from beyond the arc and it showed in their loss to Portland when they shot 0-22 from three-point land. JaVale McGee seems to have become accustomed to his sixth man role, averaging 11 points, five rebounds, and two blocks, in only 19 minutes of action. With a set system put in place by George Karl, the Nuggets seem to have banded together and are creating a strong, young nucleus that can contend with the best in the league.
Last Week: 12
Pre-Christmas MVP: Kenneth Faried
9. Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta had a confusing week that makes it difficult to keep them inside the top ten. The Hawks fell to the Thunder in a competitive game, but also got blown out by the reeling 76ers. They followed up this performance with one of their best performances of the year against the Bulls that saw them allow just 75 points. It is tough to call Atlanta an elite team and worthy of this ranking and it doesn’t seem like they are on pace to be come April.
Last Week: 9
Pre-Christmas MVP: Al Horford
8. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors fell victim to Steve Nash’s return in their overtime loss, but it was still another commendable week for the Warriors. Overlook their 131-127 loss to the Kings that saw the their opponents shoot 57 percent from three and make 34 of their 42 free throws. The Warriors continue a very high level of play despite the loss of Andrew Bogut and Brandon Rush and the inept play of rookie Harrison Barnes. A new big three may be forming in California, with Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry, and David Lee playing as great as they have been for the Warriors.
Last Week: 6
Pre-Christmas MVP: Stephen Curry
7. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies were in the midst of a four-game winning streak before getting trounced by the Rockets, allowing 121 in the process, rare for the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies still are as dangerous as any team in the West due in part that Zach Randolph is at full strength this season. Randolph is maintaining his average of 16 points and 12 rebounds a game allowing with his fourth best PER of his career, 20.16. As well, Mike Conley continues to emerge into one of the most complete point guards in all of basketball. Conley is posting a career high in points, nearly 14 points, steals, 2 and a half, and is shooting 40 percent from three. With Conley and Randolph playing as great as ever, the Grizzlies will remain competitive with the elite of the league.
Last Week: 7
Pre-Christmas MVP: Zach Randolph
6. Chicago Bulls
Still doubting the Bulls without their fearless leader? Well, this year’s best center, Joakim Noah, continues to carry Chicago, posting a triple double on Tuesday against the Celtics. Noah’s great play is clearly an issue for the rest of the league and the Knicks showed that on Friday as he and Tyson Chandler got tangled up and led to both of them getting ejected. With Chicago fourth in the East it is hard not to be impressed, and with a victory over New York this week, the Bulls seem poised to make them worry about facing them come playoff time.
Last Week: 8
Pre-Christmas MVP: Joakim Noah
5. San Antonio Spurs
With every game they play, the Spurs continue to confuse me. They play balanced, team basketball, and dominate. They demolished the Mavs by 38, draining 20 threes on 30 attempts. The most fascinating part to the 2012-2013 Spurs is Tim Duncan. Duncan, has the highest PER of his career dating back to 2006, and is still averaging a double double despite being the age of 36. The Spurs may not be the most entertaining team to follow, mainly because they just continue to win and make it look so easy. The only problem that will face the Spurs down the stretch is health—already Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson have faced injuries and hopefully they can avoid any more when they need to be at full strength.
Last Week: 4
Pre-Christmas MVP: Tim Duncan
4. Miami Heat
A great week for the Miami Heat to say the least. The Heat beat down their three opponents by an average of 14 and are now on a four game winning streak after their heartbreaking loss to Golden State at home. You can never think twice about this Heat squad, especially this one that has LeBron James, the man that is leading the Heat in all three major statistical categories, 25 points eight rebounds and nearly seven assists. We have not even seen the most dominant side of LeBron yet, the reigning Finals MVP, claims he could score 30 a night if he wanted to, and I do not think that anyone could disagree.
Last Week: 5
Pre-Christmas MVP: LeBron James
3. New York Knicks
It is official—the Knicks are the team of New York now. The Knicks beat the Nets for the second time in a week and have taken a 2-1 series lead in the battle of the boroughs. Although they had a comeback stop short at the hands of the Bulls they did complete one against the Timberwolves that saw Carmelo Anthony put up 19 of the Knicks 23 in the fourth. The Knicks are still one of the best offensive teams in all of basketball, but in six of their last ten they have allowed over one hundred points. If the Knicks plan on holding onto this elite title, their defense must pick it up like they showed in month and a half.
Last Week: 2
Pre-Christmas MVP: Carmelo Anthony
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
It look as if it was never going to end, but the Thunder finally had their 12 game winning streak snapped at the hands of the Timberwolves on the road. Although this Thunder team may be the best team in all of basketball despite being put at number two this week. Kevin Durant has been this season’s MVP, not Carmelo Anthony, and seems hell bent on taking the Thunder back to the NBA Finals and grabbing the title that slipped through their finger last season. Look at NBA’s elite, because the Thunder are coming and everybody should be put on notice.
Last Week: 1
Pre-Christmas MVP: Kevin Durant
1. Los Angeles Clippers
Oklahoma City may have put up a 12 game winning streak, but the Clippers have won 13 straight and it is still going on. It is time to stop thinking the Clippers are just an athletic group of basketball players because this team is playing the best ball in the league. We have yet to see if this team can keep it up in the postseason, but as of now they are primed to make a run this campaign. With a strong starting lineup and supporting cast, the Clippers are strong in every way you can think of, ranking the top ten in points for and points against. A Thunder-Clipper Western Conference Finals matchup could be the most entertaining series that anyone could think of this season.
Last Week: 3
Pre-Christmas MVP: Chris Paul
Updated as of 12/24