Hornets forward David West is making his all-star case by averaging 19 points per game. ((Rocky Widner/Getty Images))

Each week, CBCSports.ca's Lance Winn breaks down the balance of power in the National Basketball Association.

1. SAN ANTONIO SPURS [unchanged]
Record : 39-7
Last 10 : 9-1

Not only are these Spurs good, they’re consistent. It’s all about team chemistry when your leading scorer (Manu Ginobili) is averaging less than 20 points per game (18.7) and leading rebounder (Tim Duncan) is grabbing less than 10 boards. Something else has to be working. Actually, everything else is running on all cylinders. Their offence ranks fifth (104.3), fourth in assists (23.2), and third from the land beyond. Did I mention they are 9-1 in their last 10 and sport a 24-2 at home? If you don’t know, now you know.
2. BOSTON CELTICS [unchanged]
Record : 35-10
Last 10 : 7-3

They are who we think they are…good, real good. Sure they can score but can this team ever defend. They hold teams under 92 points per game (2nd), lead the league in rebounding (38.8), assists (both offensive and defensively), and field goal percentage (50.2). What more do you want?
3. NEW ORLEANS HORNETS [up from 7]
Record : 31-16
Last 10 : 10-0

It’s not that the Hornets are putting up ridiculous point totals (94.6 ppg, 26th), but they aren’t allowing the opposition that luxury either. The best in the Association at defending their basket, they are fourth in rebounding and fifth in assists. Forward David West is making his all-star case by averaging 19 ppg.
4. LA LAKERS [down from 3]
Record : 33-13
Last 10 : 8-2

With the focus elsewhere, Kobe’s crew have continued doing what they do…win games. Bryant’s 25 ppg isn’t as impressive as his 4.8 assists per outing. They can score and play lockdown D. Boston is looming just over the horizon and so are the Spurs and Hornets.
5. CHICAGO BULLS [up from 9]
Record : 31-14
Last 10 : 8-2

Starting to see somewhat of a trend…defense wins games. This Bulls team has joined the NBA’s elite sporting the third best D in the league, seventh in controlling the boards, and second in assists. A stiff test in conference rivals from Orlando awaits before heading out on a West Coast swing.
6. DALLAS MAVERICKS [down from 11]
Record : 30-15
Last 10 : 4-6

Owner Mark Cuban continues to add pieces to this perennial playoff underachiever with SG Peja Stoyakovic the latest addition. It’s been the emergence of Tyson Chandler and reserve J.J. Barea that have stepped up.
7. ORLANDO MAGIC [down from 5]
Record : 30-16
Last 10 : 6-4

The dogfight for Southeast Division supremacy with the Heat have the Magic among the Eastern Conference powerhouses. A lapse in Detroit before righting the ship in Indy isn’t a major concern, but a date with the Bulls might be.
8. MIAMI HEAT [down from 6]
Record : 31-14
Last 10 : 5-5

Yes both Lebron James and Dwayne Wade will start for the East in the all-star game, the first teammates to do so since 2007. That’s all good but watching each go one-on-one down the stretch against the Knicks was enough to make Heat fans check themselves. Apparently the concept of “team” was pushed aside, and that’s never a good thing.

9. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER [down from 8]
Record : 29-16
Last 10 : 6-4

The Thunder are keeping pace in the West by losing to teams above them, and beating the teams below them in the standings. Beat the Knicks by three, fall to the Hornet by the same, and beat Minnesota by one. Quite the ride so far.

10. DENVER NUGGETS [up from 12]
Record : 24-18
Last 10 : 7-3

One would think that having a disgruntled star in the lineup would have a detrimental effect on a team, but that doesn’t appear to be the case in Denver. Sure Carmelo wants out but he was upfront about it from the beginning. With a three-game streak with Cleveland, Philadelphia, and New Jersey on tap, the blue and gold have reason to be Melo.

11. ATLANTA HAWKS [down from 4]
Record : 29-17
Last 10 : 7-3

After an embarrassing 100-59 home lose to the Hornets, the Hawks bounced back against Charlotte before dropping a 98-90 decision to Milwaukee. The Knicks and Mavs aren’t about to make things easy.

12. NY KNICKS [up from 14]
Record : 24-21
Last 10 : 3-7

An impressive win over the Heat has this team confident about its place in the East. Amare Stoudamire controlled the paint but Landry Fields had a coming out party with 19 points and 13 boards off the bench. Contender or pretender? We’ll talk in the second half.
13. UTAH JAZZ [down from 10]
Record : 27-19
Last 10 : 3-7

Talk about falling on hard times. Six straight losses but a visit from the Timberwolves might be just what the doctor ordered. But nothing is guaranteed in this league.
14. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS [down from 13]
Record : 25-22
Last 10 : 5-5

Won five and then took it on the chin from the Sacramento Kings! They’ve got the Spurs followed by the Nuggets so a gut check might be in order.
15. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS [up from 19]
Record : 20-25
Last 10 : 6-4

Took the Magic to the limit and gave the Bobcats a scare. Still chasing the Knicks and Celtics in the Atlantic Division.

16. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES [up from 18]
Record : 22-24
Last 10 : 5-5

O.J. Mayo testing positive for a banned substance? Suspended 10 games by the league. Yes it’s still the first half but this stretch could determine the Grizzlies’ fate.

17. HOUSTON ROCKETS [unchanged]
Record : 20-26
Last 10 : 5-5

Still trying to get a handle on this team, they seem to morph every outing. A five-point loss to the Mavs might have started something…San Antonio, the Lakers, and Jazz on the road. Good luck with that.
18. CHARLOTTE BOBCATS [down from 16]
Record : 19-25
Last 10 : 6-4

The winds of change blew through Charlotte and it has made a difference. They still struggle to score but there’s never a lack of effort. Still holding down that eighth spot in the East.
19. PHOENIX SUNS [down from 15]
Record : 20-24
Last 10 : 6-4

Despite having lost three in a row, the Suns are just a game back from the eighth playoff spot in the West. Steve Nash has been outstanding (17 points, 11 assists) but do Boston or New Orleans really care?

Record : 19-26
Last 10 : 5-5

If they could ever find some consistency this team might contend. Win four, lose three, etc. isn’t going to cut it in a division with the two-time defending champs.

21. MILWAUKEE BUCKS [up from 24]
Record : 17-26
Last 10 : 4-6

Everyone is chasing the Bulls in the Central, Bucks included. A win over Atlanta might go a long way with Toronto, New Jersey, LAClippers, and Suns next on the sked.
22. DETROIT PISTONS [up from 23]
Record : 17-29
Last 10 : 5-5

Rip wants out? Can’t imagine why.
23. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS [down from 21]
Record : 17-28
Last 10 : 6-4

The team is below average. Blake Griffin is not. It would be nice if the Baron would show up every night.
24. INDIANA PACERS [down from 20]
Record : 16-26
Last 10 : 2-8

This team is in a freefall. Last week the skid was three, now it’s six. Go with option two, panic.
25. NEW JERSEY NETS [up from 27]
Record : 14-32
Last 10 : 4-6

If they beat the Pacers they will have won three straight for the first time in nearly two years. Hope springs eternal.

26. WASHINGTON WIZARDS [down from 25]
Record : 13-31
Last 10 : 4-6

Two and counting…Thunder, Grizzlies, Mavericks, Hornets, Magic…might want to check back when the skid hits seven.

27. TORONTO RAPTORS [down from 26]
Record : 13-33
Last 10 : 1-9

No such thing as a “guaranteed win” in Toronto. Times are tough, especially for Raptor fans.

28. SACRAMENTO KINGS [up from 29]
Record : 10-33
Last 10 : 2-8

Slowly heading north in the rankings…yeah.

Record : 10-35
Last 10 : 1-9

At least they’re not the worst team in the league (see below).

Record : 8-37
Last 10 : 0-10

They’ve lost 18…the record is 23…keep counting.