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Yes, it's that time again. The time that only shows itself once a month. The time when I write an NBA blog telling you who the top five teams and who the top five MVP candidates in the League are. A lot has happened since mid-January though. The East beat the West in the All-Star game. Andrew Bynum was injured. About 25 players were traded, most notably Pau Gasol, Shaq, J-Kidd, and Ben Wallace. This is when it matters though. There are only 25 games or so left on the schedule and the trade deadline has come and gone. So without any further adieu...

The STRONGER Rankings

1. Los Angeles Lakers (39-17) - They have the best record in the better conference. There is no reason not to put them number one. Not to mention, they are missing Andrew Bynum. Once he comes back, I don't see anyone beating L.A. in a best-of-seven series. Gasol, Odom, and Fisher will be happy to help. Currently, the Lakers have a one-game lead over the Suns in the Pacific as they have five players average 12 points or more per game. Gasol has been averaging 22 points and 7 rebounds since he was traded, and Kobe has been just as remarkable while averaging 28 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals per contest. Just think, by the time the playoffs roll around two things will have happened. One, Pau Gasol will be very familiar with the offense and, two, Bynum will return and the starting lineup that everyone has been waiting for will finally be together. Oh, and did I mention they are riding an eight-game winning streak right now?

2. San Antonio Spurs (37-17) - The Spurs are the best team in the toughest division in the NBA. They have a nice five-game winning streak going right now and are 9-1 in their last ten games. They, too, made a decent trade by getting Kurt Thomas, a skilled low post defender. Add to that the core of San Antonio in Ginobili, Parker, Duncan, and Bowen and this team definitely has a chance at getting back to the Finals. Duncan has been his usual self with averages of 20 points, 12 rebounds, and 2 blocks while Manu has been the perfect 6th man anyone could ask for (21 pts, 5 reb, 5 ast). The Spurs finish off the month with two worthy opponents in Dallas and Atlanta. Their schedule in the middle of March, however, is almost like death as they have to face Denver twice, Phoenix, New Orleans, Detroit, and Boston. Good luck.

3. Houston Rockets (36-20) - How could I not put them this high? They have the League's best winning streak at twelve games and are playing fantastic ball. They sit only two games back of San Antonio, yet somehow they are in fourth place in the division. Go figure. Yao Ming has been great. He is averaging 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. Tracy McGrady is also playing well with 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists per game. Bobby Jackson was acquired by Houston before the trade deadline and put up 14 points and 2 assists in only 19 minutes of playing time in his Rockets debut. The Rockets have a somewhat easy schedule until, once again, the middle of March. They face the Lakers, Celtics, Hornets, Warriors, and Suns consecutively.

4. Detroit Pistons (41-15) - The Pistons are 13-2 in their last fifteen games and have been playing great. In that span, they have defeated the Magic, Lakers, Blazers, Suns, and Nuggets to name a few. They have to play Utah tonight on the road. Their schedule in March gets tough with a stretch of games that includes San Antonio, New Orleans, Denver, and Phoenix. However, Detroit's schedule in April is a breeze. If they make it through March with only three or four losses, they could end up being the #1 seed in the East. Right now, Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups are averaging 18 points apiece to lead the Pistons. Antonio McDyess and Rasheed have been pulling down 9 and 7 boards per game, respectively, to lead the team. Detroit is my pick to represent the East in the Finals this year.

5. Utah Jazz (36-20) - Utah is 20-4 since they traded for Kyle Korver. He was a nice addition to a team that really didn't have a pure shooter before he came along. But they better watch out as they finish off the month with games against the Hornets and Pistons. Deron Williams has been fantastic this season with averages of 19 points, 10 assists, and 3 rebounds. However, he has been overshadowed by Chris Paul of the Hornets. Carlos Boozer is having a great season as well, but not many people are taking notice outside of Jazz fans. Averaging 22 points and 11 rebounds, Boozer is becoming a force to be reckoned with among the other big men of the West such as Duncan, Amare, Gasol, and Dirk. This team definitely has a chance at getting back to the Conference Finals, but not much further. The West is just too damn tough.

MVPs- 55 to 60 Games In

1. LeBron James - His averages are out of this world. LBJ is putting up 30 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists...PER GAME! My only concern is his spotty shooting. King James only shoots 31% from deep and 71% from the line. Is that good enough for the League's best player? Nevertheless, he is still producing. In fact, a couple nights ago he had back-to-back triple doubles. I have a feeling that this guy will be contending with the all-time triple double leaders by the end of his career.

2. Kobe Bryant - He's the best player on the best team in the NBA. Yet I still do not think this will be the year Kobe finally gets the recognition as the League's Most Valuable Player. He is averaging 28 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists, but LeBron has better averages in each of those categories. If the Lakers do end up winning the West, I can see him winning the award, but only if that happens. His shooting is better than LBJ's though as he shoots 35% from long range and 85% from the stripe. Also helping his case are the games in which he scores a whole lot and his team wins (i.e. scoring 41 in win over Suns).

3. Chris Paul - Any other year and CP3 would be first or at least second in the MVP races with averages of 21 points, 11 assists, and 4 rebounds. Not this year though. The two players ahead of him are both having remarkable seasons. Don't forget that this is only his third year though. He still has plenty of time to win the MVP award. I mean, he's still a better shooter than LeBron, but I guess that isn't saying all too much. What is most certainly not helping his case for the trophy is his team losing lately. They have a three-game losing streak going.

4. Dwight Howard - This guy is the premier big man in the game today. He is a force on both ends of the floor as he averages 22 points, 15 rebounds, and 2 and a half blocks per game. In his last three games, Dwight is averaging 29 points, 14 rebounds, and 2 blocks. He would be higher if he showed up to play every game. Orlando's coach has been saying that Howard is lazy and isn't giving his best effort for the team every night. The Magic are 24-2 in games that he has three or more blocks. If Orlando wants to do well in the postseason, this guy needs to block a lot of shots on the defensive end.

5. Kevin Garnett - I know, I know. The Boston Blowhards are going to be all over me for not having the Celtics in the top five and having KG as far back as fifth in the MVP rankings. Too bad; suck it up. It's not so impressive when he's on a team with two other all-stars. Nonetheless, he does average 19 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists. He is probably the biggest part of the Big Three and that is why he makes it on this list ahead of the other two. However, his production has slowed down considerably since the beginning of the season. In fact, in the month of February KG is only averaging 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists.

Okay, that will do it for this blog. I hope you enjoyed reading it. I try and mix it up a little each month with my picks. As a refresher, here were these two lists last month:

1. Lakers (New Rank: 1)
2. Mavericks (6)
3. Celtics (8)
4. Suns (7)
5. Hornets (9)

1. Kobe Bryant (New Rank: 2)
2. LeBron James (1)
3. Dwight Howard (4)
4. Chris Paul (3)
5. Kevin Garnett (5)

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