Mark Heisler's NBA rankings

Baltimore Sun

Last week's rank in parentheses

Records through Friday

1. Cavaliers 26-8 (4): After donning paper party hats for LeBron James' birthday - really - they win sixth in row.

2. Lakers 26-6 (2): At this pace Kobe Bryant will lock up MVP by Feb. 1 and need IV fluids rest of way.

3. Magic 24-8 (3): With defenses taking him away, Dwight Howard down to 9.0 shots, 17 points a game.

4. Celtics 23-8 (1): Paul Pierce gains in MVP race as Celtics turn into the Nets without him.

5. Suns 21-12 (6): Look who's back to where they were before Lakers got too big for them.

6. Spurs 19-11 (11): Just went 7-1, starting 6-7 rookie DeJuan Blair in position 7-0 David Robinson once played.

7. Mavericks 22-10 (8): Jason Terry, Josh Howard, Drew Gooden making up for Dirk Nowitzki slump.

8. Hawks 21-11 (5): Only New Year's Day worse than that of Wizards: blew 14-point fourth-quarter lead versus Knicks.

9. Rockets 20-13 (10): Tired of Tracy McGrady's act, Rockets tell him to take a hike if he can't take a hint.

10. Nuggets 20-12 (7): 1-5 since Chauncey Billups left with sore groin as he tries to return, leaves again.

11. Thunder 18-14 (14): Major move for team that was 3-29 a year ago and made no major deals.

12. Trail Blazers 21-13 (9): Can't go on like this: Just went 9-5 while losing Greg Oden, Joel Przybilla, LaMarcus Aldridge.

13. Jazz 18-14 (12): Remember all those times we said they're back? They're not.

14. Grizzlies 15-16 (16): Highest scoring starting five averages 96.7 with everyone in double figures.

15. Heat 16-14 (13): Stalled out: 7-9 since their 9-5 start with 19 of next 26 on road.

16. Raptors 16-17 (19): Was it real or a schedule opportunity? Raptors end 2009 on 5-0 run.

17. Kings 14-18 (17): If they won half their close games, they would really be shocking the world.

18. Clippers 14-18 (20): Chris Kaman an All-Star candidate, and owner has stopped moaning about his contract.

19. Hornets 14-16 (15): George Shinn "No Moneyball:" Just tried to dump starter Devin Brown to save bucks.

20. Bucks 12-18 (18): Scott Skiles yo-yos Andrew Bogut, Michael Redd as free fall extends to 15 losses in 19 games.

21. Bobcats 12-18 (21): DJ Augustin, whom Larry Brown wanted over Brook Lopez, now chained to his bench.

22. Knicks 13-20 (23): Krypton-Nate Robinson indeed: Gets 41 in first game in month as they stun Hawks.

23. Bulls 13-17 (24): Hiring Vinny Del Negro was a joke. Firing him with no comment on reports he's gone would be too.

24. 76ers 9-23 (26): It works?! 2-0 with Allen Iverson and clone Lou Williams starting before reality sets in.

25. Pistons 11-21 (22): Not all they hoped for: Lost six in row, got Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince back, now up to nine.

26. Wizards 10-20 (25): Nice knowing you.

27. Timberwolves 7-27 (28): Love is all you need, almost: Averaging 15-12, missed triple-double with 17-11-9 game.

28. Pacers 9-22 (27): Better rethink lineup: Starters just scored 26-46-50 to opponents' 76-63-105.

29. Warriors 9-22 (29): Anthony Randolph Tango: Averaging 12-7, still playing only 23 minutes a game.

30. Nets 3-29 (30): Yi Jianlian averages 23 in first four games since his return. Nets even win one!

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