1. JORDAN CRAWFORD (Warriors): The Golden State Warriors have reportedly acquired guards Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks from the Boston Celtics Wednesday as part of a three-team trade. Golden State is sending guard Toney Douglas to the third team in the trade, the Miami Heat, who will ship center Joel Anthony to the Celtics, according to multiple sources. Crawford has done a nice job in Boston with his play-making. Led the Celtics with close to six assists per game and scoring close to 14 ppg. Things didn't work out with the Wizards and GM Danny Ainge gave him a shot and he's an improved player. Still forces a few too many shots for my taste, yet when I watch him I see a guard that starting to figure things out gradually.
2. KYLE LOWRY & DEMAR DEROZAN (Raptors): Lots of discussion of late about the all-star game. I won't lie - I'm bias. I see these guys perform all the time and have watched their improvement; maturity and games evolve and would be thrilled if both made it. They've been a huge part of the turnaround and winning players deserve recognition. It will likely be tough for both to make it, yet if the Raptors can continue to win games (and that really helps open eyes of coaches when they pick the reserves), their chances increase. Keep it going and make it a tough decision for folks by leading your team to victories.
3. OKC THUNDER (5-4 without Russell Westbrook): Kevin Durant has been nothing short of brilliant trying to keep his team afloat. He's even said that he's shooting too much. They've become a very predictable and defendable team without the dynamic point guard which is no big surprise. You lose a guy of that caliber and you're going to struggle. Does GM Sam Presti sit tight and wait this turbulence out or do they try to make a move to help this teams scoring punch? Don't want to be in a position that you're without home court advantage in the second round in the very difficult Western Conference playoffs. Some deep thinking and soul searching for them as they ponder winning now vs. internal growth and patience. Good test.
4. GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO (Bucks): Caught him in person for the second time on Monday night in Toronto. He fascinates me. Only 19-years old. Milwaukee took a flyer on him in the first round and I've gotta tell you, I see why. It's not about now but when he's 22-23 years old and the game starts to come naturally to him and he figures it all out. Obviously, he needs major upgrades with his strength and stamina and that will come. He's long, athletic and has decent skills. Definitely a guy to keep an eye on the next few years as he matures.
5. MARCO BELINELLI (Spurs): Having a wonderful year shooting the ball at 50 per cent from three-point range (tops in the NBA). Great system for him to play in and he's always been a guy that I liked since his days in Golden State. Good passer and better defender than he looks. He's tough and loves to compete. His short stint was a major disappointment in Toronto due to injuries and conditioning but in Chicago and now San Antonio he's gotten it together. It's amazing - the Spurs always come up with guys that make complete sense to their philosophy. He fits.