#3 Golden State Warriors
One side who is no stranger to the playoffs is the Golden State Warriors. Though the franchise has had to adapt their expectations due to significant injuries last season and the absence again of Klay Thompson this year, the Warriors have beaten the Lakers and Spurs in their last two games, bringing them up to fifth in the West with an 8-6 record.
Steph Curry and Draymond Green are having stellar seasons, the former leading the way on offense, averaging 28 points, while the latter has taken his leadership on defense to a whole new level having to coach the Warriors young stars.
With the second pick in this year's draft, the Warriors brought in James Wiseman as the traditional center that coach Kerr wanted. Wiseman has settled into life in the NBA under the tutelage on-court from Green and is an early contender for Rookie of the Year. Having stuttered at first, the Golden State Warriors are slowly coming together and look a promising prospect to breach the Western Conference's top eight sides.
#4 Atlanta Hawks
Having just as quickly blown the 4-1 start they earned, the Atlanta Hawks looked as though they were living up to expectations as inexperienced outsiders for the East's playoff positions. John Collins had expressed his displeasure with the team's offense after the Hawks had thrown away two 15-point leads in as many games and it began to look as if the Hawks were headed for an early derailment of their season.
Although it remains that Collins may be traded from the franchise who is committed to the future of young guard Trae Young, they have found a way to steady the ship with three wins in the last five.
Atlanta currently sits on the same record as the Cavs and one game ahead of the Knicks, though have a deeper array of scoring talent that these two sides have lacked at times. This may just enable them to pip their rivals come the end of the season.
#5 Memphis Grizzlies
Heading back to the West, the Memphis Grizzlies have made a surprising case for themselves recently, winning their last five games and climbing to a 7-6 record.
The worst was feared for the Grizzlies season after young superstar Ja Morant went off injured in Brooklyn at the end of December and Memphis soon fell to a 2-6 record. However, with their traditionally solid defensive unit, the Grizzlies were able to grind out wins against the Nets, Cavs and Timberwolves before Morant's return in a victory at home to Philadelphia.
Memphis has the second-best defense in the league and currently tops the NBA in steals. Though their offense is in the bottom-six, they have not had to worry in the absence of Morant considering their stolid defensive performances. Now that their point guard is back, the Grizzlies have every reason to believe they can make a run at the postseason.