The halfway point of the NBA season is approaching. We're learning who the buyers and sellers will be at the trade deadline, who the contenders and pretenders are, and where Derrick Rose's loyalty lies. There are still plenty of teams fighting for the final playoff spots and at least four teams who should nab one, despite their current struggles.
4. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls have had a topsy-turvy first half of the season, especially with Rajon Rondo's recent benching and coach Fred Hoiberg finding himself on the hot seat. But star Jimmy Butler has found another gear, earning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors last week. He's playing at a level that can single-handedly propel a team into the postseason. The team is 19-19, tied for 7th in the Eastern Conference.
3. Milwaukee Bucks
The rise of Giannis Antetokounmpo has obscured the other good things going on in Milwaukee. Jason Kidd can coach. Jabari Parker can score. Rookie Malcolm Brogdon can ball and isn't afraid of the big moments. All of this makes Milwaukee a playoff team, and even a dark horse threat to a contender. They're currently 18-18, tied for 7th in the Eastern Conference.
2. Portland Trail Blazers
Barring a surprise in the new CBA, somebody will have to finish in 8th place in the Western Conference and make the playoffs. Right now, that team is positioned to be the Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard is on a mission and C.J. McCollum is cementing his star status. They're even looking to trade for a big man to help with their defense, which is one of the worst in the NBA. They're 16-23, tied with Sacramento for 8th in the Western Conference.
1. Detroit Pistons
Detroit is more talented than their record suggests. They just need some momentum. The Andre Drummond-Reggie Jackson pairing is still working, even though Jackson missed the first couple of months of the season with an injury. This team will put it together before it's too late. They're 18-21, one and a half games out of 8th place in the Eastern Conference.