Well, most teams have played 41 games, thus meaning we are pretty much at the halfway part of the season.
So where is the West placed at the midway part of the season?
The West, as promised, is looming as an absolute clinker in the second half of the season, if the first half of the season is anything to go by. Whilst the Laker have flown out of the blocks, however their losses are all against the top sides in both conferences including twin losses against the Clippers. Incredibly, LeBron has played 39 of 41 which you have to wonder of this is the right call as the bloke it old!
The Nuggets have got their shit together now after a slowish start, they’ve won 6 from 8 this month, which includes 2 losses against the Wizards and the Cavs who are two very average sides, so not sure what happens there. The Clippers have dropped several games, and have yet to really get their top side on the court to really build chemistry, but their quality shows taking down the Lakers twice.
Utah, Houston and Dallas have all shown their quality and have key players in Mitchell, Harden and Doncic who can all win games off their own hands whenever needed. The other big story is, are we seeing the first time the Spurs will miss the play-offs thus breaking a 22yr streak?
The Standings (as at 18/01)
1 Los Angeles Lakers 34-8
2 Denver Nuggets 29-12
3 Los Angeles Clippers 30-13
4 Utah Jazz 29-13
5 Dallas Mavericks 27-15
6 Houston Rockets 26-15
7 Oklahoma City Thunder 24-19
8 Memphis Grizzlies 20-22
9 Phoenix Suns 18-24
10 San Antonio Spurs 17-23
11 Portland Trailblazers 18-26
12 New Orleans Pelicans 16-27
13 Minnesota Timberwolves 15-27
14 Sacramento Kings 15-27
15 Golden State Warriors 10-34
Tough group this as there are certainly more than the East. Obviously, the LA teams in the Lakers and the Clippers are looking like the top 2 in the West, but both have question marks. The Lakers have two of the most dominant players in the game in LeBron and Davis, but it does fall away from there. Danny Green adds a shooting option, neither Howard or McGee have been terrible, whilst Caldwell-Pope and Rondo have been solid. If they could find another shooter, preferably a point guard, then they would be confidant of going all the way.
The Clippers are similar in that they have the dynamic duo in Leonard and George, but the support cast is much stronger. Thing that the Clippers are having trouble with is keep the dup healthy, with George out now with a hamstring whilst Leonard must be managed. Whilst they look strong across the floor, they would love a strong defensive centre to complete their team, hence their interest in Aron Baynes from Phoenix. Either way, this is the team to beat.
The Nuggets, well they started slowly but looking stronger by the week with Jokic getting match fit and posting good numbers, whilst Jamal Murray is controlling this team nicely. Millsap’s injury could be a concern, but overall, they are sitting 2nd and have one of the real home-court advantages due to the altitude. Similarly, the Jazz, who just peeled off a 10-game winning streak before a shock loss to the Pelicans. With Donovan Mitchell shooting well, Mike Connelly now settled and Rudy Gobert dominating the post, they are every chance to make a genuine run at the western conference finals. Of course, they also have the great man Joe ‘Jingles’ Ingles, who’s been tearing it up of late so we should all get behind them.
Last genuine challenger is Houston, who are sitting in 6th at the moment and been going ok overall. The concerns of Harden and Westbrook playing together hasn’t really eventuated, but you have to wonder if a team that relies so heavily on one player (Harden) can win the title. They still play too much iso-ball so they will need to improve this if they are to seriously challenge, otherwise they’ll fall short like recent years.
The Play-off hopefuls:
Listing the Mavericks here, which could be harsh as they are sitting 5th currently with a record of 27-15. They have a genuine MVP Candidate in Luka Doncic, who’s season to date has been incredible, and Kristaps Porzingis who’s a genuine talent but coming back form a couple of seasons out injured. With Seth Curry and Hardaway Jnr, they have some quality outside shooting, but I’m not sure they are a genuine threat to the finals at this stage.
Oklahoma City have been another team to surprise, firstly actually utilizing Chris Paul when the expectation was, he’d be on traded, but settling well as a team quickly. With Paul, Centre Steven Adams and Gallinari, they have quality and experience to make a surprise come the play-offs. Another surprise is the Grizzlies, who are being led incredibly well by Ja Morant, who is looking as a certainty to win Rookie of the year. He’s leading their scoring and assists and just looks a natural already. The question is, can they maintain this level of play for another 41 games??
The Suns started the season on fire, but dropped off and are now sitting outside a play-off spot by 2 games. They weren’t seen as a play-off team at the start of the season, but with Booker playing well, Ayton back and Rubio pulling the strings, they are certainly still in with a chance
Then there is the Spurs, who’ve got a 22yr play-off streak that they want to maintain and with Gregg Popovich as coach you can never count them out. However, there is talk that they could entertain trades for Aldridge and DeRozan, possibly to the Heat, which indicates they may know they aren’t making a dint this year and it’s time to reset.
First up we have the Trailblazers, who after challenging for the conference finals last season, are now looking at hoping for picks rather than seedings. Injuries and form have killed the Blazers season, and have made a trade today to try and replace some of those missing periods.
The Pelicans have been inconsistent and a double-digit losing streak, along
with the loss of Zion before the season started, derailed their season before it really got going. They have some genuine young talent in Ingram, Ball and Zion when he plays as well as experience in Reddick and Favours, but its now about finding chemistry and a look to next season.
The Timberwolves have been poor despite Andrew Wiggins finally finding some form, the Kings look shot whilst the Warriors are looking at stealing the No.1 pick after injuries and departures have destroyed their season.
The ‘Views’ tips for the West
Western Finals – Utah Jazz v LA Clippers
Eastern Champions – Clippers