With just a little over a month to go in the NBA’s regular season, as usual teams are really starting to jockey for playoff position. Playoff positioning will be particularly important in the Western Conference. In what may be one of the most competitive conference races we’ve ever seen, several teams have stepped up their level of play.
Perhaps, the teams stealing the most recent headlines are the Clippers and Rockets. The ‘Doc Rivers Effect’ is in full effect in L.A. Blake Griffin has been great, but the play of DeAndre Jordan is providing the little things that the Clips have missed in the past. In Houston, Dwight Howard and James Harden are becoming more and more comfortable with each other. The Rockets have also stepped up their play defensively to go along with their potent offense. The Golden State Warriors have also made strides, and no one wants to see the Memphis Grizzlies right now.
The Western Conference is ridiculously deep, so anything can happen in the playoffs. However, the one that seems to always stand above the rest is the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs, like most every team has had their ups and downs, but now things seem to straightened out. A huge reason for that is Kawhi Leonard. The 3rd year pro from San Diego State had been injured for a while, but is now back. Just in time too, because as Leonard goes, so go the Spurs.
That’s a bold statement with players like Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan on the team. However, Leonard’s athleticism brings everything they do together, and makes them complete. Leonard has been better offensively than we thought he’d be out of college, but his defense is his calling card. He’s one of a kind, because no other team out west has a wing defender besides maybe Iguodala for Golden State, that can give Durant, James Harden, or maybe Klay Thompson fits the way he can.
The Spurs are even deeper than they’ve been in past seasons. Marco Belineli and Patty Mills are playing lights out. It just doesn’t seem to matter who’s on the roster. Greg Popovich gets the absolute most out of them, and again the Spurs to me, not only look like the team to beat out west, but the entire NBA…
Now, onto the rankings…..
1. San Antonio Spurs – With the Heat, Pacers, and Thunder showing weaknesses, Spurs are the clear top team right now.
2. Miami Heat – Lebron and company are here by default. Heat look more vulnerable than they’ve looked in a long time. Look no further than Lebron attempting zero free throws the last two game for reference.
3. Los Angeles Clippers – ‘Lob City’ is showing substance now, and could easily replace either of the top 2 teams, especially if CP3 and Redick are healthy.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder – Durant and company’s loss to the Lakers was mind-blowing. Maturity level of the Thunder still a question. Thunder just 4-5 since Westbrook’s return.
5. Indiana Pacers – Don’t look now, but Indy’s lead over Miami is almost gone. Hard to see the Pacers winning the east without home court.
6. Houston Rockets – Looks like Dwight made the right decision, even though the Rockets aren’t quite ready to win it all. Trade with Nuggets for Jordan Hamilton looks like a steal, though.
7. Golden State Warriors – We knew the Warriors could score, but who knew they could defend like they have lately. Steve Blake was a great move. Curry and Thompson are hot, but Bogut’s health will determine their fate.
8. Portland Trail Blazers – LaMarcus Aldridge and company need to get home. Two blown double-digit games in Texas and a beat down from Memphis have the Blazers home sick in the worst way.
9. Chicago Bulls – Amazingly, even though the Bulls still have trouble scoring, and are playing without Rose and Deng, they are still a threat to do damage in the playoffs. Just go ahead and give Tom Thibodeau the coach of the year. Why wait?
10. Memphis Grizzlies – With Mike Conley and Marc Gasol back from injury, it’s no coincidence the Grizzlies are back also. Memphis, is capable of beating anybody. It’s easy to forget they were in the Western Conference Finals a year ago.
Best of the Rest….
11. Dallas Mavericks
12. Toronto Raptors
13. Brooklyn Nets
14. Washington Wizards
15. Phoenix Suns
16. Charlotte Bobcats
As always, whether you Agree with me, or disagree, don’t hesitate to leave a comment.