…And now, it’s time for our weekly look at the other 14 teams in the West. The Grizzlies still have the best record in the league, and right now, things are getting fairly chaotic for the rest of the conference. It looks like there will be an exciting playoff race this year; one that the Grizzlies will be viewing from the top.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Remember when we thought they’d fall off without Harden? Yeah…not so much. OKC is off to a 14-4 start, and looks to be strong as ever, with Durant arguably laying the best basketball of the year, and Kevin Martin looking like a 6th man of the year candidate. There’s some concerns about depth on this team (why would you sign Thabeet?!), but for the time being, they look as frightening as ever.
They were underwhelming at first, when Harden went through a dry spell, but the Rockets have won 4 of their last 5, and are not an easy out by any means. After a weak start shooting, Jeremy Lin appears to have it together, as he and Harden are continuing to learn how to play with each other. Meanwhile, Omer Asik has continued to be a beast on the boards, while Patrick Patterson is probably better than anyone realizes. If this team sneaks into the playoff, Harden’s scoring ability, and Asik’s knack for grabbing boards could make them surprisingly scary.
San Antonio Spurs
Popovich’s well-oiled machine just keeps on rolling. He benched four of the team’s five best players against the Heat, and almost won anyway. Then, with everyone else rested up, they managed to overcome a 15-point deficit and defeat a tired Grizzlies team that had just played the night before. It seems like no matter how old this team gets, it doesn’t really stop them from wining games. They won’t be easy to take down in the post-season, and for now, it looks like another 55-win campaign.
Los Angeles Lakers
I know Nash is out, and they’re still figuring out how to play together, and adapting to D’Antoni’s system, but isn’t it possible this team just isn’t that good? Don’t get me wrong, they’ll make the playoffs, but at this point, isn’t it possible they could go down in the first round? They just don’t seem all that scary. Sure, Kobe is shooting well, but Pau has been underwhelming, and wile Howard has had some impressive stat lines, he hasn’t really taken over any games yet. Maybe Nash will really elevate them, and maybe they’ll adjust like the Heat did, but for now, this team is considerably less than the sum of its parts.
Another underwhelming team, who fell back off this week after netting some wins the week before. This team clearly has talent, but it seems more and more like the experts overestimated them. In the past, the Nuggets succeeded because they relied on depth, and a fair amount of overachieving. Lately, though, they’ve been done in by their struggles on defense (Iguodala hasn’t looked liked himself on the defensive end), and in general, don’t seem as dangerous as so many people thought.
This team is just depressing. Not as depressing as the Wizards, but still. Plenty of young talent, but it just isn’t working. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tyreke Evans leave next year, and at this point, it’s mostly a question of whether or not they’ll be able to getting anything decent for him. Building around a core of Evans and Demarcus Cousins was a neat idea, but it just doesn’t seem like it’s going to work out.