Our weekly look at all the teams in the West who aren’t the Memphis Grizzlies.
So, the West sure is competitive this year, eh? I mean, how many teams could we say have absolutely no chance of making the playoffs? Definitely the Kings and Hornets, but that’s probably it. Even the 10-15 Suns aren’t all the way out of it. Not with Goran Dragic playing so well.
Really, every other team has at least an outside shot. I felt like the West was stronger than most people realized going into the season, but I never would have guessed it would have this many legitimate teams. Of course, the Lakers remain on the outside looking in with a record of 11-14, which gets a little more hilarious each week. The odds of them actually missing the playoffs are just about slim to nil, but it’s just too competitive for me to completely write off that possibility. They’ve won two in a row, but I still don’t see them as a dangerous team. I don’t see how they get passed round 1.
Of course, there’s plenty of upstart teams that would be proud of a one-and-done playoff year. Like the Blazers who announced themselves to the world with a decisive win over the Spurs in a nationally televised game this past Thursday. Damian Lillard was amazing in the game, scoring 29 points and looking like a potential superstar. Right now, he has a huge lead in the ROY race, and the only way he won’t get it is if Anthony Davis ends up averaging 3 blocks per game or something. Right now, I’m not sure if the Blazers are true playoff contenders, if only because they’re a little too young, and they have a few too many question marks. Still, they have a huge talent in Lillard, and with LaMarcus Aldridge looking more and more like his old self each week, they certainly can’t be taken lightly.
The Rockets are right at .500 right now, with Harden putting 25 a game as he gradually establishes himself as a legitimate superstar. This team has been struggling to gel, especially it’s backcourt of Harden and Jeremy Lin. Last night, however, they reminded us just how deadly they can be, earning a decisive win over the Kicks. Lin went for 22 and 8, looking just as he did during the height of Linsanity. What this reminds us is that Lin is hardly a lost cause as a player simply because of a rough stretch. Lin finally asserted himself, taking shots when he saw the opportunity, and guess what? It didn’t stop Harden from being effective, as he wound up with 28 points and 10 rebounds. Lin needs to shoot the ball more on a regular basis, and he needs to realize that doing so won’t steal Harden’s Thunder.
The Jazz got a close win over Brooklyn last night, and they continue to hang just on the edge of the Top 8. This team is likeable enough and has some talented players, but they don’t seem drastically different form last year’s model, which was wiped out in four games by the Spurs. These guys are fun enough to watch, but they’ll likely be facing a similar fate in 2013.
The Mavs are fading fast, and if Dirk doesn’t rejoin them soon, their playoff strike will finally come to an end. O,J, Mayo is having a great season for them, but they need him to do too much on a game-to-game basis. He can be explosive on in any one game, but he’s going to do that every night. Of course, if Dirk were in the lineup, that would hardly even be an issue, but for now, the Mavs are twisting in the wind without him.
The Nuggets have had the Grizzlies number this year, but their record continues to hover around .500, well below the lofty expectations placed on them before the season. There’s talent here, but they aren’t gelling like the last few teams did. Still, I’m not sure I’d want to face these guys in the playoffs. They have a ton of depth, and a ton of energy, even if they aren’t utilizing either as well as they did last year.
The Wolves finally have Rubio back, and for the first time all year, are beginning to operate at full strength. Kevin Love has struggled shooting the ball this year, but his scoring and rebounding numbers have still been highly impressive. With Rubio, Love, Kirilenko, and Pekovic all in the starting lineup, his team is pretty scary, even without Brandon Roy and Budinger. So far, things look pretty good for this team to make their first playoff appearance since KG was in town.
I like the Warriors quite a bit – their situation hasn’t changed a whole lot from last week. Still overachieving a little bit, but probably a legitimately good team too. This could be the year we can finally appreciate David Lee for all the things he does well, and maybe give him a bit of slack for his weak offense.
The Spurs have finally hit a rough patch. I don’t think it matters a whole lot, but considering how frustrating it is watching them grab the #1 seed every year, it’s nice to watch them get taken down a peg, especially by someone as fun as Damian Lillard.
The Clippers and Thunder are also pretty much in the same place they were last week. There’s only so much to say about team’s that just win consistently on don’t suffer serious injuries. With that said, I’m sure not alone in hoping the Grizzlies might get sweet revenge on both of these teams come playoff time.
Well, that’s about it for now, see you next week, probably the day after Christmas.