Our weekly look at every Western Conference team that isn’t the Grizzlies.
First off let’s talk about the Thunder, who have been looking quite good lately. Granted, they did fall to the Nuggets this week, but they also had a decisive win over the Clippers, and a hard-fought OT victory against the Mavericks. Kevin Durant was by far the most impressive player in the league. He put in a career high 52 points against Dallas, and had an excellent game against the Clips last night, with 32 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. The MVP race is pretty much just him and LeBron James at this point, and it will be amazing to watch. the two are in a class of their own, and while I hope the Grizzlies prove me otherwise, I’m starting to think they might be dueling in the NBA finals again.
The Lakers just keep sinking lower and lower, and time is running out. On Monday, they played the Bulls close for 3.5 quarters, than completely disappeared in the final 5 minutes. It was a bit jarring to watch, really. The likes of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Dwight Howard getting outhustled by Jimmy Butler and Marco Belinelli. How does that even happen? The Lakers still might make the playoffs because the West is a bit weaker than usual, and the normal 45-50 games needed for the 8-seed might be hovering closer to the 40-45 range, but still, it’s unbelievable how disappointing this team has been.
The Hornets continue to play much better now that they finally have a healthy lineup, They started 7-25, and have been 7-2 since. The return of Eric Gordon was the clear factor in getting this team competitive again, but the work of former Grizzly Greivis Vasquez cannot be ignored. Vasquez showed flashes of potential during his lone season in Memphis, and now he has shown that he is a legitimate starting point guard. Always great to see a former Memphis player doping well, even though I really wish he was still around.
One of the few teams the Hornets have lost to recently is the Warriors, who have recovered from a brief losing skid, and once again look like a sure bet to reach the postseason this year. Jarrett Jack has been playing brilliantly lately, putting up numbers comparable with most starting point guards in a bench role. Jack had long beena good player trapped in some bad situations, but he’s really shined on this Warriors team, showing that he can play a big role on a quality team. He definitely should be in the 6th Man Of The Year conversation.
I feel for Kings fans. Their team finally shows some real signg of life, and now it looks like they’re moving to Seattle! In recent weeks, DeMarcus Cousing has reminded us off all the good things he’s capable of (which makes it easier to deal with the bad things), and Jimmer Fredette has proven that he’s not the horrible bust we once that he was going to be. This team won’t make the playoffs this year, but they should be in contention fairly soon. It’s just a bummer the Sacramento fans probably won’t be able to see it.
The Suns keep on sinking, and they now have the worst record in the conference. They’re a bit of a “spare parts” team – they have a ton of players who could contribute to a title contender, but not a single guy who can really carry a team (although Dragic is close). The post-Chris Bosh Raptors have been like that, too. The Suns need some kind of marquee player to make them competitive, whether that comes from a lottery pick or a trade.
The Rockets finally won a game after a brutal 7-game losing streak. I think this team will make the playoffs, but their youth can be a blessing and a curse. They have tons of energy can put tons of points on the board, but they get discouraged and fall into ruts too easily. One noteworthy thing; James Harden’s incredible ability to get to the free throw line. He leads the league in shots and attempts from the line. On Monday, he scored 29 points on 20 field goals, despite only shooting 25% from the field. Why? Because he was 19 for 20 from the line. Rudy Gay could learn a thing or two from him…
The Mavericks have showed sings of life recently, recovering from a brutal slump. Dirk Nowitzki is slowly but surely improving since returning to the lineup, and even if the Mavericks aren’t going to make the playoffs this year, they still are a tough team that no one can take lightly. It’ll be interesting to see if they bring back O.J. Mayo next season. He’s exceeded expectations, and I’m sure they’d like to have him around, but will they be able to keep up with the offers from other teams? And will they let him go to pursue an even bigger name (cough Dwight Howard cough)? This will be one of the more intriguing offseason plot points.
The Timberwolves keep slumping, as they’ve dropped to 17-21, currently 10th in the West. It’s a shame; a lot of people thought they’d break into the playoffs this year, and if it weren’t for their frequent injury problems, that would probably be the case. Now, the Wolves are going to have to make a serious late-season run if they want to play into May. Considering that Love and Rubio have been underwhelming when they’ve actually been healthy, I wouldn’t put too much stock in that happening.
Pretty much every team is about where they were last week, but a special note on the Spurs: Tim Duncan deserved to be an all-star starter! Dwight Howard over him? That shows us what a popularity contest the fan vote is. Well, that’s all for now. See you next week folks!