Our weekly look at every team in the West who isn’t the Memphis Grizzlies.
The teams out in L.A. actually looked a bit like their historical selves this week, as the Clippers dropped three in a row, while the Lakers have won their last three, and might be making their way back into the playoff hunt.
I’m not the biggest Kobe fan, but I do admire the way he’s altered his game in recent days, becoming more of a passer, and reaching double-figures in assists in each of the last three games. Now, it’s unlikely that he’ll continue this trend because, well, he’s Kobe, but the fact that the Lakers win more when Kobe distributes the ball really says something. His endless barrage of shots this season has been defensible, if only because everyone else has struggled so much. now, however, we see that Kobe is capable of getting the rest of the team involved in the game. If he continues to use this new approach, the Lakers will likely keep winning. Maybe he won’t rack up 11 dimes every night, but as long as he isn’t taking 30 shots either, the Lakers will be better off.
As for the Clips, not much should be read into their current slump. All good teams reach a point in their season where things momentarily stop working, and they have to get back on the right track. The absence of Chris Paul from the lineup has likely contributed to their recent struggled, and once he is playing every night again, i don’t expect them to have too many serious difficulties. Simply put, they’re too strong of a team to be kept down for a long time.
And yes, Grizzlies fans, I am saying all of that through gritted teeth.
After a brutal slump that saw them go from 21-14 back to .500, the Rockets finally turned things around, winning their last three games, and absolutely destroying the Jazz on Monday by an astonishing score of 125-80. Every time I consider writing this team off, they do something that makes me think they could be deadly in the playoffs. Their offense is just so scary. Plus, Harden shoots so many free throws, he could probably go 2-26 from the field and still end up with more points than shots. This team is a bit too inexperienced to get out of the first round, but I see no reason why they don’t get into the playoffs. Their offense is just too dangerous.
As for Utah, they’re probably the most vanilla team in the league. A lot of solid guys, but no standouts either. That’s why I’m practically begging them to do something at the trade deadline. They’re like the West’s version of the Hawks, expect without the entertainment value of Josh Smith. The smartest thing they could do is get rid of one of their surplus bigs, and add a dynamic scorer. It wouldn’t shock me if they talked to the Celtics about Paul Pierce.
The Thunder were vanquished by the Lakers on Sunday, a bit surprising since they’ve been a far superior team this season. Should OKC fans be worried?
Moving on, the Warriors won their last two, but suffered an injury to Stephen Curry on a mild ankle sprain. This shouldn’t be a huge problem, since no one expects Curry to miss a lot of time. Still, considering his injury history, the Warriors have to be just a bit nervous right now, since he’s the biggest component of their impending playoff run, and he’s been pretty fragile over the course of his career. As long as he’s not out too long, though, this is an obvious playoff team, one that could give Memphis some trouble if they were to play in the first round.
The Nuggets just keep on winning, and are now just a half-game behind Golden State for the five-spot. I feel like their difficult early schedule was something we didn’t think about enough until it happened. Anybody could’ve looked at the schedule, and predicted a rough start for Denver, but no one (myself included) said much about it. If anyone has an article mentioning this before the season started that would prove me wrong, please don’t be shy about sharing it.
The Mavericks and Timberwolves are both watching their playoff hopes slowly fade away. It’s sad to see, especially since Minnesota was such an intriguing playoff team at the start of the year. But that’s what injuries and a general lack of cohesion will do to your team. As for Dallas, Dirk just can’t carry a team by himself anymore. He’s hardly washed up though, and if he got the chance to play as a side-kick, or a third banana, he would likely be very effective. Nowitzki can still be a solid player, he just can’t take a team by the playoffs on his own anymore. If he gets traded to a contender, or if the Mavs make a splash in free agency, it would be interesting to see how he’d play in a different context.
The Blazers eeked out a tough one against Dallas last night, putting them one game over .500. It would be fun to see this scrappy young team make he playoffs, but I don’t see it happening; especially not with the Lakers looking revitalized. They’ll be a great team next year, assuming they can add some depth to their horribly weak bench. right now, their too underdeveloped to break into the postseason. Still, they’re immense effort this season is highly admirable. They try as hard as anyone in the league.
The Suns fired Alvin gentry last week, and have shown signs of life under new coach Lindsey Hunter. I wouldn’t expect it to last, though. this team is, to put it generously, an absolute mess. Some of the names sound good in theory, but most of them can only thrive on a team where that has an established leader, and the Suns just aren’t like that. Dragic is close, but the most you’ll ever see him do is potentially play a supporting role on a contender.
The Spurs keep on winning because they’re the Spurs. That’s what they do. If I ever think of anything interesting to say about them, I promise I’ll let you know.
The opposite could be said about our last two teams, the Hornets, and Kings. One will have a new name next season, the other might be playing in a new city. For the rest of this year, neither team is going to do anything exciting. More so than anyone else in the West, these two teams are looking forward.
And that wraps it up for this week. See you later Grizzlies fans!