Photo Credit: Los Angeles Clippers
The NBA this year has been whacky, to say the least. In the West, there have been many surprising emerging teams, and teams that have just looked miserable this year compared to their runs last year. People always complain that the NBA is predictable, but is that the case this year? The 14 seed Rockets are only 5 games back from the 1 seed Clippers. That is ridiculous and it’ll be interesting to see how this will unfold.
Disclaimer: It is very early in the NBA season, obviously many things can happen. This was written and ordered in reference to the NBA Western Conference standings as of November 29th, 2018.
Los Angeles Clippers (1. 14-6): Would you look at that? MY TEAM the Los Angeles Clippers sit atop of the West in the NBA being one of the biggest early-season surprises. With the Clippers having virtually no stars, they have been playing superb team basketball. They are one of three teams in the NBA with a winning percentage greater or equal to .700. They have 10 clutch wins, second in the NBA and have a top 5 4th quarter scorer in Lou Williams. Health has been a huge factor for the Clippers has injury-ridden Danilo Gallinari is having a career season. Tobias Harris is looking like an all-star and Montrezl Harrell has been the core energy of this team making a case for 6th man of the year with fellow bench player Sweet Lou. The defense is mauling and they are 4th in the league for points per game at 116.8. Doc Rivers is making his case for Coach of the Year because the Clippers are 5th in offense and defense in the league, and let me tell you that warms my heart. Go Clips.
Golden State Warriors (2. 15-7): The Warriors have had some woes this season as Draymond Green and Keven Durant have had their chemistry issues, and Steph Curry has been dealing with injuries. With Steph slated to return to action Saturday against Detroit, their offense will surely surge back. It makes it easier for teams to guard the Warriors when Steph is not playing because of how well he spaces the floor. Demarcus Cousins hasn’t even played a game yet, so stay alert.
Denver Nuggets (3. 14-7): I find the Denver Nuggets to be a very interesting team. They are winning games, a lot of games. They may have one of the more complete rosters in the NBA. Nikola Jokic is a walking triple-double, and Jamal Murray and Gary Harris are having a breakout season. People also forget seasoned veteran Paul Millsap remains on this team. I don’t know if this will keep up for the Nuggets but they sure do look like a strong team that potentially will make it to the second round.
Oklahoma City Thunder (4. 13-7): PAUL GEORGE STAYED! Russell Westbrook, George, and company are quietly balling. No one ever denied the talent of this team, but they are playing on a more consistent level than most teams in the NBA. Westbrook needs to get healthy before they make a real late-season push, but so far they have looked impressive. I’m sure Sam Presti and the Thunder are satisfied with FA pickup Dennis Schroder’s 16.8 points per game coming off the bench.
Portland Trail Blazers (5. 13-8): Portland has a deep solid roster, Damian Lillard (averaging 27.1 points per game) and CJ McCollum (averaging 20.8 points per game) have been playing great as usual. Their center Jusuf Nurkic has dealt with injuries which has spoiled their red-hot start. Overall I don’t see Portland being a contender this year after being absolutely manhandled by New Orleans last year in the playoffs and they essentially have the same roster this year, but hey, we might as well give them kudos for their performance thus far.
Memphis Grizzlies (6. 12-8): It appears Grind City has returned, probably because health has been on the side of Memphis this year. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol have always been a nice complimentary duo, but Jarren Jackson has added a lot to this team that many did not expect, including myself. These Grizzlies are playing with grit and energy as their defense ranks 10th in the NBA with a defensive rating of 104.9. From what I have seen this Grizzlies team can hang with anyone but have also blown some games badly as journeyman Garrett Temple has taken some unwarranted shots.
Los Angeles Lakers (7. 11-9): The second best team in LA has seen a lot of drama this season so far. You cannot knock LeBron James, the man can only do so much. Brandon Ingram has only scored over 20 points this season three times and he was supposed to be LeBron’s “Robin.” HA! No shot, I was actually a huge fan of Ingram coming out of college but he just plays with this lackadaisical style that is really just unimpressive. He has regressed from last year and so has some of the other young guys. Lonzo Ball flashes potential of greatness then will record a game with 0 points. That cannot happen. Now there are reports that LeBron is ignoring Head Coach Luke Walton’s play calls, which is something to note because current GM Magic Johnson didn’t hire Walton, so a change could be looming. Their defense is atrocious and lost Rondo to an injury for the time being. Overall, I think the Lakers will be fine and will probably win a playoff series just off of LeBron’s sheer greatness, but questions are starting to surround them.
Dallas Mavericks (8. 10-9): I really really really like this team. I picked them as my dark horse playoff contenders this year. I threw a lot of hate a Luka Doncic coming into the season because the only time he had ever played with NBA players he recorded 2 points. Doncic is looking like the clear favorite to win Rookie of the Year at the moment averaging 19.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game. Dennis Smith Jr. and Deandre Jordan have also contributed heavily to their 3 game win streak. This team is deep with solid players like Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews playing decent basketball as well, all under head coach Rick Carlisle who is no joke either. Keep an eye on the Mavericks.
New Orleans Pelicans (9. 11-11): The Pelicans have been very inconsistent this year after starting off strong. Anthony Davis is having an MVP caliber season, but they must start winning in a nightly a basis before that happens. One surprise coming from this Pelicans team is Nikola Mirotic (Pelicans acquired him from the Bulls in a trade last season) who started off with two back to back 30+ point games to start the season. Maybe it is because he shaved the beard? He is averaging 19.2 points per game on the season. Jrue Holiday is great too, but they need to figure something out if they want to make another playoff appearance.
Minnesota Timberwolves (10. 11-11): There is a lot of ugly and a lot of pretty coming from this 2018-2019 Minnesota team. They started off pretty miserably during the whole Jimmy Butler saga, but since trading him for Robert Covington and Dario Saric, Minnesota is 7-2. They have been playing as a true team as all of the drama has started to filter out. We may need to be concerned about Wiggins though after going 0-12 from the field the other night against a terrible Chicago Bulls team in 28 minutes. Timberwolves can sneak into the playoffs but they need to bounce back from their early season woes.
Sacramento Kings (11. 10-10): I know 10-10 doesn’t look great on paper but the Kings have been a pleasant surprise so far this season. Buddy Hield, De’Aaron Fox, and Willie Cauley-Stein are all having career years. They may not make the playoffs but Sacramento has to be happy with their young guys because they are making real strides as they have won some big games over the Thunder, Grizzlies, and Timberwolves. I always liked Fox but he is looking like a real NBA player this year, turning heads across the league.
San Antonio Spurs (12. 10-11): Man the Spurs look ugly this year. I know they lost Dejounte Murray to injury, but you would think Greg Popovich would turn this around DeMar DeRozan has been putting up numbers you would expect, 24 points, 6 assists, and 5.8 rebounds per game. LaMarcus Aldridge has been awful this season only averaging 17.7 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. This is not a good look for San Antonio who has made the playoffs 27 out of 28 times since 1989. Could this year be heading towards that opposite side of that trend?
Utah Jazz (13. 10-12): The Jazz have underperformed this season by a large margin being the 17th ranked offense and defense in the league this year. They need Donovan Mitchell to be a star and he has been inconsistent this year also struggling with injury. Overall I think this team will be fine because of how early it is, but outside of Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, they have no one averaging over 15 points per game on the roster. Utah needs scoring to compete.
Houston Rockets (14. 9-11): I am starting to think that the Rockets issues were not because of Carmelo Anthony. Ever since losing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute their defense has been absolute garbage. The Rockets are ranked 22nd this year in overall defense so far. Chris Paul and James Harden have both struggled with injuries so far this season which is an obvious reason why they are loosing but staying healthy is part of the game. They are a very thin team as they continue to throw G-League players on the floor, seeing that they only have 6 players averaging over 10 points per game. One of those players is Melo and he is not even on the team anymore. Houston has some serious issues and may be looking at the reality of missing the playoffs. There are reports they are searching for another wing player, a trade may be plausible.
Phoenix Suns (15. 4-17): I really don’t even want to talk about this team but they are in the West, so here we go. Phoenix is the only outlier in the West, winning only a measly 4 games. This team has been awful for years now and it is probably because they have whiffed terribly on draft picks like Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss who is a Rocket now, and Josh Jackson. Jackson isn’t terrible but is he 4th overall pick good? Devin Booker mentioned the other day that he wants a super team to form around him in Phoenix. With the current front office there, Booker may be out of luck.
Who do you think will edge out a playoff spot?