Golden State Warriors: At 53-5, the Warriors started off the season as the best in the league, and their greatness has not wavered. After being blown out by Damian Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers after the All-Star Break, Stephen Curry and the Warriors have been on a tear. Winning their last four games, the Warriors are the fastest team in NBA history to reach 50 wins on a season; showing no signs of slowing down. This being said, I believe the Warriors will be tested in the future by some good Western Conference teams, but will ultimately get their goal of a 72-10.
Portland Trailblazers: The Portland Trailblazers are a peculiar team. A team that won over 50 games last year is now being led by the only starter who remained in Rip City; Damian Lillard. Lillard has done exactly what he knew he needed to do in the wake of losing so man pieces last year, and has stepped up to lead his fellow Trailblazers to a solid 31-28 record. More importantly, Lillard, along with the strong play of rising star C.J. McCollum, have the Blazers as the seven seed in an extremely tough Western Conference. If the Blazers stay healthy and Lillard and McCollum continue their phenomenal play, I see this team sliding into the playoffs as a seven to eighth seed team.
Houston Rockets: After a dismal start to the season, internal issues, and coach firing, the Rockets could be doing worse. With a team that has remained mostly intact after last weeks Trade Deadline, Houston seems to be picking up the pieces after a rough first half of the season.The recent overtime win against the Blazers bodes well for the Rockets, and Harden, who dropped 46 points, at a critical point in their season. Sitting on a 29-3\record, I think that the Rockets will make the playoffs in an exciting finish in the West.
Utah Jazz: The Utah Jazz is a strange team for many reasons, let me give you a few. The Jazz quite possibly has the most young talent in the Association with three players who can be future All-Stars in Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, and Rudy Gobert. Utah also has a roster chalk full of players with the potential to have big games; Rodney Hood is one of these players who has really stepped up in a career year. Although, with all of this talent, the Jazz are sitting at 28-29 and on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. Fortunately for them, they aren’t out of the race as they are only one game behind the Rockets. At this point, I predict a battle into the playoffs between the Rockets and Jazz, a battle I ultimately see the Rockets winning while the Jazz miss the playoffs.
Phoenix Suns: The Phoenix Suns are having a rough season in the Arizona desert. After their two best players went down with injuries early in the season, Bledsoe and Knight, and internal issues started to take their toll, the firing of Jeff Hornacek, the Suns have fallen oh so far in more than one way. Now the second worst team in the West, only ahead of the Lakers, Phoenix is struggling in a season worth forgetting. Fortunately, I feel that this season will open up the Suns to a full on rebuild, an overhaul which shouldn’t take long considering the young talent they already have on the roster. The Suns sit at 15-44 right now, and will most definitely miss any post season action.
Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies have been known as the Grindhouse team of the league for some years now, but I think this title is more relevant this year than it has been in previous seasons. After getting off to a horrible start and turning it into a solid season, the Grizzlies were hoping for some momentum going into the All-Star break. Unfortunately, they were instead met with a devastating injury to star center Marc Gasol. Now, with Gasol out for the rest of the season, the Grizzlies are tasked with turning a 34-24 record into what should be a playoff berth, and hopefully some success beyond. New additions Lance Stephenson and Chris Andersen have actually been solid thus far for Memphis.
Los Angeles Clippers: Los Angeles has been one of the best teams in the NBA for a few years now, and this year, the Clips are showing that they can still be great without star forward Blake Griffin. After his hand injury, the team went on and sent a message to the League by playing even better than they had with Griffin in the lineup. Through Chris Paul’s leadership, and elite play, the Clips have pushed on to a 38-20 record and a fourth seed in the West. I see the team continuing their solid play into the playoffs, and being elevated by the return of Blake Griffin in a few weeks.
Minnesota Timberwolves: The T-Wolves started out on a good foot this year, unfortunately, they have not been able to maintain their solid start. Sitting at 19-40 and 13th in the West, Minnesota will not make the playoffs this year, but I wouldn’t call this a lost season for the young Wolves. There have been many bright spots in the season, including the great year rookie phenom Karl-Anthony Towns is having, and the improvement in both Wiggin’s and Zach LaVine’s game’s.
Sacramento Kings: The Kings came into this year with high hopes. A great new player to compliment All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins in Rajon Rondo, and a full season under the highly esteemed coach George Karl’s system. Oh yes, the hopes were at new levels in Sac-Town; unfortunately, most of these levels have not been reached. Sitting at the ten spot in the West, record of 24-33, the Kings aren’t out of the race but need to make a move now if they hope to see the post season.
New Orleans Pelicans: Most expected the Pelicans to build on their last season’s playoff berth and the meteoric rise of Anthony Davis. Unfortunately, their rough start has hindered them up until this point in the season where they finally seem to be piecing things together. Winning three of their last five, the Pelicans are sitting on a 23-35 record and the 11 spot in the West. I don’t see the Pelicans making the playoffs, but I see them continuing their push and ultimately ending with a solid record. Kudos to Anthony Davis on his historic night as well.
Denver Nuggets: The Nuggets started off the season on a solid note, but have since slipped a bit. With a 23-36 record, the Nuggets could be doing worse in an increasingly difficult Conference, but through solid play and consistent effort, they have fared solidly. Unfortunately, in the midst of a career year, scoring forward Danilo Gallinari was injured in Friday’s thriller against the Mavericks. Due to this, I see the Nuggets slipping a bit in the standings in the second straight year of missing playoff action.
Oklahoma City Thunder: OKC is easily one of the most exciting teams in the NBA today; showcasing a roster chalked full of talent, this team has been posed for greatness for years. And with both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook healthy, the Thunder have been great indeed. At 41-18, they have a strong record to show for their efforts, and I definitely see them making it far in the playoffs.
Dallas Mavericks: In a surprising turn of events that only a great coach like Rick Carlisle could pull off, the Mavericks are sitting on a 31-28 record on their way into the playoffs. This is a team that had no clue who their starting center would be earlier this season, and the same team who has masterfully dealt with injuries and various team issues. I believe the Mavs will remain in the playoff picture but may slip a bit in the standings.
Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers season has been filled with lows and highs in Kobe’s farewell tour. At 11-49, the Lakers has no legitimate hope of making a playoff run in Kobe’s last year, but I hope they can make the Mamba’s last season respectable.
San Antonio Spurs: At 50-9, the Spurs have continued to do exactly what they’ve done for years now, win. The second best team in the association, the Spurs have put together a five game win streak and I can see their momentum only being lifted by the return of rising star Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs will make the playoffs for sure, and I even believe they will beat the Warriors in at least one of their next three meetings.
All Stats via ESPN.com
All Images via Google.com