Welcome back to the second of a four-part mini series devoted to all things NBA. Today is a look at the mighty Western Conference. There have been some surprises and some busts so let’s jump right into it. As usual, here’s another glimpse of the comedic side of the NBA.
- Oklahoma City Thunder (22-4) – Through 27 games, they have an impressive 13-1 record at home. It’s extremely difficult to slow down this team as they average 106.0 ppg. In the Eastern Conference Review, I referenced LeBron James’ impressive 30.0 PER. In the West, Kevin Durant is right there with him owning a 28.2 PER. Reggie Jackson has quietly averaged 15.2 ppg over his past five contests, relieving some of the pressure placed on Durant and Russell Westbrook.
- Portland Trailblazers (23-5) – If you want to watch an entertaining team, look no further than “Rip City”. Currently the leagues most explosive offense, they average 108.4 ppg. The Trailblazers have been lead by strong play from LaMarcus Aldridge (23.1 ppg + 11.0 rpg), Damian Lillard (21.5 ppg + 5.8 apg), and Nicolas Batum (14.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.3 apg). Greg brought up an extremely important point in our most recent spar when he discussed the heavy workload of the Portland and Indiana starters. These three players are also all ranked in the top 10 of total minutes played and will need rest with the playoffs on the horizon.
- San Antonio Spurs (21-6) – This team has different players contributing in different ways every night. They’re the second best shooting team in the league behind the Miami Heat with a .489 field goal percentage. The Spurs also are ranked second in total assists (690), meaning they love to share the ball. The Spurs are built for the post season so until then, they’re on cruise control.
- Los Angeles Clippers (19-9) – Another team with an explosive offense. The Clippers average 104.5 ppg and have the number one producer of assists in the league thanks to Chris Paul (304 total/11.3 apg/27.7 PER). One element of their team that can plague them in the playoffs is the amount of personal fouls they commit (618), which is ranked 3rd most in the league.
- Houston Rockets (18-10) – After a 5-4 start to their 2013 campaign, the Rockets have started to mesh well with the arrival of Dwight Howard, going 13-6 since that mark. A weakness of this team is their free throw shooting. As a team their FT% is .696; second worst in the league. Although they lack the ability to hit from the charity strike, they’re sandwiched in between the Trailblazers and the Thunder for most points per game (106.4). If the playoffs were to start today, they would face a matchup with the Clippers, which may be the most intriguing matchup of the first round.
- Phoenix Suns (16-10) – Wow, what a surprise! I must admit I didn’t think the Suns had it in them. As Christmas rolls around they are still very much in the hunt for the playoffs, but it’s difficult to trust they’re consistency. At one point they were 9-9, but out of no where they have gone 6-1 over their past seven games and have quality wins over the Mavericks, Nuggets, Warriors, and Rockets. It’s hard to pin their early success on one player but the guard play of Eric Bledsoe (19.1 ppg/6.3 apg/21.4 PER) and Goran Dragic (18.7 ppg/5.9 apg/20.2 PER) has been remarkable.
- Dallas Mavericks (15-12) – They have a weak record against other Western teams (8-9) and can never seem to get a string of wins together. This is another team much like the Spurs, who love to share the ball (23.3 apg as a team – 6th best in the league). A very confusing team in my opinion considering in the month of December they have two bad loses to Phoenix and Golden State but a quality win against Portland. Between Dallas and Denver, I think only one will make the playoffs. One aspect of this team that I love is their free throw shooting. As a team they are the 3rd best team in the NBA in FT% with .804, one of only three teams above the .800 level.
- Denver Nuggets (14-12) – The success of this team hinges on the play of Ty Lawson as he contributes in various statistical areas. Through 24 games played, he averages 17.6 ppg and 7.9 apg with a 20.4 PER. These are one of the teams I don’t expect to finish in the top eight because of they’re record against Western Conference teams (7-10) and with Golden State and Minnesota on their tails.
While the West may appear as the dominant of the two conferences, there will only be one winner. All of these teams are extremely talented but they continue to beat up on each other which is why the race for seeds 6-10 will be so interesting to watch. You thought the AFC playoff picture was interesting in the NFL? Just wait until you see the Western Conference in about three months.
Stay tuned tomorrow for a look into some of the teams on the outside looking in from each conference as well as some of the best individual shots, passes, and moves so far. Here is a preview to get you in the right mood.
-Did you think Blake Griffin could do this? I sure didn’t.
Don’t be afraid to leave comments and feedback and as always, continue to enjoy.