This NBA season has been largely unpredictable–the post-LeBron era in the East has left things wide open, though a few teams have surprisingly fallen short–but maybe the biggest shock of them all is how long the Golden State Warriors have spent away from the number one spot in the Western Conference.
After last night’s games–in which the Celtics beat the Pelicans, the Kings bested the Bulls, the Nuggets beat the Grizzlies, and the Lakers beat the Heat–the Western Conference is all shaken up again. The only Eastern Conference team that got a win last night was the Celtics with their 113-110 win over Anthony Davis and the Pels (a good sign considering the Boston team has a record that is much in need of improvement).
The Clippers Have Been Knocked to No. 4
The Los Angeles Clippers have been sitting at the top of the conference for a surprising amount of time–the 17-9 team came out of nowhere to somehow maintain a record that bested teams like the Warriors, Thunder, and Nuggets (not to mention teams like the Rockets and Jazz, who were expected to be leaders in the conference but now sit close to dead last)–and were only just supplanted after last night’s slew of wins from Western Conference teams.
Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder are now at number one, a huge statement considering our spot in the season (the midpoint isn’t far) and almost-constant refrains about Westbrook’s inability to lead a team in anything other than triple-doubles.
The Warriors are close on their heels after hitting a bit of a rough patch a few weeks ago, and it’s only a matter of time before they overtake that top spot. Once Boogie gets in the lineup, it’ll be over for the rest of the west–barring some unforeseen issue, whether with chemistry or otherwise.
Superstar-led Teams are Somehow at the Bottom
One of the most surprising things about this year’s Western Conference rankings thus far is how many superstar-led teams are scraping the bottom of the barrel. Most of all the Houston Rockets, whose struggles this season have been legendary even with stars like reigning-MVP James Harden, future Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul, and star center Clint Capela.
The Jazz, Timberwolves, and Pelicans are a few other teams sitting in the bottom 6 with their underutilized firepower. Anthony Davis of the Pels is an MVP candidate, and the Jazz are far from shorthanded. They just haven’t been able to get it done.
As the midpoint of the season approaches, all eyes are on the trade deadline in February. If things keep going this way, though, a few teams with major playoff hopes could end up taking the postseason off.