The West is loaded with title threats, but not everyone is going in the same direction…and for some reason all my comparisons came from Star Wars
Category A: L: I Love You; H: I Know
This is the group of untouchably cool and awesome teams, like Han Solo in that scene above.
Golden State Warriors—Think about this: The Atlanta Hawks have won 16 games in a row, and the Warriors still have a better record. The big kicker, of course, is that Golden State is doing this in the brutal, terrible, really mean Western Conference. At this point, Steve Kerr’s team is on a collision course for the NBA title.
Category B: I Am Your Father
This is the group for really cool teams that have either remained top contenders in the West or are trending upward.
San Antonio Spurs—Okay, you’re probably going to be mad at me for this. Because the Spurs are in fourth place not in the conference but in their division (!). Because the Spurs don’t have the best record against playoff teams from the West. Well you say that but I will say this: Exact same scenario last year. I remember writing a piece last year during the regular season about how the Spurs, who were losing against playoff teams, weren’t that good against top competition, and then do you know what they did? They won the NBA title. Also, they’re healthy for the first time, and have won eight of 10 games.
Memphis Grizzlies—After a rough start to the month of January, the Grizzlies traded for Jeff Green and have won eight of their last nine games. And don’t look now, but they’re in the top half of the league in scoring. If there is a team that might be able to knock of Golden State, this might be it.
Category C: Mos Eisley Cantina
This is the group for teams just hanging out, i.e. not going terribly up or down; but even if you’re just hanging out at the Mos Eisely cantina you have to watch out because it’s really dangerous.
Los Angeles Clippers—I hate the Clippers, and I don’t think Doc Rivers is that great of a coach, and I think the roster he has put together is pretty horrible, and I think the acquisition of Austin Rivers is absurd on many levels. But LA is winning. This month alone, they’ve beaten the Mavs, Blazers, and Suns. They’ll get a real test in the next couple weeks, as they play eight straight on the road.
Houston Rockets—Despite one of the most talented rosters in the league and the supposed genius of James Harden, the Rockets are just ho-hum in a lot of areas. I blame Kevin McHale, but no one would listen to me. Nevertheless, they remain a dangerous, scary team.
Portland Trail Blazers—LaMarcus Aldridge saved the day (but not his thumb) when he announced he would forgo surgery and keep playing with a left-hand injury. We will see how this decision pans out, but as of now it saves Portland from falling into the last group.
Category D: It’s a Trap!
This is the group for teams who are probably screwed; your whole season is a trap.
Dallas Mavericks—The Mavericks have lost three games in a row. They are getting decimated on the boards, which is making them miss Brandan Wright all the more. In last night’s loss against Memphis, the Mavs allowed Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol to combine for 17-28 from the field for 37 points. Mike Conley didn’t even suit up.
Phoenix Suns—Two and a half games up on New Orleans, three and a half games up on Oklahoma City, Phoenix is in a sticky situation. Their defense has been terrible: They’ve only held one opponent—Minnesota—to under 100 points in their last nine games, and the Wolves scored 99. Their next five games are brutal: Wizards, Bulls, Warriors, Grizzlies, and Blazers.