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Western Conference Midterm Grades, All-Star Edition

Western Conference Midterm SPORTS_SHOCK via Flickr


NBA Western Conference Midterm Grades

NBA All-Star weekend is 11 days away, and it’s time to review the Western Conference midterm grades.

The Western Conference continues to be the Wild West where teams can jump from first place to fifth in a matter of days.

On February 16, 2018, All-Star Weekend will begin in Los Angeles. Before we get to the All-Star fun, let’s go over the midterm grades for the Western Conference.

Golden State Warriors:

Let’s face it; the Warriors are on their way to a repeat. Currently, the Dubs hold the best record in the league at 41-12. Despite losing to the Denver Nuggets three nights ago, the team has continued to prove that they are the best.

Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson continue to lead the way offensively for the team. Fans rave about how the Warriors can score in multiple ways.

Golden State continues to move the ball. Head coach Steve Kerr has his ball club averaging 30.3 assists per game, according to the NBA. As of now, the 2017 NBA champions are averaging 115.6 points and 44.1 rebounds as a team per game, via NBA.

Western Conference Midterm Grade: A+

Houston Rockets:

Sitting in second place at 38-13, the Rockets are playing at a high level. After last season’s experiment with James Harden, management decided to trade for Chris Paul.

Before the start of the season commentators, analysts, and fans wondered how Harden and Paul could co-exist on the floor. Needless to say, the two have meshed well.

Don’t get me wrong, the two are putting up impressive numbers, but I can do without the cheesy State Farm commercials — well, minus the one with Trevor Ariza’s solo.

Right now, the franchise has an 18-7 road record and is riding on a four-game win streak. Saturday night the team put on a clinic against the LeBron’s . . . I mean Cleveland . . . Cavaliers.

Adding CP3 to the roster has helped this team on the defensive side of the ball. However, they still have room for improvement on defense.

Although we still have half of the basketball season left, this team could push the Warriors to a game seven. The keyword here is COULD.

Just a reminder, stay out of the Los Angeles Clippers locker room.

Western Conference Midterm Grade: A-

San Antonio Spurs:

The Spurs are the gift that keeps on giving. As long as the franchise has head coach Gregg Popovich, they have a chance to win it all every year. Of course, with the GSW’s, I may have to preference winning it all.

Without having their star forward Kawhi Leonard for most of the season, the team finds themselves in third place at 34-21.

During the offseason, Popovich and LaMarcus Aldridge cleared the air, and the former Portland Trail Blazer has been averaging 22.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. (Per the NBA) I applaud general manager R.C. Buford and management for not trading LA.

A lot of teams today will trade a player in an instant if things do not work out. But not this organization and I applaud them for that. Last year’s playoffs could have ended differently if Leonard was healthy, but I digress.

San Antonio has been playing well throughout the year with the emergence of Dejounte Murray at point guard and the sharpshooting of Davis Bertans. As usual, the team has an “all hands on deck” type of mentality which has helped them along the way.

A few things that could hurt this team down the line are the absence of Leonard, lack of athleticism, and focus.

However, with Popovich anything is possible, so don’t count the Spurs out.

Western Conference Midterm Grade: A

Minnesota Timberwolves:

The Timberwolves seem to be everyone’s sleeper team which may, in fact, be true but for different reasons. Surprisingly, the team has had a few primetime games, but they don’t always keep your attention.

With a 34-22 record, the Wolves seem to be on pace to break their 13-year playoff drought. Head coach Tom Thibodeau has his team playing solid basketball at the moment as they are enjoying a two-game win streak.

This team is filled with talent but lacks mental toughness at times as they have given up big leads throughout the season. Honestly, I think the team should make a trade for Rajon Rondo, but I doubt the New Orleans Pelicans will buy into that.

No disrespect to Jeff Teague but this roster needs a pass-first point guard. Teague is a reliable scorer, but he hasn’t been the same since the Atlanta Hawks gave up on him.

Karl-Anthony Towns, Teague, Jimmy Butler, and Taj Gibson have provided solid numbers for the starting lineup. But sometimes the starting lineup lacks consistency on the defensive side of the ball.

However, Thibodeau has started to receive more contribution from his bench as Tyus Jones, Jamal Crawford, and Gorgui Dieng continue to blossom under his system. Well, Crawford is going to make his mark regardless.

Currently, the team struggles to close out games, play consistently, and focus on the defensive side of the ball.

Western Conference Midterm Grade: B+

Oklahoma City Thunder:

Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George seem to have hit their stride as of recent. This team can really play on the defensive side of the ball when they want to.

One question that seems to pop up continually is, can they beat Golden State in a series. My answer would be no. Often times this team finds themselves playing down to their competition. OKC has lost too many games against teams that they should not lose to.

The fact that this team was put together toward the end of the summer should provide OKC fans with some hope.

With a 30-24 record, the team is currently on a four-game losing streak. The team’s major priority should be to focus on improving their road record. In the Western Conference, you have to be able to win on the road if you plan to win a title.

Let’s just assume that Golden State will be in the Western Conference finals. You pretty much have to go through the Bay area to get to the finals. Before the February 8th trade deadline, the team needs to add more to their bench.

This team is currently averaging 106.3 points, 45 rebounds and 21.2 assists per game.

Western Conference Midterm Grade: B

Portland Trail Blazers:

I must say, this team is consistent every year with positioning themselves around the sixth, seventh, or eighth seed.

In my opinion, it is evident that management needs to consider trading CJ McCollum or Damian Lillard. I know that this may be a head-scratcher for most, but the franchise struggles with attracting free agents.

Both McCollum and Lillard tried to steal Melo from the Knicks and failed. If the two can’t get DeAndre Jordan from the Los Angeles Clippers, they might as well prepare for another early ending to the season.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s fun watching the two dominate nightly against other guards and teams but when will enough be enough?

I applaud this team for fighting nightly, but nothing has changed which will continue to hurt this ball club.

Western Conference Midterm Grade: C

New Orleans Pelicans:

Besides losing my NBA 2K team for the year, I have to send my thoughts and prayers to DeMarcus Cousins. The Pelicans were on the rise in the Western Conference.

Last year, the team faced unrealistic expectations as the Pelicans received Cousins via trade halfway through the season. Losing Cousins for the rest of the season will affect the teams rebounding, scoring, and defensive scheme sets.

Head coach Alvin Gentry finally received some more talent and incorporated a system that works. After losing their star center, the team quickly traded for Nikola Mirotic.

Mirotic is not Boogie Cousins, but he can spread the floor for Anthony Davis to work. Prior to the start of the season, the team needed more shooters, and that is still the case.

The Pelicans need more shooting and another star player.

Western Conference Midterm Grade: B

Denver Nuggets:

With a 28-25 record, the Nuggets have pulled off some marquee wins this season. The team is currently on a two-game win streak and has a slight hold on the number eight seed in the Western Conference.

Head coach Michael Malone has done an excellent job of blending his lineup with a mixture of young talent and veteran presence.

Denver is coming off of an impressive 115-108 win over the defending champions. (GS) Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic, and Garry Harris are leading this young team to future prominence.

This could be a team that grows together and improves with the signing of a big name free agent. But good luck selling Denver.

Western Conference Midterm Grade: A

Los Angeles Clippers:

Despite trading away one of the best point guards in the league and recently trading Blake Griffin, the Clippers have done a nice job of rebounding.

Head coach Doc Rivers has his team playing at a high level as they finally crossed the .500 mark at 26-25. This season, the team has been riddled with the injury bug. The team has been without Austin Rivers, Patrick Beverly, and Danilo Gallinari.

Regardless of injury, the team is two games out of eighth place. Not to mention Doc has been playing with a few G league players and has had them competing at a high level.

Adding Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley was huge, and I think it will allow them to sneak into the playoffs.

Western Conference Midterm Grade: B+

Utah Jazz:

There isn’t much to say about the Jazz. So far this season they have continued to play team basketball, but it hasn’t been enough to defeat teams above .500 on a nightly basis.

One bright spot this season has been rookie Donovan Mitchell who is averaging 19.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. (Per the NBA) The future is looking pretty bright for this young man and organization.

Another bright spot for this team is the play of Rodney Hood who is averaging 16.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.6 rebounds per game. (Per the NBA)

Utah Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey needs to prepare for the future and release or trade Joe Johnson and Ricky Rubio. Also, place Rudy Gobert on the trading block to see what teams are willing to offer.

At some point, management has to make a move that places this team over the top.

Western Conference Midterm Grade: C-

Los Angeles Lakers:

2018 may be a good year for this organization. The Lakers are 21-31 and believe me, that is a terrible look. However, the team is starting to gel and play for one another.

Ironically, the team is playing better without Lonzo Ball, but that’s none of my business. Drafting Kyle Kuzma has been a blessing in disguise for this franchise.

This could definitely be a team that grows together and takes over the west in two or three years. Head coach Luke Walton has his team playing with great energy and intensity.

However, the Lakers could take another step back at the end of this season with the possible departure of Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Brook Lopez. (Via trade)

We will see how things go in free agency.

Western Conference Midterm Grade: C

Memphis Grizzlies:

Controlling owner Robert Pera has a lot of explaining to do. I understand letting Zach Randolph walk but firing David Fizdale to keep Marc Gasol’s moral high was wrong. (COME ON MAN!!!)

The phrase “you reap what you sow” has definitely come into play this season for the Grizzlies. I’m not sure that I can find many positive things to say about this team this year except for Tyreke Evans who is averaging 19.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game via NBA stats.

But, to no one’s surprise, the team is willing to trade him. This season has been a disgrace for the Grizzlies. Let’s not forget that Michael Conley Jr. is out for the remainder of the season with an Achilles injury.

The team is currently 18-34 which places them in 12th place.

Western Conference Midterm Grade: D-

Phoenix Suns:

At 18-36 the Phoenix Suns find themselves in full rebuild. Devin Booker has remained consistent throughout the season, and rookie Josh Jackson has been impressive.

Management may need to pick up the phone and make some calls. Despite firing Eric Watson at the beginning of the season, the team hasn’t really rebounded. Currently, the team averages 104.9 points, 21.1 assists and 43.9 rebounds per game, via NBA stats.

Western Conference Midterm Grade: D

Dallas Mavericks:

Head coach Rick Carlisle has taken this season in stride. (Much respect) Over the years, Dirk Nowitzki has embraced the role of being the leader and closer for the Mavericks.

There has been speculation that he could return next season, but it’s time for him to hang it up. This season the team has shown flashes of what they could be and what they are not.

Dennis Smith Jr. seems to be the answer for the future since Harrison Barnes has not lived up to his max contract.

This roster has a lot of old contracts and dead weight that management should consider moving.

Western Conference Midterm Grade: D+

Sacramento Kings:

Rounding out the Western Conference standings are the Sacramento Kings. With a 16-36 record, they are in last place. At the end of last season, the team decided to start over again.

The Kings drafted De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles, and Frank Mason III. During free agency, the team signed George Hill and Zach Randolph. One thing that I can respect is that management acknowledged where they were as an organization.

Fox has underperformed so far this season and has struggled with his jump shot. The Kings have great young talent in Bogdan Bogdanovic, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, De’Aaron Fox, and Skal Labissiere.

The next step for this team may be to find a coach who can cultivate and mold young talent.

Western Conference Midterm Grade: C+

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