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NBA Analysis: Assessing The Western Conference

The NBA season is a little over one month old. The consensus from the 2013-14 preseason talk was that the Western conference would be extremely competitive, tough and tight. Everything we have witnessed through the opening weeks of play suggests that those predictions were 100% accurate. Basketball Schedule assesses the 15 Western conference teams and their respective thus far in this season’s campaign.

1. San Antonio Spurs (13-1)

What can really be said about the Spurs? This team denies logic with its age defying fantastic consistency year in and year out. They are 13-1 and have hardly been mentioned in the NBA headlines. However, the signs are already pretty good for this roster. Tony Parker is playing like one of the best point guards in the NBA and Manu Ginobili is providing a valuable presence from the bench. San Antonio is a serious championship contender assuming they stay healthy.

2. Portland Trail Blazers (13-2)

Is this team the real deal? They may not finish as a top four seed, but the Trail Blazers should make the playoffs. Damian Lillard has ignored the sophomore slump and LaMarcus Aldridge is healthy and playing great basketball right now. Depth might be a slight long-term concern, but Portland are a team with great size and with lots of players capable of shooting the ball extremely well. Even the best of the West better watch out.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder (9-3)

So much of the focus when it comes to Oklahoma City has been upon their postseason performance and potential championship winning credentials. The reality is that the first month of the season was never going to cure any doubt about the chances of the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook-Serge Ibaka trio and their ability to take this team one step further than in 2012. All three are playing strong basketball early in the year and the Thunder already look like a team that will cruise back into the playoffs. We’ll learn more as move through the season.

4. Los Angeles Clippers (10-5)

It’s already been something of an up and down season for the Clippers emotionally. At times it looks and feels like new coach Doc Rivers has resolved this roster’s difficulties and is getting them to play better defense and to play tougher. Then they throw in a dud. Chris Paul is a clear superstar in this league and Blake Griffin isn’t far behind. The vibes from the Clippers are good enough for fans to be optimistic, but there’s no doubting the fact that Rivers still has a lot of work to do.

5. Houston Rockets (10-5)

The Rockets have shown that they can be truly dominant and arguably they possess the NBA’s most balanced line-up when James Harden, Dwight Howard, Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin are all on top of their respective games. Besides the obvious difficulty in terms of trying to build a championship roster and the challenge that that poses. There remains that lurking doubt that this line-up is just too dependent on Howard. He’s a superstar who doesn’t play well in the clutch and cannot shoot free throws. It’s pointless to pretend that that is not a problem.

6. Golden State Warriors (9-6)

The absence of Steph Curry due to concussion symptoms is a current worry for a team heavily reliant on his elite level scoring ability. Klay Thompson has done an admirable job in his absence. The Warriors might be worth a little more than their 9-6 record suggests. Head coach Mark Jackson must be very happy with his team and its improvement defensively as well.

7. Dallas Mavericks (9-6)

For all of the skepticism surrounding the Mavericks ‘cobbled together’ roster during the offseason, they’ve started 2013-14 in pretty promising fashion. Monta Ellis has started the season off pretty hot by his own standards and Dirk Nowitzki is almost playing like the ‘Dirk’ of old. Defensively Dallas are still pretty shaky, but Shawn Marion and Vince Carter have both been scoring some points. As long as that lasts this team can be competitive.

8. Denver Nuggets (7-6)

So far┬áTy Lawson has stepped up in the way which this team needed him to, but the rest of the Nuggets roster has yet to come together. Kenneth Faried’s game continues to tick along, while it will be interesting to see how Nate Robinson’s does in Denver’s system. A 7-6 record is nothing to sniff at for a team that underwent some reasonably major changes last season.

9. Memphis Grizzlies (7-7)

Marc Gasol’s injury is a concern for a Grizzlies’ team still trying to re-establish itself as a serious contender. The post-Lionel Hollins era hasn’t run too smoothly so far. Still, the core of this roster remains just about the same. Memphis has the experience and talent to turn a .500 start around.

10. Phoenix Suns (7-7)

Eric Bledsoe has played brilliantly in his first stint as ‘the guy’ in Phoenix. He’s had pretty good support from the wily and potentially under-rated Goran Dragic. The Suns are 7-7 thanks to Gerald Green, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris and Miles Plumlee. Who would have thought that quartet would all play so well in the NBA together? They may not keep it up, but right now they may Phoenix more competitive than most expected, and maybe more than fans had hoped!

11. Minnesota Timberwolves (8-8)

Kevin Love is back and is racking up ridiculously good statistics and Kevin Martin has returned to being a prolific scorer now he is getting the ball a lot more. However, the Timberwolves have stumbled after a very promising start. This is an athletic ball club that should still be a serious playoff contender this season.

12. Los Angeles Lakers (7-8)

The Lakers have shown flashes of a team that could keep things competitive until Kobe Bryant re-joins the team, but they’ve also shown flashes of a team capable of letting it slip away. Bryant’s new two-year deal makes this season feel less pivotal, but how he plays when he returns from his Achilles injury will be crucial.

13. New Orleans Pelicans (6-8)

Anthony Davis is playing like a potential NBA superstar and that is very encouraging for a Pelicans roster that went through plenty of turnover last offseason. There’s still a feeling that there isn’t a lot of balance on this roster though. This is a line-up that could be dangerous if they are able to pull together and find some extra cohesion in the coming months.

14. Sacramento Kings (4-9)

Demarcus Cousins is playing some strong basketball, but there isn’t much to be happy about in Sacramento right now. This is a team that could really use one of Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker and might well have a shot at getting one.

15. Utah Jazz (2-14)

The tanking championship’s early leader are the Utah Jazz. Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors should form a pretty promising core moving forward and maybe another very talented player will join them. There are way too many bad teams in the NBA to assume that the Jazz can be bad enough to stay on the bottom though.

 

Sebastian Egerton-Read

Seb has been writing about the NBA and basketball for nearly five years. He has written for a number of different sites and is currently lead writer of The5Hole.com and BasketballSchedule.net. Follow him on twitter @seberead

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