With All-Star weekend and the NBA trade deadline looming, it’s also the time that teams start jockeying for position down the stretch. A trade here or a trade there could make a world of difference come playoff time. As the season is about 50 games in, the standings out west are getting closer and closer. Currently, the Nuggets are in sixth place in the West, but are right on the heels of the Memphis Grizzlies and the Golden State Warriors.
Let’s take a look at how the West will end up.
1. Los Angeles Clippers – The Clippers have been on the losing end things dropping three straight with Chris Paul out of action. Whenever they are fully healthy, their depth and star power makes them the favorite in the conference.
2. San Antonio Spurs – The Tim Duncan injury isn’t as bad as it looked which is a sigh of a relief not just for Spurs fans, but NBA fans everywhere. Yes the team is old again. But they continue winning.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder – James Harden who? Kevin Durant is showing why he’s the leagues best scoring threat and right up there with LeBron James in the MVP race. Durant and Russell Westbrook, along with a strong supporting cast, will have home court in the first round again.
4. Denver Nuggets – The Nuggets have a relatively easy schedule the rest of February and a decent one in March. When April comes around however, the Nuggets will be challenged. It’s essential for Denver to dominate the rest of the month when it comes to position. The Nuggets will likely have a first round matchup against the Warriors or Grizzlies – both whom they fair well against.
5. Golden State Warriors – Why couldn’t their owner make the playoff guarantee this year instead of last? A rejuvenated David Lee and a healthy Stephen Curry are making the difference for the Warriors this year. Look for an exciting first round matchup between the Warriors and Nuggets in the playoffs.
6. Memphis Grizzlies – The Grizzlies traded away their top scorer in Rudy Gay and well, the return wasn’t great. While I feel Zach Randolph is the Grizzlies best player, a team can only get worse when losing its top scorer. Luckily for Memphis, they sit six games ahead of the Utah Jazz right now and should be able to hold them off for the No. 6 seed and a first round date with the Thunder.
7. Houston Rockets – This is simple for me because the Jazz can’t win on the road. They are 18-5 at home, but just 9-17 on the road. It will catch up to them as Harden and Jeremy Lin stop a late surge from the Jazz, Mavericks, Trail Blazers and Lakers to grab the No. 7 seed.
8. Los Angeles Lakers – Trust me when I say I hope I’m wrong. If Dwight Howard is healthy though, the Lakers will make the final playoff spot. With Kobe Bryant looking like the best point guard (?) since Magic Johnson, the Lakers clinch the final playoff spot from the Blazers on the the final day of the season with a win over the Rockets. Look for an all Los Angeles first round battle to start things off in the playoffs.