November 17, 2017

Western Conference Mid-Season Report Card

(by playoff seeding)

Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan
Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan Image

San Antonio Spurs

Mid-Season Grade: A
Record & Conference Standing: 42-12, 1st
The Good: Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili & Tim Duncan should be well rested & healthy heading into the playoffs. Their supporting cast continues to improve and gain experience.
The Bad: The Spurs are always strong in the regular season. It is unclear if they have enough to win a series against the top teams.
What to watch for: Better play against other Western contenders and nail down a rotation with Ginobili, Duncan and Parker playing more consistent minutes.

Oklahoma City Thunder
Mid-Season Grade: B
Record & Conference Standing: 39-14, 2nd
The Good: Kevin Durant is having another MVP-caliber season and the Thunder have gotten improved play from Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson.
The Bad: Despite having the NBA’s third best record, the Thunder are not as intimidating as they were with James Harden. Without him, Durant and Russell Westbrook have a larger responsibility to create offense for others.
What to watch for: The Thunder need more consistent play from their supporting cast heading into the playoffs, or risk getting knocked off by deeper teams.

Los Angeles Clippers
Mid-Season Grade: A-
Record & Conference Standing: 39-17, 3th
The Good: Nov 28th- Dec 30th (17-0) & Feb 6th-Feb 14th (5-1) When firing on all cylinders, & healthy, the Clippers may be the most destructive team in the NBA.
The Bad: Oct 30th-Nov 26th (8-6) & Jan 1st- Feb 4th (9-10) The Clippers are inconsistent with losses to some of the worst teams in the NBA- Cavs, Raptors, Suns, Wizards and Hornets
What to watch for: Managing Chris Paul’s health is critical. Without him, the Clippers will struggle against the better teams. VDN’s toughest challenge may be to settle on a rotation given how deep their bench is.

Memphis Grizzlies
Mid-Season Grade: B
Record & Conference Standing: 33-18, 4th
The Good: Their defense, toughness & team play are still excellent. They added some good supporting players in Ed Davis and Tayshaun Prince.
The Bad: The departure of Rudy Gay, Wayne Ellington and Marreese Speights were largely for financial considerations. This may bode well for their future but may significantly damage this season’s results. Without Gay, the Grizzlies have even less offense.
What to watch for: Because of their defense, the Grizzlies will continue to win. However, it’s difficult to imagine them beating the Clippers, Spurs, or Thunder. It’s also easy to see the Grizzlies drop in the standings.

Denver Nuggets
Mid-Season Grade: B
Record & Conference Standing: 33-21, 5th
The Good: Kenneth Faried continues to improve and they have depth and athleticism at most positions. The Nuggets are very good (22-3) at home and have mostly (16 of 28) home games remaining.
The Bad: The Nuggets get inconsistent performances from many of their offensive weapons.
What to watch for: The Nuggets need to figure out how to beat the good teams on the road since they will likely be visitors when the playoffs start.

Golden State Warriors
Mid-Season Grade: A
Record & Conference Standing: 30-22, 6th
The Good: Behind Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee and Jarrett Jack, the Warriors have been able to win games on the strength of their offensive firepower.
The Bad: It will be difficult for the Warriors to outscore teams in the playoffs… where they will face a slower pace and better defenders.
What to watch for: The Warriors are inexperienced and injury prone. If healthy, Andrew Bogut, with his strong defensive play, can substantially improve the Warriors defense. They have the potential to get hot and do some damage in the playoffs.

Utah Jazz
Mid-Season Grade: B
Record & Conference Standing: 30-24, 7th
The Good: The Jazz have one of the league’s best set of current (Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap) and potential (Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter) frontcourt duos.
The Bad: Guard and wing play needs to improve for the Jazz to continue to win.
What to watch for: The Jazz will need Mo Williams and Gordon Hayward to return and get healthy to be put up a good fight in the playoffs.

Houston Rockets
Mid-Season Grade: A
Record & Conference Standing: 29-26, 8th
The Good: The Rockets have played very well considering the number of new players added in the off-season
The Bad: While the offense (1st in pts/game) is great, the Rockets defense (29th in points allowed) is not.
What to watch for: The Rockets want to outscore their opponents so they’ll either need to improve their scoring or play better defense to win a few more games & hold onto the 8th seed. A deal is always in the works for Rockets GM Daryl Morey.


Portland Trailblazers
Mid-Season Grade: B+
Record & Conference Standing: 25-28, 9th
The Good: Damian Lillard, Nicholas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge have had very good seasons.
The Bad: The Trailblazers have no depth to deal with injuries or teams that have a strong bench.
What to watch for: If the Trailblazers can stay healthy and get improved bench production this team can get into the playoffs, but their starters will be too exhausted to make a run.


Kobe Bryant, Mike D'Antoni, and Dwight Howard Image
Kobe Bryant, Mike D’Antoni, and Dwight Howard

Los Angeles Lakers

Mid-Season Grade: D
Record & Conference Standing: 25-29,10th
The Good: Earl Clark?… and getting into the playoffs is still a possibility?
The Bad: Too many to mention all, here’s just a few: injuries, poor chemistry, terrible defense &, most importantly, a collection of players unable to implement their coach’s strategy.
What to watch for: Since there’s plenty of talent on this roster, it’s conceivable the Lakers could make the playoffs.


Dallas Mavericks
Mid-Season Grade: C
Record & Conference Standing: 23-29, 11th
The Good: The Mavericks off-season additions have been decent although unspectacular.
The Bad: They don’t scare anybody & play with little cohesive energy.
What to watch for: Hopefully, Dirk Nowitzki won’t demand a trade. Dallas has made roster moves that allow them off-season cap flexibility at the expense of competitiveness for this season.

Minnesota Timberwolves
Mid-Season Grade: B
Record & Conference Standing: 19-31, 12th
The Good: The Wolves have done as well as they can considering the numerous injuries that have ruined this season. They have another exciting international guard in Alexey Shved.
The Bad: Even with more playing time, Derrick Williams has continued to play poorly.
What to watch for: With little at stake, the Wolves have plenty of time to continue developing their young talent.

New Orleans Hornets
Mid-Season Grade: B
Record & Conference Standing: 19-34, 13th
The Good: A good set of young players (Greivis Vasquez, Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and Al-Farouq Aminu) to give future Pelicans fans some hope.
The Bad: They’re too young, and far behind, to get into the playoffs this year.
What to watch for: If Davis and Gordon can stay healthy, the Hornets should be able to upset some teams heading into the playoffs. While the Hornets shop Eric Gordon, there are no takers.

Sacramento Kings
Mid-Season Grade: C-
Record & Conference Standing: 19-34, 14th
The Good: At least the Kings have some assets (DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans) and raw talent (Thomas Robinson, Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Thornton) to be entertaining and occasionally competitive
The Bad: Even without the Cousins conundrum, the Kings roster is a bit directionless without a solid footing at any position.
What to watch for: Removing the Maloofs from the picture will give the players & the new management a chance to move forward. Will Kevin Johnson save the day for Kings fans?

Phoenix Suns
Mid-Season Grade: D
Record & Conference Standing: 17-36, 15th
The Good: The Suns get decent play from Luis Scola, Goran Dragic, Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley.
The Bad: Management has failed the fans and players. Poor personel decisions have resulted in losing and few signs of young players to build upon.
What to watch for: This team is going nowhere so they would be better off by trading players with value (Scola, Dragic, Gortat and Dudley) while increasing minutes for young players (Markieff Morris, Kendall Marshall and Luke Zeller) to accelerate the rebuilding process.

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Coach Nick

Coach Nick is the founder of BballBreakdown, coached the Triangle Offense at the high school level, and counts Tex Winter and Pete Newell as mentors. For more of our conversation, follow him @BBALLBREAKDOWN.

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  • Good breakdown, coach, but the Laker$ deserve a flat-out F. If not for extremely slanted-officiating in all of their games, they would only have about 12 wins right now.

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