Laying aside the ‘NBA Coast to Coast Swing’, I’ll be bringing you the best from the West on a weekly basis. Gabby Hurlbut will be representing the NBA’s Eastern Conference. Be on the lookout for a great article from Gabby come Wednesday morning.
As for the loaded Western Conference, it simply never disappoints. I’m certainly a firm believer that the Orange Roundball League’s power remains out West. This might even be the year that a team other than the Golden State Warriors has a puncher’s chance of representing the Western Conference in The Finals. I believe there are a handful of teams in the West who could dethrone the juggernaut Warriors before season’s end.
One last shout out to the East before I hand things over to Gabby. A resilient Boston Celtics team has emerged under head coach Brad Stevens’ tutelage. After a 0-2 start and the loss of All-Star Gordon Hayward for the year with a broken left tibia on Opening Night, the Celtics have piggybacked on the shoulders of Kyrie “Uncle Drew” Irving, winning seven straight games and improving to 7-2 on the young 2017-18 regular-season. Boston currently stands alone atop the Eastern Conference.
What about the Cleveland Cavaliers? Their dreadful start had head coach Tyronn Lue calling out his players for being out of shape. That’s clearly unacceptable. Well, LeBron James didn’t look out of shape in our nation’s capital on Friday night. He went berserk, bananas, bonkers with a league-high 57 points in effortless fashion against the Washington Wizards in a Cleveland victory. The Cavs (4-5) are struggling without Kyrie in the backcourt, and JR Smith must raise his level of play if Cleveland has hopes of making it back to The Finals.
Out West, the Houston Rockets currently have a stranglehold atop the conference standings at 7-3, just ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies (6-3) and Warriors (6-3). With Chris Paul now looking to return to the Rockets’ lineup in approximately two weeks, this powerhouse will just keep getting better. Guard Eric Gordon is playing at an extremely high level right now while averaging 23.4 points per game and James “The Bearded Wonder” Harden is doing his typical thing with 26.8 ppg, 4.6 rebounds per game and 9.4 assists per game. Add CP3 back to the mix and you may have the best backcourt trio in basketball.
Despite the loss of CP3 in the offseason, the Los Angeles Clippers (5-3) are looking strong out West. Former Houston point guard Patrick Beverley is filling the orange handling void nicely and Danilo “The Italian Assassin” Gallinari fits well into the Clips’ core group. Did I fail to mention that All-Star power forward Blake Griffin is playing out of his mind right now? No. Sorry about that. Blake is literally stuffing the stat sheet with 22.9 ppg, 8.1 RPG, and even 4.7 APG. Yup. The young stud is blue-collaring along with his hard hat and lunch pail on a nightly basis.
But what about those juggernaut Warriors? After a slow start, Golden State recently thrashed both the Clippers and San Antonio Spurs (5-4) on the road. And yes, they still have the Splash Brothers (Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson). Oh yeah – Kevin Durant and Draymond Green are pretty good as well. A win on Saturday night in the Mile High City facing the Denver Nuggets (5-4) will bolster their mark to 7-3. But don’t sleep on the Nuggets. After a sluggish start, Denver is starting to look like the playoff-contending team I thought they were. The addition of perennial All-Star power forward Paul Millsap is starting to pay dividends. If Wilson Chandler and Kenneth “Manimal” Faried can provide quality minutes and the likes of youngsters Nikola “The Joker” Jokic, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray and Will Barton can provide their spark, the Nuggets will be very dangerous come playoff time.
I haven’t even mentioned the Minnesota Timberwolves (5-3), Portland Trail Blazers (5-4) or Oklahoma City Thunder (4-4). The Timberwolves and Thunder are the scariest of the bunch. Both teams have three-headed monsters at their core. The Wolves (Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Jimmy Butler) and the Thunder (Russell “The Roadrunner” Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George). If chemistry continues to build amongst their uber-talented triplets, look out. Ridiculously deadly!
Without further ado, here’s the first installment of my Western Conference power rankings.
- Houston Rockets
- Golden State Warriors
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Denver Nuggets
- Tie — San Antonio Spurs/ Portland Trail Blazers
That’s my swing through the West for this week, ladies, and gentlemen. See Y’all on Saturday.