NBA

Houston Rockets exemplary across the board in Western Conference midterm NBA report cards

Jay Asser 18:11 20/02/2018
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We’re at the unofficial halfway point of the NBA season, so it’s only right we take a look at how every team has fared so far and hand out midterm grades.

Keep in mind that these grades are fully based on context and expectations and not determined simply by how teams have done in a vacuum.

After handing out marks for the Eastern Conference on Tuesday, here are the grades for the Western Conference.

Dallas Mavericks

Smith1

Record: 18-40
Standing: 14th in Western Conference
Offensive rating: 104.5 (20th)
Defensive rating: 107.4 (21st)
Grade: D+

Dallas aren’t stocked with talent, but they should be doing a little better than they currently are. However, being closer to mediocre would do them no favours and if anything, they’re better off near the bottom of the standings while Dennis Smith Jr gets minutes and the rebuild continues.

Denver Nuggets

Jokic1

Record: 32-26
Standing: 6th in Western Conference
Offensive rating: 108.2 (7th)
Defensive rating: 107.8 (22nd)
Grade: C+

Denver were expected to make a jump this season and though they haven’t vaulted into the West’s upper echelon, they’ve made strides. Their offence and home-court advantage have predictably been their hallmarks and they’ve done most of it without their big free agent addition, Paul Millsap.

Golden State Warriors

Curry1

Record: 44-14
Standing: 2nd in Western Conference
Offensive rating: 113.7 (1st)
Defensive rating: 103.7 (5th)
Grade: B+

If any other team had the record the Warriors do, they would at the very least receive an A. But Golden State aren’t any other team and it was fair to wonder if they would improve on last year’s record. Instead, they’re already only one loss away from last season’s mark and have been in a malaise at times.

Houston Rockets

BeFunky Collage6

Record: 44-13
Standing: 1st in Western Conference
Offensive rating: 113.2 (2nd)
Defensive rating: 104.6 (9th)
Grade: A+

Despite dealing with injuries to their two best players, the Rockets entered the All-Star break with the best record in the league. More importantly, they’re 33-6 when Chris Paul plays and beat the Warriors twice in three meetings to gain confidence if they clash again in the playoffs.

Los Angeles Clippers

Williams1

Record: 30-26
Standing: 9th in Western Conference
Offensive rating: 107.1 (12th)
Defensive rating: 106.0 (15th)
Grade: B-

Even after trading away their best player in Blake Griffin, the Clippers remain very much in the hunt for a playoff spot. They chose not to move DeAndre Jordan or Lou Williams, and while their decision on the former could come back to bite them, the latter is having an All-Star calibre season.

Los Angeles Lakers

Luke1

Record: 23-34
Standing: 11th in Western Conference
Offensive rating: 102.8 (26th)
Defensive rating: 105.6 (13th)
Grade: B-

At one point, it appeared as if things were going south fast, but since LaVar Ball called out coach Luke Walton in early January, the Lakers have gone 12-7. They also made a trade to clear enough cap space for potentially two max contracts in the summer, all while continuing to develop the young guys.

Memphis Grizzlies

Tyreke1

Record: 18-38
Standing: 12th in Western Conference
Offensive rating: 102.7 (27th)
Defensive rating: 106.9 (21st)
Grade: D

It’s hard to be too critical of Memphis, considering they’ve been without Mike Conley for most of the season. But this grade is more an indictment of their front office, who’ve chosen to stand pat instead of being proactive to net assets for an aging Marc Gasol or Tyreke Evans, who could walk in the summer.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Wolves1

Record: 36-25
Standing: 4th in Western Conference
Offensive rating: 111.3 (3rd)
Defensive rating: 108.3 (26th)
Grade: B+

The young Timberwolves have finally taken a step forward and look like a lock to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Their defence has improved only slightly though and until they figure out that end of the floor, their ceiling remains capped, even with the amount of offensive talent they possess.

New Orleans Pelicans

Davis1

Record: 31-26
Standing: 8th in Western Conference
Offensive rating: 107.7 (8th)
Defensive rating: 106.7 (19th)
Grade: C+

Just when it seemed like they were picking up steam, DeMarcus Cousins went down with a season-ending Achilles tear. Fortunately for the Pelicans, they still have Anthony Davis who went into the All-Star break on fire and even with the talent drop-off after him, New Orleans will fight for the playoffs.

Oklahoma City Thunder

BeFunky Collage8

Record: 33-26
Standing: 5th in Western Conference
Offensive rating: 107.2 (10th)
Defensive rating: 104.0 (7th)
Grade: C-

Simply put, they haven’t lived up to the lofty expectations that they rightly earned when they put together their ‘big three’. It’s taken them a while to figure out chemistry and fit issues, but as long as they peak by playoff time, the process will have been completely worth it.

Phoenix Suns

Booker1

Record: 18-41
Standing: 15th in Western Conference
Offensive rating: 101.5 (29th)
Defensive rating: 110.6 (30th)
Grade: C-

This is what you get when you have a bunch of young players and hardly any top-level talent. Devin Booker continues to trend upward, but prospects like Josh Jackson and Marquese Chriss need a strong finish to the season to give Phoenix more hope that the future will be brighter.

Portland Trail Blazers

Lillard1

Record: 32-26
Standing: 7th in Western Conference
Offensive rating: 105.4 (14th)
Defensive rating: 105.0 (11th)
Grade: C

Portland have been the definition of middle class in the West, where they appear to be stuck for now. Jusuf Nurkic hasn’t played as well as he did in the second half of last season and while Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum keep putting in work, the rest of the roster is lacking in firepower.

Sacramento Kings

Fox1

Record: 18-39
Standing: 13th in Western Conference
Offensive rating: 100.9 (30th)
Defensive rating: 109.9 (29th)
Grade: D

They tried to blend youth and experience in the offseason, but the results have been downright ugly. Sacramento are horrendous on both end of the courts and are arguably the worst team in the league. At least rookie De’Aaron Fox has been bright spot and shown some promising flashes.

San Antonio Spurs

Pop1

Record: 35-24
Standing: 3rd in Western Conference
Offensive rating: 105.1 (16th)
Defensive rating: 101.9 (2nd)
Grade: A-

What more can you say about the Spurs and Gregg Popovich? Despite not having Kawhi Leonard for all but nine games, San Antonio have cruised along to sit in the tier below Golden State and Houston. That’s a good sign for the playoffs if Leonard comes back at full strength, but that’s a big ‘if’ at the moment.

Utah Jazz

Mitchell1

Record: 30-28
Standing: 10th in Western Conference
Offensive rating: 106.0 (13th)
Defensive rating: 103.9 (6th)
Grade: B

Their 11-game winning streak entering the All-Star break has saved their season and turned around what was a floundering campaign. Utah’s defence hasn’t been as stout as they would like, but they’ve unearthed a real gem in Donovan Mitchell, who has quickly turned into their go-to scorer.

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