San Antonio Spurs – So much for the Spurs getting old and their window closing. Yet again Parker, Ginobili, Duncan and company find themselves atop the Western Conference. Other than their big three, the Spurs are arguably younger and deeper than ever. They’ve had 5 straight years of tough losses in the playoffs. Will this be their year? I’m going to go out on a limb and say they’re hoping Memphis falls a spot as it’s a bad matchup for them.
Oklahoma City Thunder – No Harden no problem. Durant and Ibaka took big leaps forward this season and Kevin Martin has fit into the 6th man role flawlessly. With the largest point differential in the league at + 9.1, it looks like the Thunder successfully improved their long-term outlook without sacrificing in the short term, giving them a good chance for a finals rematch against the Heat.
Los Angeles Clippers – No doubt about it, the Clippers are the best team in LA. The only rough patch of the season came when Chris Paul went down for a few games. Griffin and Jordan have both improved significantly over last year and the bench has been amazing with Barnes, Bledsoe and Crawford all playing above expectations. Now that Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups are back, this team goes 12 deep.
Memphis Grizzlies – Looks like the hangover from losing Rudy Gay didn’t last too long. Seven wins in a row for a sneaky good team. Prince has fit in well for them, adding more defense and consistent shooting than Gay was providing. Let’s not forget the huge frontline of Randolph and Gasol is a matchup nightmare for most teams.
Denver Nuggets – Ty Lawson came out of his slump, scoring 157 points with 50 assists in the last 6 games, Gallinari remembered how to shoot, and Wilson Chandler finally got healthy. After a really slow start the Nuggets have joined Memphis as the team no one wants to see in the first round.
Golden State Warriors – I think it’s safe to say the Andrew Bogut experiment was a bust. After missing most of the season, he’s out again indefinitely with an ailing back. It’s also safe to say that the Warriors will still be a playoff team this year. David Lee has been making Knicks fans real jealous with all the 20-10s he’s been putting up this season. Oh, and they have sleeved jerseys too.
Utah Jazz – So instead of moving one of their 4 big men, 2 of whom will be free agents after this season to improve their backcourt, they decided to make the playoffs and get eliminated in the first round. Interesting.
Houston Rockets – Houston has 1 player over 26 years old, stole the Kings 2012 1st round pick Thomas Robinson at the trade deadline, locked in a Lin/Harden backcourt, have a great defensive center for 8 million AND still have enough cap space for a max free agent this summer. Are you kidding me? If I was a rival GM I’d block Daryl Morey’s calls. He’s jedi mind-f’ing the rest of the league right now.
Los Angeles Lakers – For once the Lakers made a trade and it didn’t work out right away for them. The Lakers are on an 11-4 streak right now and if they snuck into the 8th seed, they may set themselves up for a highly entertaining 1st round matchup with the Spurs. A nice distraction before the annual “Where will Dwight Howard Go?” drama ensues.
Portland Trailblazers – Who would have thought that having zero good bench players would have caught up with them? At least they have rookie of the year Damian Lillard to build around.
Dallas Mavericks – That loss to the Lakers could have been the final blow to the Mavericks longest current playoff streak. In the last 26 games, the Mavs now need to leapfrog the Blazers, Lakers and either the Jazz or Rockets. Dirk’s extended injury at the beginning of the season looks like it was too much to overcome.
Minnesota Timberwolves – Players who have missed 7 games or more already – Pekovic, Kirilenko, Budinger, Barea, Rubio, Roy and Love. Such a shame. Was really looking forward to seeing them in the playoffs this year, which they absolutely would have made if they didn’t get decimated by injuries.
New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans – The Hornets/Pelicans are 11-9 when Eric Gordon plays and 9-29 when he doesn’t. Unfortunately he can’t stay on the court; his longest streak of consecutive games played this season is… 6.
Sacramento Kings – It must be harder to be a Kings fan than any other franchise in the league these days. Especially after they gave Houston Thomas Robinson, whom they drafted 5th in this year’s draft, for a few role players just so they could save a few bucks.
Phoenix Suns – Looks like they realized they weren’t competent enough to put together a decent team so instead they went for the novelty of being the first team to play two twin brothers together. Instead of wasting Dragic’s prime on a terrible team, I can think of a team in NY that could use some backcourt help.