The landmarks in the NBA season are rapidly coming and going. The trade deadline saw a flurry of action that completely remade one contender (the Cavs) and saw one fringe playoff team try to light a spark (Pistons), but little else. Now, the teams and players get the next week off for the All-Star break as the top players descend upon Los Angeles for the All-Star festivities. Though we’re well past the halfway point of the season, really closer to the 3/4 mark for some teams, let’s take stock of the league heading into the “second half” of the season.
Contenders- Warriors, Rockets
Steve Kerr has apparently “not been reaching his team” for the last month, and as such, allowed them to run timeouts and huddles during the blowout of the Suns earlier in the week. Whether or not the Warriors are bored or tuning the coaching staff out, it’s undeniable that they’re the most talented team in the conference leading the league in net rating at +10.
However, the Rockets appear capable of accomplishing Daryl Morey’s mission of potentially de-throning the Warriors come playoff time. The combination of James Harden and Chris Paul has been devastating this season and the Rox are just behind the Warriors in net rating at +8.6. They’ve also won two of the three regular season meetings between the teams and sit just 1 game back of Golden State for the top spot in the West.
Potential Troublemakers- Spurs, Timberwolves, Thunder
The Spurs are here simply because they have Gregg Popovich and always find a way to remain competitive in the post-season. They’re 3rd in the conference despite Kawhi playing just 9 games this season. Not much else to be said there.
Thibs’ team is growing up before our eyes this season, living up to the high expectations that folks had for them heading into the year. They’re +2.8 net rating, but they still have a lot of work to do defensively, ranking 26th in the league in Defensive Rating at 108.4.
The Thunder’s quartet of Westbrook, ‘Melo, PG, and Steven Adams is formidable. But, since losing Andre Roberson, the Thunder have still been searching for the right guy to slot in alongside these guys. With Roberson, that quintet was one of the best lineups in the league, logging 539 minutes and a +14.2 net rating. Lineups with Terrance Ferguson (207 mins -10.2) and Alex Abrines (166 mins, +0.1) haven’t been nearly as effective. The playoffs is largely about…