With roughly a quarter of the season behind us, now is a good time to assess where some teams stand. Today we take a look at the Pacific Division, where there is a lot of disparity. At the top of the division is the Golden State Warriors, who are still unbeaten 20 games into the season and looking to make their way into the record books. On the other end of the spectrum is the Los Angeles Lakers, who are currently ranked last in the Western Conference standings with a 3-16 record. In between the Warriors and Lakers are, listed in order of record, the Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings.
- Los Angeles Lakers (3-16)
It’s safe to say the Lakers are, simply put, not a good basketball team. They have only won three games and in their latest victory, it took a vintage Kobe Bryant performance (31 points, two rebounds, three assists) to pull out a four-point win over the Washington Wizards. The other two wins came over the Detroit Pistons at home and on the road against the lowly Brooklyn Nets.
To illustrate how poorly this team is performing, they weren’t even favored against the, at the time, winless Philadelphia 76ers, who are purposely tanking and are currently 1-19 (with their one win coming against, you guessed it, the Lakers). In addition, they’re currently ranked 29th in defensive rating, giving up 106.9 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com/stats. The Lakers’ offense is a mess as well as they are shooting a league-worst 40.8 percent from the field.
This really is not the way Kobe Bryant, who recently announced that he will retire after the season, should close his career. The Lakers are getting decimated almost every game and don’t really stand a chance most of the time. But this “farewell tour” for Bryant is going to be interesting to watch, even if he and the Lakers are unable to improve on their poor start to the season.
- Sacramento Kings (7-13)
It’s really simple for the Sacramento Kings. When they have DeMarcus Cousins on the floor they are a .500 team; if he is sidelined, Sacramento doesn’t stand much of a chance. Cousins has missed eight games so far this season and Sacramento has lost all but one of those match-ups (an 11-point victory in a road game over the Milwaukee Bucks). Cousins has played well this season, averaging 27.2 points and 10.7 rebounds so far, with a 26.08 player efficiency rating (PER). The Kings are 6-6 in the games where Cousins plays.
In addition, Rajon Rondo has been playing quite well this season. He looks closer to his old self as he is averaging 12.5 points, 10.6 assists and 6.9 rebounds this season and is leading the league in triple-doubles (4).
The Kings still seem to be in turmoil, but if Cousins can stay on the floor and sustain his level of play, and his teammates can provide a little consistency, they could increase their win percentage, which should ease the tension. However, they probably won’t sniff the playoffs this season.
- Phoenix Suns (8-12)
The Phoenix Suns have been a roller-coaster of inconsistency so far this season. One day they’ll blow out a team in impressive fashion, then the next game get blown out themselves. They have won the games they are supposed to, including dominating the Clippers without Chris Paul (and with Blake Griffin getting ejected early) and others. They also beat the Portland Trailblazers convincingly in both ends of a tough 24-hour home and home set. But then they lost in consecutive road games to the Brooklyn Nets and Detroit Pistons in games Phoenix arguably should have won. They also lost another winnable game on the road to the Washington Wizards, whose frontcourt was decimated by injuries.
Tyson Chandler, Markieff Morris, and Eric Bledsoe have missed time with injury. These injuries, combined with their difficult schedule gives us reason to believe the Suns are better than their record would indicate. However, with the Western Conference collectively struggling, the Suns are still positioned to sneak into the playoffs. But they need to figure out how to close games that come down to the wire and continue beating the teams they are favored over.
- Los Angeles Clippers (10-9)
The Clippers currently sit at sixth in the Western Conference with a record of 10-9 and have been somewhat disappointing. Their current net rating is just +2.3, whereas last year it was at +6.9 (second only to the Champion Golden State Warriors). Their performance this season has been less than inspiring as they’ve had losses to the struggling Houston Rockets and Portland Trailblazers, as well as other teams they arguably should have beat.
Their depth is supposed to be a strength considering they managed to acquire Lance Stephenson, Wesley Johnson, Josh Smith and Paul Pierce. Pierce, Stephenson, and Johnson are all playing less than 20 minutes a game, averaging less than five points. In addition, Johnson’ leads this group in PER at 10.97. In short, this group of wing players has been collectively disappointing so far.
Smith has also struggled. His PER is 12.74 and he is only contributing 5.3 points a game.
Chris Paul has been banged up and has missed three games so far this season, and will reportedly miss a few more. J.J. Redick is injured as well, which is a big loss considering how much better the Clippers’ offense is when he’s on the court. The Clippers are still finding their groove and will probably climb their way up Western Conference rankings behind what is shaping up to be an MVP-caliber season from Blake Griffin.
- Golden State Warriors (20-0)
Now holding the record for best start to a season at 20-0, the Warriors are stunning the basketball world. What they are doing is nothing short of extraordinary. Basketball Insiders’ Tommy Beer recently wrote an article detailing the statistics behind this historically-good team. Read the whole article for more details, but here are a few mind-blowing stats:
At the time the article was written, the Warriors had won 86 of their last 100 regular season games. Only three other teams in history have achieved that feat and they either had Michael Jordan or Wilt Chamberlain on their rosters. Additionally, back when they had only won their first 18 games, they had outscored their opponents by 288 points, of course, an NBA record. Golden State is an offensive juggernaut, leading the league in points, assists, threes, and fast-break points per game, as well as offensive rating and field goal percentage. However, they also dominate on the defensive side of the ball as they were 49-0 when holding their opponent under 100 points.
Basketball is a team game, but individual players are standing out for the Warriors. Stephen Curry is running away with the MVP race and Draymond Green is playing phenomenally and could be in the conversation for Most Improved Player and Defensive Player of the Year.
The Warriors are rolling and it doesn’t look like it will slow down anytime soon. They are even winning despite being without starting small forward Harrison Barnes recently. They have a legitimate chance to challenge the all-time record set by the 1995-96 Bulls, who went 72-10. It’s the Warriors’ world and we are all just living in it.
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