With the completion of the all-star break we are officially just over half way through this shortened 2011/12 NBA season. The majority of the players and coaches got a short break after a rather hectic two month schedule. Here are the current rankings of the teams in playoff positions and those still in with a chance, as well as predictions for the end of season for the Western Conference.
Western Conference Year In Review
Oklahoma City Thunder (30-8, 1st in West) Surely with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook at the height of their games at the moment the Thunder has close to the best 1-2 punch in the league. The numbers they have put up over the past 2 weeks have been phenomenal. add that James Hardens 6th spot honours and the surge in Serge Ibakas (pardon the pun) game, all is well in OKC. League high turnovers still a worry but they continue to go from strength to strength.
Prediction: Bring on the playoffs, Thunder will keep the no. 1 spot and will be looking to take out the Western Conference Finals.
San Antonio Spurs (25-12, 2nd in West) The Spurs have Manu Ginobili back and they will need him to make a push deep in the playoffs. A shining light in his absence has been Tony Parker averaging 19.2 points and 8 assists a game. The Spurs play deep and with Richard Jefferson, Tiago Splitter, Kawhi Leonard and Gary Neal as good backups, they would be a dangerous team to play early in the playoffs.
Prediction: Great home record, Manu back! things are looking up for Spurs, will hold onto 2nd spot in West.
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="219" caption="Kobe is having another stellar year."]
Los Angeles Lakers (23-14, 3rd in West) Kobe Bryant -who leads the league in points with 28.9 per game- is looking like the Kobe of old. The Lakers who usually start to make a run in the 2nd half of the season are looking the same way. Metta World Peace will need to increase production to help Kobe if the Lakers are to make a tilt in the playoffs. With Andrew Bynam and Pau Gasol still playing well they are capable. Just beating the Heat recently shows that the Lakers will definitely not be making up numbers.
Prediction: The Black Mamba ready to start the business end of the season. Keep 3rd spot and eying 2nd.
Los Angeles Clippers (22-14, 4th in West) The Clippers looked to be the
Los Angeles team early in the season but some sluggish play of late means they take 2nd spot again. Kenyon Martin is making an impact on his new team especially defensively. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have been the pillars on offence but the injury to Chauncey Billups hurt them. They will need Paul to have around 20/10 - points/assists a game in the playoffs for the Clipper to make a run, but with Paul anything is possible.
Prediction: Looking a little shaky of late, I hate to say it but this is not not the year for an LA crown. 4th spot.
Memphis Grizzlies (22-15, 5th in West) The Grizzlies haven't been consistent defensively, but they've won 10 of their last 12 in a home-heavy stretch. They've cracked 100 points five times in the run and are now 11-0 when they score 100-plus. They should have Zach Randolph back soon which only strengthens them as a unit. Rudy Gay has been a shining light averaging 18.9 points from 38 minutes a game. Were the surprise packets last finals series and could do it again.
Prediction: Quietly working away, will keep 5th and may even push the Clippers for home court 4th spot.
Dallas Mavericks (22-17, 6th in West) Story so far for the Mav's has been the slow start for Dirk Nowitki and the terrible season for Lamar Odom. Age is catching up with Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Dirk but given the right form they would be a scary match-up in the playoffs. They need Odom to get some touch back and for Dirk to keep improving game by game. Rodrique Beaubois has shown he can finally play and Ian Mahinmi has been good in patches. It will be the old guard though that could be the difference.
Prediction: Will be dangerous wherever they finish in the playoffs but to inconsistent at the moment to push up.
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="232" caption="The Nuggets have a shot at 6th in the West."]
Denver Nuggets (22-17, 7th in West) Getting Danilo Gallinari back and fit is the key as he had been in good form prior to a month long ankle injury. With Ty Lawson continuing to develop into a top level point guard and the return of Nene, the Nuggets could actual even pinch 6th spot in the West if Dallas slip.
Prediction: Coach George Karl has a deep list and with the best offence in the league an opportunity to go deep into the Playoffs wouldn't surprise.
Houston (21-17, 8th in West) Kevin McHales game plan and ability to throw any of his list in the mix at various times has worked on occasions. Kyle Lowry has been good and his average of 16 points and 7 assists a game shows that. It’s the next tier players - Courtney Lee, Chase Budinger and Chandler Parsons that need to continue developing if the Rockets are to hold a playoff spot. The Rockets are about to play seven of their next eight games on the road (where they're 6-11), how they fare may hold the key.
Prediction: Will need to continue to win if they want a playoff spot with Wolves at the door. Hold on just!
The East team’s sitting out of the top 8 seem a lot stronger than the East so here are the outside chances of picking up a spot in the playoff 8. Minnesota Timberwolves (20-19) Have hard away schedule over next 10 games which may decide fate for a playoff spot. Have to behold Kevin Loves numbers and Ricky Rubio’s silk moves. Things looking up for Minnesota. Portland Trailblazers (19-19) They've won just four of their last 13 overall and two of their last eight at home, after a good start there is some unrest for the Trailblazers. Hard to see them getting over .50 winning percent by years end. Phoenix Suns (17-20) The Suns won five of their six games on a divided home stand, allowing just 92 points per 100 possessions in the five wins. And after they visit Oklahoma City, they're back at home for six of their next seven. Marcin Gortat been fantastic in the middle and with Nash still providing some punch the Suns seasons seems to have been resurrected.
The Thunders dynamic duo - Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook dominating the floor. As young as they are the opportunity is now for the Thunder to ride the back of these two guns.
Kevin Love - Is there anything this man cant do, dominating at power forward and grabbing every board available last year. Love has taken his game to a new level, winning the All-Star 3 point competition and helping develop the Timberwolves into a more competitive unit.