Another two weeks have passed us by and we are now looking at two conferences going in two different directions.
The Eastern Conference features the same eight teams it did last week, with very little change in the playoff standings. Besides a few teams getting hot while another cools off.
Things are very interesting in the Western Conference, as we have one new team in the playoff picture this time. We also have a new number one team at the moment and several teams who are getting hotter.
But first, there is a trade announcement:
There’s also been rumors of Lakers’ LeBron James wanting Carmelo Anthony to join the Lakers, but we’ll keep watching for that.
Until then, let’s check out which teams are hot, cold and need to improve!
1. Raptors (23-7) 1. Nuggets (18-9)
2. Bucks (18-9) 2. Warriors (19-10)
3. 76ers (19-10) 3. Thunder (17-9)
4. Pacers (18-10) 4. Clippers (17-10)
5. Celtics (17-10) 5. Lakers (17-10)
6. Hornets (14-13) 6. Grizzlies (16-11)
7. Pistons (13-13) 7. Mavericks (15-11)
8. Magics (12-15) 8. Kings (15-12)
First we have the cold teams, all of which are in the playoff picture as things currently stand. But you will find that these teams are different than the previous article.
Portland Trail Blazers:
The Blazers were in the playoffs as of Wednesday night, until they lost again. They have now lost five of their last eight games and went from the fourth seed all the way out of the playoffs. They are, however, just a 0.5 game out right now, but they need to figure out what they want to do as a team. I honestly think it’s time to break up the dynamic duo at guard. Both Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have been leading their team to good finishes in the West, but there haven’t been any results as of late.
I still can’t get over the fact that they got swept by the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round of the playoffs last season after being the third best time in the conference. So a break up for these guards should be a good thing. I mean, look at how it’s benefiting the Toronto Raptors after trading DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard.
Not sure what kind of team the Pistons are yet. There’s still a lot to figure out and they have been struggling to do that, as they have lost six of the last eight games. Despite their cool down as of late, the Pistons should still be in a good position to make playoffs. If they want a chance at the top of the conference, they are going to need to figure out how to get things right again, even if that means making another blockbuster trade.
I wouldn’t necessarily say the Magic have gone cool, because we all kind of expected them to be a weaker team. However, they are in the eighth spot for the playoffs. Despite losing four of their last six, they have managed to stay in. I do think it would be better for them if they could get another piece or two around Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon in order for them to actually be competitive.
I can’t really say the Grizzlies have cooled off either, because they haven’t lost as many games as the rest on the list. In fact, they have gone 4-3 in the last two weeks, but that has knocked them down in the standings. Again, it is the Western Conference. We will probably see a lot more changes throughout the season.
Oklahoma City Thunder:
Are you surprised the Thunder are on this list? You shouldn’t be. They have, in my opinion, the best point guard in the league on their team. They have won five of their last seven games and were ranked as high as number one in the Western standings before their loss to the Pelicans on Wednesday night. They will continue to play behind both Russell Westbrook and Paul George and look to be a top team in the Western Conference in hopes of being able to make it out the first round. If they remain hot, we might see that.
Well look at what we have here. The Celtics were preseason favorites to win the Eastern Conference without LeBron James being there. They’ve struggled to get things going early, but recently with a lot of players out dealing with injuries, the Celtics have been able to win seven straight games. They went from a seventh seed to a fifth and are only a few games out of second. The season still has a long way to go, but we could see them continue to stay hot as we look ahead for Christmas.
The Pacers have also been able to remain hot despite All-star guard, Victor Oladipo missing several games. The Pacers have won five of their last seven games, including a big win over the second seeded Milwaukee Bucks in Oladipo’s return to the team.
Over the last two weeks, the Mavericks have managed to make the jump into the playoff picture. They didn’t just get into the playoff picture, but they were available to jump over four teams to do so. They even knocked the Kings out for a brief moment, until they earned it back with a win. The Mavericks are in the seventh spot right now and are about to get the German superhero back in the fold. With the Mavericks already playing well, Dirk Nowitzki can only help them try to aim higher.
As we continue to see all these teams improve over the next few weeks, let’s take a look at teams who should be in the playoff picture next time around.
Room for Improvement
After being one game away from the NBA Finals, the Rockets are having a rough time getting things together. They are one of the teams expected to be in the top of the Western Conference, but they are struggling to get anything going. They have had both James Harden and Chris Paul miss games, which might have resulted in many losses, but they are so desperate right now that they have considered J.R. Smith.
Yes, the same Smith who walked around shirtless for a week after winning the NBA title with the Cavaliers. He is also the same Smith who cost the Cavaliers game one of the 2018 NBA Finals. Do I really have to keep going? I don’t get why they have interest in a player who might just be a cancer to the team in the locker room.
Speaking of struggling, the Utah Jazz haven’t looked all that great this season. Wednesday night in their game against Miami, they took control early and never looked back, as they blew the Heat out of Utah. Hopefully that’s a sign of things to come for the Jazz, who many of us picked as a top team in the Western Conference behind the Rockets and Warriors.
The Wizards are continuously struggling to do anything this season, but they are still only 2.5 games out of the playoff picture. We could see them sneak into the playoffs soon. I still think Bradley Beal and John Wall need to split up for them to actually have a chance at making it far in the Eastern Conference. Despite that, they are still showing some light and hope for the Washington fans.
New Orleans Pelicans:
Whenever you have Anthony Davis on your team, you’re expected to be competitive. That is exactly what the Pelicans are. After their win over the Thunder on Wednesday, Davis and the Pelicans are back to 15-15 and currently 10th in the Western Conference standings. All that should be able to change by the time Christmas comes around.
Speaking of Christmas, we will be providing you with a “naughty or nice” list of all teams in the NBA as part of our Christmas special. Stay tuned for that and another article review of where all teams stand at Christmas time. Happy Holidays!