Golden State Warriors (54-13, 1st in West) – Predictable wins over the Lakers and the Knicks aside, a statement win over the East-leading Hawks represented a great week for the Dubs.
With Klay Thompson out with an ankle injury, the Warriors have looked to other options for scoring. Justin Holiday and veteran Leandro Barbosa have done an admirable job of filling in for the All-Star, and the depth of Golden State has ensured that scoring is not an issue (over 105 points in the last three games).
Golden State’s home record (31-2) is one that will serve them well in the playoffs. Very few fans would have forgotten the famous “We Believe” shirts worn by fans in Oracle Arena in the 2006-07 season and now, these very same fans could be wearing the same shirts with an entirely new meaning.
Los Angeles Clippers (44-25, 5th in West) – A disappointing loss to the Rockets to start off the week, but bounced back shortly after with wins over Charlotte and Sacramento.
In sharp contrast to the Warriors’ depth, the Clippers appear to be searching for the optimal rotation even after 60 games. It is understandable as three mid-season additions (Austin Rivers, Jordan Hamilton and Nate Robinson) are in the rotation, but one must wonder how Doc Rivers, who plays the role of President of Basketball Operations (which is above General Manager, who makes most of the trading decisions) as well as Head coach, could have allowed that to happen in the first place.
Blake Griffin’s return is more than welcomed, as he immediately notched three straight double-doubles this week. Simply put, the Clippers only have three offensive weapons in Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford and Griffin and a half-court game would always result in the ball in the hands of these players.
Phoenix Suns (36-33, 10th in West) – Wins over the Knicks and the Pelicans gave the Suns two more wins in a relatively idle week for Phoenix.
The victory over the Pelicans, combined with news later of Kevin Durant’s injury setback for Oklahoma City, would have been music to Phoenix’s ears. However, whether they can survive the difficult week ahead is another problem in itself, facing three playoff teams in the Rockets, Mavericks and the Trail Blazers.
With Utah and Denver’s recent form, it makes one wonder whether this will be Phoenix’s last chance in a while to enter the playoffs, as they lack the big men that Utah possesses in Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors and the depth that Denver has with their ten-man rotation. Furthermore, it is clear that the ceiling of the Suns squad are quite low relative to the other borderline playoffs team, and GM Ryan McDonough will have to be quite creative to gain additional assets from the squad currently assembled.
Sacramento Kings (22-45, 13th in West) – Losses to the Wizards, Clippers and Hawks sums up a typical week for the Kings.
The Kings are now officially eliminated from the playoffs, which will provide Vivek Ranadive sufficient time to find the next Nik Stauskas. (On second thought, that may not be a great idea.)
The problem is: they have quality players at every position. Yes, they can use an upgrade at the point guard and the power forward position, but Darren Collison and Jason Thompson/Carl Landry are serviceable. On the shooting guard position, one of Ben McLemore and Stauskas should work out based on the system George Karl chooses to adopt in the end.
On the topic of Stauskas, now is a good chance to review the 8th pick that the Kings used on him. As he currently appears more like Jimmer Fredette than Kyle Korver, one has to wonder whether Elfrid Payton, now a triple-double threat and dubbed the next Rajon Rondo, would have been a better selection. Heck, even the Kings’ crowdsourced analytics group agreed.
Why did they draft Stauskas in the end? Well, your guess is better than mine.
Los Angeles Lakers (17-50, 14th in West) – Losses to the Hawks, Warriors and the Jazz results in a winless week for the Lakers.
Like the Kings, the Lakers are now looking forward to the draft. With all due respect to Jordan Clarkson, most would figure his current stats are a figure from inflation, both in minutes and touches, rather than the norm. Hence, it is clear that they need a point guard.
Fortunately, given the record of the Lakers, they are likely to stumble across one of the two point guards many believe will be a top-3 pick in Emmanuel Mudiay and D’Angelo Russell. Both are aggressive in getting to the rim and can also distribute the ball (think Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook). While the prospect of a big man is also enticing, it is time for a new guard in town.