The Warriors are atop the Western Conference this season, as expected. Last season, they won 73 games and really did not have any competition in the West, aside from the Spurs.
This year, others have joined the table. As we all know, the Spurs are always there, led by their superstar Kawhi Leonard. Some would say that the Rockets are “back”, with James Harden playing his with best basketball, with the best surrounding cast he’s had.
Starting with San Antonio. As of now, they are the second best team in the West. They are only two games back of the Warriors, holding a 36-9 record, which is second best in the NBA. During this most recent 5 game winning streak, Kawhi Leonard is averaging 25.5 points per game, and 49% from the field. Injuries are their underlying issue.
Pau Gasol, who leads the team in rebounding and field goal percentage, underwent finger surgery to repair a fractured finger on his left hand. Kawhi Leonard is currently day-to-day with a hand injury.
Even though Lamarcus Aldridge is having a decent year, averaging 17 points and 7 rebounds, they need him to really step up.
Leonard and Gasol are the leaders on the team in almost every stat. That can not happen. Spurs need their key guys, getting the best possible effort from Parker, Ginobli, and Green. This is what its going to take to even attempt to challenge the Warriors.
Coach Pop’s coaching style always keeps the Spurs as contenders. From being able to control the emotions of his players, he can shift momentum the way he chooses. Even though they beat the Warriors by 25 at Oracle to start the season, Golden State has come a long way since then.
With all the hype this year, the Houston Rockets. The Rockets are playing at a very high level right now. Led by MVP candidates James Harden, the Rockets are the highest scoring team in the league, averaging 114 points a game, with many games over 120.
This team is completely different from the Houston Rockets of previous years. James Harden has been inhumane. His level is untouched (except Westbrook), and is playing at a level he has never been at. Averaging 28 points, 11 assists, and 8 rebounds per game. His defense has also improved, adding a new craft to his game.
Head Coach Mike D’Antoni should receive a lot of credit. He implements a system that is great for guards. Starting from his stint with Steve Nash, he’s had experience coaching great guards. D’Antoni has really helped first time point guard Harden really get acquainted with the position.
Finally, the supporting cast around Harden has improved drastically. Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, and Montrezl Harrell all getting more minutes and definitely proving themselves. Erin Gordon can earn himself the sixth man of the year award, and Ryan Anderson has shot great for them too. D’Antoni is doing wonders for this team.
With their offensive ability, they pose a true threat to the Warriors, arguably more than the Spurs. Harden and the Rockets also defeated the Warriors at home, just like the Spurs.
The Warriors did just beat the Rockets by 17. However, sitting at 34 wins, the Houston Rockets are the third best team in the league, trailing their Western Conference foes.
The Western Conference should come to an interesting end, not so much in the East…