We are officially 1/3 of the way through one of the most historic seasons in NBA history. This season has already established itself as one of the most entertaining, exciting, and eventful in not only recent memory, but of all time. We have witnessed talented young players become NBA stars, while those already baring that title have cemented themselves in NBA glory by achieving incredible feats. We have seen NBA powerhouse’s continue to dominate the competition, while new, up-and-coming teams have begun establishing themselves as legit contenders. Every aspect of this year in the NBA has thrilled, and I am more than glad to have been here to witness it.
Every reason that has factored into this NBA season being so great can be found in(but not limited too) the Western Conference. So far, the West has displayed some supreme talent in not only the top-tier teams, but throughout the entire conference. While the elite teams of the West have basically stayed constant, there have been many teams show great strides into becoming relevant. The stats and stories of the Western Conference this season are remarkable, and have been a huge influence in the ability to make this season in the NBA so monumental.
For as crazy as the NBA season has been so far, the top of the Western Conference houses mostly familiar faces. The Golden State Warriors are at the helm, and with the addition of Kevin Durant, seem to be the frontrunner to represent the West in the NBA Finals. Right on their heels are the San Antonio Spurs, who Gregg Popovich once again has coached to an outstanding record, and are looking to dethrone the Warriors. The Los Angeles Clippers are good once again, and will look to change their recent lack of success in the playoffs at the end of the regular season. At first glance, all seems normal within the Western Conference.
However, there are several teams and players in the West who have excitedly surprised us with their seasons so far. The biggest media story has been none other than Russell Westbrook. With KD’s departure for the Warriors, the Oklahoma City Thunder were predicted to have an unsuccessful season without their leader. Westbrook has seemingly taken these comments to heart, and has almost single-handedly propelled the Thunder to an above .500 record and current playoff spot in the Western Conference.
1/3 of the way through the season, Russell Westbrook is AVERAGING a triple-double, and is the front-runner for the MVP award this season. Only time will tell if he can continue to dominate the competition, and keep the Thunder afloat in the West.
I did not mention this next team in the top of the Western Conference mix because I felt they deserved special recognition. A year after a 41-41 finish and barely making the playoffs, James Harden and the Houston Rockets are looking like a brand new team, as they currently sit 20-8 and 3rd in the West.
After an unimpressive stretch in Houston, former all-star and big man Dwight Howard left, leaving the Rockets seemingly doomed to another lackluster season. However, James Harden’s unexpected consistency as a distributor to other scorers has everyone watching shocked. Averaging almost 12 assists a game, Harden is getting role players Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, and Trevor Ariza open looks (especially from behind the 3-point line), and they are knocking them down. Combine that with Harden averaging 27 points/game, and you have a team that can score with anybody. The Rockets are a dangerous team, that as of recent, no one wants to play.
For several years, the same speech has been made about the Utah Jazz. Having several young, talented players, everyone claimed that they had the potential to be good. Also for several years, the Jazz have fallen short of these expectations because of injuries, inconsistent play, and no true superstar in a league dominated by them. Finally, the Jazz seem to have it all figured out. At 18-10 and 5th in the Western Conference, they seem ready for their first playoff run since 2011-2012 behind a platoon of young talent mixed with veteran leadership.
The Jazz are a fundamental, defensive team that plays smart basketball in order to play with teams that have more talent than themselves. In trusting the process, the Utah Jazz are finding success. This is not only good for the Jazz, but for the entire league.
As you can see, this NBA season has already been one of wonder and excitement, and it does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon. There have already been so many surprises, that there is no telling what could happen next. At this point, I’m not sure anything would surprise me, but I know it will exciting for fans all around the NBA. For now, all we can do is enjoy the rest of the NBA season!