The Best of the West: First Half Grades of Top Western Conference Teams

First Half Grades of Top Western Conference Teams image

📖 Published on: February 16th, 2024

✍️ Updated: February 21st, 2024

⏳ 12 mins read

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The Western Conference has been a beast over the years, and there is no reason to expect less in the 2023-24 season. It does seem that there is no running out of tight games, even down to the Play-In spots. This just says a lot about the big expectations that fans have set in the West as teams continue to grind it out with an exciting race to the top. It is not the first time that the Western Conference has seen a bigger campaign for many teams in the league in years.

 

So far, the West is kind of hard to predict considering how close the games are, and how a win can send a team to the top and a loss would bring them down to the fourth seed real quick.

 

Who Are the Best Teams in the First Half for the Western Conference?

 

It cannot be denied that the West is stacked with a lot of teams who deserve to make it to the playoffs. Right now, it is as close as it can be, which just means that there is a massive shakeup coming in the second half of the season as teams will surely make a run to secure their spots in the playoffs. But who made the most of their run in the first half of the season?

 

1. Minnesota Timberwolves - A-

 

Minnesota Timberwolves image

 

Looks like the big three of Anthony Edwards, Rudy Gobert, and Karl-Anthony Towns is finally clicking well. Thanks to a new groove brought in by their bench, it seems that the Wolves have managed to realize their full potential to wrap up the first half of the season. For most of it, they were secure in the 1st seed until OKC came knocking in. Still, there is a lot of praise for the Wolves’ efficiency and how they finally managed to get into a new groove with a strong campaign so far. The difference-maker has been Naz Reid, who is inserted as the third big man for the team. His shooting has been spectacular and has helped him become a threat from deep.

 

He and KAT lead the league in three-point shooting among centers, which says a lot about the huge improvement and the way they have stretched the floor with their bigs. We haven’t even talked about Anthony Edwards’ growth and how he has been efficient with his scoring so far, but that’s a topic for another day.

 

How Can the Wolves Keep Hold of the Top Spot?

 

This isn’t an easy task for the Wolves, but then it would be hard to say that they can’t pull it off. Experience may no longer be an issue, but they need to stop losing games decided by single digits – where they are already 3-9 since January 1st after going 12-1 to start the season. It seems that their three-center lineup to end games isn’t working anymore, but Chris Finch can definitely find solutions in the long run to make sure that they stay alive.

 

2. Los Angeles Clippers - A+

 

It is hard to actually figure out how to play four NBA All-Stars in one court together, but hey – the Los Angeles Clippers figured it out! No one can deny the fact that they have made one of the biggest jumps in the season thanks to their adjustments – mainly Russell Westbrook’s voluntary move to the bench.

 

It does seem that the star-studded lineup of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and James Harden seemed to click well so far, and that has found them their spot in the upper echelon of the Western Conference.

Harden’s transition from being a distributor from the Sixers all the way to being a free-flow scorer with the Clippers also has to be credited well. The star guard has managed to find his groove with the team and quickly adapted to ensure that they all get their looks and numbers down the stretch. It has been a give-and-take situation in Los Angeles, and this has been a massive stretch that the Clips have found themselves in as the winningest team in the NBA since December.

 

Los Angeles Clippers image

 

Can the Clippers Stay on Track for the Playoffs?

 

It’s hard to say if the Clippers can still remain the same juggernaut they are after the All-Star Break. However, history isn’t in their favor as they have choked a lot of favorable positions and have only reached the Western Conference Finals once back in 2021. Since then, the Clippers have been trying to make up for their losses over the years and have yet to prove their worth. Injuries will be something that they need to avoid if they want to win it all this year.

 

3. Denver Nuggets A-

 

Denver Nuggets image

 

It does seem that the defending champs are in a stagnant position considering how crowded the top of the West has been for years. Nikola Jokic has been in his same consistent form from the NBA Finals, but the only difference is that teams are now starting to figure out how to beat them or find a workaround so far. That has been the issue and they have been losing some winnable games – even against lowly teams. But then, again, the Nuggets are a different breed in the playoffs.

It would be tough to see how the Nuggets will adjust with the different contenders surrounding them at the top of the West.

 

The supporting cast has also been quite alive this season, and the likes of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Aaron Gordon have also shined bright with Jokic and Murray missing out some games as well. It would also be safe to assume that the champs are taking their time in figuring out a new groove en route to the second half of the season.

 

Can the Nuggets Regain Dominance in the West?

 

It’s hard to say that the Nuggets will not get back on top just yet, but then they are the team with a lot of rest advantage heading into the second half of the season. But their schedule isn’t that favorable as well, which just means that they will need more of their star performers to lead them to the promised land again and secure a better playoff berth like they did before.

 

4. Oklahoma City Thunder - A+

 

OKC has definitely been a big shock among teams in the Western Conference. There is no denying that the Thunder managed to exceed expectations for a team that just finished in the Play-In last season and is the youngest team in the NBA. This is definitely a huge undertaking in the history of OKC, and they are pretty much bringing everything they can to deliver a promising finish. As one of the top teams contending for the 1st seed, it is hard to take credit away from OKC as a contender right now with the way they are playing.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is in his MVP form, Chet Holmgren is integrating well with the lineup and is even a favorite to win the Rookie of the Year thanks to his massive impact in OKC.

 

Oklahoma City Thunder image

 

On top of that, Jalen Williams is making a strong case as the second star to SGA, which just makes it perfect for OKC’s early rise to dominance in the league after a short time of hiatus in their performance. They are already way ahead of their scheduled "Arrival", and the young core has shown promising flashes that exceeds even the Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook era of the Thunder - which reached the NBA Finals three years in their rebuld, the same year this new core of OKC is in right now.

 

What to Expect From OKC in the Second Half?

 

OKC has been fatigued with their January gauntlet – which featured a lot of back-to-backs and plenty of short rests on the road. The young team has never been gassed out so far, but the rest in the All-Star Break should help them prepare and launch a massive push in the second half of the season as well. Thunder GM Sam Presti said that he wanted an arrival for OKC, and it seems that they are bound to make it happen this time.

 

Honorable Mentions

 

The Phoenix Suns are quite ready to take on the next challenge with their healthy trio, and the Dallas Mavericks are surging like a championship team on the prowl. On top of that, both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors are bound to make some changes that will catapult them into the league standings, which is why fans should expect bigger runs when the NBA returns to action once more.

 

The Sacramento Kings are also going to be a wild-card team that everyone should pay attention to. We have seen how the team has managed to put up impressive stretches with both Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron fox in full playoff form. After a return to the playoff stage last season, it is safe to say that they’ll do whatever it takes to get back on the big stage again.

 

Sparking Chaos: What to Expect in the Western Conference for the Second Half of the Season?

 

As said before, the Western Conference has been a beast with nightly showdowns and games that go down to the wire. Fans should not expect less and continue to be on the lookout for more exciting finishes and massive rivalry clashes. There are plenty of contenders in the West, which makes it more fun to watch as they try to desperately get a hold of the final eight spots with less than 30 games left to play in the season.

 

This is the perfect chance for you to plan ahead and see which team has the best chance of making a lot of noise in the second half in the West. Who knows, maybe your favorite team will be the one to go all the way to the big stage once more and will certainly bring a lot of mounting excitement as the season winds down to its final games with teams battling for supremacy.

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