Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, February 16, 2019 at 12:00 AM
THE NBA REPORT: HERE'S THE WESTERN CONFERENCE REPORT CARD GRADES ...
The NBA All-Star Game break began Friday and there won't be any "meaningful" games in the league till we get to Thursday, Feb. 21 ... now that's a break! We'll get you our annual NBA Report Cards in just a second - today's the NBA Western Conference - but first this key reminder:
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NBA REPORT CARDS - THE WESTERN CONFERENCE
OKLAHOMA CITY (37-20) - Save for the Thunder's pre-All-Star Game clunker loss to N'Orleans, this has been a storybook season for OKC and it's not just triple-double maven G Russell Westbrook (21.7 ppg / 11.2 rpg / 11.2 apg) as Paul George (28.7 ppg) deserves some MVP talk too. Spread Record ... 33-24-0
DENVER (39-18) - Imagine we're at the All-Star Game break and the Nuggets are just two full games back of three-time champ Golden State ... super stuff for a team that's 25-4 SU (straightup) at home. The one-two punch of C Nikola Jokic (20.4 ppg) and G Jamal Murray (18.3 ppg) doesn't get enough national media love. Spread Record ... 30-27
SACRAMENTO (30-27) - All the Kings' men have really been building up a solid foundation for the future with G Buddy Hield (team-best 20.5 ppg) pacing the league's ninth-best offense and gotta love the aggressive nature/play of kids De'Aaron Fox (17.2 ppg) and Marvin Bagley III. Arrow pointing up for this long-lost franchise. Spread Record ... 34-23-0
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (32-27) - The Clips are on the inside-looking-out when it comes to a post-season and that's why Doc Rivers is, year in and year out, one of the sport's top three or four head coaches in this league. Spread Record ... 32-27-0
DALLAS (26-31) - The Luka Doncic Era has been refreshing for a franchise that has been floundering for years. The new kid on the block is averaging 20.7 ppg and he really hasn't gotten that much offensive help. Spread Record ... 35-22-0
GOLDEN STATE (41-16) - The back-to-back champs sometimes look a tad bored and, let's face it, the Warriors have been drilled a few times this year but overall the record's about what you'd have thought and remember this is still the league's highest-scoring squad (118.8 ppg) with G Stephen Curry (28.6) and F Kevin Durant (27.6) both very much in the MVP talk even if the world's handing it to Houston's James Harden.
HOUSTON (33-24) - Keep in mind the Rockets started off this here-and-now season at 1-5 and so the above-mentioned Harden (NBA-leading 36.6 ppg) has been digging out of that hole for months now and Houston entered the All-Star Game break sitting just one game back of Portland for the #4 seed. Spread Record ... 26-30-1
UTAH (32-25) - The Jazz do it with "D" as they rank fourth in the league in scoring defense. Thanks in large part to C Rudy Gobert (122 blocked shots). Second-year star G Donovan Mitchell (22.4) is a legit star but we'd like to see 'em be more accurate from "3". Spread Record ... 29-26-2
PORTLAND (34-23) - The Trail Blazers have that dynamic duo in the backcourt with Damian Lillard (26.3 ppg) and CJ McCollum (21 ppg) and so playing near-.600 ball SU is no big surprise but we like the improved bench play. Spread Record ... 31-26-0
SAN ANTONIO (33-26) - There's something missing with this Spurs' squad that sports a pair of 20-plus ppg guys in DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge and yet is just one game up in the loss column from being out of the Western Conference playoffs. Spread Record ... 31-27-1
LOS ANGELES LAKERS (28-29) - All those games where LeBron James missed with injuries could be what keeps the Lakers out of the Western Conference playoffs this year ... or maybe it'll be the games the Lakers "quit" after James tried to have five or six teammates traded to New Orleans. Ugh! Spread Record ... 24-31-2
MEMPHIS (23-36) - Not gonna kill the Grizzlies for this otherwise rotten campaign what with Marc Gasol dealt to Toronto at the deadline and PG Mike Conley blitzed with trade rumors before staying put. Still, worst offense in the league at 100.6 ppg. Spread Record ... 26-32-1
NEW ORLEANS (26-33) - The whole Anthony Davis Saga has ruined this Pelicans' campaign and now here's the franchise's soon-to-be-gone star has a bum shoulder. Spread Record ... 28-30-1
MINNESOTA (27-30) - Can we admit to y'all that we've finally given up trying to figure out these Timberwolves who currently reside at the bottom of the Northwest standings. Minny sports more 25-and-younger stars and still can't ever get things revved up. Spread Record ... 29-28-0
PHOENIX (11-48) - This "tankathon" season has not been a surprise but just one divisional win? Spread Record ... 25-34-0
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NOTE: Get all the latest in the college hoops world in the next edition of Jim Sez.