Welcome to 2022, dear reader. Have you made any New Year’s Resolutions? A promise to read a book a week? To hit the treadmill? To cut back to a mere bottle of wine per night?

You can be sure that NBA teams have their own New Year’s Resolutions, too. Last week we took a look at the Eastern Conference’s resolutions. This week, we travel West.

Dallas Mavericks (18 wins – 18 losses)

Make a serious commitment to winning

Dallas lucked into a generational talent in Luka Doncic when the Suns (who only employed Doncic’s national team coach) and the Kings (Marvin freakin’ Bagley!!!) passed on one of the most obvious ‘sure thing’ prospects of the past decade. Since then, they haven’t really made a seriously positive personnel move.

Their free agency signings have been over priced and underwhelming, their trade acquisitions have ranged from disastrous (Josh Richardson) through to merely OK (Kristaps Porzingis) and they’ve drafted very poorly with the exception of Jalen Brunson, taken in the 2nd round of Luka’s 2018 draft class. (An aside, the only genuine impact player that the team has drafted this century prior to Doncic is Josh Howard back in 2003. That’s an astonishing level of ineptitude and shows how good Dirk Nowitzki was to keep this team in contention for so long)

Dallas need to find a genuine running mate for Luka. Ideally, somebody with speed and athleticism given the Mavs are arguably the least athletic team in the entire NBA.

Oh, it would probably help their cause if their franchise player made a commitment to stay fit in the off-season, too.

Denver Nuggets (18-16)

Save themselves for next season

Oh, what might have been.

Coming off an MVP season, Nikola Jokic is even better this time around. Whilst all the MVP talk centres on Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo, don’t discount the giant Serbian, who is the be-all-and-end-all for this depleted Nuggets squad.

Some point to the fact that Jamal Murray will return before the playoffs as a cause for the Nuggets, still 5th in the conference despite (waves hands furiously at everything) all of this going wrong, to maintain their championship aspirations. Sadly, without a legitimate offensive weapon in Micael Porter Jr to round out their big three, the Nuggets will likely fall just short of winning it all.

With that in mind, perhaps Denver should start to look towards next season and give Jokic the occasional night off, despite their only other rotation centre being the aging and undersized Jeff Green. The last thing they need is the biggest of their bid three succumbing to injury.

Next season, with Murray back and the cobwebs blow out, Porter (hopefully) healthy and a rested Jokic, the Nuggets will be primed to make serious run.

Golden State Warriors (28-7)

Decide what to do with the kids

With a league leading record of 28-7, it’s safe to say things are going along swimmingly for the resurgent Warriors. Steph Curry is cooking, Draymond Green is back to his best, they’re due to welcome Klay Thompson back in the next few weeks. Just one bugbear, though…..please decide what you’re doing with the kids!

From the very top of the organisation, Golden State have openly stated that they want to replicate the Spurs decades long run of contention. In getting a series of bites at the lottery apple in the past couple of seasons, they’ve achieved the ‘next gen’ part of the equation. Or have they?

When David Robinson, Sean Elliott and Avery Johnson aged out, San Antonio drafted Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker – the foundation for the next era of dominance. It’s still early, but does anybody see genuine stardom in James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga or Moses Moody? If the Dubs don’t see them as centrepieces, then they should look to trade them whilst their value is high. Domantas Sabonis would look delightful pinging passes around in this offense.

On the other hand, nobody predicted that Parker or Ginobili would be surefire Hall of Famers, either. Does a deep playoff run or two – and possibly a championship – whilst learning at the feet of the current Warrior legends transform Golden State’s talented young trio into genuine foundation pieces?

Houston Rockets (10-27)

Find a balance between competing and developing

Houston started out the season 1-16, on pace to smash all and every possible record of NBA ineptitude. That was, of course, somewhat planned. The most important agenda for the Rockets this season is the development of their youngsters, in particular Jalen Green.

When Green sat out a few weeks injured, Rockets coach Stephen Silas changed course, reintroducing veteran Eric Gordon into the rotation and inserting Garrison Mathews to the starting five for Daniel Theis, which allowed Christian Wood to move to centre. That lineup had shooting and play making all over the floor and subsequently, the Rox went on a seven game winning streak.

With Green back in the lineup, Houston need to find a balance between competing and development. That might entail changing Green’s previous – if you’ll excuse the pun – green light to a yellow one. Showing the youngster how to find his shots within the flow of a functional NBA ecosystem is more important than letting him do what he pleases in the name of ‘playing through mistakes’.

For what it’s worth, Green is posting 22.3 points on 48% shooting since his return – far better numbers than at the beginning of the season.

Los Angeles Clippers (19-18)

Keep the seat warm for their superstars

At just above .500 despite Kawhi Leonard yet to suit up and Paul George missing 10 games (and not due back until the end of January), the Clippers are primed for a late season push once they get a full deck to play with. Credit to coach Ty Lue for keeping his teams’ heads above water, through a mixture of watertight defense and whatever soothsaying he continues to do with Reggie Jackson who has played by far his career best basketball under Lue’s tutelage.

If LA’s smoke and mirrors act can keep the team afloat until George returns, then the Clips – currently 6th – could look to gatecrash the top four. From there, with Leonard likely back in the lineup, anything is possible.

Los Angeles Lakers (19-19)

Find some 3-D wings to put around LeBron

Blind Freddy and his deaf dog know that the best way to accentuate the positives that LeBron James provides is to surround him with shooters who can hold their own defensively. This is not breaking news.

Now, if only the Lakers could find such players… I wonder if Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma are available?

Memphis Grizzlies (23-14)

Find a balance between offense and defense

After a surprise playoff appearance last season, Memphis have skipped the ‘consolidation’ phase of their rebuild by thrusting themselves into the top four of the Western Conference.

Their offense – 8th in the NBA – is wonderful to watch. Ja Morant is a true phenom, Jaren Jackson Jr has found another level since returning from his knee reconstruction, Dillon Brooks is a fearless shot taker and sometimes maker. When Ja went down with a knee sprain, Memphis changed personality in an instant, assuming something close to their fabled Grit’n’Grind defensive mindset. Ranked 13th on the season as a whole, the Grizzlies defense was 5th through Morant’s absence.

If the team can find a way to keep those defensive numbers inside the top 10 with Morant back on the floor, even at the expense of a little bit of attacking flair, then they could find themselves pushing the elite of the NBA to breaking point.

Minnesota Timberwolves (16-20)

Keep that winning feeling

That weird, unusual feeling that Timberwolves fans are experiencing right now is call optimism. Nice, isn’t it?

There is something percolating in Minnesota who, after a 4-9 start have managed to play better than .500 basketball despite losing their better players to injuries and COVID protocols. With Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell back this week (both are expected to return against the Thunder) coach Chris Finch will be back to playing with a full deck.

This team is clearly not yet fully formed. They’re potent offensively but are still weak at the other end of the floor. They are improving, though. Russell is playing career best defense and Towns is making incremental strides in reading the play. Jaden McDaniels profiles as an outstanding defensive wing and Anthony Edwards has the physical tools to be a plus defender.

A trade (possibly involving reserve gunner Malik Beasley) might bring in another 3-D wing to round out their starting five.

New Orleans Pelicans (13-23)

Shelve Zion

Zion Williamson is a force of nature, but unlike another freakishly athletic large humans in LeBron James, Zion has proven very much destructible.

Whilst every NBA fan wants to see Williamson on the court as soon as possible, it’s in the Pelicans’ best interests to give their franchise player as much time off as is required to get him fully healthy, and then fully fit. If that means he’s back this season then that’s wonderful. If it requires the team wrapping him in cotton wool for the remainder of this campaign, then so be it. The man is simply far too important to risk in what is a write-off season in New Orleans.

Oklahoma City Thunder (13-23)

Find some shooting

The Thunder rank 29th in FG%, 24th in FT% and stone, motherless last in 3PFG%. They’re the only team in the league to average less than 100 points per game.

Long time general manager Sam Presti certainly has a type: uber athletic, long, defensively sound, can’t shoot a lick. Given Presti’s record, it’s no surprise that the team has a bunch of intuiting prospects that can’t put the ball in the bucket. Perhaps it’s time for Presti to take a leaf out of the books of so many other GM’s who have turned the likes of Joe Harris, Gary Trent Jr, Garrison Mathews and Duncan Robinson into key rotation pieces. After all, you don’t have to be athletic to be good at basketball.

A quick note on Josh Giddey, who yesterday became the youngest player to ever record a triple double in an NBA game. His 14 assists tied the rookie record shard by LeBron James and Zach Lavine. He would have held that record outright if it weren’t for this:

Phoenix Suns (28-8)

Settle the Deandre Ayton situation

Deep down, even Deandre Ayton himself probably knows he’s not a genuine max contract player. He’s without a doubt an excellent centre who has married vastly improved defense to his already formidable roll game, but he’s not the hub of a team at either end of the floor.

That said, he’s a key contributor to the Suns who, after making a surprise run to last years finals, have solidified their elite status. It makes complete sense for Phoenix to lock him up on a long term deal sooner rather than later. Whilst he’s not a max guy, there is surely a middle ground that would work for both player and team.

Portland Trailblazers (13-22)

Blow it up

Damian Lillard wants to win. Ideally, he want’s to win in Portland. As they’re currently constructed, that just isn’t going to happen. It’s probably overdue, but the Blazers need to change strategy. They need to blow it up.

In saying that, the Blazers could go two ways in resting their roster. The obvious option is sell on Lillard – back to his devastating best after a torrid start to he season – whilst he still has value. As a small guard who will turn 32 in the off-season, Lillard is a prime candidate for early regression. Cashing in on him would allow the Blazers to make a hard reset with young prospects and picks, whilst allowing Dame to move to a better situation.

Of course, the Blazers could also try to have their cake and eat it by trading around Lillard in an attempt to rebuild on the fly. That would mean dealing his long time teammate and friend CJ McCollum as well as a myriad of other veterans. An infinitely more difficult route, it would allow the Blazers to keep an icon of the club in uniform.

Either way, something has to happen as yet another Blazers season spirals out of control.

Sacramento Kings (16-22)

Hand Tyrese Haliburton the keys to the team

The recent injury to presumed franchise centrepiece De’Aaron Fox showed the Kings exactly what their future could, nay should be if they handed the reigns to 2nd year man Tyrese Haliburton.

The Kings offense took off with Haliburton at the controls for four games in December. Sure their defense still sucked, but that’s a team wide issue. Using Fox – who has regressed generally since his sophomore campaign, but especially this season – to bring in somebody to shore op their defense (Ben Simmons would be an especially good fit here) seems a no brainer.

San Antonio Spurs (14-21)

It’s extremely un-Spursy, but aim for a pair of individual honours

At best, this season’s Spurs are a play-in team. Should they somehow back their way into the playoffs themselves, they’re nothing more than cannon fodder for the Warriors, Suns or Jazz.

So, in something that is most out of character for San Antonio, why not find reasons to celebrate some personal milestones.

Legendary coach Gregg Popvich is currently on 1,494 career wins, which is the most in NBA history, yet for some inexplicable reason the NBA record books only reflect regular season wins. In that regard, Pop is 3rd all time with 1,324. He’s just eight behind Lenny Wilkens for 2nd and 11 behind Don Nelson for the official record. Let’s celebrate Pop attaining the official record, even harder than we did for Steph breaking the three pointers record a few weeks back. After all, the propensity of three point shooting has changed over the years. A win in 2022 is worth exactly the same as a win in 1952.

The other accolade that the Spurs should be pushing for is an inaugural All-Star berth for point guard Dejounte Murray. After his 2018 knee injury looked to have halted his ascension to stardom, he’s playing career best basketball this campaign, giving the Spurs a nightly near triple double with a pair of steals. He’s improved his previous anemic three point shooting to a respectable 34.1% on 4.1 attempts.

The Spurs are a team of role players crying out for a star. Murray might not be the Alpha that can lead a championship team, but he’s proven himself an All-Star level player. He just needs the official recognition.

Utah Jazz (26-10)

Give the damn ball to Rudy Gobert

Utah’s championship window is wide open. This Jazz roster is deep and it’s talented. Led by one of the greatest defensive players in the 75year history of the league in Rudy Gobert and a young man in Donovan Mitchell that is awfully close to elite offensively, this is a fantastic team. They’ve just about perfected modern NBA offense; their 117.3 Offensive Rating sitting a full 3.5 points ahead of 2nd placed Atlanta (for context, that gap is the same as the drop from Atlanta to Indiana, in 14th).

Where the Jazz struggle – ironic given the presence of Gobert and that it’s Utah’s traditional strength – is defense. Literally, nobody outside of the game Royce O’Neal plays passable perimeter defense. If a team can draw Gobert away from the basket with shooting all over the floor (as the Clippers did in last season’s playoffs) then you have a procession of layups or open three’s as Gobert scrambles to cover both the hoop and the perimeter.

In a season preview, this writer practically begged Jazz coach Quinn Snyder to give Gobert the ball when switched onto smaller players and let him go to work, as he did to some success in the Olympics. So far this NBA season, Gobert has seen the ball, but not nearly enough to see if having the Frenchman mash little men at the rim is a viable tactic.

Keeping Gobert on the floor is one of the keys to the Jazz’s title aspirations. Making defences play for going small is the key to keeping him on the floor.

This article also appears at leading independent media site FOOTYOLOGY.