Western Conference Teams
Mark. J Terrill/ Associated Press

Western Conference Teams: Three Questions That Need To Be Answered

The NBA is entering the Second half of the season with the trade deadline of March 25th fast approaching. Many teams are now evaluating their rosters and their goals they set during the beginning of the season. These goals may be out of reach and teams will act accordingly trading veteran players or looking to release them for salary relief. While other teams are in reach of their goals being active buyers looking to strengthen their roster for a post-season run. For these three Western Conference Teams there is one burning question as they enter the second half of the season that needs to be answered.

What Does A Healthy Blazers Team Look Like?

The Portland Trailblazers are currently 21-14, 5th in the Western Conference standings. Which is exceeding expectations since they have been bit by the injury bug once again early on in the season. C.J McCollum when healthy was playing some of the best basketball of his career. At an All-Star Level, averaging 26.7 points per game, 3.9 rebounds, and 5.0 assists while shooting 44% from three. This level of play however was short-lived as McCollum went down 13 games into the season with a broken left foot. The Blazers are also missing their starting center Jusuf Nurkic who has appeared in only 12 games this season.

Damian Lillard has kept this sinking ship afloat behind his MVP level play as he does every season. Currently averaging 29.8 points per game, 8.0 assists, and leading the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring. The Trailblazers have some great talent on the roster like Carmelo Anthony who appears to still have some left in the tank, Robert Covington one of the best help defenders in the league, Enes Kanter, and Gary Trent Jr. If the Blazers are able to get McCollum back healthy which appears to be happening sooner rather than later as he was cleared for contact recently and Nurkic who is also showing progress in his injury rehabilitation. They will be a scary team to face in the first round of the playoffs as long as the team is healthy.

Have The Denver Nuggets Reached Their Ceiling?

The Denver Nuggets have honestly been disappointing as a team considering their playoff success from the past season and Nikola Jokic’s play this season. Currently, they are 21-15, 6th in the Western Conference Standings, which is far off from where they were in the past two seasons which was 2nd and 3rd in the standings. Nikola Jokic is having an All-Time great season averaging 27 points per game, 11 rebounds per game, and 8.6 assists per game on extremely efficient shooting. 56% from the field, 41% from three, and 88% from the line. Nikola Jokic is doing things at the center position that we haven’t seen before. Becoming the second center with 50 career triple-doubles this season while also being 6th in assists percentage at 39%, the players ahead of him are all traditional guards.

The Nuggets may have reached their ceiling because Nikola Jokic’s MVP level play has not led to wins for a team that has championship aspirations. They lost one of their key contributors Jerami Grant, to the Detroit Pistons and he has blossomed into a star. Michael Porter Jr. is a talented player with the potential to be the #1 option in an offense but this is only his second season and there are clear defensive flaws that could be exposed in the playoffs.

Jamal Murray has regressed from his bubble form. Returning to an inconsistent player that the Nuggets never know what kind of production to expect on a game-to-game basis. The talent around Jokic has too many question marks if this team is going to reach the conference finals. The Nuggets need to make a trade to rejuvenate this roster heading into the second half of the season. Western Conference teams are stacked with multiple stars and the Nuggets only have one.

Will the Los Angles Clippers Run Out Of Gas Again?

The Los Angles Clippers faltered in the playoffs during their second-round matchup with the Denver Nuggets last season. The team ran out of gas and had no playmakers to make the lives of their stars easier. It was an ugly playoff exit with this Paul George three basically summing it up. In the offseason they made some dramatic changes to the roster firing head coach Doc rivers, letting their 6th man of the year Montrezl Harrell leave in free agency to their rivals the LA Lakers. They Brought in Luke Kennard and Nicolas Batum as a replacement and to hopefully alleviate some of the scoring duties for Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.

The Clippers are currently 24-14, 4th in the Western Conference standings and Paul George is a big reason behind their success. He has buried their past playoff loss to the Nuggets and put all his focus and energy into this season. He is playing some of the best basketball of his career averaging 23.7 points per game, 6.1 rebounds, and 5.4 assists, and is almost shooting well enough to be a part of the “50-40-90” club.

Batum has been a key contributor for the team which is a nice surprise but Kennard has struggled to gel with the team racking up a few DNPs this season. So far the Clippers appear to not be missing Harrell but they have yet to address their playmaking problems at the point guard position. Their are a couple teams that have players to solve that problems like the New Orleans Pelicans(Lonzo Ball), Oklahoma City Thunder(George Hill), and Toronto Raptors(Kyle Lowry). It would be wise of them to bring one of these players or somebody that can facilitate the offense so they aren’t doomed to the same fate twice.