Golden State Warriors
- Grade: Early Drop
Even though the Warriors recently had a four-game winning streak, this thing is pretty much over. Currently last place in the West at 9-28, the Warriors rank bottom third in the league in both offensive (29th) and defensive (21st) rating per 100 possessions, and there’s no reason to believe these figures will improve. There’s no need to dive deep into this, it was bound to happen with the injuries they’ve suffered. Even before Curry went down, they suffered two blowout losses to the Clippers and Thunder, so the injuries give the Warriors the opportunity to bow out early and live to fight another day. That being said, the Warriors are 6.5 games out of the eighth seed and there’s a world where Steph and Klay come back. Anything is possible, but I think the Warriors understand their situation, seeing as they are “Light Years Ahead” and all.
Los Angeles Clippers
- Grade: B+
I still consider the Clippers title favorites, but I have to give them a B+ right now because they haven’t been as dominant as I thought they would have been, especially after their unexplainable blowout loss to the Memphis Grizzlies this past weekend. They’re currently 26-12 and ranked fourth in offensive rating and ninth in defensive rating per 100 possessions. Both figures are good, but I just feel like they should be better with the talent and depth on their roster. Maybe that’s just me and my high expectations for them. But what I can say is that they have had the sixth toughest schedule in the league thus far, so things should get easier for them with games against the Knicks, Pistons, Magic, and Hawks coming up in the next couple of weeks. This team is built for the playoffs, so we may not see the best (and healthiest) version of this team till then, especially since they have their 2020 first-round draft pick, primed and ready to trade for any upgrades they deem necessary to win the championship this June.
Los Angeles Lakers
- Grade: A-
I give a little bit more credit to the Lakers than the Clippers because of their lack of top-end talent. They’re currently the first seed out West, while LeBron James and Anthony Davis have both been MVP candidates, each averaging over 24 points per game and LeBron leading the league in assists with 11 per game. The Lakers are still locking the paint down, offensively (53.4 points per game in the paint, ranked second in the league) and defensively (7.4 blocks per game, best in the league). If the Lakers can start hitting more threes (ranked 23rd in the league in three-point makes per game), add some depth to their roster, and stay as healthy as they have been up till now, then they should be an A+ team going forward.
- Grade: C
The Phoenix Suns have fallen like a shooting star after their quick 5-2 start to the season. Currently 14-22, the question of whether their success was sustainable answered itself in the form of their eight-game losing streak throughout December. There is some hope in the fact that the Suns rank first in assists per game and are ranked top ten in effective field goal percentage, turnover percentage, and opponent turnover percentage, meaning they do a good job scoring points, taking care of the ball and creating turnovers. But they also rank bottom five in opponent effective field goal percentage, fouls per game, opponent free throw/field goal attempts and blocks per game, meaning if the other team gets in the paint, they’ll most likely score, which isn’t good. To be frank, the Suns aren’t particularly good, but they aren’t particularly bad either, which puts them in dangerous territory: they haven’t been in a playoff series since 2010 and they still have a chance to do so. But doing so might require them to mortgage future assets that might come in handy when they do have a team good enough to contend. Maybe the goats have some ideas on what to do here…
Sacramento is in the same boat as Phoenix, except they are in more dire straits. They didn’t start the season particularly well, and they haven’t made the playoffs since 2006, so they’re probably much hungrier to make it than Phoenix. At 13-23, one of Sacramento’s biggest issues has been injuries: only five players have suited up for every game this season. That being said, they are currently ranked in the bottom half of the league in both offensive and defensive rating per 100 possessions. They also don’t do anything at an elite level, according to the advanced stats. Combine that with Buddy Hield’s “trust issues” and Dewayne Dedmon going out of his way to demand a trade and costing himself $50k, you find yourself wondering if the Kings will ever change or if this is just what they are. And if you’re De’Aaron Fox, do you consider skipping bail and looking for greener pastures once your rookie contract is up? That’s a conversation for another day, but there has to be a nonzero chance that he (or at least his agent) is thinking about it. They probably deserve a D, but the fact that they’re still in the playoff hunt and have had a lot of injuries to deal with makes me feel a little bad for them. But another eight-game losing streak and they’ll be flirting with an F.