The Western Conference was expected to be especially strong this season, and thus far, it has lived up to its billing. 12 teams are at .500 or better, and the Minnesota Timberwolves are just one game under at 9-10.
While the amount of quality teams in the West is of little surprise, the team that currently sits atop the conference is a shocker. The Portland Trail Blazers, led by LaMarcus Aldridge, are 16-3 and hold a half-game lead over the San Antonio Spurs. The Blazers have several marquee wins on the year, including victories over the Spurs, Indiana Pacers and most recently, the Oklahoma City Thunder, who had been riding an eight-game winning streak prior to their loss in Portland.
The Los Angeles Clippers were the lone team in the West playoff picture to take the floor Thursday night and destroyed the Memphis Grizzlies by 20 points in Memphis. With the win, the Clippers are now tied with the Houston Rockets for the fourth-best record in the West.
At the tail end of playoff picture, the Golden State Warriors hold a one-game lead over the Phoenix Suns for the eighth and final spot.
Here are the full West standings:
|Portland Trail Blazers||19||16-3||.842|
|San Antonio Spurs||18||15-3||.833|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||17||13-4||.765|
|Los Angeles Clippers||20||13-7||.650|
|Golden State Warriors||19||11-8||.579|
|New Orleans Pelicans||18||9-9||.500|
|Los Angeles Lakers||18||9-9||.500|
And then there's the Eastern Conference.
There was some hope the East would be better this year, with seemingly four powerhouses at the top and a bunch of up-and-coming teams fighting for the remaining playoff spots. Instead, the conference has turned into a hot mess behind the Pacers and two-time defending champion Miami Heat.
Just how bad are things in the East? Only three teams are at .500 or better and only three teams have a positive point differential. The ninth-place Phoenix Suns would have the third-best record in the East. The eighth-seeded Charlotte Bobcats would be No. 13 in the West. And the 8-12 Boston Celtics are currently the fourth seed in the East because the Atlantic Division is a travesty.
Three of the teams expected to be contenders in the East have been major disappointments. The Chicago Bulls lost Derrick Rose to another major knee injury, although they still hold the No. 7 seed and showed some signs of life in a dominant win over the Heat on Thursday. Meanwhile, the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets have both been atrocious, combining for a 9-27 record thus far. The Knicks embarrassed the Nets Thursday at the Barclays Center and will hope to use the big win as a springboard to get back in the playoff picture.
Here's the train wreck that is the East:
|New York Knicks||17||4-13||.235|