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Is it too early for the Rockets, Grizzlies and Pelicans to panic?

With unexpectedly poor records to start the season, Houston, New Orleans and Memphis must be getting nervous. Should they?

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The West standings have some real surprises, and not all of them good. We're mainly talking about the 1-9 Pelicans and the 4-7 Rockets. Note that this was largely written before the Grizzlies beat the Thunder on Tuesday night -- they are now up to 6-6. Otherwise, enjoy.

ZILLER: Out here in the West, we have the Rockets losing multiple times to the Nuggets, we have the Grizzlies looking as limited as they have in the Z-Bo era and we have the Pelicans. We're only three weeks in, but should any or all of these teams panic? Is this noise or cause for concern?

FLANNERY: Let's take them one at a time. Houston: No, not yet. Memphis: Probably time to reassess and consider bold measures, but hold on tight. New Orleans: Commence freaking the hell out.

Out of all of them, the Pelicans are the most understandable, but also the most disheartening. Those defensive numbers are hideous. Regardless of personnel, I thought that would be the biggest area of improvement this year and it's in shambles. I still think they will be much, much better by the end of the year but, yeesh.

We all knew there would be a point when the Grizzlies' run came to an end and that it would conclude in a spectacularly ugly finish. I'm not there yet with them. The issue they have is there just aren't many ways to try and improve that don't involve trading a core player like Zach Randolph or Tony Allen. Unless they've got an amazing offer sitting on the table (doubtful), they need to play this out and see if they can get it back together.

As for the Rockets, I don't know? Don't play Denver anymore would be a good place to start. They look completely disinterested on defense and the offense with Ty Lawson is running in circles. How deep do you think Houston's issues go?


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ZILLER: The Pelicans needed to avoid a hole too deep to escape. Welp. They've missed a couple of win opportunities and the learning curve with the new faces playing due to necessity in addition to the coaching turnover has been too much. I don't see how they get to the necessary 45 or so wins which such a bad start unless they start winning now.

The Grizzlies seem to have just hit a rough patch in the schedule that tends to happen with even good West teams. It happens. As you note, there's no obvious big shake-up trade to make, though I think you leave Tony Allen available for a young shooter if such a deal is out there. Heck, maybe you take an older shooter like Kevin Martin.

The Rockets look so bored! James Harden looks more like 2014 Harden than 2015 Harden, which is to say he looks like a top-3 scorer in the league, but a distastefully uninterested defender and generally filled with malaise. Like, I understand if he can't keep up last year's breakneck effort permanently. But if that's the case, our expectations for this team need to be downgraded substantially.

FLANNERY: I'm not convinced it's going to take 45 wins to get a playoff spot, but that's neither here nor there at the moment. Both of us had all three of these teams in the postseason with Utah and Phoenix fighting it out for the final spot. How are you feeling about that one? The team I gave short shrift to in this equation was clearly Dallas, which is a whole other conversation.

The Rockets case is puzzling to say the least. We both felt like they turned a corner during the postseason and many people viewed them as a trendy alternate to Golden State. But I'm not sure we can trust them. Again. The Lawson move has been a debacle so far. At what point do they turn back to Patrick Beverley and try to recapture the spirit with which they played with last season?

ZILLER: Beverley is dinged up already, and health looks like it'll again be an issue for Houston. I think getting Donatas Motiejunas back soon will help the spacing on offense, but it's sort of at the point where the team just has to collectively wake up and decide it is going to compete for a title. OKC taught us last season how quickly things can go south. You'd better capitalize while you have top talent available.

I've been impressed with a few things from Utah, specifically Derrick Favors and Alec Burks. Favors is one of those sneaky very good young guys who slips under the radar due to Rudy Gobert's highlights. In Phoenix, I'm prepared to drop I TOLD YOU SO bombs all over the place regarding the Brandon Knight-Eric Bledsoe backcourt. That just works, and it might be my No. 4 backcourt to watch in the league (behind Steph-Klay, Wall-Beal and Westbrook-Waiters). Anything can happen out there.

Dallas is frisky and should remain so as Wes Matthews and Chandler Parsons get their legs under them. I don't think they can keep up with the others, but the Pels' disaster has loosened up the playoff picture. Portland and Denver look better than most of us thought. Do you think Minnesota is going to hang around? Is Sacramento (4-3 when Boogie plays!) going to stay in the conversation (presuming they are back in it)?

FLANNERY: I'm just not ready to include the Kings in any meaningful postseason conversation until they put together a solid month of results with no extracurricular nonsense. It's been one week! I think Portland and Denver will have their moments, but again, let's see them put together a solid stretch before vaulting either into the race. Minnesota's been great and I am of the opinion that playing through meaningful basketball situations is as important for development as force-feeding minutes for the young'uns. The latter three all look better than we anticipated.

Still, the burden of proof is on all these teams. It's the corollary of the slow starts by teams with track proven records. Just as I'm not ready to write off Memphis or even New Orleans, I'm not ready to anoint any of the up-and-comers just yet. Dallas is the one that has definitely surprised me. All credit to the Mavs, and I promise to never discount Rick Carlisle and/or Dirk Nowitzki again. If the Mavs/Jazz/Suns stay legit, that leaves one of the aforementioned troika out of the mix. The Pels are the odd team out at this point.

But I want to return to Memphis for a moment. Are the Grizzlies' problems fixable, or is Grit 'n Grind on life support?

ZILLER: On Sacramento, Portland (suddenly down to 4-8) and Denver: your insistence on holding off is perfectly sensible. It's also boring. If you wait to declare any of them intriguing, you might as well recite the standings! Sacramento has a road trip starting this week that will tell us a lot about whether this is just an adrenaline high or whether we have a .500 team on our hands.

I'm not worried about Memphis precisely because seemingly everyone but Zach Randolph is under performing. Mike Conley is not going to shoot 36 percent this season. Z-Bo, at age 34, is the guy you worry about falling off. He really hasn't. Marc Gasol's defense will ramp back up (hopefully soon), Conley will get on track and the shooters they do have will do better. They look distinctly worse than the second tier of West contenders (Spurs, Clippers, Thunder) but they're 6-6 and they've proven they can do it. I trust them to improve more than I trust Dallas to keep it up.

I feel like an idiot for picking against the Warriors.

FLANNERY: That's the only thing we know at this point.

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