The midway point of the NBA season is upon us. Utah Jazz has the best record in the NBA, but is it really the preeminent team in the West?
Without further ado, these are the top 10 teams in playoff contention. We all know the teams with the best record in the NBA. These squads, however, are ordered in a manner that we think best represents their abilities:
#10 – Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies have done admirably well to stay at or near the .500 mark through an injury-plagued season. Once they have Jaren Jackson Jr back, you can expect Ja Morant and co to make some real noise in the playoff picture.
At present, however, a 16-16 record does not do much for them in their playoff hunt. They occupy the 10th spot in the Conference, 3 games ahead of the Pelicans in 11th.
#9 – Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks have been trending up on both ends of the floor of late. They’ve picked up their act, winning 8 of their last 10 games. This enables them to occupy the 8th spot in the West for the first time in nearly 2 months.
Luka Doncic has obviously been playing in MVP form, but Jalen Brunson has been their real underrated performer this year. Brunson has been slicing and dicing defenses in unconventional fashion and giving them a steady scoring punch.
#8 – Golden State Warriors
Try as he might, Steph Curry can’t help Golden State beyond a point. There will come times when the Warriors will lose close games despite him having a monster night. Their loss to the Blazers was a microcosm of their season – they’ve never truly been able to kick into top gear.
The Warriors might be buyers at the trade deadline, so you should watch this space for further moves. As things stand, they’re in imminent danger of losing homecourt during the play-in tournament.
#7 – San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are easily the least-vaunted playoff team in the league at the moment. They are being propped up by DeMar DeRozan, but the likes of Keldon Johnson and Derrick White have also pulled their weight. It’s a team effort that sees them 4 games above .500 at the moment.
With Pop still in charge of the team, it’s hard to bet against them making the playoffs yet again. Even a first-round exit would be a commendable, Coach of the Year-worthy job with this roster.
#6 – Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard continues to be one of the most underappreciated stars in the league. Despite leading his team without its second and third best players to a top-5 seed thus far, Dame Dolla is not in the thick of the MVP conversation.
He and his Blazers team will find it tough, however, to hold on to the no. 5 spot for much longer. The team just under them in the standings is kicking on and in full form.
#5 – Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets are among the hottest teams in the league right now. They’re on a 4-game winning streak, and they seem to finally have found a way to not bleed a copious number of points to rival guards. Nikola Jokic is on most people’s MVP ballots, if not necessarily at first spot.
They look set to secure another playoff berth with ease. Their final standings are unclear, but we have a feeling that they’ll be just fine playing the team just above them in our power rankings.
#4 – Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers bowed out with 3 spectacular second half implosions against Denver in the playoffs last year. They may have improved in a few areas in the offseason, but the season thus far has borne out how they retain the same weaknesses as before.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are capable playmakers, but the Clippers really need someone to orchestrate their 4th quarter offense. Without one, their offense sputters much too often in winnable games. Their recent losses to the Bucks, Celtics and Wizards are proof of this.
#3 – Phoenix Suns
Chris Paul’s arrival has bolstered the Phoenix Suns to no end. The Point God is in fine form this season again, arguably submitting yet another All-NBA campaign. Devin Booker and co have been in a perfect position to succeed alongside their veteran leader.
When Chris Paul goes to a new team, that team gets better.
Before CP — .220 W%
After CP — .463 W%
Before CP — .390
After CP — .606
Before CP — .671
After CP — .793
Before CP — .598
After CP — .611
Before CP — .466
After CP — .677 pic.twitter.com/BJZSvd24XM
— StatMuse (@statmuse) March 3, 2021
This team has all the markings of a potential banana skin in the playoffs. They’re currently second in the NBA with a 24-11 record thus far, and have looked like good value for it. They might even snag the best record in the NBA if they continue in this vein.
#2 – Utah Jazz
You might be thinking why the team with the best record in the NBA is only at no. 2 on our rankings. We’ll get to that in a minute, but we need to address how phenomenal this Jazz team has been this year.
The Jazz offense is truly a thing of beauty for basketball aficionados. Every player displays the perfect passing instincts, leading to scores of open 3-point looks every night. Rudy Gobert leads a stifling defense that is yet again in the top 5 in the league.
Donovan Mitchell is having an improved year thus far, and he now has a better supporting cast than anyone. Ignore the Jazz at your own peril this time around.
#1 – Los Angeles Lakers
We’ve seen this script all too often to fall for it once again. Practically every season in the past 7 years or so has featured a slump by LeBron’s team. It leads to doubters emerging from the woodworks to question their championship credentials.
And every single time, LeBron swats those doubters like flies on a rainy night in the playoffs. We know better than to underestimate the greatest player on the planet today. Given how the Lakers are still 3rd in the West without AD, we can expect them to pick up the tempo once their star big man is back.
It is always, ALWAYS foolhardy to bet against LeBron James.