By Jonathan Pressman ’14, Staff Writer
With just two weeks before the All-Star break, the NBA has effectively separated the good, the not so good, and the entirely hopeless.
The two Conferences are in sharp contrast this year, with last year’s Eastern Conference Championship matchup teams boasting records near the top of the League, and the other 13 teams lagging far behind.
From the Western Conference, just four teams have records under the .500 mark, including the 38-10 Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder’s dominance is due in large part to the prolific scoring of Kevin Durant. Durant’s 31.2 points per game has been a hot topic this season, as the Thunder looks to build on its current 10-game win streak.
Though the Thunder’s recent play has been nothing short of flawless, the Western Conference is rife with stiff competition.
Back after yet another year, the San Antonio Spurs are looking as sharp as ever behind the consistent play of veterans Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili. The Spurs are experienced and well coached, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned from this team, it’s never to doubt their abilities on account of age.
The Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Clippers, and Houston Rockets have all been red hot this season, and have 30 or more wins to show for it. The dynamic duo of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin has the Clippers atop the Pacific Division, while Houston and former Thunder guard James Harden are fighting with San Antonio for the top spot in the Southwest.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the Western Conference as a whole is the incredible play of the Trail Blazers, highlighted by LaMarcus Aldridge and the second-year Damian Lillard. After wrapping up the 2012-2013 season with a 33-49 record, including 10 consecutive losses in the last 10 games, the Blazers have already matched the total number of wins from last season. The Blazers’ run-and-gun offense has proven a winning recipe, with 44.9 of the team’s League leading 108.4 ppg average coming courtesy of Aldridge and Lillard.
Though the Western Conference is packed with teams posting win after win, just two teams from the East have won more than 25 games—the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat. After being ousted by the Heat in a thrilling seven-game series, the Pacers have returned full-force, currently leading the Conference with a 35-10 record. The Pacers’ have established themselves as exemplars of team play, and it’s no surprise that Indiana is leading the NBA in just one major category: defense.
Led by Paul George’s 23.3 points per game, and Roy Hibbert’s monolithic presence in the post, the Pacers have found the winning combination of a stalwart defense and a balanced scoring attack, showing themselves a force to be reckoned with.
With a 32-13 record, the reigning champion Miami Heat are back and hungry for more. The powerhouse trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh is combining for an average of 61.5 ppg, and 18.2 rebounds. The Big Three have proven themselves time and again, and will certainly be a team to look out for through the duration of the regular season, and will likely make another run to the Finals.
The latter half of the season will be very telling, and as always, remaining healthy through the regular season and playoffs will be the deciding factor. The Eastern Conference will more than likely result in a repeat of last year’s Conference Championship matchup, though the West will be a toss up, and already is proving highly difficult to predict.
Senior Jonathan Pressman is a senior staff writer. His email is email@example.com.