Although the season is still in the early stage, we can see development of the league pattern heading to December.
In the Western Conference, we might have a three-horse race for the top-seed between the Warriors, Clippers and Spurs. The Warriors (15-2) are showing the remnants of the 73-9 team from last season, winning 11 in a row after a 4-2 start. The Spurs (14-3) and Clippers (14-3) are showing their caliber for a deep playoff run, leaving Thanksgiving only one game behind Stephen Curry and Co. thanks to deep rotations. The young Lakers (8-9) might be a dark horse for the eighth spot as long as they keep their consistency, while the rest of the conference is being left behind early.
Meanwhile in the Eastern Conference, the race for a playoff appearance will most likely go down to the wire. The reigning NBA champion Cavaliers (13-2) are ready for another showdown for the title, running away in the conference with a three-game lead. Apart from the Heat (5-11), Nets (4-11) and 76ers (4-13), who should start sending scouts for the lottery pick, the rest of the conference has an equal chance to extend its season. Only three games are separating the Raptors (10-6) and Bucks (6-8) in the playoff race,
Will injuries kill the Lakers dream of a playoff appearance?
With fatigues and injuries knocking on the door at this stage of the season, coaches need to find a way to keep their star players healthy while winning games on a regular basis. Lakers coach Luke Walton hasn’t found a solution.
After winning seven of their first 12, the Lakers are 1-4 in their past five games without Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell. Things became worse for Walton when Nick Young, who scored a game-winning 3-pointer against the Thunder, suffered a sprained toe, leaving the Lakers without most of their regular starting lineup during their back-to-back losses against the Warriors during Thanksgiving weekend. Jose Calderon, Brandon Ingram and Jordan Clarkson were forced into action, which weakened the Lakers’ bench, arguably the best reserve unit in the league.
Rim protection improvement for the Warriors
The lack of a quality center has been a season-long issue for the Warriors. Zaza Pachulia, David West and Javale McGee do not poses the quality to fit a “super team,” while Draymond Green’s lack of size makes him a make-shift center rather than an everyday starting five. The Warriors’ two losses are because of their vulnerability inside the paint. However, things are starting to get better for coach Steve Kerr and Golden State.
The Warriors climbed to second-best in the league for blocks, rejecting 6.4 baskets per game, 0.3 more than the team averaged last season. Kevin Durant sits in the top 20 in the league for blocks with 28.
The Warriors’ improvement in the inside game is a huge factor for their eleven-game winning streak.