Posted on February 12, 2024
Although we didn’t see too many big moves at the deadline like last season’s wild trade deadline, we could still expect these low-key moves to make a big difference come playoff time.
As always, here is my update on the status of NBA Western Conference teams, as well as a look at the previous week’s best team and MVP.
The Los Angeles Clippers (35-16, 3-1)
The Clippers and the Nuggets both experienced the short-lived jubilation of being the first seed this week until the Timberwolves went back on top of the West to end the week.
Minnesota has been on top of the West for 79 out of the 110 days of the season, which is around 72% of the entire campaign. So, managing to knock them off, even momentarily, should be celebrated.
The Thunder also managed to be the first seed for a day on January 27, but they’re currently the fourth seed after going 3-4 since then.
This is an extremely unpredictable Western Conference this season and all four of these teams could realistically finish on top.
Let’s talk about the Clippers first. They hadn’t been the first seed in the Western Conference since January 20, 2013. At first glance, this sounds impossible.
They’ve had so many great players in the past 11 years, from “Lob City” with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to the current era with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
But obviously, injuries have played a massive factor in limiting their success both in the regular season and in the playoffs.
The Clippers won 69% of their games with CP3 and Blake, and they also won 70% of their games with Kawhi and PG13.
So the only reason why a team with such a high winning rate never got the first seed for more than 4000 days is their terrible luck with injuries.
But thankfully for Clippers (and basketball) fans, they look healthy this season and they finally managed to get the first seed back after all these years on February 6.
They could only hold on for a day, but they managed to finally sit on top of the West for the first time since 2012-13, when the likes of Tracy McGrady and Jason Kidd were still playing in the league.
That should mean that they’re now one step closer to finally breaking the curse that has been put on their franchise for so long.
They fell to fourth after their loss to the Pelicans (who they can never seem to beat for some reason), but they’re now the second seed as of the time of writing, half a game behind the Timberwolves.
The Denver Nuggets (36-17, 2-1)
The Nuggets were also “Kings of the West” for a very short period this week (two days), but obviously, they’ve experienced much more success than the Clippers in recent years.
They came out of nowhere in 2018-19, spending slightly more than 30% of the season as the first seed.
They would then flirt with the first seed next season before injuries to Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. limited their chances of competing for the first seed.
Last season, the fully healthy Nuggets dominated the NBA, spending a remarkable 65% of the season as the first seed, which included a dominant 112-day consecutive run as the top team in the West.
And they capped the season off as NBA champions.
They continued their dominance early into the 2023-24 season, but once the Timberwolves got the first seed from them in late November, it became hard for the Nuggets to catch up.
They finally managed to catch up and reclaim the top spot in the Conference on February 7, lasting two days on top before an untimely blowout loss to the Kings knocked them off their perch.
They currently have the same number of wins as Minnesota, but they have one more loss than them, which puts them in third place.
The 2016-17 Warriors are the last Western Conference team to finish as the first seed for back-to-back years, and the Nuggets have a good chance to become the first team since them to accomplish this feat.
Welcome Back to the West!
Dinwiddie made his Western Conference debut midway through the 2021-22 season with the Dallas Mavericks.
Although his time in Dallas started out very promising, he was deemed expandable in 2022-23 and was playing out of position.
He was traded to the Nets after just 76 regular season games in the West, but his second stint in Brooklyn was nowhere near as successful as his first one.
That led to him being traded at the trade deadline for the third season in a row, this time to the Toronto Raptors.
The Raptors never really wanted Dinwiddie, and they waived him immediately. He is now set to sign with his hometown Lakers, but this might not be the best fit.
The Lakers are at their absolute best when LeBron James is running the show with the ball in his hands, so adding another player who is going to take the ball off of LeBron’s hands is a questionable move.
His lack of defensive ability and his terrible shooting splits this year are concerning too, but the shooting splits could improve next to Anthony Davis and LeBron, as he was forced to chuck a lot of shots in Brooklyn.
I showed the same level of concern for D’Angelo Russell joining the Lakers last season and he’s performed better than what I expected, so we shall wait and see what happens with Dinwiddie.
Making a Name for Himself
After decades of coaching overseas, in the G-League, and being an assistant in the NBA, Chris Finch finally got his big break in 2021 and has gotten off to a remarkable start to his career.
Finch has had a winning record and made the playoffs in each of his two full seasons as a Timberwolves coach, so he just needs a few more wins to secure his third consecutive season of accomplishing this feat.
Now, his hard work has been recognized as he was named the head coach of the Western Conference in the All-Star game.
This is the second time that a Timberwolves coach has been named as an All-Star coach since the late Flip Saunders.
It’s fitting since Finch has easily been the best Timberwolves coach since Saunders’ first stint in Minnesota.
Timberwolves players, like Anthony Edwards, are ecstatic Finch is getting his recognition.
“[Finch being named All-Star coach] probably was the greatest thing of this season,” Edwards said. “That’s dope for him to get recognized for how great he’s coached this year.”
Best Team of the Previous Week
The Dallas Mavericks (30-23, 4-1)
For the second straight week, no team went undefeated, but the Mavs are my pick as the best team in the West.
After a 15-8 start to the season, they went on a terrible run where they had an 11-15 record and their players suffered many injuries despite Luka Doncic trying his best, like scoring 73 points against the Hawks.
But now they’ve won four games in a row and have made some really nice acquisitions, like getting Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington.
Luka and Kyrie Irving led the way scoring-wise, averaging 33 and 25 points a night respectively.
Josh Green has also been very respectable since becoming the full-time starter earlier in the season, and he had a good week, averaging 14.6 points per game while shooting 55.6% from the field and 46.2% from three.
MVPs of the Previous Week
Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
“The Chef” is back.
After a string of subpar (for his standards) performances to kick off the 2024 calendar year, Steph Curry has been on fire over his last 10 games, averaging 33.1 points while shooting almost 50% from deep.
He kept up his momentum last week, dropping 60 points against the Hawks in a loss, which was the second 60-point game of his illustrious career. Curry wouldn’t lose again for the rest of the week.
Highlights included torching the Pacers for 42 points while dropping 11 threes and then following that up by hitting a game-winning shot right before the clock expired against his former teammate Kevin Durant and the Suns.
Everyone was simply wowed by that display, including Durant himself. “All-time greatest ever at his position,” Durant said after the game. “[He’s] a top-five player ever.”