Blogtable: Which Western Conference team playing near .500 is poised to get hot soon?
Each week, we ask our scribes to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
From NBA.com Staff
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The Lakers, Thunder, Nuggets, Jazz, Pelicans and Clippers are all hovering around .500. Which squad is best poised to heat up out West?
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Steve Aschburner: The Thunder has to be my answer, right, if I picked them to be the conference’s third-best team by season’s end? Their cockeyed performance at Sacramento Wednesday night, blowing an early 25-8 lead over the Kings, doesn’t instill great confidence, but the talent is there in the “OK3” guys, Andre Roberson is a lockdown defender and Steven Adams is a terrific and entertaining two-way presence in the middle. Russell Westbrook has to get back to more of his “don’t do they, do you” ways (he’s working hard to assimilate his new star teammates) and Paul George can’t settle for becoming the Chris Bosh or Kevin Love of the trio, hoisting from the arc without more rim aggression.
Shaun Powell: My strong vote is for Oklahoma City, which still hasn’t figured it out yet, much like the Miami Heat at first with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Russell Westbrook is taking almost seven fewer shots a game to accommodate Melo and Paul George and sometimes this stew just needs to cook a little longer. The Lakers, Jazz and Pelicans have flaws (youth and chemistry mainly) that will prevent them from rising much higher, I’m not sold on Blake Griffin bailing out the Clippers in many close games yet and Denver’s got point guard issues that could last the season.
John Schuhmann: The Thunder is the obvious answer. Not only do they have the most top-line talent, but they also have the league’s biggest discrepancy between their record (4-6) and their point differential (that of a team that’s 7-3). They should figure things out on offense (where they currently rank 22nd) and will also have better luck in late-game situations. After Tuesday’s loss in Sacramento, OKC is 0-5 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes.
Sekou Smith: The Pelicans have everything they need now to get it going. DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis are doing what they do best and the supporting cast finally appears to be poised to supplement their efforts. The ceiling in Oklahoma City is higher. But the Pelicans have urgency on their side, or at least they should have that valuable component on their side. They need for their dip back into the “Twin Tower” era to work and now. Coach Alvin Gentry has to realize as much and surely has made that clear to his team. “Boogie” is having a monster season that can only be validated with a postseason trip. Same goes for Davis. Once they get a healthy Rajon Rondo added to the mix, it could be the addition needed to push this group to that next level.
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