2023 Midseason Report

Midseason Report Cards: Grades for all 15 teams in the West

Take a team-by-team look at the Western Conference as the 2022-23 NBA season hits its midpoint.

Nikola Jokic’s Nuggets and Ja Morant’s Grizzlies are the early class of the West in 2022-23.

As the NBA officially hits the midseason point for 2022-23, take a closer look at how each team in the Western Conference has fared so far this season.

Note: Teams are listed in alphabetical order.

> Midseason Report Cards: The East | NBA Midseason Media Survey

Dallas Mavericks (23-18)

Played .500 ball for a major chunk of the first half of the season after a 6-3 start, but the Mavs caught fire as the calendar flipped to 2023 with a seven-game win streak that started Dec. 21 and ended Jan. 5. Credit coach Jason Kidd and the staff for figuring out optimal combinations and rotations to play alongside superstar Luka Doncic, who entered 2022-23 in great shape, which in turn has kept the 23-year-old off the injured list. New addition Christian Wood has finally earned Kidd’s trust, becoming a full-time starter as Dallas cashed in on seven wins in the 27-year-old’s first nine starts. He’s displaying incredible chemistry with Doncic and the team is reportedly interested in signing Wood to an extension. Moving forward, keeping Doncic healthy while not wearing him down (look at his usage rate) these next 41 games is paramount along with continued improvement defensively. You can’t foster legit title aspirations sitting in the bottom half of the league in defensive rating. Midseason Grade: B

Denver Nuggets (27-13)

Jamal Murray returned after missing all last season along with Michael Porter Jr., who played just nine games in 2021-22, and we quickly saw Denver’s immense potential with reigning two-time MVP Nikola Jokic anchoring everything. Jokic is putting together yet another MVP-level campaign and helped the Nuggets jump out to a 14-7 record. Since Nov. 30, Denver dropped just six games while alternating with Memphis and New Orleans for the lead in the West. Along the way, we’ve seen this team’s solid depth as young up-and-comers such as Bones Hyland have emerged. Solid veteran starters like Aaron Gordon and new addition Kentavious Caldwell-Pope have produced, too. Free-agent signee Bruce Brown added some edge defensively, but defense remains a major area in which Denver needs to improve for the second half of the season. Thankfully, that section of 2022-23 starts out favorably with a bevy of home games. The Nuggets also need to find a way to stabilize everything on both ends with Jokic off the floor. Midseason Grade: B+

Golden State Warriors (20-20)

The Warriors at full strength could be formidable in the 2nd half of the season.

The reigning champions expected to absorb everybody’s best shot in 2022-23, but they couldn’t have predicted losing seven of their first 10 games to start the season. Despite the rough beginning — which includes the league’s worst road record (3-16) — Golden State overcame a slew of injuries and illnesses to key players Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins to climb back to .500 on the strength of a five-game win streak from Dec. 25 to Jan. 4. Throughout that time, the Warriors gradually improved defensively. The Warriors could start the second half of the season in San Antonio on Jan. 13 with Curry (shoulder) back in the fold, provided his reevaluation comes back clean. Perhaps the worst of Golden State’s illness and injury bug is over, and the team remains healthy through the duration. If that happens, you can count on the Warriors climbing right back into the thick of the postseason hunt. Midseason Grade: C-

Houston Rockets (10-30)

Lofty expectations typically aren’t associated with rebuilds. So, Houston’s 5-15 record to start the season came as no surprise to anyone. With a pair of top-three Draft picks in Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr. from the last two seasons (as well as young players in Kevin Porter Jr. and Alperen Sengun), development is the name of the game for this fun-yet-inconsistent team. That means the Rockets’ two-year postseason drought will only continue in 2022-23 with another trip to the NBA Draft Lottery on the way. The second half of the season tips with a four-game trip to take on the Kings, Clippers and Lakers. But what’s concerning is that even though the Rockets are in Year 3 of their rebuild, progress isn’t coming nearly as fast as the club would like. Coach Stephen Silas even admitted Houston wants “this rebuild to go faster. We want it to go quicker. We want to see it more tangibly.” Good luck. Midseason Grade: D

LA Clippers (21-21)

Will this team finally live up to its immense potential? We’ve seen glimpses. But too many times inconsistency and injuries stopped this team dead in its tracks. The Clippers went 8-7 in December and closed out the first half of the season on a six-game skid. Luckily for LA, it’s still in the mix of a packed West where no team has clearly separated itself. The second half of the season starts with a five-game homestand featuring formidable competition in the Mavericks, Nuggets and 76ers. Kawhi Leonard continues to work his way back into form. But the two-time Kia Defensive Player of the Year and two-time NBA Finals MVP played fewer than 20 games over the first 41 games with co-star Paul George, and that has wreaked havoc on coach Tyronn Lue’s ability to determine the team’s optimal lineups. In fact, the Clippers have played just four games in which the entire roster was available. So, they clearly haven’t played enough minutes together for Lue to figure out what’s working and what isn’t. Midseason Grade: C

Los Angeles Lakers (19-22)

LeBron James and the Lakers have struggled with inconsistency in the season’s 1st half.

LeBron James hinted at the frustrations brewing in late December after the Lakers had just dropped five of six games, saying that after winning four titles, he no longer wants to be “playing basketball at this level just to be playing basketball.” That’s precisely what Los Angeles is doing now as a disastrous 2-10 start followed by a major injury to Anthony Davis pushed the club to near the bottom of the West standings. Roster construction plays a role, but credit new coach Darvin Ham with convincing nine-time All-Star Russell Westbrook that coming off the bench would better serve the team. Davis, meanwhile, appeared on track to be putting together one of the best seasons of his career before a right foot injury derailed everything. The big man hasn’t played since Dec. 16, and the Lakers lost four of their next five games with Davis sidelined. Los Angeles starts the second half of the season with a trio of nationally televised games in four nights against Dallas, Philadelphia and Houston. Midseason Grade: D

Memphis Grizzlies (27-13)

Something special is coming together in Memphis, and we haven’t yet seen it bloom because Ja Morant, Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. have started in just a handful of games together this season. Jackson missed the first 14 games recovering from an offseason foot surgery, and by the time he returned to action, Bane was sitting out the second of 17 contests due to a toe injury. The trio started its first game together on Dec. 23, and the Grizzlies would win six of the next eight outings. But even before the group became fully whole, it didn’t miss a beat, never losing more than two in a row through the first 41 games while consistently battling Denver and New Orleans for supremacy atop the West. Morant and Bane form arguably the most dangerous backcourt in the league, while Jackson and Dillon Brooks provide defensive punch. Memphis tips off the second half of its season with five nationally televised games among its first eight, which includes matchups against the Suns, Lakers, Kings, Warriors and Timberwolves. Midseason Grade: A

Minnesota Timberwolves (20-21)

Minnesota surrendered a massive haul in giving up five players and five picks to land three-time All-Star center Rudy Gobert. Pundits wondered whether Gobert could upgrade a Minnesota squad that advanced to the playoffs last season for the first time since 2018 by pairing him with Karl-Anthony Towns and burgeoning star Anthony Edwards. So far, the results appear less than promising. The Timberwolves have suffered through four three-game skids — followed by a six-game losing streak to close December — as Towns missed the last 20 games due to a right calf strain suffered in late November (with no return date in sight). On a positive note, the team closed the first half strong, winning four straight to finish at 20-21 as Gobert put together a breakthrough performance on Jan. 7 (25 points, 21 rebounds) in a win against the Clippers. How Minnesota fares these next 41 games largely depends on the backcourt’s continued adjustment to playing alongside Gobert and the return of Towns. Midseason Grade: D

New Orleans Pelicans (25-16)

CJ McCollum and Zion Williamson have gotten New Orleans off to a strong start.

Coach Willie Green and the front office deserve credit for putting together a team that has thrived despite missing key players for significant stretches due to its incredible depth. Former All-Star forward Brandon Ingram hasn’t played since Nov. 25, yet the Pelicans immediately embarked on a seven-game win streak in his absence. In fact, New Orleans went 5-3 in the first half of the season when it didn’t have its two best players in Ingram and Zion Williamson, who have played together in just 11 games so far. Even in the five contests CJ McCollum missed, the Pelicans finished 3-2. So, despite the injury bug biting hard at New Orleans through the first 41 games, the Pelicans fought through with major contributions from Williamson and McCollum as well as talented reserves such as Trey Murphy III, Jose Alvarado, Naji Marshall and Larry Nance Jr. The second half of the season will be tough with six of 10 on the road without Williamson (hamstring), who is expected to miss an extended period. Midseason Grade: A

Oklahoma City Thunder (18-22)

Before the 2022-23 campaign even tipped, OKC lost No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren to a season-ending Lisfranc injury to his right foot. The Thunder limped out the gates to an 0-3 start and began 8-12. But even as Oklahoma City sits near the bottom of the conference standings, there’s still optimism about the future thanks to the ascent of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is now a full-blown superstar in the NBA. One of the league’s scoring leaders, Gilgeous-Alexander hit the 1,000-point mark in just 32 games, which ties Russell Westbrook for the quickest in franchise history. Add the 24-year-old star to the promising group of talent collected over the years in Holmgren, Lu Dort and Josh Giddey. With a development-minded coach in Mark Daigneault, you can see where this franchise is headed. But in the short term, we can also expect the Thunder to struggle in the second half of the season, which starts with three road games at Philadelphia, Chicago and Brooklyn. Midseason Grade: C-

Phoenix Suns (20-21)

The Suns have dealt with injuries and some off-court issues in the 1st half of 2022-23.

Weird vibes started in the offseason with the Deandre Ayton contract situation. Then, the club moved Cameron Johnson into the starting lineup over veteran Jae Crowder, telling the latter to stay home while the front office worked out a trade. That was before the injuries mounted. Johnson played eight games before a knee injury required November surgery. Chris Paul struggled through the first 10 games before sitting the next 14 due to a heel injury. Despite all that, Phoenix rolled to a 15-6 start before a disastrous December brought losses in six of the next seven with leading scorer Devin Booker sitting out the last two contests of a five-game skid with hamstring tightness. Booker played in three more games before suffering a groin strain on Christmas that would put him on the shelf for at least a month. Phoenix closed the first half losing nine of 10 while falling down the standings into Play-In territory. The second half begins with four in a row on the road starting at Golden State before clashes at Denver, Minnesota and Memphis. Midseason Grade: D

Portland Trail Blazers (19-20)

Back from last season’s abdominal surgery, Portland star Damian Lillard hit the ground running in 2022-23. He dropped 133 points in his first four games, leading the Blazers to a 4-0 start while showing impressive chemistry with Anfernee Simons and new addition Jerami Grant. The club capped that fast start with a signature 135-110 win over the Denver Nuggets. But the Blazers hit a couple of rough spots in late 2022, including a 2-8 stretch from mid-to-late November, not to mention a run of seven losses in 10 games that started Dec. 16 and carried into January. While pointing out “We’re right in the mix with everybody else,” Lillard cites youth and inconsistency as the main culprits to Portland’s up-and-down season. “We just haven’t decided who we’re going to be all the time,” the six-time All-Star said. The second half of the season should help the Blazers establish their identity as they’ll play eight of the first nine outings in the friendly confines of the Moda Center. Midseason Grade: B-

Sacramento Kings (21-18)

The Kings hold the NBA record for postseason absences (16 in a row), but new coach Mike Brown and players  De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, Kevin Huerter and 2022 No. 4 overall pick Keegan Murray appear to be well on the way to erasing that. After starting the season 3-6, Sacramento heated up, capturing seven wins in a row, including victories over Cleveland, Golden State, Brooklyn and Memphis. The Kings followed up that streak with a three-game skid that dropped them to 10-9 before winning three more in a row to move to 13-9. Since then, Sacramento hasn’t been able to string together more than two consecutive wins. Still, the Kings remain squarely in postseason contention with Sabonis putting together an All-Star caliber season, averaging nearly 20 points and more than 10 rebounds. The second half of the season starts on the road against the Spurs and Lakers and the Kings play nine of their first 13 games outside the Golden 1 Center. Midseason Grade: B-

San Antonio Spurs (13-28)

The 5-2 start proved deceiving, and after San Antonio waived 2021 first-round pick Josh Primo in a surprise move in response to an allegation of indecent exposure in late October, the Spurs almost immediately nosedived. From Nov. 2 to Dec. 4, San Antonio lost 16 of its next 17 games with young leaders Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell fighting to hold down the fort to no avail. The Spurs haven’t won two consecutive games since Dec. 12 and went 4-11 in closing the first half of the season. The second half doesn’t look promising with the team announcing that Vassell would undergo a procedure on his left knee that will sideline him indefinitely. The 22-year-old was putting together a breakout season, averaging 19.4 points and hitting 40% from deep. The second half starts in Memphis, followed by a nationally televised matchup against Golden State at the Alamodome as the Spurs attempt to break the NBA attendance record. The annual Rodeo Road Trip features nine games from Feb. 6-28. Midseason Grade: D

Utah Jazz (20-23)

Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen is flirting with All-Star status so far this season.

Expectations seemed modest after an offseason in which Utah traded its best two players (Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert) while also hiring the NBA’s youngest head coach (Will Hardy) to replace Quin Snyder. After all that, the Jazz might be in the hunt to make their seventh consecutive trip to the postseason. A product of the Mitchell trade, Lauri Markkanen is emerging as a breakout star, dropping 28 points or more in each of Utah’s last six games, as the club started the second half of its season Saturday with a 126-118 loss at Chicago. Hardy promoted Jordan Clarkson from sixth man to starter, and the 30-year-old is thriving, averaging 20.5 points and 4.5 assists. Utah started off the season fast, going 10-3 before inconsistency and losses mounted. In fact, the team sat atop the conference standings for a combined eight days in November. After Christmas, the Jazz dropped seven of the next eight to fall to 20-23, which at this point is basically Play-In Tournament territory. Midseason Grade: C+

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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