As of Wednesday morning we are one week into the 2018-2019 NBA season (oh how time flies when you’re watching Mavs basketball) and I, like many MFFLs, have hopes for the Mavericks to return to their winning ways this season and bring playoff basketball back to the Metroplex. The problem is, the Western Conference and Southwest Division is absolutely loaded with good teams and talented players that is going to make this a tougher task than usual.
Each week we will take a look at the Western Conference Power Rankings and Southwest Division standings to keep an eye on where the Mavs stand relative to those who they will be competing with for a playoff spot.
Southwest Division Standings:
Western Conference Power Rankings:
- Golden State Warriors (3-1 overall, 3rd in the West) – Although they lost a tough road game in Denver and squeaked out a 1-point win in Utah on a last second desperation tip-in, the Warriors are still the class of the west. They are the only team in NBA history to have 5 all-stars from the previous season on the same team, even though Cousins is a ways from actually playing. Daily motivation is the only thing holding GS back from leading the west when its all said and done.
- Denver Nuggets (4-0, 1st) – Many people were picking Denver as a team that will make the playoffs this season after missing out last year when they lost to Minnesota in the final game of the season. Off to a very strong start this year, but 3 of their 4 wins have been against non-playoff teams last year (Clips, Suns, Kings). It is also worth pointing out that they have had 3 home games already and players may be more affected by the Denver elevation early in the year before they are in great game-shape.
- New Orleans Pelicans (3-0, 2nd) – They started out the season with a statement win, a 131-112 drubbing of the Rockets in Houston. There is no doubt that Anthony Davis is an MVP candidate posting first week per game stats of 30.3 points, 13 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2 steals, 3.3 blocks. Pelicans also lead the league in PPG (132) and point differential (+15.3).
- Portland Trailblazers (2-1, 4th) – 2nd in the league in point per game (124), 3rd in the west in point differential (+7), and Dame Lillard continues to do Dame Lillard things averaging 28.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, and 7.0 apg. Like Denver, they have had the benefit of 3 home games to start the season, but they finished 3rd in the west last season and are off to another strong start.
- San Antonio (2-1, 6th) – Derozan and Aldridge is an effective 1-2 punch and Pop will coordinate the rest. They have lost a lot of the old names and the season ending injury to Dejounte Murray was a big loss but the Spurs know how to win games and it doesn’t look like this run is over just yet.
- Houston Rockets (1-2, 12th) – They have not looked good in week 1, a lot of this ranking is due to what they were last year. The Beard was blown out by the Brow in the season opener, beat the King and the Lakers, then lost to the Clippers with Chris Paul suspended. The concern going into the year was whether or not the defense could hold up with the loss of Ariza and Mbah a Moute, so far they are giving up 120 ppg compared to 104 ppg last year.
- Dallas Mavericks (2-1, 7th) – Luka Doncic looks great and DeAndre Jordan gives Dallas the rebounding and rim protecting center they have desparately missed since Tyson Chandler left. We still haven’t seen the best from Dennis Smith, Jr. and there is a lot of firepower in street clothes with Harrison Barnes and Dirk yet to suit up. The Mavs look like a well-rounded, deep team with a great Coach in Rick Carlisle. As long as they can avoid taking too long to gel and get off to a good start, the Mavs look likey will be competing for a playoff spot in March and April.
- Utah Jazz (1-2, 11th) – they won in Sacramento then lost to Golden State and Memphis at home. Being 1-2 to start the season is not ideal, nor is having second year guard Donovan Mitchell make only 2.7 of his 9.7 3 point attempts per game. Regardless, their first round trouncing of the Thunder in the playoffs proved they are legit.
- Memphis Grizzlies (2-1, 5th) – The veterans, Gasol and Conley, look healthy and they are one of the few teams actually playing defense to start the year, giving up “only” 104 ppg, second in the west behind the Denver Nuggets. 4th overall pick Jaren Jackson, Jr. look to be an instant contributor shown by his 24 point outing in a win against the Hawks.
- LA Clippers (2-2, 8th) – This is a whole new Clippers team with no more Paul, Griffin, or Jordan on the roster. Led by Lou Williams, Tobias Harris, and Danilo Gallinari they may not have a true superstar but they are 2-2 with opening games against the 3 playoff teams last year and the Denver Nuggets.
- Minnesota Timberwolves (2-2, 9th) – How will the Jimmy Butler saga play out? If he stays and tries to make it work they should compete for the playoffs, but right now it seems more likely that the team chemistry will worsen and they have to trade him for less than max value.
- Los Angeles Lakers (0-3, 14th) – it is tempting to put them 14th after losing their first 3 games but it just doesn’t seem realistic. Their first 3 were against the Blazers, Rockets, and Spurs (3 playoff teams last year) and Lebron James is still as good as it gets. Lakers fans beware, if they can’t get a win at Phoenix in their next game they run a serious risk of going 0-7 with the following two games being against Denver and at San Antonio.
- OKC Thunder (0-3, 15th) – Westbrook missed the first two games and lost in his return against the Kings. It looked like they got better in the offseason by shipping out Melo and bringing in Schroder and Nerlens Noel but it has yet to show.
- Phoenix Suns (1-2, 10th) – Devin Booker is averaging 29.3 ppg and 6.7 apg and looked like an MVP candidate against the Mavs on opening night then they had to travel to Denver and Golden State and got blown out in both. I give them a grade of ‘Incomplete’ until we see a few more games.
- Sacramento Kings (1-3, 13th) – The Kings appear to be the only team in the West tanking this year. The only problem is, they have to send their 2019 first round pick to either Boston or Philadelphia depending on where it ends up.