It’s been an underwhelming start for teams in the Western Conference that don’t call Los Angeles their home. Many of the teams that looked like they’d be ready to contend are still trying to solidify their record above .500.
The Rockets are 4-8 and lost Russell Westbrook before the start of the season, but now James Harden is no longer in Houston after being traded to the Brooklyn Nets. The Mavericks are 6-7 and haven’t really found their stride, even with Luka Doncic averaging close to a triple-double thus far this season. Golden State is just a game above .500 at 7-6, and they’ll have to go the entire season without Klay Thompson after he suffered a torn Achilles. Portland looked ready to take that next step after acquiring Robert Covington to shore up their defensive issues, but they’re likely to regress with Jusuf Nurkic going down with a broken wrist. Even when Nurkic returns, they’ll still have to show that they can stay committed on the defensive end in a playoff series.
That probably leaves the Utah Jazz as the team with the best chance to challenge both the Lakers and the Clippers. After Utah’s first-round playoff loss to Denver last year, the Jazz added Bojan Bogdanovic and Derrick Favors to fortify their squad. Their bench is even deeper than it was last season. If they can stay healthy, Utah has the star players to close games out and the necessary defensive grit necessary to win in the postseason.
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