Just over two thirds of the way through the NBA season and a little over 24 hours before the trade deadline, it’s time for another standings update. In the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets (38-17) have extended their lead over the second place Memphis Grizzlies (33-21) to 4.5 games. They’ve stumbled a bit in the last couple of weeks to a 4-3 record, but they were also missing Nikola Jokic for two of those three losses. On the year, they’re 35-12 with him in the lineup compared to 3-5 with him out of it.
The Grizzlies have continued to struggle as of late. They’re 2-8 over their last 10 games, and those two wins have both come against sub-.500 teams in the Indiana Pacers (25-30) and the Chicago Bulls (26-28). They still have a 2.5-game lead over the third-place Sacramento Kings (30-23), and they look like the team with the best chance of catching the Nuggets, especially with rumors they could make a big trade at tomorrow’s deadline. Behind the Grizzlies, things start to get really tight in a hurry.
The teams in third through ninth place are separated by just three games. The LA Clippers (31-26) and Phoenix Suns (30-26) are both 8-2 in their last 10 games, and the Suns are getting Devin Booker, who had missed around seven full weeks, back from his injury. They were 18-10 in games that he played prior to that injury, and they’ll be looking to push up the standings while the Clippers are hoping to hold things together and possibly make a push of their own.
The three teams that will be the most interesting to watch over the next month or so will be the Dallas Mavericks (29-26), Golden State Warriors (28-26) and New Orleans Pelicans (29-27). All three are in interesting spots for different reasons, with the Mavericks trading for Kyrie Irving while the Warriors will be without superstar Stephen Curry for an undetermined amount of time due to a lower leg injury. The Pelicans finally got Brandon Ingram back, but they’re still waiting on the return of Zion Williamson down in ninth place out West.
The trade deadline will go a long way towards sorting out the Western Conference as there are several teams rumored to be in the mix for big names along with teams in the bottom half of the pack that are expected to be sending out players for future assets. For now, the Nuggets remain in control of the West, but there are teams with the pieces to make a move that could make that a much more difficult challenge.