A little under 60 percent of the NBA season has passed, and the Denver Nuggets (34-14) find themselves in first place in the Western Conference with a 2.5 game lead after playing at an absolutely scorching pace since the second week of December. They’re 20-4 since December eighth with two of those four losses coming on the second night of back-to-backs on the road. Meanwhile, around the rest of the conference, it has been tough to predict who will be moving up and down on a weekly basis.

After winning 11 straight games, the Memphis Grizzlies (31-16) have lost three straight to fall behind the Nuggets by 2.5 games. However, they’re still comfortably in second place with a 3.5-game lead over the Sacramento Kings (27-19). The biggest losers as of late are the New Orleans Pelicans (26-22) and Dallas Mavericks (25-24) who are 2-8 and 3-7 in their last 10 games respectively. At the end of December, the Pelicans were 23-13 and just 0.5 games back from the Nuggets in first place, and they’re now in a slide they’re struggling to get out of with young star Zion Williamson on the shelf.

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The LA Clippers (26-24) have won three straight to get back above .500 and into fifth place in the Western Conference. Further down the standings, the Golden State Warriors (23-24) and Los Angeles Lakers (22-26) are struggling to find their footing, and, as the season continues to progress, it looks more and more likely that they may be in too deep of a hole to escape from.

With the NBA All-Star Break just a couple of weeks away, the Nuggets are looking to continue to build their lead in the West before heading into the final weeks before the trade deadline. At the top of the conference with a talented roster, other teams will be forced to make aggressive moves to catch them while they can focus on bolstering themselves with talent in specific areas. 

The three main teams that the Nuggets need to be on the lookout for remain the Grizzlies, Pelicans and the Phoenix Suns (25-24). The Suns are down in seventh place, but they’ve dealt with injuries all year. If they can get healthy, they can play with anyone on any given night. For the other two teams, it’s a combination of health for the Pelicans and consistency for the Grizzlies. For New Orleans, the last time all three of C.J. McCollum, Brandon Ingram and Zion played together was November 21st. If this team can get healthy, they’re a scary group to match up with.