Way Out West – It’s way too early for this.

Questions for each team to determine whether they’re contenders or pretenders.

Denver Nuggets (15-7)

They’ve won five straight, and they’re 9-3 at home. It’s well known NBA lore that road trips to Denver are brutal, so if they can keep up this balanced attack, with three players not named Jokic leading the scoring, the danger come playoff time could be real. Speaking of Jokic, he’s averaging just under ten rebounds per game, can he get back above ten like last season, when he led the team in scoring, rebounds and assists?

LA Clippers (15-7)

How many of you thought that the best team in Los Angeles would be the one WITHOUT LeBron…It’s early, but the Clippers are good, really good. DeAndre Jordan hauled down 23 rebounds against his old team Sunday night for the Mavs, but still…oh, and have you seen these kicks Montrezl Harrell rocked???? May I take your order?

Oklahoma City Thunder (14-7)

It’s addition by subtraction, folks. Carmelo Anthony goes away, you win more games. Sorry, but it’s true.

Golden State Warriors (15-9)

Time to panic for the champs? I doubt it. Kevin Durant was ALWAYS going to become a free agent after this season. Do you really think he’s going to torpedo THIS season on his way out? Nope, he trails only James Harden in PPG. Also, let’s shelf all this talk about rushing DeMarcus Cousins back. The Warriors don’t need him back now, they also don’t need (or care about) the number one seed.

LA Lakers (14-9)

I’m fairly certain that the Lakers had exactly this in mind when they went after LeBron, I’m also fairly certain that they weren’t expecting this to work so quickly. Here’s the question: Can LeBron continue his streak of Finals appearances? Nope. The answer is no. For anyone still paying attention, Lonzo Ball is hitting just over 50%…of his free throws.

Memphis Grizzlies (13-9)

Tough, gritty defense and no clue where the scoring will come from. Yup, that’s my Grizz. But they’ll make the playoffs.

Portland Trail Blazers (13-10)

Lillard and McCollum are a top-shelf backcourt, averaging almost 50 PPG combined. Nurkic has been steady as well, leading the team in rebounds and chipping in 15+. If they can ratchet up the defense, they’re for real.

Dallas Mavericks (11-10)

They’re 8-2 in their last ten games but have only won away from home twice all season. Add in a meager +2PPG differential and this has the look of a team that won’t hold its spot in the playoffs, especially with New Orleans and Houston lurking.

New Orleans Pelicans (12-12)

They aren’t JUST the Brow, but I’m not certain he couldn’t take a few teams one-on-five. He’s averaging over 28 per game, trailing only Durant and Harden, plus he’s swatting away three blocks per game. They’ll find some balance and Jrue Holiday will continue to be one of the best guards no one talks about.

Houston Rockets (11-11)

You brought in Carmelo. What did you expect? The guy is absolute poison. And for some reason he refuses to stop shooting from just INSIDE the arc.

Sacramento Kings (11-11)

This is not a drill. Sacramento is playing .500 basketball. The last time the Kings were above water was the 2005-2006 season when they snuck into the playoffs as an eight-seed. With Sacramento breaking even, the state of California is a crazy nineteen games above .500 already.

Minnesota Timberwolves (11-12)

Once again, addition by subtraction. After sending contentious star Jimmy Butler off to Philly, the Wolves are winning again, getting back close to level by winning seven of their last ten games. Karl-Anthony Towns is averaging over 20PPG, a few ticks more than the recently departed Butler.

Utah Jazz (11-13)

These guys should be better, right? Donovan Mitchell needs some help, people. Rudy Gobert, I’m looking at you. You, too Jae Crowder.

Phoenix Suns (4-19)

Hey, it’s never to early to start talking about Zion, right?

Image Sources: USA Today and Slamonline

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