Memphis Grizzlies New Orleans Pelicans high 2 Western Convention

Zion Williamson and Ja Morant

Zion Williamson (l.) and Ja Morant
Picture: Getty Pictures

The Golden State Warriors misplaced once more final night time. On Tuesday, the Phoenix Suns dropped a sport to the lowly Houston Rockets for the second time this month. Those two wins account for 22.2 p.c of the Rockets’ victories this season.

The Denver Nuggets have an honest grip on the No. 3 seed within the Western Convention, however have struggled to string sufficient wins collectively to make a transfer into the highest two. The Dallas Mavericks have a .500 report, the Los Angeles Clippers are simply getting wholesome, and the present 4 via seven seeds all have 12 or 13 losses.

Within the Japanese Convention, there are two high groups — the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, who’re a transparent degree above everybody else. With the West’s high 12 groups solely separated by seven video games, some might imagine that the convention lacks readability. Its top-two groups haven’t dominated in the identical means.

Whereas gifted and feisty, some could imagine that the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies are too younger to be boldly declared the perfect within the West. Neither workforce has one of many three finest gamers within the convention on its roster — Stephen Curry, Nikola Jokić, or Luka Dončić. The Pelicans and Grizzlies don’t at present have an MVP frontrunner on their rosters, however they’re tied for the perfect report within the convention at 18-9.

It’s tempting accountable early-season accidents — together with drama in Phoenix and Golden State — to clarify away the successes in Memphis and New Orleans to start the season. Because the well being of the Nuggets and Clippers continues to enhance, perhaps they do go on a run. Nonetheless, the identical can be mentioned for the Grizzlies and Pelicans.

The Grizz have been with out their second-best scorer since Nov. 11. Desmond Bane has been coping with an enormous toe damage, and is anticipated to overlook one other 3-4 weeks. Brandon Ingram is the Pelicans’ No. 2 scorer and has additionally been coping with an ailing huge toe that has saved him out of the lineup for eight video games, and he might be re-evaluated in every week.

Herb Jones — New Orleans finest defender — was on the courtroom Tuesday for the primary time in three video games. Jaren Jackson Jr. has been a mosquito web on protection for Memphis this season, however he has solely performed in half of their video games.

Nonetheless, via 25 video games not solely do the Pels and Grizz have the perfect report within the West, however each are top-10 within the NBA in each offensive and defensive effectivity. The Pelicans are high 5.

It’s far too early to declare Zion Williamson and Ja Morant to be the perfect ever No. 1 and No. 2 general picks chosen in the identical NBA draft, however the early returns look promising. By Thursday afternoon, Zion is averaging 25 factors per sport, and Morant at 27.7, as they’re two of probably the most unstoppable forces within the paint in the complete league.

They’re additionally each prepared passers. The Pelicans aren’t counting on Level Zion practically as a lot as they did in 2020-21, however this strongest of energy forwards continues to be averaging 4.3 assists per sport. Even with Bane lacking a month of motion, Morant continues to be averaging 1.1 extra assists per sport than he did final season.

With well being all the time a variable, and a commerce deadline looming, there isn’t a assure that these two will keep atop the West. Possibly the Mavericks make a commerce, and perhaps Michael Porter Jr. averages 20 factors per sport on 50/40/90 taking pictures splits for the remainder of the season when he returns from his heel damage. The Golden State Warriors are the defending champions, and have crushed a number of of the league’s finest groups. They’re all the time lurking.

It might be a tall process for the Pelicans and Grizzlies to remain atop the West, however they’ve the expertise to take action. Their franchise gamers are rising NBA stars, and play in offenses that don’t require them to shoulder an unnecessarily heavy burden. Additionally, each groups are younger, and targeted on the defensive finish of the ball. That’s a headache for any opponent left on their schedule.

And don’t neglect, these are two groups which have taken a fair proportion of playoff punches. The Grizzlies had the Warriors on the ropes at occasions of their second-round sequence final season. Towards the 65-win Phoenix Suns, the New Orleans Pelicans didn’t have Willamson for a single sport and nonetheless pushed them in a hard-fought six-game sequence.

Battle-tested, improved, and key contributors are nonetheless out with damage. The Pelicans and Grizzlies are for actual, and anticipate them to struggle excessive spot within the West all season.

Rahul Diyashi
News and travel at your doorstep.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles

%d bloggers like this: