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Aidin Ebrahimi’s NBA Western Conf. Update: Mar 17-23

We're in the final stages of the 2023-24 regular season and a lot can change in the final weeks

Posted on March 25, 2024


  By Aidin Ebrahimi, SuperWest Sports

With most teams having played 70 or more games, we’re in the final stages of the 2023-24 NBA regular season.

But still, things remain very interesting in the West. A lot can change in these last few weeks of the season.

As always, here is my update on the status of NBA Western Conference teams and a look at the previous week’s best team and MVP.


Is This the Turning Point?

The Dallas Mavericks (39-29, 3-0)

All year long, the Mavs have struggled to break through despite the statistical dominance of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving.

Last season, their main problem was the lack of help outside of these two, but they addressed that issue at the trade deadline.

The additions of Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington were brilliant moves, and finally, they look like the pieces that the Mavs have needed for a year and a half.

The Mavs have gone 12-6 since making these moves, but their other role players have stepped up too.

Dante Exum has been excellent for them and he has revived his NBA career. Over his last 27 games, Exum has averaged 10.5 points a night while shooting 58.1% from the field and 60.3% from three.

The young duo of Jaden Hardy and Josh Green haven’t broken out, but they have shown some flashes of future stardom.

Derrick Jones Jr. has also revived his career with the Mavs, while Dereck Lively II has been an excellent pick, able to contribute as a starter or a bench player.

Luka Doncic & Kyrie Irving vs the Jazz | LM Otero/AP

Last week, he averaged 10.7 points per game while just playing 18.2 minutes per game.

But arguably the biggest catalyst for the Mavs’ success has been the reduced role of Tim Hardaway Jr.

Just a few weeks ago, Hardaway Jr. was the odds-on favorite to win the Sixth Man of the Year award, which made no sense since he has a Plus/Minus Net Per 100 Possessions of -4.0 and barely shot over 40% from the field.

Thankfully, the Mavs have reduced his role, as they’ve gone 7-1 in their last eight games while Hardaway has averaged just 18.8 minutes during that span.

Even though Luka and Kyrie have struggled with their shot recently, Gafford (who averaged 15 PPG last week) and the rest of these role players have come up in a big way.

But as we all know, coaching matters when you’re trying to win, and Jason Kidd hasn’t proven that he can coach at an elite level yet. Let’s hope that he can do that, for Luka’s sake.

The Houston Rockets (34-35, 2-0)

Jalen Green has always loved the month of March. For his career, he has averaged 23 points per game in March, 3.4 PPG higher than his career average.

This season had been a terrible one for Green, until his beloved month of March.

The Rockets have gone 9-1 in March and Green has put up the superstar numbers we all know he’s capable of, averaging 26.5 points while shooting 49.5% from the floor and 39.1% from deep.

Green scored 41 vs the Jazz | Eric Christian Smith/AP

Even though Alperen Sengun is hurt, the rest of the team has also stepped up to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Since Sengun’s injury, Jabari Smith Jr. has averaged 14.8 points and 8.4 rebounds on 49.1% shooting, Jock Landale has averaged 11.4 points on 62.9% shooting.

Amen Thompson has put up 16.8 points and 8.2 rebounds while only missing 12 of his 46 field goal attempts during that span.

The Rockets are now just two games behind the Warriors for the final Play-In Tournament spot, and things could get spicy.


Put the Team on His Back

Anthony Edwards (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Many thought that the Timberwolves’ quest for the first seed would be over after Karl-Anthony Towns suffered a meniscus tear, but that quest is still alive and well thanks to Anthony Edwards.

The Wolves are just 1.5 games behind the Thunder for the first seed, and Edwards’ 29.3 points, 5.4 assists, and 8.0 rebounds per game on 47% shooting in their last eight games without KAT.

That has been the biggest reason for their success.

Other players have stepped up too, like Naz Reid who has averaged 19.3 points per game during this stretch, but this is clearly Edwards’ team.

Edwards had 16 pts and 13 rebs vs the Cavs | David Berding/Getty Images

The Wolves have gone 5-3 without KAT and haven’t lost by more than 11 points during his absence, and even if KAT can’t come back in the playoffs, they’ll be a problem for any team that they’ll face.

In two career playoff series, Edwards has averaged 28.1 points per game while shooting 46.9% from the field and 38% from deep and had an average Plus/Minus Net Per 100 Possessions of +17.6.

This shows that his teams lost because of their poor bench, but now that Minny has a good bench, they can pick up the slack while he’s sitting.


The Future Is Now

Victor Wembanyama/Chet Holmgren (Spurs/Thunder)

These two rookies have put on a fantastic show for NBA fans this season, and we NBA fans can already imagine these two going at it for many years to come in the playoffs once the Spurs figure it out.

Holmgren

They faced off in their last game of February, with Wembanyama coming out on top. Since then, the two have kept up their good play, with Holmgren obviously experiencing more team success, but still putting up great numbers.

In his last 11 games, Holmgren has averaged 17.2 points and 9.3 rebounds a night while shooting 53.8% from the field. He also had some monster performances, such as a 35-point and 14-rebound outing in a win against the Jazz.

Wembanyama

Wembanyama has also averaged 22.4 points, 4.7 assists, 12.3 rebounds, and 4.6 blocks per game while shooting 45.5% from the field in this stretch.

He also had three games with 30+ points, 5+ assists, 12+ rebounds, and 3+ blocks.


Best Team of the Previous Week

The Los Angeles Lakers (38-32, 2-0)

I‘m going to admit something, I don’t think there’s a team in the West right now that can beat the healthy Lakers in a seven-game playoff series.

The Lakers have only lost once in the playoffs when LeBron and AD were both healthy, and that loss to the Nuggets was the perfect storm.

Jamal Murray was huge for the Nuggets, playing the best basketball of his life while D’Angelo Russell played the worst basketball of his life.

Bruce Brown was also a key factor and he’s not there anymore. The Lakers have all it takes to make it out of the West, and they showed it with two good wins last week.

In both wins over the Hawks and the Sixers, six Lakers scored 11+ points, showing that their other players are ready to step up big-time in the playoffs just like they did last season.


MVP of the Previous Week

Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers)

This was a pretty weak week in terms of outstanding performances, and many of the players who played well only played in two games.

George

So, I’m choosing Paul George, who went 2-1 this week and put up great stats while doing so.

PG-13 had 26 points, six assists, six rebounds, and four steals in a loss to the Hawks, and then he decided to take out all of his frustrations on the hapless Trail Blazers.

In their first game, George dropped 27 points on 55.6% shooting, and then he followed that up by scoring 31 points on 71.4% shooting in their next game to give the Clippers two much-needed wins.

George went 14-14 from the line last week and he also had at least two steals and one block in every game, showing that he’s locked in and ready to play in the playoffs for the first time since 2021.




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