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Aidin Ebrahimi’s NBA Western Conference Update: Feb 12-18

With the All-Star break upon us, we're now just a few months away the start of the playoffs

Posted on February 18, 2024

  By Aidin Ebrahimi, SuperWest Sports

It’s time for the All-Star break.

Time moves on very quickly in the basketball world, and we’re just a few months away from the start of the playoffs.

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

Playoff Mode

The Los Angeles Lakers (30-26, 2-0)

Whenever LeBron James turns on his “Playoff Mode,” he plays with more intensity. That intensity inspires everyone else around him, and that causes the team to win.

The Lakers have been on a roll as of late, and they’re looking much more like the team that won the inaugural In-Season Tournament. The team has gone 8-3 since January 25 and 6-1 over their last seven games.

James has led the way offensively, averaging 25 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 9.2 assists a night while shooting 52.1% from the field and 41.9% from three in since January 25.

Anthony Davis has put up 24.6 points and 12 rebounds a night on 52.7% shooting during this stretch.

But it’s the role players who have been the difference makers. LeBron and AD have always been excellent, but it’s the role players who can make or break this team.

Luckily for Lakers fans and Darvin Ham, their young guys have been on fire during this stretch and are playing with their hearts, just like what happened with them last year.

That’s why I never wrote them out this year even though many others did, because I have seen it all before during the previous season.

James scored 25 pts vs Detroit | Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports

They feel the urgency, they know that they have to be at their best at all times if they want to help LeBron win his fifth ring, and they also know that now is not the time for them to slack off.

Spencer Dinwiddie has been brought in to challenge his former Nets teammate D’Angelo Russell for his minutes, but Russell has not backed down from the fight.

The former second-overall pick has put up All-Star caliber numbers in his last 10 games, averaging 21.1 points and 6.8 assists a night while shooting 43.2% from three-point range.

Rui Hachimura has also averaged 14.4 points on elite shooting, while Austin Reaves has also improved his passing skills in a big way.

Reaves has been averaging 6.6 assists a night, which is a huge improvement over his usual passing numbers.

This team isn’t even at full strength as Jarred Vanderbilt—who was starting to show that he can now score a bit to go alongside his elite defensive skills—is working towards a return to the court.

The Phoenix Suns (33-22, 2-0)

Who is another legendary former MVP forward who’s looking to add another ring to his collection? Kevin Durant.

KD and LeBron’s careers have been intertwined for what seems like forever, and now, both of them are leading their squads to lots of wins during the race to the playoffs.

The Suns have gone 14-4 over their last 18 games and are looking like one of the biggest threats to make it out of the Western Conference.

Much like the Lakers, their role players have also stepped up in a big way and are taking some of the pressure off of their stars, which is why they’ve looked so unstoppable after a slow start to the season.

During this 18-game stretch, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant have averaged 29.7 and 25.8 points a night while having the fifth and sixth-best true shooting percentage among all players with at least 200 shots during that span.

Durant had 6 rebounds and 6 assists vs Pistons | Rick Scuteri/AP

Bradley Beal has also shaken off the rough start to his Suns tenure by averaging 19.6 points on 50.6% shooting from the floor.

Grayson Allen, Eric Gordon, and Jusuf Nurkic have all averaged 10+ points a night, with Allen shooting over 50% from the floor and from deep, and Nurkic averaging 10.1 rebounds to go along with his scoring.

The acquisition of Royce O’Neale has been a very smart move as well, as he bolsters their poor bench unit.

The Man of a Thousand Points

Victor Wembanyama

Ladies and gentlemen, it is now official. Victor Wembanyama has scored over 1000 points (1006 to be exact) in his young NBA career, despite just playing in 1392 minutes so far.

The crazy part is that he averaged 30 minutes a night in his first 26 games and only averaged 18.3 points while shooting 43.3% from the field and just 27.8% from three.

That caused him to fall behind Chet Holmgren in the Rookie of the Year race. Then his minutes per game were decreased, and he has been dominant ever since.

Victor Wembanyama shoots vs Dallas | LM Otero/AP

He is putting up 23 points and 9.4 rebounds a night while shooting 50.7% from the field and 36.5% from three over his last 23 games while averaging 26.7 minutes a night, which has given him some ridiculous per 36 numbers.

His 31 points, 4.5 blocks, and 12.7 rebounds a night is what he’d be averaging in this stretch if he was playing 36 minutes a night.

His play has now given him the clear edge over Holmgren in the Rookie of the Year race, and now he’s on the fast track to superstardom.

End of an Era

Klay Thompson

March 11, 2012. Stephen Curry looks nowhere near ready to play against the Clippers after a string of ankle injuries in the past two months, which caused him to get pulled out of the game after just nine minutes

That was the last time he played that season. It was also the last time that Klay Thompson would come off the bench for the Warriors, as the team decided to give their rookie first-round pick a bigger role after Curry’s injury.

What followed was 727 (885 if we include the playoffs) consecutive starts for Thompson as a Warrior.

Klay Thompson shoots a 3-pointer vs Jazz | Rick Bowmer/AP

He would go on to win four championships while becoming one of the greatest shooters of all time and overcoming adversity, coming back from ACL and Achilles injuries.

But his performances this year have been far too inconsistent, which caused Steve Kerr to finally give up and start Brandin Podziemski after Klay’s final start on Valentine’s Day (fittingly also against the Clippers).

Thompson scored 35 points against the Jazz as the sixth man, and this might be what he needs to get back on track.

Best Team of the Previous Week

The Minnesota Timberwolves (39-16, 3-0)

Multiple teams went undefeated last week, but no one won three games other than the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Wolves continued their dream season with three dominant wins last week.

Yes, two of them came against the lowly 15-win Trail Blazers, but their win against the Clippers to start the week was so impressive that it doesn’t even matter.

Their great defense held the Clippers’ dynamic quartet to just 100 points, as Minny scored 121 points to win the game in a blowout and assert their dominance over the Western Conference.

Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, and Chris Finch are all present at the All-Star game, and there hasn’t been this much Timberwolves presence in the event since 2004, with Kevin Garnett, Sam Cassell, and Flip Saunders.

MVPs of the Previous Week

Jalen Williams (Oklahoma City Thunder)

Last year, I talked about how underrated Jalen Williams was when he was putting up good numbers as a rookie, and now he’s still underrated despite playing for one of the best teams in the NBA.

This man has averaged 20.9 points a night while shooting 57.6% from the floor and 50% from deep in the 2024 calendar year and there was no buzz for him to become an All-Star.

Jalen Williams shoots vs the Kings | Nathan J. Fish/The Oklahoman

Maybe he could have been an All-Star if there were as many injuries as there were in recent seasons.

Regardless, he put up monster numbers heading into the All-Star break, dropping 32 points, eight rebounds, and nine assists in a win against the Kings and followed it up with a 33-point outing against the Magic in another win.

If he keeps on improving like this, he can easily become a 2025 Western Conference All-Star.

—More from Aidin Ebrahimi—