Going into the new year, each team will be looking to attain goals that will be vital to their success. Some teams need more help than others, but let us take a look at one New Year’s resolution for each team from the Western Conference.
NBA New Year’s Resolutions: Western Conference
Resolution – Continue to develop Dennis Smith Jr.
In this years NBA draft with the 9th overall pick, the Dallas Mavericks selected Dennis Smith Jr. Smith has had great moments this season but as of recent, he has struggled. Averaging 10 points in his last 5 games, Smith has not been the player we have seen earlier in the season. With the playoffs most likely not a possibility for the Mavericks, they must ride this train out and allow for Smith to learn the hard way.
Resolution – Make the playoffs
The Denver Nuggets have been somewhat of a surprise in the west. With the addition of Paul Millsap, the Nuggets have a winning record and are 6th in the east. The Nuggets have missed the playoffs the past four seasons so simply making the playoffs (most likely with a first-round exit) will be a win for this team. The Nuggets are sitting comfortably right now with the Clippers and Jazz multiple games out of the playoff picture. So this resolution should come true unless the Nuggets break down in the new year.
Resolution – Decrease technicals and ejections
If we are being honest, it is difficult to find any real fault with the Golden State Warriors. Even without Stephen Curry, the Warriors have proven they are still one of the best teams in the league, if not the best. But the Warriors have shown frustration this year that has earned them six player ejections, which is twice as much as any team in the league. They have also earned 30 technical fouls, tied for third in the league. The Warriors should know better than any team that technicals and ejections can quite literally cost your team a championship.
Resolution – Make it to the Western Conference Finals
The Houston Rockets have been among the best teams in the league. Largely due to the MVP caliber play of James Harden, the Rockets are second in the league in points per game and first in the league in three-pointers made per game. No one truly expects the Rockets to take down the Warriors in the playoffs, but anything less than the western conference finals for this team would be a disappointment.
Resolution – Coming out hot in the second half
With the departure of Chris Paul, the Clippers were bound to have some struggles. One of the more drastic changes is the difference in scoring in the 3rd quarter to start the second half. Last season, with Paul, the Clippers were 6th in the league in scoring in the 3rd quarter. This season, without Paul, the Clippers are 21st in the league. This makes sense after losing a hall of fame point guard. The Clippers need to find someone that can provide the leadership Paul brought to the team.
Resolution – Shut Lavar up and let Lonzo play
One of the most interesting storylines from this season has been Lonzo Ball. There has been speculation already on if Ball is a bust. The Lakers need to allow Ball to develop and most importantly keep Lavar in check. One of the most staggering statistics is the difference in shooter percentage for Ball at home versus away. At home, Ball shoots 20.8 percent from three and 29.2 percent overall. In away games, Ball’s percentages increase to 37.2 percent from three and 39.9 percent overall. Is this difference related to the presence of Lavar at the home games? Regardless, the difference is so drastic the Lakers need to figure out what is going on.
Resolution – Rebuild
The Memphis Grizzlies have been in the playoffs since the 2010-2011 season. This year, however, they have one of the worst records in the league and do not appear to be getting better. With an aging Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, it is time for the Grizzlies to rebuild and get younger. This upcoming draft could help them do that, but trading Gasol for young pieces may be something that needs to be done in 2018.
Resolution – Better bench play
The Minnesota Timberwolves have one of the best starting units in the league. In order to compete with the best teams in the west, their bench is going to need to be a lot better. The Timberwolves rank 27th in the league in bench points per game. Only Jamal Crawford is averaging double digits in points from the second unit. Look for the Timberwolves to play with some lineups in 2018 to ensure they are producing in every phase of the game.
Resolution – Trade DeMarcus Cousins
When Cousins was traded to the Pelicans and paired with Anthony Davis the two, became the most intriguing front-court in the NBA. Despite the potential, it does not appear the experiment is working out. The Pelicans need to consider trading Cousins will his market value is still high. They could get a lot in return for such a special offensive talent.
Resolution – More efficiency out of the big three
As of late, the Thunder have actually taken a turn for the better. Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George are playing much better. However, in terms of field goal percentage, the three are still far below the league average. In 2018, the Thunder must get more efficiency out of their three stars if they have any shot at keeping George in free agency.
Resolution – Increase three-point percentage
The weird thing about the Suns is though they shoot a terrible three-point percentage (29th in the league), they are still 13th in the league in points per game. Just bringing that percentage up to the middle of the pack could bring their points per game into the top 10 of the league. Whether it be bad shot selection or just plain bad shooting, the Suns need to shoot better from beyond the arc in 2018.
Resolution – Pass the rock
The Blazers are the worst in the league in assists per game at just 18.1 (over 2 assists below the 29th team). It would appear that their two primary ball handlers, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, are not getting their teammates involved like other teams around the league. In 2018, the Blazers are going to need to share the love if they have any hope of staying in the playoff race in the west.
Resolution – Improve dramatically offensively
The Kings are the worst offensive team in the league. The highest scorer on their team is Zach Randolph at just 15.4 points per game. The Kings need to find more firepower even if that means letting some of the younger talents off their leash. The fact the Kings are so bad offensively and do not have the worst record in the league is quite remarkable. Let us see if the Kings can turn it around.
Resolution – Make sure Kawhi Leonard is ready for the playoffs
After sitting out the first 27 games, Leonard has still not made it back to the player he used to be. Remarkably, even without Leonard, the Spurs are comfortably in the playoff picture. It must be nice to have a hall of fame coach. This is good for the Spurs because it gives them time to ease Leonard back into the game and not risk having him miss more time. Once Leonard is back fully healthy, the Spurs have the ability to make a great playoff run.
Resolution – Figure out what is wrong with Rudy Gobert
After being named to the All-NBA second team and the All-Defensive first team, Gobert simply has not been the same. Gobert’s averages are down in points, rebounds, blocks, and field goal percentage compared to last year. The emergence of Donovan Mitchell makes bringing Gobert back to his former self that much more important. The Jazz needs to compliment the great talent they found in Mitchell. With Gobert being out right now with an injury, the Jazz have some time to figure some things out.
The western conference has been exciting for many years. This year however has been extra special with some many stars moving west. The remainder of the season is bound to be action packed. Let us see if these teams can improve in 2018.
NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 11: James Harden and Chris Paul attend Black Ops Basketball Session at Life Time Athletic At Sky on September 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Shareif Ziyadat/Getty Images)