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The 2015 NBA Standings Report: Halfway Home

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As the Golden State Warriors head into the All-Star break, we take a second to look through the Western Conference standings to enjoy being at the top and to consider the road ahead.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

As we quickly approach the All Star Break -- and for many teams the halfway point in the season -- it seems like as good time as ever to stop for a second to examine where we have come from and where we are going.

There is no doubt this has been one of the best seasons in Golden State Warriors history, but the bigger story is in the league as a whole, and the fight in front of the team against one of the best Western Conferences draws in recent memory. The record only tells so much of the story when you consider the schedule in front of the Warriors in the second half against some of the top teams fighting for playoff spots.

As you look at the numbers, you start to see some clear storylines playing out for the second half of the season. If you are the Warriors, who do you want to face in the first round of the playoffs? There is a very good chance the team will have home-court advantage in the playoffs, but due to teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs sitting toward the bottom of the draw it's possible a top team would have to match up against a powerhouse to get out of the first round.

Let's take a look at the Western Conference standings below -- and take a moment to enjoy the fact that the Warriors sit at the top:

Standing

Team

Record

1

Golden State Warriors

36-7

2

Memphis Grizzlies

33-12

3

Portland Trailblazers

32-14

4

Houston Rockets

32-14

5

Los Angeles Clippers

32-14

6

Dallas Mavericks

30-17

7

San Antonio Spurs

30-17

8

Phoenix Suns

27-20

Observations

  • Amazing how the Chicago loss can bring the team so much closer to the now-clear second tier in the division, but the Warriors still have a cushion up at the top. Still five games up in the loss column, the advantage can seem even larger. The Warriors have had a fairly balanced schedule home/away to start the year, so they can't lean on that amazing home record for the rest of the year, as they will have to start traveling east. Two large road trips are on the horizon, and 12 of the next 15 games will be away from Oakland. This does include swings through Philly, New York and Indiana, but also includes a crazy swing through Washington, Cleveland and Toronto that will test depth and savvy over the East.
  • Fewer than three games separate the second and seventh spots, which means literally anything can happen between now and April. Those who have ruled the Spurs out as "old" already should consider they are only a Popovich-like 7-of-10 run away from putting themselves in the top-4 again. And who wants to face the Spurs, health aside, going against their home-court advantage in the playoffs? Nobody.
  • Some of the biggest matchups in the league have yet to happen. The Warriors still have two more games against Memphis this season, with one coming just two days before the end of the season at home in what could be a fight for home-court advantage. There are also two matchups left this season against the Atlanta Hawks, also known as "Warriors-East." Mark your calendars for Feb. 6 in Atlanta -- it will probably be a matchup for the best record in the league, and if ESPN doesn't pick it up I would be amazed.
  • Note that the All-Star break will be nine days long this year. Sure Steph and Klay should get some extra playing time during the weekend, but there is a huge advantage for the rest of the squad. Old bodies like Bogut and Iguodala will need a well-deserved break to recharge and refocus. It will give the team some practice time with Ezeli coming back, and to get David Lee some more reps for the long playoff run. It also breaks up their two large road trips nicely -- though Golden State does match up against the Spurs to kick off the second half of the season.

On the outside looking in

The top of the standings only show so much, as there are a few contenders in the West fighting to get back into the top-8. This is a key point for the Warriors, as it's possible a hot team with momentum who has just fought for the last spot in the postseason will then have the "nobody believes in us" title coming into a first round match up. Here are the contenders:

  • New Orleans Pelicans (24-22) -- Even though they find themselves three games out of the No. 8 spot as of their season's halfway point, they would seem to be the largest longshot of the group. They have played good basketball so far, but could be missing Anthony Davis for some time after his most recent injury. If only this team could get healthy as a whole at the right time. Missing Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday at different points has done nothing for their consistency.
  • Oklahoma City Thunder (23-23) -- We know what this team can do when they are healthy. Adding Dion Waiters to this team only adds another weapon to balance out a roster so close to getting it right. Kevin Durant should miss the All-Star game because of the number of games that he has played so far, but it will only serve to keep him energized and ready for the second half. Put your money on this team going on a large winning streak and consistently being in the conversation. They are too good to disappear.
  • Denver Nuggets/Sacramento Kings -- What's sad is that at some point in the not-so-distant past we were considering the Kings a shoe-in for the playoffs. They are now considering shifting into selling mode, along with the Nuggets, who post-Mozgov are already plotting lottery positions. We can pretty much rule both these teams out already.

Final Thoughts

It's been a ride so far, and will only get better from here on out. It's hard to think that the Warriors, especially with the road trips ahead, will continue the winning pace that they have played at so far. But even a small regression would still poise them for top seeds going into the postseason, and with the home-court advantage at an all-time high, that's a great place to be. The numbers don't lie; things are looking good. But it will be a dogfight to the end.