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Western Conference standings check in, January 3 edition

Where do the Warriors sit in the standings?

Steph Curry dribbling while being defended by Anthony Edwards. Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

In late November, I wrote an article taking a look at where the Golden State Warriors stood against the other 14 teams in the Western Conference. It seemed like a good way to check in on the competition, see where the Warriors sit in the standings, and view the general landscape of the playoff picture and the path towards Game No. 83.

I intended to reprise it every few weeks but forgot to. So here we are: better late than never, it’s a second look at where the Dubs find themselves in the Western Conference standings.

Here’s where everything sits entering Wednesday’s slate of games. All the net ratings are garbage-time adjusted, courtesy of Cleaning The Glass. You can find those full numbers here. Now let’s jump straight into the mess — and a reminder that these are the standings, not power rankings.

The playoff teams

1. Minnesota Timberwolves — 24-8 record, +6.6 net rating (5th in the NBA)

Warriors record vs. Wolves: 0-2
Games remaining vs. Wolves: 1

Minnesota was also the No. 1 seed when I did this exercise six weeks ago. Back then I labeled them, “a very surprising team at the top of the West.” They were 12-4 then. They’ve gone 12-4 since. I remain pleasantly surprised that it’s all come together for the Wolves, and it sure looks like they’re for real now.

The Dubs have played well against Minny though, even if they lost both games, and at Chase Center no less. But those two losses were by a combined nine points, and in the second loss Golden State was without Steph Curry, and lost Draymond Green and Klay Thompson to ejections before any points were scored. This would be a very fun — and tense — playoff matchup.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder — 23-9 record, +9.0 net rating (3rd in the NBA)

Warriors record vs. Thunder: 1-3
Games remaining vs. Thunder: 0

Not to repeat what I just said, but when the Wolves and Thunder were the top two teams in the standings in late November, I did not have visions of that sustaining. But here we are, and OKC, like Minny, is legit — even more legit, in my eyes.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander might be the MVP favorite right now, and Chet Holmgren cares not for the Victor Wembanyama hype ... he might not just win Rookie of the Year, but maybe make an All-NBA team while he’s at it.

A playoff matchup with these two teams would be absolute fireworks. Not only would it be an older dynasty against an up-and-coming team following the same blueprint, but the games between the Dubs and Thunder have been outstanding this year. Two of them went to overtime, while a third was determined by just two points — drama ensued in all three. The only game that wasn’t close was a Thunder blowout win when the Warriors were without both Curry and Green. Sign me up.

3. Denver Nuggets — 24-11 record, +5.2 net rating (6th in the NBA)

Warriors record vs. Nuggets: 0-2
Games remaining vs. Nuggets: 2

Like with Minny and OKC, the Warriors don’t have a good record vs. Denver but have played well against them. The two games have both been in the Mile High City, with the Nuggets winning by a combined nine points.

Despite trailing the Thunder and Wolves in the standing, the defending-champion Nuggets should probably be considered favorites in the West. They have the championship experience, arguably the league’s best player in Nikola Jokić, and have been coasting a bit so far this season. Plus, they’ve been 16-6 when Jamal Murray plays.

4. LA Clippers — 20-12 record, +6.6 net rating (4th in the NBA)

Warriors record vs. Clippers: 1-2
Games remaining vs. Clippers: 1

Not for the first time, James Harden became the laughingstock of the league earlier this year, when his long saga with the Philadelphia 76ers finally came to an end, and he was shipped to the Clippers ... only to lose his first five games there. But since that initial losing streak, the Clippers have gone 17-5, with their losses coming against high-quality teams (the Dubs are the only team that isn’t well above .500 to beat them during that span).

The Clippers have emerged as title contenders, health pending. It’s a big pending.

5. Sacramento Kings — 19-13 record, -0.1 net rating (20th in the NBA)

Warriors record vs. Kings: 2-1
Games remaining vs. Kings: 1

It’s been an odd season for the Kings, who have a glistening record despite a negative garbage-time adjust net rating. Their defense remains quite bad, and last year’s historically-good offense hasn’t clicked just yet. But they still win games. I wouldn’t bet against them ... although if they’re playing the Warriors in a playoff series, I probably would.

6. New Orleans Pelicans — 20-14 record, +3.9 net rating (9th in the NBA)

Warriors record vs. Pelicans: 1-0
Games remaining vs. Pelicans: 2

New Orleans remains a team with one of the largest spectrums of possible outcomes. They’re having a good-not-great season, while Brandon Ingram has missed three games, Zion Williamson six, CJ McCollum 13, and Trey Murphy II 22. They can probably beat anyone if healthy. But a lot of things need to go right for them to be healthy.

The play-in teams

7. Dallas Mavericks — 19-15 record, +0.5 net rating (15th in the NBA)

Warriors record vs. Mavs: 0-1
Games remaining vs. Mavs: 3

The Dubs have a sour taste in their mouth after an extremely disappointing loss to Dallas on Saturday. I’ll admit that I’m still not sold on the Mavs at all, given their bottom-10 defense and top-heavy offense. They could make the playoffs on the back of Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving brilliance, but I’d be shocked if they make noise there.

8. Phoenix Suns — 18-15 record, +2.1 net rating (12th in the NBA)

Warriors record vs. Suns: 0-3
Games remaining vs. Suns: 1

Rejoice, Dub Nation: you’re not the only fanbase of a title hopeful that is extremely disappointed in how the season has gone. The reason for optimism around Phoenix is that they’ve maintained a winning record despite five absences from Kevin Durant, nine from Devin Booker, and 24 from Bradley Beal. The reason for pessimism is that there’s no historical precedent for those three plus Jusuf Nurkić staying healthy.

Phoenix has swept Golden State so far, but the games have been close.

9. Houston Rockets — 16-15 record, +4.1 net rating (8th in the NBA)

Warriors record vs. Rockets: 2-0
Games remaining vs. Rockets: 1

If Houston can get their record to align with their net rating, they could be in serious business. And it’s safe to say that Dillon Brooks would love an opportunity to ruin the postseason plans of some veteran stars. Still, the Warriors would be heavily favored if up against the Rockets in the play-in or playoffs.

10. Los Angeles Lakers — 17-17 record, +0.6 net rating (14th in the NBA)

Warriors record vs. Lakers: N/A
Games remaining vs. Lakers: 4

Winning the inaugural in-season tournament was, apparently, not the boost that the Lakers were hoping for. Since beating the Indiana Pacers for the trophy (a win that does not count in the standings), the Lakers have gone a dismal 3-8, with two of those wins coming against some of the worst teams in the league. No one will ever feel comfortable going against a team led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but the Lakers have a lot of work to do.

The lottery teams

11. Golden State Warriors — 16-17 record, +1.0 net rating (13th in the NBA)

Even with the abysmal three-game stretch to end 2023, the Warriors have been a top-10 team by both record and net rating since mid-December. Critically, they’ve had the fifth-best offense in the league during that time, trailing only the Boston Celtics, Clippers, Thunder, and Milwaukee Bucks.

The Dubs have more questions than answers right now, but we’re at least starting to see the image of a good team come into focus.

12. Utah Jazz — 15-19 record, -5.1 net rating (24th in the NBA)

Warriors record vs. Jazz: N/A
Games remaining vs. Jazz: 4

The Jazz were also 12th in the conference when I wrote this article in November. Given their record and net rating at the time, I wrote that, “There’s plenty of time for things to change, but right now it sure looks like it’s 11 teams fighting for 10 spots.” They’ve gone 10-8 since then, but given how bad their net rating remains, they still feel like they’re pretty far out of the race, even though they’re only two games outside the final play-in spot.

Hopefully Utah’s poor metrics remain, since the Dubs get to face them four times still.

13. Memphis Grizzlies — 11-22 record, -6.1 net rating (25th in the NBA)

Warriors record vs. Grizzlies: N/A
Games remaining vs. Grizzlies: 3

Memphis is a fascinating team. Their plan was to tread water until Ja Morant returned from his lengthy suspension — they failed, going an atrocious 5-19 during that stretch. But since Morant returned, Memphis has gone 6-3 ... including 6-2 in the games that he’s played in. There’s plenty of time for them to make up the 5.5-game gap between where they stand and the final play-in spot. But can they keep clicking? Can Morant stay on the court? Can other teams run away with the play-in positions? It will be very interesting to watch.

14. Portland Trail Blazers — 9-23 record, -6.7 net rating (26th in the NBA)

Warriors record vs. Blazers: 3-0
Games remaining vs. Blazers: 1

We’re at the point in the exercise where a team’s position doesn’t matter — what matters is how many times the Warriors get to try and feed on them. Unfortunately it’s just one more game against Portland this year — though that game is in mid-April, where the Dubs get to face Portland once and Utah twice in their final five games.

15. San Antonio Spurs — 5-28 record, -11.7 net rating (29th in the NBA)

Warriors record vs. Spurs: 1-0
Games remaining vs. Spurs: 3

Were it not for a historically-bad season by the Detroit Pistons, the Spurs would likely be the consensus worst team in the NBA. Which is good news for the Dubs, who still get to play them three times this year.

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