Four Western Conference playoff contenders have made major acquisitions over the past several weeks, and 50 wins might be mandatory for entry into postseason in the West this year with the way some of the contenders playing. The West was already stacked, and it’s only becoming more so.
The Mavericks made perhaps the season’s first major move by trading Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson and a pair of draft picks for Rajon Rondo and Dwight Powell. Almost two-thirds of Hoops Rumors readers believed Dallas would make it to at least the conference finals when they voted in my late December poll, and the team is 11-5 since making the trade. Dallas still lacks depth but the team boasts one of the best starting lineups in the league and is capable of making a deep postseason run.
The Rockets responded by making a couple of moves of their own. Houston acquired Corey Brewer and Alexey Shved in a three way trade with the Wolves and the Sixers. The Rockets then signed with Josh Smith after the Pistons released him via the stretch provision. The team is 9-7 since acquiring the trio, and six of those seven losses are against teams that made the postseason last year. However, any team with superstars on it, like James Harden and Dwight Howard, shouldn’t be counted out once postseason play begins.
The Thunder sustained injuries to their biggest stars to begin the season and as a result, they ended up falling behind in the playoff race. They hope Dion Waiters, acquired from the Cavs in a three way trade, will help put the team in position to make a late-season push and make the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season. By many accounts, Waiters has fit in nicely with the Thunder. They’re 5-2 and Waiters is averaging 11.9 points in 28.3 minutes per game since his arrival in Oklahoma City.
In another three-team trade, the Grizzlies acquired Jeff Green from the Celtics and Russ Smith from the Pelicans in exchange for Tayshaun Prince, a first-round pick and cash. They also sent Quincy Pondexter and a second-round pick to New Orleans in the trade. Green was averaging a career-high 17.6 points per game as the No. 1 scoring option in Boston, but he has only scored 13.0 PPG so far in five games for the Grizzlies. Memphis is 4-1 since Green came to town, but the Grizzlies won’t consider the move a success until the postseason arrives and they win a few playoff rounds. They were 26-11 before the trade and as Grantland’s Zach Lowe points out, when you’re already that good, marginal upgrades become that much harder to accomplish. While giving up that first-round pick hurts, especially since the team already didn’t control its 2015 first-rounder, Memphis has the talent and the right opportunity to go all in on this season.
The Western Conference race is wide open. Which team put itself in the best position to contend after its recent acquisition(s)? Let us know with a vote, and elaborate on your choice in the comments.