The best part about the NBA this season is that there is no clear cut favorite to win the championship. In the past few seasons, there were Los Angeles teams and the Golden State Warriors dynasty that made them the elite teams in the league. But this year is different. Gone are the days where a single team seems to be dominating their respective conference every night. With the injuries and COVID protocols as of late, the NBA has been competitive. 

The Western Conference in particular seems a little weaker than it has been in the past few years.Teams like the Lakers, Jazz and Mavericks are fighting for the mid spot in the West while the Warriors, Suns and Grizzlies are itching to get that first seed. The best part is that all these teams are within striking distance to where they want to be. And this alone should be something NBA fans will look forward to in the second half of the season. 

That said, here are 5 reasons why this could be the most fun Western Conference battle in years: 

Will the Warriors continue to compete with the Suns for the number one? 

The Warriors and Suns have been exchanging seeds as of late. Unfortunately for Dubs fans, their squad’s current losing streak has widened the gap a bit. But now that Chris Paul is currently in the Health and Safety protocols, things could be competitive again. No one is sure what will happen in the next few weeks but it’s already fair to lock in these two teams in the top three seeds of the Western Conference. 

Can the Memphis Grizzlies make a push? 

The hottest team in the league right now, the Memphis Grizzlies has now won 11 straight games. They are just three games back from the first seed and with the way they’re playing, they have a great chance of climbing up. 

Memphis does not look like they’re regressing one bit but they’re also set to play the Dallas Mavericks, Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets and then the Mavs again. If they can keep their winning streak alive during this tough stretch there’s a good chance that they’ll climb up the standings again. 

Will the Utah Jazz fall out of the fourth seed?

As of this writing, the Utah Jazz are on a four game losing streak. They’re only 5-5 in their last 10 games and have been struggling immensely since Rudy Gobert was sent to the Health and Safety protocols. They’re set to play the Denver Nuggets, Lakers, Suns (twice) and Grizzlies in the following two weeks. How do they survive? The good news for them is that they’ve build a five game separation with the Nuggets but that can slowly change since the latter’s schedule is easier. At this point, it’s unpredictable. 

Will the Lakers climb up or stay down?

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The most disappointing team of the season so far has been the Los Angeles Lakers. They have struggled to put teams away and are currently the seventh seed of the Western Conference. In their defense, they haven’t been healthy but time may be running out. The NBA Trade Deadline is approaching and Kendrick Nunn and Anthony Davis are poised to be back soon. How will the Lakers respond? They obviously don’t want to be in the play-in again (who does?) so they have to make a push and overtake the Denver Nuggets or even the Dallas Mavericks if they want to escape the play-in tournament. 

Their best hope is that the Nuggets, Mavs or even Jazz fall back to them in the standings. The Lakers schedule is tougher in the second half of the season but hey, with LeBron James (yes in year 19) anything is possible. 

Which squad can get healthy just in time?

It’s hard to rule out teams who are waiting for their All-Stars to return like the Nuggets and Clippers. Jamal Murray’s presence alone can move the needle for the Nuggets since they badly need another scorer next to reigning MVP Nikola Jokic. The Clippers meanwhile are waiting for Paul George (who could be out for the season due to an elbow injury) but no one really knows if he’ll sit for the rest of the season. But the point still stands: One of these squads can get healthy and make a push up the standings perhaps late in the season. 

Nobody knows how the Western Conference will turn out and that’s exactly what makes it so fun this year. There’s no dynasty nor is there a clear cut winner. Anything can happen in between (injuries, COVID-19, etc.) which can significantly impact the standings. This alone should make for an exciting second half of the season.