The legendary Los Angeles Lakers are struggling to make the playoffs, the Los Angeles Clippers have emerged from the gutter to become contenders, the Golden State Warriors are home to a bunch of budding young stars and the Sacramento Kings see Seattle in their future.
All of these squads have plenty of talent, regardless of where they stand in the Western Conference, but of these four teams, how do their best players rank?
In his 17th NBA season, Kobe Bryant is third in the league in scoring with 27.3, trailing only Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. The Black Mamba has been forced to step his game up in every aspect for the struggling Lakers by contributing 5.6 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game.
The 34-year-old shooting guard is playing 38.2 minutes a game and is still one of the best players in the league even as his career is winding down.
With Rajon Rondo and Tony Parker out, Chris Paul is undeniably the best point guard playing basketball right now. Paul won MVP honors at this year’s All-Star Game in his sixth appearance and is second in the league in assists behind Rajon Rondo.
The guard out of Wake Forest is averaging 16.4 points, 9.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game as he leads the Clippers, a team sitting at third in the West.
Steph Curry was certainly an All-Star snub this season and so far he has proven this with fantastic play, including the 54-point performance against the Knicks. The Warriors are currently the second best team in California and Curry is emerging as the leader of this young group.
One of the purest shooters in the game, Curry averages 22.2 points and 6.6 assists per game, leading his team in both categories. He is shooting 44.6 percent from the field, including a spectacular 45.1 percent from 3-point range.
Andrew Bynum and his failing knees leave Dwight Howard as the best center in the league even with injury problems of his own. He hasn’t been playing the best basketball of his career, but he still leads the league in rebounds with 12 per game and averages 2.3 blocks per game, which is fifth in the league.
Howard is still averaging 16.1 points a game, but is shooting just 48.3 percent from the free throw line. It is unclear how healthy he is, but either way Howard is still a dominant big man in the NBA.
Complimenting Curry’s stellar play in 2012-'13 has been power forward David Lee. He is the Warriors’ leading rebounder with 11.3 boards per game and also averages 18.9 points. Lee is a critical part to what Golden State does and his good play often translates into victories.
Lee averages over 20 points and 12 rebounds while shooting over 53 percent when the Warriors win. He’s a physical forward who can also hit mid-range jumpers, making him one of the top guys playing in California.
The high-flying Blake Griffin is leading the Clippers with 18.6 points per game as “Lob City” continues to be one of the most exciting teams in the NBA. Although a lot of his baskets come from easy dunks, Griffin has improved his shooting game and leads his team with 8.8 rebounds.
Griffin is also much better from the foul line this year by shooting 65.9 percent, which is not great, but is much higher than his career average.
Coming off the bench for the Clippers, Jamal Crawford is the leading candidate for Sixth Man of the Year and it’s easy to see why.
In 29.5 minutes a game, Crawford is their second leading scorer with 17 points per game. It is amazing that he has scored over 20 points from the bench in 24 games this season. He provides an offensive spark when some of the starters are taking a breather, reminiscent of Jason Terry on the Mavericks in 2010-'11.
Finally, the Sacramento Kings get a player on the board with the volatile Demarcus Cousins. The Kings are tied for last in the Western Conference with a record of 21-40, but if you look past the attitude problems, then Cousins has been a lone bright spot for the franchise.
He’s been suspended for conduct detrimental to the team on multiple occasions, but he produces when he’s on the court. Cousins averages 17.2 points and 9.9 rebounds per game while racking up 1.5 steals.
The 39-year-old point guard is showing his age, but also that he can still be a starting guard in this league. The Lakers’ early season struggles and injuries have diminished his stats this year, but when healthy, he is still effective.
Nash scores 12.2 points a game while dishing out 7.2 assists, which is actually his lowest since 1999-'00.
The second-year guard out of Washington State has been a pleasant surprise for the Warriors, showing promise as another weapon to go alongside Steph Curry and David Lee. Thompson averages 16.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists in his first full season as a starter.
He fits right in with a team known for their 3-point shooting by adding 2.6 of his own per game.
When healthy and playing for a coach that knows how to utilize two big men, Pau Gasol is in the top five on this list. The Lakers still aren’t sure when exactly he will be able to come back, but when he was playing and the team was in disarray, he still put up numbers.
In 36 games this season, Gasol scored 13.6 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. It will be interesting to see how effective he will be when he returns, depending on if the Lakers are still in playoff contention.
The former Rookie of the Year, Tyreke Evans, has been stuck on a poor Sacramento Kings team his whole career and it seems to be stunting his growth. His rookie season produced 20.1 points, 5.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game, but he has steadily declined each year.
This season, Evans is averaging just 15.4 points, 3.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds...
In his first season with the Warriors, Jack is having a great season coming off the bench as a back-up point guard. He has bounced around the league his whole career, but is proving useful for Golden State by giving them quality minutes running the offense.
Jack averages 13.4 points and 5.7 assists off the bench—the second highest assist total in his seven-year career.
Metta World Peace is yet another Laker who is showing his age. He is still a fantastic defender, although he is a bit slower, and he is still a physical presence in the paint. World Peace is averaging 12.6 points per game, which is much better than his previous two seasons.
He grabs 5.4 rebounds and leads the team with 1.7 steals a game. The 33-year-old forward has also been shooting the deep ball well this year, averaging two per game.
Taking away from Tyreke Evans' numbers this season has been guard Isaiah Thomas. In his second season, Thomas leads the Kings with 3.5 assists per game. He also adds 12.6 points a game in only 25.5 minutes.
Thomas has been playing even better as of late by averaging 4.9 assists and 15.8 points in the last 10 games.