While the Eastern Conference appears to be much improved in the 2021-2022 season, most of the championship contenders still come from the Western Conference. Six of the NBA’s top 10 teams play in the West, including the team with the best record through one month.

The Golden State Warriors (12-2) are back atop the overall standings, where they resided much of the time from 2015-2019. The Phoenix Suns (10-3) have the second-best record just a few months removed from an NBA Finals appearance. The Dallas Mavericks (9-4) have seemingly gone under the radar with the West’s third-best record in 13 games.

Golden State is making a strong case to be considered the favorite to win this season’s title. The Warriors blew out the Brooklyn Nets (10-5) 117-99 in a big road win Tuesday. Four nights earlier, Golden State beat the Chicago Bulls (10-4) by 26 points. 

Stephen Curry hit nine three-pointers in each of those victories. Curry is on pace to break his own record for three-pointers made in a season and is favored to win his third regular-season MVP award.

Curry’s 28.7 points per game are second in the league behind only Kevin Durant. The point guard is averaging 6.6 assists, 1.7 steals and a career-high 6.3 rebounds per game. 

An NBA-best 98.9 defensive rating has catapulted Golden State to the top of the standings. The Warriors are outscoring their opponents by an average of 13.6 points per game, by far the best in all of basketball. Golden State has only lost one game in regulation.

Klay Thompson could make his season debut for the Warriors before 2021 ends.

The Suns are on the Warriors’ heels with nine wins in a row. Phoenix is the NBA’s hottest team and back in the West’s No. 2 spot, where it finished last season.

Chris Paul leads the league with 10.2 assists and 2.6 steals per game. The point guard is averaging a career-low 14.7 points per game. Devin Booker leads the team with 22.9 points per game, which is nearly three points below last season’s average.

The Suns rank 13th in offensive efficiency and sixth in defensive efficiency. Phoenix has held three straight opponents to fewer than 97 points.

Phoenix has taken advantage of an easy schedule during its winning streak, beating just one opponent with a record above .500. Things get tougher when the Suns host the Mavericks in back-to-back games Wednesday and Friday. 

Dallas actually has a negative point differential and doesn’t rank in the top half of the league in either offensive or defensive efficiency. The Mavericks are 1-3 against teams with winning records. Luka Doncic leads Dallas with 24.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game.

Doncic is out Wednesday with left knee and left ankle sprains.

The Utah Jazz (9-5), Los Angeles Clippers (9-5) and Denver Nuggets (9-5) are all a half-game behind the Mavericks.

The Los Angeles Lakers (8-7) are the No. 7 seed, putting them outside of the latest playoff bracket. If the postseason started now, L.A. would be in the same position as last season, hosting a game in the play-in tournament with a playoff spot on the line.

LeBron James has missed nine of the Lakers’ 15 contests. Anthony Davis leads Los Angeles with 24.2 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. The early returns on Russell Westbrook have not been good with the point guard shooting 42.7% from the field and averaging 5.3 turnovers per game.

The Lakers visit the Milwaukee Bucks (6-8) Wednesday to start a five-game road trip.

Stephen Curry Joe Ingles Warriors Jazz Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors shoots over Joe Ingles #2 of the Utah Jazz during a game at Vivint Smart Home Arena on January 23, 2021 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo: Alex Goodlett/Getty Images