It's time for our Western Conference Playoff Predictions:
1. L.A. Lakers
This isn't even a question. The Lakers are by far the best team in the West without Andrew Bynum and will be unstoppable when he comes back. They just have so many ways to beat you: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum down low, the outside shooting of Derek Fisher, Sasha Vujacic, and don't forget Lamar Odom.
The Next Tier:
2. San Antonio Spurs
2. San Antonio Spurs
It's the big three again. Parker, Ginobli, and Duncan. They just have so much experience and talent here. Look for a big second half for George Hill and Fabricio Oberto to help this team get the second seed in the West.
3. Denver Nuggets
You think the Pistons are having second thoughts about the Iverson-Billups trade right now? Nene, Carmelo, and Kenyon Martin are playing great and Chauncey Billups is just a great disher. This is a very dangerous team. They play the Celtics, Hawks, and Lakers this week. We should learn a lot about Denver this week.
They Could Win it if They Get Hot:
4. New Orleans Hornets
Tyson Chandler failing his physical may be a blessing in disguise for the Hornets. Paul, West, and Chandler can really carry this team. I look for the Hornets to capture last year's magic and take the fourth seed in the West.
5. Phoenix Suns
Even with Amare Stoudamire lost for the year, Alvin Gentry has got this team looking good. The first team since the Trail Blazers in the 91-92 season to score 140+ in three straight games. Look for the Suns to play like last year with Mike D'antoni and take the fifth seed.
6. Utah Jazz
My sleeper team of the West. They have been plagued my injuries early in the year and now are finding their stride. They've got so many stars here with Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, Paul Millsap, Andrei Kirilenko, and Ronnie Brewer. I think that the Jazz can realy make a run late in the year.
Maybe Next Year:
7. Portland Trail Blazers
They've played well up to now, but I don't think that they can keep it up. Aldridge, Roy, and Rudy Fernandez are young. I think that next year these guys could be a real force in the West.
The End of a Good Run:
8. Dallas Mavericks.
This team is getting old (Kidd), Dirk Nowitzki is going to be a free agent in 2010, and no one else has stepped up. They had a nice run and could have kept it going longer without that horrible trade with the Nets for Jason Kidd. Nevertheless, the Rockets lost Tracy McGrady for the year and traded away Rafer Alston for basically nothing. Their only player is Yao and he is not assertive enough to carry the Rockets. In the end, the Mavs will edge out the T-Mac-less Rockets for the last spot