Why they’ll win it all: San Antonio is really the only team in the Western Conference that poses a legitimate post-season challenge to the purple and gold. Sorry, Mark Cuban. The Spurs held a firm grasp on the West’s number one seed all season long. And before we forget, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan actually have more championships than L.A. over the past eight years. While a Lakers-Spurs Western Conference Finals is not a foregone conclusion, it will determine bragging rights between the West’s most competitive rivalry.
Why they won’t: Despite winning 60 games this season, the Spurs’ window is arguably closing. Duncan is an old 34 and neither Manu Ginobili nor Tony Parker are 100%. There wouldn’t be as many questions surrounding San Antonio if the Lakers simply didn’t exist. But they do. The Spurs locked up home court advantage throughout the Western Conference Finals and they’re going to need it, as the O’Brien Trophy still runs through Los Angeles. Assuming both the Lakers and Spurs get that far, odds makers will likely list L.A. as the favorites to win that series. There’s a reason for that.
Why they’ll win it all: You’ve heard of this guy named Kobe Bryant, right? As is always the case, the Lakers coast through the regular season (if you want to call 55 wins coasting), only to remind other teams come the post-season there’s a reason they’re two-time defending champions. The last Western Conference team other than the Spurs or Lakers to win an NBA championship was Hakeem Olajuwon’s Rockets fifteen years ago. Even though the Spurs finished the regular season with a better record, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Lakers went into San Antonio in the Western Conference Finals and won one of those first two games.
Why they won’t: It’s hard to come up with valid reasons why the Lakers won’t three-peat… again, unless of course you want to consider their recent five-game losing streak and near slide out of the two hole. Skeptics point to Bynum’s health but they’ve won in the past without him. Kobe still has something to prove, his next title will equal Michael’s six. Odom is having the most productive season of his career and Zen Master Phil is looking to ride off into the Montana sunset, leaving a trail of rings all the way there. It’d take a lot for any team, other than perhaps a perfectly clicking Spurs team, to ensure Los Angeles doesn’t make a return trip to the Finals.
Why they’ll win it all: They have Dirk Nowitzki, a top-ten player in the league, one of the greatest all-time point guards in Jason Kidd, Jason Terry coming off the bench and Tyson Chandler averaging just shy of a double-double. They’re also 8-0 against the Heat, Knicks, Hawks and Celtics.
Why they won’t: Why won’t they? Because they never do. This is a team that has yet to shed that soft label. They’re a regular-season mainstay but never have the roster balance to pose a serious Finals threat. Dallas’ championship hopes may very well have gone out the window with Caron Butler’s knee injury.
Why they’ll win it all: Within no time at all, Kevin Durant has become one of the league’s most un-guardable players. The Thunder shocked everyone last year by taking the Lakers to seven games in the first round of the playoffs. This season, they proved they’re no one-hit wonder by winning 55 games. Russell Westbrook has become one of the league’s best young point guards and the addition of Kendrick Perkins brings size, toughness and some well-needed playoff experience.
Why they won’t: While dangerous, this team is still young and without a playoff series win. They will likely advance out of the first round this year but when facing a more playoff-savvy team, they may crumble.
Why they’ll win it all: The Nuggets surprised everyone when they started playing better after trading away Carmelo Anthony, going 18-6. During that stretch, they beat San Antonio, Boston, L.A. and Dallas twice. They were also the highest scoring team in the league and George Karl loves the way his new team is playing.
Why they won’t: They couldn’t win it all with Carmelo Anthony. Even though they’re playing better basketball now that’s he gone, there’s really no reason to believe they can win it all without him. Their recent, regular season success may soon run its course.
Why they’ll win it all: LaMarcus Aldridge had himself one hell of a season, leading the Trailblazers in scoring in Brandon Roy’s absence. The addition of Gerald Wallace gives them an intimidating frontcourt. Portland, who many thought would go far last year, will not be an easy out for any one of the top four teams in the West.
Why they won’t: The Trailblazers are still a franchise in flux. One can’t help but wonder how the loss of Greg Oden and potentially Brandon Roy due to back spasms will affect this team in the playoffs. Roy only played half the season. If the Blazers want any chance at advancing, they’ll need a healthy Roy and that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.
Why they’ll win it all: They won’t. Sorry, Jeremy.
Why they won’t: It wasn’t all that long ago that Chris Paul and the Hornets snuck up on everybody by winning 56 games. They’re not surprising anyone anymore. Although they’re one of the better defensive teams in the league, it’s hard to imagine the same old formula of Chris Paul and David West making it very far.
Why they’ll win it all: They won’t either. At least I don’t think they will, but don’t be surprised if the Grizzlies give a higher seed one doozy of a playoff series. Zach Randolph had arguably the best year of his career, leading the team in both scoring and rebounding
Why they won’t: Memphis is actually a fun young team to watch but losing Rudy Gay to season-ending shoulder surgery might be too much for this team to overcome. The odds are certainly long on the Grizzlies to make a run, but anything can happen. Speaking of odds, if you enjoy calculating stats and odds, check out an accounting degree at