The Los Angeles Lakers were far and beyond the best team in the west last season en route to their second consecutive championship and fifth title in the past 11 seasons. However, this year could prove to be a different story. Here is a list of the teams that could finish in the top four spots in the Western Conference.
Los Angeles Lakers:
No matter who the champion is you have to give them the nod until it is shown that someone else can beat them. Los Angeles breezed though the 2010 playoffs and were not really challenged until the Finals where they were nearly defeated in game seven by the Boston Celtics. With Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum all coming back, it will be hard to see anyone beating out the Lakers for the top spot in the Western Conference.
While there has been much trade speculation regarding Denver’s Carmelo Anthony, his current contract is not up until the end of the season. With the nucleus of Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin and streaky-shooter J.R. Smith intact, the Nuggets have an offense that keep pace with any team in the league. The Nuggets pushed the Lakers to six games in the Conference Finals in 2009 and were the only team to beat the Lakers on their home court that year. While they were surprisingly defeated by the Jazz in five games last year, look for the Nuggets to be near the top of the conference by the end of the season.
San Antonio Spurs:
While the Spurs may have dipped a bit last year finishing in the sixth spot, they are due to bounce back this year. Very few teams in the league can guard Tim Duncan straight up and if both Tony Park and Manu Ginobli, can remain healthy, they will be a major factor in how the west is won.
The Dallas Mavericks have one of the most versatile big men in the league with Dirk Nowitzki and one of the top-five point guards in the league in Jason Kidd. While the last few years have panned out the way the Mavericks would have liked, look for Dallas to be a much improved team having Brendan Haywood in the lineup for a full season and the addition of former Chicago Bull/Charlotte Bobcat Tyson Chandler. In addition to that, let’s not forget about Jason Terry coming off the bench who can provide the team with 20 points on any given night. Look for the Mavericks to challenge the Nuggets for the number second seed.
There were a few teams that were left out like the Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets and Portland Trailblazers. While all of these teams are good in their own right, it was difficult to see either of them finishing in the top three for spots in the Western Conference. The Lakers will more than likely come out of the West for a third consecutive year but it shouldn’t be as easy as it was the last two seasons.
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