Staff Writer: Ryan Ward
The Western Conference in the NBA is been arguably the toughest conference of the two over the last decade or so. Every single season it seems like the majority of the title contenders in the league, the West like the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Lakers.
This season has been more of the same in the Western Conference as are plenty of teams that can contend for a title this year. Of course the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers are the front runners to come out of the West, but there are few teams this season that could give them a run for their money as they try repeat as champions.
The Dallas Mavericks are one the hottest teams in the NBA right now and as they have won 13 straight games and are slowly but surely becoming a serious threat to teams like the Lakers and the Denver Nuggets who have been the number two seed in the West basically all season long.
Ever since making the trade for Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood, the Dallas Mavericks have been on a roll and if they keep it up they could quite possibly compete with the defending champs for the top seed in the West heading into the playoffs. They are still a few games behind Kobe Bryant and company, but anything is possible in second half of the season and I won’t be surprised if we see the Mavs become the team to beat in the West come playoff time.
Despite the Dallas Mavericks becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference there are two other teams that could also compete in the conference in the second half of the season.
The Utah Jazz have been a team with many ups and downs in the West over the past few seasons as they have struggled to play consistently well and compete with the best teams in the conferences, but this season Deron Williams and company have played extremely well it looks these on their way to clinching the fourth seed in the Western Conference heading into the playoffs.
Last season the Utah Jazz really struggled heading into the postseason and were ultimately knocked out in the first round of the playoffs against the eventual NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. Even though in the past the jazz in the mail to give the Lakers a run for their money, especially on their home floor in Utah, this time around Kobe and company made quick work of the Jazz beating them in five games (4-1).
Even though the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers or the team to beat this season in the Western Conference, the Utah Jazz will face them in the first round like they did last season which was very unfortunate.
At the NBA trade deadline on February 18th, the Miami Heat made a final in an attempt to make a trade for All-Star caliber forward Carlos Boozer after they were unable to get Amare Stoudemire from the Phoenix Suns.
Fortunately for the Utah Jazz, they neglected to make the deal as they were playing their best basketball of the season at the time and figured that a move as drastic as that could have some serious effects on the outcome of the season.
As of right now, the Utah Jazz are battling the Denver Nuggets for the top spot in the Northwest division. Much like last season, the Nuggets are playing extremely well and will be tough to beat come playoff time, but the Jazz have a solid shot at overtaking the Nuggets in the division as they are only a couple games back of the division leading team led by Carmelo Anthony.
There are still plenty games left in their second half of the NBA regular season and anything can happen from now till playoff time, but I believe the Utah Jazz could pass Chauncey Billups and company if they can keep playing the way they have been in the first half of the season.