NBA Power Rankings: Lakers reign supreme once again

#1- Los Angeles Lakers (48-20)

Any time a team in any professional sport wins a championship a target is painted directly on their back the following season as every single team in there league will be giving them all they can handle each and every night. The Los Angeles Lakers have not only had to endure that treatment last season, but they have done it again this and so far they have come out on top as they are arguably once again the best team in the league.

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Lakers vs. Nets - Jan. 14, 2011

#2- Chicago Bulls (47-18)

Throughout this entire NBA regular season people have doubted the Chicago Bulls chance of competing with the best of the best and being able to make a run at an NBA title. As of yesterday, those doubts have vanished as the Chicago Bulls are officially owners of the best record in the Eastern Conference ahead of the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat.

Even though this team still has to prove themselves come playoff time, they have play extremely well at this point and have a lot of people talking about a Bulls-Lakers NBA Finals at season’s end.

#3- San Antonio Spurs (54-13)

All season long the San Antonio Spurs have been the best team in the league statistically and record wise. Even though they will almost certainly head into the playoffs as the number one overall seed in the Western Conference and the league’s best record, they have really shown some flaws as of late with two big losses to the two-time defending NBA champion Lakers and the revamped Heat.

If any team can turn it around and get back to playing dominant basketball on both ends of the floor it is the Spurs, but they will need to step it up from here on out if they expect to contend with the Lakers come playoff time.

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#4- Dallas Mavericks (47-19)

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: Jason Kidd #2 of the...
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Like most of the teams on this list, the Dallas Mavericks fell victim to the defending champs recently as Kobe Bryant and company came into Dallas and just dominated the Mavs from start to finish. Not only did this loss ultimately result in the Mavs dropping to the third seed in the West, but it may have also damaged their confidence if they should meet the Lakers during the playoffs.

#5- Boston Celtics (47-18)

It wasn’t all that long ago that the Boston Celtics were considered to be arguably the best team in the league as they were dominant on both ends of the floor, especially defensively. Ever since they made the trade sending arguably their best defender in Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder, this team has really struggled to get back to form and as a result have been knocked out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference and are in danger of falling out of the top five on this list.

#6-10- Miami Heat (46-21), Oklahoma City Thunder (43-23), Denver Nuggets (40-27), Orlando Magic (42-26) and Portland Trail Blazers (37-29)

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NBA Matchup: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks

San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks Fri. March 18, 2011 8:30 p.m. EST

The NBA regular season is really starting to wind down now as most teams around the league have no more than 15 games last before they are either headed home or into the playoffs. Two teams in the Western Conference that could be serious force to be reckoned with come playoff time are the San Antonio Spurs (54-13) and the Dallas Mavericks (48-20).

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SAN ANTONIO - APRIL 18:  Forward Dirk Nowitzki...
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Even though the San Antonio Spurs seem to have a tight grip on the number one seed in the Western Conference right now the Dallas Mavericks have just fallen out of the second spot in the West after the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers just went on a tear recently, these two teams will probably be looking to kill each other when they go head to head this Friday night in Dallas, Texas.

There will be basically nothing on the line for either one of these teams coming into this matchup, but with the potential of these two teams possibly meeting in the playoffs they will want to feel each other out and get a sense of what the matchups should be if they are to meet in the Western Conference playoffs.

There is a slight chance that the Dallas Mavericks could get back into the second spot in the Western Conference if they can get back to their winning ways over the next few weeks. The Los Angeles Lakers may be arguably the hottest team in the league right now as they have gotten it championship swagger back after struggling a bit at about the midway point of the NBA regular season, but since the two teams have identical records right now and will play each other one more time before the playoffs, positioning in the West isn’t exactly set in stone right now.

With that being said, and the fact that this game will be played on their home floor in Dallas, the Mavericks could come out with some playoff intensity in this game as they never like losing at home or losing to the rival San Antonio Spurs.

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As for the San Antonio Spurs, they will be looking to get back on track as they have struggled as of late after losing two big games to Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat on their home floor in San Antonio. These two losses to NBA title contenders will have almost certainly been wakeup calls for head coach Gregg Popovich. With that being said, the Spurs might also come out with a playoff intensity in this game which could make things very interesting moving forward as this might be an all-out battle from start to finish.

As of right now, I believe the San Antonio Spurs are the better all around team, but with their playoff seeding basically being fairly solid at this point they might not take the game as seriously as the Dallas Mavericks. If the Spurs start to lose early on, I would anticipate Popovich letting his foot off the accelerator and letting his reserves get some time while resting his starters.

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NBA Matchup: Los Angeles Lakers @ Dallas Mavericks

Before Thursday night’s loss to the Miami Heat in South Beach, the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers were arguably the hottest team in the league with eight straight wins. After beating the league leading San Antonio Spurs in convincing fashion last Sunday, the Los Angeles Lakers showed the entire league that they are ready to make the final push for the playoffs and yet another NBA title.

Unfortunately, even though they are still considered to be arguably the best team in the league right now after their impressive run as of late, they did suffer a loss to the Miami Heat and may have jeopardized their chances of competing with the Dallas Mavericks for the second seed in the Western Conference.

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With the Dallas Mavericks dominating the New York Knicks on Thursday (127-109) and the Los Angeles Lakers losing to the Miami Heat (94-88), the Mavs are now a game and half ahead of the Lakers in the West. Even though Thursday’s games did give the Mavs the edge moving forward, these two Western Conference heavyweights will be going head-to-head on Saturday night in Dallas.

A win for the Lakers on Saturday night would be a big step in the right direction moving forward as they would be just a half game back of the Mavs in the West. With 15 regular season games left before the playoffs, the Lakers will have a great opportunity to take over the second seed.

In my opinion, the Lakers could go 10-5 in the next 15 games as they play teams like the Utah Jazz (twice), Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors and the New Orleans Hornets. Along with these relatively easy wins, the Los Angeles Lakers will also face these playoff bound teams in the final stretch of the season: Dallas Mavericks (twice), Orlando Magic, Portland Trail Blazers (twice), Denver Nuggets, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs.

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So things are looking up for the Lakers as they could head into the playoffs full steam ahead, but they will first have to get past the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night. Not only could the Lakers meet the Mavs in the playoffs at some point, but they will need to get this win in Dallas this weekend in order to get back on track and prove that the loss to the Heat has only motivated them more moving forward.

This game will be another tough one for the Lakeshow as they will be facing a Dallas Mavericks squad that is coming off a huge win over Carmelo Anthony and the revamped New York Knicks 127-109. Even though the Los Angeles Lakers pose some pretty big matchup problems in the paint for the Dallas Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki and company will give the defending champs a run for their money on Saturday night as they have won eight of their last ten games.

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NBA Power Rankings: Lakers rise, Heat fall

1- San Antonio Spurs (49-11)

The San Antonio Spurs continue to play consistently well as the sit atop the NBA power rankings once again. Not only have Tim Duncan and company been able to keep their loss total to just 11, which is pretty impressive to say the least, but they are considered to be the team to beat in the Western Conference from here on out.

The Spurs did suffer a slight setback recently with former All-Star point guard Tony Parker going down with a calf injury, but if San Antonio can continue to play at this level with George Hill at the point over the next month or so, they will almost certainly clinch the number one seed in the West.

Gregg Popovich has coached the San Antonio Spur ...
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2- Dallas Mavericks (44-16)

The Dallas Mavericks have played an excellent brand on basketball as of late and are just five games behind the league leading San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference, but unless Greg Popovich’s squad starts to struggle without Tony Parker, the Mavs will probably stick at the number two spot.

Mark Cuban made another key addition recently by picking up the recently bought Corey Brewer. This could prove to be a key in the final stretch of the season as Brewer provides an extra scoring punch off the bench.

3- Chicago Bulls (41-17)

There more people doubt this team, the more success they seem to have. Along with All-Star point guard Derrick Rose quickly turning into a legitimate superstar in this league and leading the way in the NBA MVP race, the Chicago Bulls have become arguably one of the best teams in the league.

Whether or not D-Rose and company can compete with the likes of the Celtics, Heat and Magic during the playoffs remains to be seen, but with wins over the Spurs, Lakers and the Heat earlier in the season, the Bulls could be dangerous to say the least.

4- Boston Celtics (43-15)

Not quite sure why the Boston Celtics are this far down this list of the NBA’s best, but I’d bet they will almost certainly rise higher and higher as we get closer and closer to playoff time. The Celtics did make a bold and questionable move by trading away arguably their best defensive big man in center Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder, but they should be able to continue to hold their own as long as they can stay healthy.

Things will get very interesting heading towards the playoffs as we see how well the Celtics can adjust to life without Perkins.

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5- Los Angeles Lakers (43-19)

The two-time defending NBA champions have had their fair share of struggles this season, but they have been able to get back to form recently with five straight wins, three of which over playoff bound teams. This veteran team might still be headed for disappointment come playoff time, but right now they look about as good as it gets in the Western Conference.

6-10: Miami Heat (43-17), Orlando Magic (39-22), Oklahoma City Thunder (36-22), Memphis Grizzlies (34-28), Denver Nuggets (35-26)

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Is Dirk Nowitzki done in Dallas?

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan
Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

Coming into the NBA playoffs the Dallas Mavericks had high hopes of actually contending for an NBA title, but it could’ve been somewhat of a do or die situation for arguably their best player in Dirk Nowitzki.

Obviously the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers were favored to come out of the West, but with the Mavs making serious upgrades to their roster before the NBA trade deadline and having a great finsh to the NBA regular season, Dirk Nowitzki and company looked like they had a chance to dethrone the champs.

With Kobe Bryant and company really struggling to finish the NBA regular season, the Mavs never had a better chance to get back to the NBA Finals. Unfortunately, the Dallas Mavericks chances of getting back the NBA Finals ended very quickly as the San Antonio Spurs had no intentions of going home early.

When the Dallas Mavericks learned that they would have to face the San Antonio Spurs in the first round, they couldn’t have thought of the worst opponent to face coming into the playoffs. Tim Duncan and company have always seemed to have the Dallas Mavericks number and even though Spurs didn’t have the best season, they are always a force to be reckoned with come playoff time.

It has been somewhat of a transition year for the San Antonio Spurs as they have dealt with multiple injuries and new players breaking into the starting lineup. Point guard George Hill has really gotten on head coach Greg Popovich’s good side as the future Hall of fame coach has decided to start him over Tony Parker.

Even though this is a questionable decision, it now looks like genius as the Spurs made the Dallas Mavericks look like the seventh seed instead second seed in were able to send Mark Cuban’s squad home early despite them being favored to go pretty far in the playoffs this time around.

Now heads will almost certainly role in Dallas as Mark Cuban will look to clean house or makes you serious changes. For the last 12 years Dirk Nowitzki has basically been the face of the franchise in one of the best forwards in the game with a sweet shooting touch and ability to light up the scoreboard on any given night.

Unfortunately, after yet another disappointing playoff series that resulted in an early exit, Dirk might have played his last game in a Dallas Mavericks uniform. With the option to opt out of his contract and become a free agent this summer, the temptation to do so might be stronger than ever as it seems to be more and more obvious that he just can’t win in Dallas.

This might be the best chance for Dirk to land on another title contending team in the league as this summer’s free agent market will be talent packed and all the best teams in the league will be looking to get better this off-season the addition of a big name free agent.

Obviously not every team in the league can get a big name, but the ones that can’t get LeBron James or Dwyane Wade will be looking for a big-time scorer to counter whatever team is able to convince these two big name free agents to sign with them.

With that being said, Dirk Nowitzki might never be greater as he will almost certainly have quite a few takers if he chooses to become a free agent. I never thought I would see Nowitzki in another uniform other than the Dallas Mavericks, but it looks more likely than ever and I believe he will test the free agent market this summer.

Can the San Antonio Spurs make one more title run?

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan
Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

Over the past decade or so there have only been two teams in the NBA that have really made what you would call an NBA dynasty. When you think of the dynasty in professional sports you think of teams that can dominate for an extended period of time and most importantly win titles and championships consistently.

In the NBA, there’ve only been a few dynasties with only a handful of franchises labeled with that distinction. Back in the 90s it was the Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan leading the way as they won three titles in a row, had a two-year layoff, then won three more titles. If Michael Jordan stayed with the team during the two-year period where he chose to try baseball instead, the Bulls might have one eight titles in row.

The Boston Celtics were also one of these teams that have been called an NBA dynasty as they absolutely dominated the sport throughout the late 50s and 60s with head coach Red Auerbach and some of the greatest players of all-time in point guard Bob Cousy and center Bill Russell. This NBA franchise at one point absolutely dominated for about a 13 year span where they won 11 NBA titles.

Along the Boston Celtics, their hated rival in the Los Angeles Lakers have also had multiple dynasties during the franchise’s history with hall of famers and future hall of fame players like Shaquille O’Neal, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant dominating the sport in different eras.

Over this past decade the two teams that did dominate in dynasty like fashion in the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs. It was just title after title for these two teams as they battled back and forth for this distinction of the best team in the NBA at the start of the last decade.

This season the San Antonio Spurs, despite signs of slowing down, have shown that they might be able to contend for a title this season as they are giving the second-seeded Dallas Mavericks all they can handle in the first round of the playoffs.

Coming into the playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks were thought to be the one team in the Western Conference that have the best chance of dethroning the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. That still might be true, if the Lakers can get past the Thunder that is, as Dirk Nowitzki and company are as resilient as they come in the West, but they will first have to get passed Greg Popovich’s squad who are really making them work in the first round.

In game one of this series the Dallas Mavericks got out to a 1-0 series lead and with their impressive play it looked like they would most likely be the team to advance, but in games two and three the San Antonio Spurs got back on the board and to control the series going up 2-1.

Now anything can happen in this series in the Dallas Mavericks could very easily turn things around, but with the way the Spurs are playing in the experience they have in the playoffs I believe Tim Duncan and company will be the team to advance to the second round.

Can the San Antonio Spurs beat the Dallas Mavericks?

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan

Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

The defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers and the Cleveland Cavaliers are without a doubt the two teams favored to advance to the NBA Finals during these NBA playoffs. Not many people would argue the chances of these two NBA heavyweights meeting when it is all said and done, but with the defending champs looking a little banged up the Dallas Mavericks could end up being the team to come out of the West.

Obviously there are still two more rounds of playoff series to go before the NBA Finals are set, but that will never stop the people from speculating how things will finish in the two conferences.

Coming into the playoffs the Dallas Mavericks had arguably the biggest challenge of any of the high seeds in the Western Conference. The San Antonio Spurs have been arguably one of the most successful NBA franchises in the last decade or so as they have won three NBA titles in the last ten years and a total of four in the last 11.

That kind of success will never go unnoticed and is definitely something in that back of the mind of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban during this first round playoff series. In game one of this series, the Mavs dominated as predicted, but game two was another story altogether as Dirk Nowitzki and company struggled in the loss that evened up the series at 1-1.

Despite the game two victory by the San Antonio Spurs, the Dallas Mavericks are still favored to win this series and for good reason. Even though the Spurs have the titles, the Mavs have the talent and are arguably the hungrier team right now as they have their sights set on the NBA Finals.

The Spurs do have the big name talent in Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and especially Tim Duncan, but the Mavs have the better all around squad in this series in my opinion. The bench play in this series will be huge as the Mavs have arguably the deepest bench the league with Jason Terry leading the way.

With that being said, I believe the Dallas Mavericks being as deep as they are will be the turning point this series from here on out. The Spurs aren’t getting any younger, they may have promising young talent in rookie DeJuan Blair and point guard George Hill, but their veterans are starting to show signs of age and that will become apparent in the final games of this series.

Even though the San Antonio Spurs always seem to put a great team on the floor, the success and longevity has to end sometime and I believe that time is now as I can’t see them beating the Mavs in this seven game series.

The only way I see the Spurs gaining an edge in this series is if Richard Jefferson and Manu Ginobili start to dominate in the next couple of games. When these two players get hot, the Spurs are extremely tough team to beat and that was obvious in game two.

Ultimately though, the Dallas Mavericks will advance as the Spurs will not be able to contain the Mavs multiple weapons on offense.

NBA Playoff Previews – Western Conference

Staff Writer: Jeremiah Ira Yap

LA Lakers vs (8) Oklahoma City

Tough match-up for the Lakers. Oklahoma City’s talented young core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green will wreck havoc on the Lakers’ currently confused defense. There are two things intriguing about this series: Kobe Bryant, the Lakers best player, can be slowed down by the Thunders best defender, Thabo Sefolosha. Sefolosha has the right length to bother Kobe’s jumpers and the right speed to stay in front of him. I can hear Lakers fans saying, “Stopping Kobe in the playoffs? No way!”. Well, this isn’t 2006 Kobe where he was at his physical peak. Remember 2008? 2008 MVP Kobe was stopped by the Boston Celtics in the Finals, so there. Ha! Kobe was held to 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting against the Thunder in the last time these two teams played against each other.

Kevin Durant, the Thunders best player, cannot be contained by the Lakers’ best defender, Ron Artest. Durant has averaged 25 points against the Lakers. Although I’m still giving Artest the benefit of a doubt that he can still shut down one of the league’s best scorers. For all we know Artest may be channeling his inner Dennis Rodman with the blonde ‘do he’s sporting

This series is dubbed as “Durant vs Kobe”, but the real key for the Lakers is Pau Gasol and for the Thunder it’s Russell Westbrook. Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka can’t guard Gasol. It’s up to the Lakers to keep feeding it to the 7-foot Spaniard in the post.

Phil Jackson’s reluctance to curb Derek Fisher’s minutes will be bad for the Lakers. Fisher can’t guard a stationary lamp post and Westbrook is one of the quickest players in the league. The Lakers medical team better give Fisher some goggles to protect his eyes from the dust Westbrook will be leaving in his path. Westbrook exploded against the Lakers in their last regular season game.

The Lakers will have their hands full and will need six down to the wire games to eliminate the Thunder.

Dallas Mavericks vs (7) San Antonio Spurs

The Mavs have the greatest chance of beating the Lakers. They are a complete team and versatile at every position. Their midseason acquisition of Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson have reaped nothing but benefits. On the other flip of the coin, San Antonio’s acquisition of Richard Jefferson has been highly disappointing. Jefferson has been unable to adjust accordingly to Coach Popovich’s system.

Some say never doubt the Spurs in the playoffs, but realistically, their window has already closed. Tony Parker and Tim Duncan have been nagged by injuries and have not played a decent game after the All-Star break. Manu Ginobili has played great the past month but his age (32) and mileage make it hard to believe that he’s ready to take a lot of contact in the playoffs.

Dirk Nowitzki may have a tougher than expected series against the defense of Jefferson. Caron Butler and Jason Terry are the keys for the Mavs.

Dajuan Blair will have a big series for the Spurs, but Duncan and Parker need additional support from George Hill and Antonio McDyess. Don’t be surprised if the Mavericks win the series in five games. Stick a fork in the Spurs, they are done. It’s time to rebuild.

Phoenix Suns vs (6) Portland Trail Blazers

It’s a shame that Brandon Roy’s injury will greatly diminish the Blazers chances to advance to the second round. His presence would’ve made this an exciting series. Instead, we’ll see the Suns run Portland out the gym.

The Blazers don’t have the depth to keep up with the Suns up-and-down game. The return of Leandro Barbosa and Jason Richardson’s great play recently couldn’t come at a better time. The Blazers success will depend heavily on veterans Andre Miller and Marcus Camby, but their old legs will not be enough to outlast the Suns. Suns in five game.

Denver Nuggets vs (5) Utah Jazz

Carmelo Anthony must’ve been smiling on his way to the court for Game 1 against the Jazz. There was no one capable of guarding him after Andrei Kirilenko re-injured his calf strain. Anthony faced a combination of Kyle Korver, CJ Miles and Wesley Matthews and proceeded to drop 42 on the Jazz. The Jazz also had no answer for JR Smith, who scored 18 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter. The Nuggets can heat up in a heartbeat and the Jazz found that out in Game 1.

Aside from losing Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur left the second quarter of Game 1 after re-injuring his Achilles’. Even if the Jazz lost to the Nuggets, I still believe this will be a long series. The Jazz have a better coach in Jerry Sloan. He will make the necessary adjustments for Utah. Unlike with the Nuggets, who will miss George Karl sooner rather than later.

Interesting series. The Jazz will come back to win in six games. Carmelo Anthony may be the best player in the series, but Smith’s streak shooting and inconsistency will be detrimental for the Nuggets.

NBA Playoff Preview: Dallas Mavericks vs. San Antonio Spurs

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan
Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

It is never easy to win in the Western Conference come playoff time and this season is no different as there are plenty of compelling matchups and every team in the conference will start at zero once again.

Perhaps one of the most compelling of the four matchups in the Western Conference playoffs this season is the battle in Texas where the Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs will go head to head in what will almost certainly be a heated playoff series.

Every single season these two teams from Texas have to battle each other as they try and come out on top of the Southwest division. There are few competitive divisions around the league, but the one division that is by far the toughest to play in is the Southwest division with the Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs usually being the best teams in the division.

This season the Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs have been two teams in the league that have gone in different directions.

The Spurs have been trying avoid the inevitable arrival of father time and make the best of what they have left in the Tim Duncan era in San Antonio, but signs of age has been something they just haven’t been able to avoid and this season it has been tough for them just to make the playoffs.

The Mavs on the other hand have seen great success this season which has brought them back to the days of 2006 when they were able to make it all the way to the NBA Finals. In the beginning of the season, the Mavs were riding high and looked like they might be able to contend with the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, but they started to struggle in the towards the end of the first half of the season and something had to be done in terms of player changes.

Fortunately, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban doesn’t hesitate when he knows changes need to be made and in this instance he made the right trade at the right time and the team hasn’t looked back since.
Before the NBA trade deadline on February 18th, a trade was imminent and a deal got done with some potential All-Stars heading to Dallas in exchange for the troubled small forward Josh Howard and veteran forward Drew Gooden.

Both of these players were extremely expendable and were on their way out anyway so the Dallas Mavericks got an absolute steal of a trade when they received Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood in return.

The addition of these three players officially made the Mavs one of the deepest teams, if not the deepest team in the NBA.

Once the team was able to strike up some chemistry, which didn’t take long, the Mavs were on a roll and were able to become the second seed in the Western Conference heading into the playoffs.

Now the Mavs will have to prove that they are as good a team as they were in the regular season by going up against Tim Duncan and company in the first round. It will be a competitive series in the first couple of games, but ultimately the Mavs will prevail in my opinion.

Series Prediction: 4-2 Dallas Mavericks

Who is the dark horse in the Western Conference playoffs?

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan
Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

Unlike the Eastern Conference, all eight teams in the Western Conference playoffs are legit and can compete with the best of the best in the NBA.

Obviously, the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers are the cream of the crop and teams like the Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz aren’t far behind them, but there are definitely some teams in the West that are forces to be reckoned with like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns.

Personally, I don’t see any team in the West get the best of the defending NBA champs, even though they are limping into the playoffs, but there are a few teams to keep your eye on when the playoffs get underway.

In the Eastern conference, I believe there are few teams that could surprise some people like the Charlotte Bobcats and the Milwaukee Bucks, but in the West the one team to look out for more than any is the
Denver Nuggets.

At the beginning of this NBA regular season the Denver Nuggets arguably one of the hottest teams in the league as they got off to a quick start and right where they left off as one of the teams to beat in the West.

Unfortunately, despite put up one hell of a fight in the Western Conference finals last season, the Denver Nuggets went home early and the Los Angeles Lakers went on to another NBA title. This season the Nuggets looked prove that they are worthy of the title contender tag as they had the crosshairs set on the Lakers back, but in the second half of the season the nuggets have really started to struggle haven’t really been able to get back on track or to their new title contender status.

When the main reasons for their problems the second half of the season has been the absence of the future Hall of fame head coach George Karl who is battling cancer for the second time in his life.

Fortunately, the type of cancer they Karl is battling is something that he will be able to recover from and possibly recover fast enough for him to be on the sidelines for the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the playoffs if they can advance past the Utah Jazz.

Coming into their first-round matchup with the Utah Jazz the only real concern besides George Karl’s health is Kenyon Martin and whether or not his body will hold a throughout the playoffs. Martin is a big part of the Nuggets defense in arguably the backbone along with Chris “Birdman” Andersen.

If Kenyon Martin cannot stay healthy, I believe the Denver Nuggets will be in serious trouble in the defense of intensity will suffer.

The one thing that the Denver Nuggets might have going for them right now is that the Utah Jazz are also pretty banged up as they will be without possibly two key players in Andrei Kirilenko (out two weeks) and Carlos Boozer (game one game time decision) who is suffering from a strained muscle in his rib cage.

Even though the Utah Jazz will be extremely difficult to beat in a seven-game series in the first round, I believe Carmelo Anthony and company have what it takes and they will advance to the second round of the NBA playoffs.