The NBA West is as competitive as it has ever been. .600 NBA teams could be out of the NBA Playoffs before even getting in. Some of the best players in the world stay in the NBA West, but only one team can explode through to play for an NBA Title.
The NBA West will be a huge mountain to scale for any NBA Team looking to go all the way. Whichever NBA team raises, they will have earned their trip to the NBA Finals through blood, sweat and a bit of luck. Whichever NBA West team wins, they will need to stay very healthy. Yao Ming Has already taken the Houston Rockets down with his injury.
On paper, there are several teams that look great. The New Orleans Hornets, Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks all look ready and willing to mix it up in the NBA Playoffs. If the NBA Playoffs have taught us anything, it is that experience and the best players usually survive to play deep into Spring. These three teams have yet to prove they have the chops to withstand the heat.
For me, it will come down to the big-three, the real big-three, in the NBA West. The Los Angeles Lakers have greeted and have come on very strong this season. Powered by Kobe Bryant's run for his first NBA MVP award, along with the addition of Pau Gasol, has the supercharged the Los Angeles Lakers near the top of the NBA West. Phil Jackson has done a masterful job at the helm, keeping egos in check, and having players buy into his system. All they have been doing is winning, and winning.
The San Antonio Spurs are the defending Champions. Like the Indianapolis Colts, who were defending champions in the NFL, all they do is go about their business, factory-like, and win as well. Tim Duncan again leads a pack that is looking to repeat for the first time in their dynamic, dynastic run.
Tony Parker will need to have a full strength if the San Antonio Spurs are primed to make a serious run at the NBA Title. Greg Popovich is, as usual, also doing a great job with the San Antonio Spurs. He is the most underrated, underappreciated Coach in all of sports, and will be destined for the hall-of-fame one day.
The Phoenix Suns, with the addition of Shaquille O'Neal, are in the hunt for the best record of the NBA West. Every NBA game is critical, as one loss can move a team down the standing several slots. The addition of Shaquille O'Neal has been the most intriguing move of the NBA Season, as the Phoenix Suns have gone all in, pushing all chips to the middle of the table in hopes of scoring an NBA Title, much like Shaquille O'Neal helped the Miami Heat and Pat Riley do in Miami.
The Phoenix Suns are old, and this is their window of opportunity. Steve Nash, Grant Hill and O'Neal are in the twilight of their careers, and this is the last go-round for all, with maybe this and 1-2 more years with the core group at NBA Championship capacity. The need will be for Shaquille O'Neal to stay healthy, and be able to give the Suns 25 great minutes per play game. This, maybe, can hold off Tim Duncan and the others.
It takes time for a presence like Shaquille O'Neal to mesh with Amare Stoudemire, Nash and company. Is there enough time? Probably, provided the health of Shaq contains.
Right now, it looks like the threesome of the San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers have the best shot of breaking out of the NBA West. If another team from the NBA West breaks through to the NBA Western Conference Finals I would be surprised. I still have to go with my pick back in November, the San Antonio Spurs to break through the NBA West and beat the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals, in 6 tough games.