As the Warriors get ready for the golf course, the NBA's elite are battling in the playoffs. The LA Lakers (Los Angeles Lakers Schedule) and Cleveland Cavaliers (Cleveland Cavs Schedule) seem destined to meet in the Finals, but there are a some teams that could sneak in through the back door. In the Western Conference, the Nuggets and the Rockets are the biggest threats right now. These two teams are the only squads that pose a threat to the defending Conference champs. Chauncy Billups has looks to be a mismatch for any team the Nuggets play. Let's say the Nuggets and Lakers meet in the Conference Finals, who's going to guard Billups, Fisher? I like Denver's bench better than the Lakers, mostly JR Swish (Smith). It seems like every game he erupts for 20 plus points on four or more three's.
The Rockets are the only other team that would not get swept by LA, aside from the Nuggets. Aaron Brooks, Von Wafer, Ron Artest, and of Yao Ming are all capable of going off, but for some reason the Lakers just dominate this match up. The Rockets are one of the only teams in the league that are capable of matching up with the Lakers' length in the front court. If Luis Scola is hitting the free throw jumper and Wafer gets 15 or more, this team is tough to beat.
If the Lakers have a weakness, its the drop off in talent of their bench. Farmar, Brown, Vujacic, Walton, and Powell. Odem is the only player that gives the Lakers a boost off the bench and I'm not convinced Bynum is effective enough to help the Lake show win in the Finals, let alone get there. Every national sideline commentator raves about the depth of the Lakers, but I'm not sold. As this team gets deeper in the playoffs, Phil Jackson's rotation will shrink. Kobe will always be dominant, Pau will be a factor, and Odem always compliments Kobe and Pau when they are on a roll. With the leadership of Billups, a multitude of scoring options, and physical touhgness, the Denver Nuggets (Denver Nuggets Schedule) have the best chance to challenge the Lakers in representing the Western Conference in the Finals.
Will the Cavs represent the Eastern Conference against the Lakers or Nuggets in the Finals? If I shook the 8 ball, it would say 'no doubt'. There isn't a team in the Eastern Conference that can match up with the Cavs. Boston is at a huge loss without their leader Garnett, and will be hard pressed to get past the fast breaking Bulls in the first round. The Hawks will get past the Heat, despite having poor half court offense, and the 76ers will out-work the Magic. I expect the 76ers to meet the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals, and get their jocks handed to them by a determined LeBron James and supporting cast.
In the finals, the Cavs will beat the Nuggets in 7 games. Billups will execute down the stretch as he did with the Pistons and Carmello is due for a breakout series. More 2009 Playoff coverage to come...