The strike-shortened 2012 NBA season is winding down as teams look toward the playoffs and battle for their final seeding.
Teams will be fighting with all they can muster to either avoid playing the best teams in the conference or even just to make the playoffs.
This year's Western Conference lineup will feature about six teams that have the potential to advance all the way to the championship game but of course only one will make it.
Here are my predictions for the Western Conference seeding.
They have the skills, experience and youthfulness to start a dynasty.
The Thunder right now sit in first place in the Western Conference and will stay there for the rest of the season. They have the second best record in the NBA at 42-16 and are scoring about 103 points per game.
They added a crucial piece in veteran PG Derek Fisher after his release from the Houston Rockets, giving coach Scott Brooks a legitimate back-up to Russell Westbrook. Add that to Kevin Durant, James Harden and Serge Ibaka and the Thunder are a dangerous team to play.
By all accounts, the Thunder will continue to play hard until the playoffs and keep up their high scoring numbers.
They will roll into the playoffs with the No. 1 seed in hand.
The tried and true core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili is once again in the thick of things at the end of the season.
Just when it seems like they are getting too old to play at a high level, they step up their game and surprise the NBA.
The Spurs are currently second in the Western Conference with a record of 41-16, just half a game behind the OKC Thunder. They have won eight of their last ten games and are scoring over 101 points per game.
It will be a fight to the finish with the Thunder to see who will get the first seed but their age and Gregg Popovich's desire to keep his star players healthy will see the Spurs end up with the second seed.
Clipper basketball is once again relevant.
The Clippers looked lost during the middle of the season when Chauncey Billups went down with a tear in his achilles. However, they have turned things around down the home stretch and are playing good basketball.
Like the Spurs, they are eight and two in their last 10 games, including wins over the Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks.
With Chris Paul leading the Clippers' high-flying act, this team will put up points in transition and try to wear other teams down.
The basketball IQ and the pass first mentality of Paul, combined with the power and scoring ability of Blake Griffin will be a nasty combo come playoff time.
They are currently fourth in the West behind the Los Angeles Lakers but will surpass them in the last few games of the season
When healthy, Kobe Bryant is one of the best players in the NBA.
However, that has not be the case recently. He has suffered injuries to his shin and went on a little trip to Germany for platelet-rich plasma therapy. It is no shocker that he is suffering the effects of old age and it is slowing him down.
This will hurt the Lakers coming down to the end of the season. He will continue to jack up shot after shot and will make about 43 percent of them. Right now, he averages 23 field goals a game, with only ten makes.
Come playoff time though, the Lakers will be a dangerous fourth seed. With Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol down low, the Lakers have the size to prevent opponents from scoring easily in the paint.
The Lakers' age will hurt them down the stretch and they'll ultimately give up the third seed to the Clippers.
Now that the drama that was Lamar Odom is gone, the Dallas Mavericks can focus on winning basketball games.
The Mavs are the defending NBA Champs, but haven't looked the part for most of the season. They have had stretches of both good and bad basketball but when any team that has Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd has a chance to win some games.
As it stands, the Mavs are currently in the sixth position behind the Memphis Grizzlies and own a 33-26 record.
Dirk will come on strong once again toward the end of the season. This will most likely be the last chance for many of these players to get a ring because the Mavs' top four scorers are all over 33 years old (Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry).
The Mavs will end up squeaking by the Grizzlies for the fifth seed and a first round match-up with the Lakers.
The Memphis Grizzlies are a popular dark-horse pick this year after what they accomplished last year in the playoffs.
Even though they are just ahead of the Mavs for the fifth spot, they do not have enough fire power to keep up with them. And even though they have a relatively easy schedule from here on out, there's a danger that they'll take the foot off the accelerator at the wrong time.
However, things should change in the playoffs and they'll win their first round match-up against the Clippers.
The Denver Nuggets are playing solid team basketball and are making a strong run at the playoffs.
They have won their past two games and are six and four in their last 10. Six of their last eight games will be against likely playoff teams so they will be ready once the season ends.
Right now, they are tied with the Houston Rockets for the last playoff spot with a 32-26 record but with the emergence of Kenneth Faried as a rebounding machine and Arron Afflalo shooting the three, the Nuggets will finish strong and be prepared for the playoffs.
The Rockets have developed a balanced scoring act, with five players who all average double figures. They will use their balance to become the final seed in the West.
They are also a relatively young team with little playoff experience.
The Rockets are 5-6 in their own division and have to play three more games against Southwest opponents including the Mavs. They also have to play the Miami Heat in Miami.
The good news for the Rockets is that they have an even split between road (12-17) and home (20-9) games to end to the season.
They will finish with the eighth seed and a date with the Thunder in the opening round of the playoffs.