The Lakers are a lock to make the Finals this season as there is no team in the Western Conference that can beat them in a seven game series, with the Lakers having home court advantage and the best player in the league.
As they demonstrated last night against their only real challenger in the West, the Lakers are too deep and athletic for the Spurs to handle, especially with Duncan and Ginobili not going to be completely healthy if they meet in the playoffs.
In my opinion, the Jazz would give the Lakers some trouble, but at the end of the day they don't defend well enough, especially in the paint as they foul way too much, and aren't a good enough road team to beat the Lakers in the postseason.
The Hornets are a team that has a huge matchup advantage at point guard as Fisher can't guard Chris Paul at all because of his amazing craftiness and speed. However, the Hornets have no depth at all and if they don't get great outside shooting from Peja, Butler and Posey, then they have no chance against the Lakers.
The Blazers look like they are a matchup problem for the Lakers and they are somewhat as they have enough bigs to defend Gasol and Bynum (if and when he comes back) and have several wing players who can bother Kobe with a lot of length such as Outlaw and Batum, but they don't have enough experience to be able to beat the Lakers and they don't have a true low post threat as their best players are mostly jump shooters.
Overall, it looks like the Lakers will win the Western conference again this year, but who will they face in the Finals?
There are only two teams in the Eastern Conference that have a legit chance of making the Finals and they are the Celtics and the Cavaliers. It looks like the Cavs are going to end up with homecourt advantage over the Celtics, which could be pivotal when they meet in the East Finals as the home team has won the last 15 meetings between these two teams.
Last season, the Cavaliers came just short against the Celtics in the second round as they lost in a close game seven as Paul Pierce had an amazing game and P.J. Brown made several key plays at the end of the game to help the Celtics win.
However, the Cavs have improved a lot since as they acquired Mo Williams in the offseason and have had internal improvements from several of their role players such as Delonte West, Anderson Varejao and Sasha Pavlovic.
On the other hand, the Celtics in my opinion are also slightly better than last year even though they lost James Posey and Brown, who were key role players in their title run. Rajon Rondo has improved dramatically since last year as he has become a triple double threat and a more confident player.
Also, Kendrick Perkins is better as he is more consistent and Eddie House has had a much better season that last year as he has consistently provided a great spark off the bench.
However, the Celtics are a much more mentally tough this year as they have already gone through all of the battles last season and Kevin Garnett will be much more fresh as he will have less wear and tear because of his recent knee injury.
Personally, I think the Celtics are going to beat the Cavaliers in a tough six or seven game series because they play excellent defense on Lebron, the Cavs rely too much on three point line, and the Celtics have too much offensive firepower with the Big Three.
However, as a die hard Lakers fan, I would much prefer to play the Cavs in the Finals instead as the Lakers match up extremely well with the Cavs, while even though they have beaten the Celtics both times they played this season, the Celtics are a tough matchup because of their physical play inside.
Also, the fact that the Celtics know they can beat the Lakers as they did in last year's Finals is a major advantage, while the Cavs aren't as confident as the Lakers whipped the Cavaliers in both matchups this season and are currently the only team in the league to have won in Cleveland, which they accomplished with center Andrew Bynum.
Overall, I think the Lakers are a lock to win the West as the Spurs don't match up well with them and that the Celtics will edge out the Cavaliers in the East Finals, even though the Lakers should be rooting for the Cavs to win as they match up much better with them, rather than the Celtics.