Many people are saying that the NBA Finals will consist of Kobe and LeBron is a given. Not so fast.
The Lakers have a first round matchup with the Jazz. The Jazz are widely known for their success on their home floor. The Jazz beat the Lakers on their home floor one time already this season. Granted, that game was without Andrew Bynum, but I think the Jazz will give the Lakers a much harder time than many analysts are giving them credit for.
Assuming the Lakers do make it past the Jazz in the first round, they will have no easy task against the up-and-coming Blazers.
The Blazers have beaten the Lakers the last two times they played. You may be saying they didn't have Bynum, but on April 10 Bynum was back, and the Blazers pulled off the victory.
Assuming Oden is healthy, that gives the Blazers some depth in the frontcourt, and they will give Andrew Bynum and Pau Ga"Soft" a handful. Also, LaMarcus Aldridge is a stud up front. I think he's going to have a breakout post-season.
Brandon Roy is already a star, and I think Outlaw and Rudy Fernandez will be too much for the Lakers to handle. I really think the Blazers have the potential to take out the Lakers here in six or seven games.
A resurgent Nuggets' front line, Nene and Chris Andersen, is having unexpectedly big years defensively and on the boards. Even Kenyon Martin has been playing well as of late. Carmelo, as he has been his whole career, is a stud
With Chauncey "Big Shot" Billups at the point, this Nuggets team is as good as any team in the playoffs. With J.R. Smith and Linas Kleiza providing offensive sparks off the bench, this Nuggets team would definitely be able to match the Lakers.
If the Spurs end up beating the Nuggets in the Conference semis, they also would have a good shot at beating the Lakers.
The Spurs, once again, were one of the best defensive teams in the NBA giving up just 93.3 points per game. Tim Duncan, who just wins, and Tony Parker are former finals MVPs.
The Spurs won't have Manu, but Michael Finley and Roger Mason Jr. can flat out shoot. They also can hit clutch shots, as Mason has hit numerous game winners such as Christmas Day, and, as for Michael Finley, hitting big shots seems to be in his job description.
Bruce Bowen knows how to shut down a great player like Kobe. Kurt Thomas and Drew Gooden give them tremendous depth inside, and while many people don't think they can overcome the loss of Manu, I personally believe that Parker, Mason, and Finley will be able to make up for the scoring he provided.
The Lakers shouldn't be overconfident in cruising to the championship, because even the lower seeded teams like the Mavs and Rockets could definitely give them trouble if they advance.
In the East, I think the Cavs will have a much easier time advancing through the playoffs, but I think the Magic could definitely give them some trouble in the conference finals.
I would have put the Celtics here, but without Garnett, I can't see them advancing past Orlando.
I think Rashard Lewis will give LeBron some trouble offensively, and Dwight Howard will dominate inside. Zydrunas doesn't have the defensive mindset to handle Howard, and I think Ben Wallace is on the downside of his career and won't be able to help slow Howard either.
Ultimately, I think the Cavs will win here, but I personally don't see them breezing through the East. I think their guard play will vault them through and win the Finals.