NBA Third Quarter Report: Kobe, LeBron, Kevin and Chauncey

Dan SmithCorrespondent IMarch 4, 2010

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 20:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder shoots over Danilo Galinari #8 of the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on February 20, 2010 in New York, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

In his third season, Kevin Durant has stepped up as an elite player. His individual stats are amazing (29.8 ppg with 7.6 rpg) and he has the Oklahoma City Thunder 13 games over .500.

That is good enough for the sixth seed in the competitive Western Conference.

Portland chose Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan a generation ago and now they have chosen Greg Oden over Kevin Durant.

Brandon Roy has the Trail Blazers in the eighth spot out West and Portland fans must be wondering what it would be like to have Durant and Roy in the same starting five.

Charlotte fans might wonder where they would be if Michael Jordan had chosen Brandon Roy over Adam Morrison.

I could do this all day but I have a third quarter report to write.

Kobe Bryant took some time off and the Lakers played well. Lamar Odom is such a dynamic talent that it is amazing to me how often he disappears in games. Odom is a 6'10" lefty that can truly play all five positions. It is unfair to call him an underachiever but it might be fair to say he has All Star talent that he has not lived up to.

Odom had a chance to leave LA in the off-season and chose to stay and be a part of a winning team. He and Kobe are similar to MJ and Scottie as the Lakers are chasing ring number five in the Kobe era.

The West is so loaded now that the collision course of Cleveland and LA is not so clear.

Dallas really improved themselves by trading for Caron Butler and Brendon Haywood.

Utah is playing at a high level and kept all of their pieces for another playoff run.

The Denver Nuggets pushed the Lakers to six games in last year's Western Conference Finals. Their coach, George Karl, is suffering with cancer for a second time in five years. That makes their leader on the floor, Chauncey Billups, one of the most important players in the stretch drive to the playoffs.

Billups has been to seven straight conference final series with Detroit and Denver. He is playing at a high level this season and capable of leading the Nuggets deep in the playoffs again this year.

With their coach going through his issues, if Billups can keep his squad together then the Nuggets have a chance of coming out of the West this year. They have superstar Carmelo Anthony and they are 4-1 against the Cavs and the Lakers.

The Nuggets are thin on the front line and they have been inconsistent at times. That is why Chauncey Billups is so important right now. He has the opportunity to step up in place of George Karl and lead the Nuggets to their first appearance in the NBA Finals. Billups has been there before so this is an opportunity that he can take advantage of even in the rugged West.

The Cavs are dealing with an injury to Shaquille O'Neal right now. Zydrunas Ilgauskas might return to the team through that goofy loophole the NBA has when trades are made.

The Cavs have the athletic length to matchup with Orlando this postseason but they will need Shaq to defend Dwight Howard. LeBron James (29.9 ppg 7.1 rpg 8a playing at an MVP level and this is the best squad he has had around him.

I have been upsetting Cleveland fans with my dour prediction on LeBron's future so I will only say that I hope all of the Cavs pieces are in place by the time they reach the Eastern Finals.

If they can be healthy deep into the playoffs then they have a great look at a championship this season. Whatever happens beyond this year, the Cavs franchise has put a team in place that can get it done.

In a league like the NBA, where only a few teams have a real look at the title this season, it is really sweet to be rooting for one of those few teams.