Who Will Be the Team to Beat in the NBA This Season? Part II

TJ ZwarychSenior Writer IAugust 5, 2008

This article is also posted at hoops4life.com, an NBA fan site.

Well, now that the Eastern Conference is finished, we move on to the more skilled conference—the wild West.

The injury-depleted Lakers took the West last year, as they made it all the way to the Finals before losing to the Celtics. Here is a list of who I think will be the three best teams in the West next season:


1. New Orleans Hornets

The Hornets finished second in the West last year and show no signs of slowing down. They acquired lockdown defender and three-point specialist James Posey, and they have an emerging star post in David West, who had a breakout season last year, going to his first All-Star game.

They have a fantastic starting point guard in Chris Paul, who some say is the best point guard since Magic and Stockton. Last year, in his third NBA season, Paul led the league in steals and assists. He's a great scorer and he can also get his teammates involved, as they have a great chemistry.

Speaking of chemistry, there is none better then between Paul and center Tyson Chandler. Paul hooked up with Chandler on countless alley-oops. Chandler is also one of the premier defenders in the league playing above the rim.

They are one of the youngest teams in the league, and with last year's experience, they should do better. Throw in fantastic three-point shooters Peja Stojakovic and Morris Peterson, you are set to have a great season.


2. Los Angeles Lakers

MVP, MVP, MVP. It would be impossible for the Lakers to have a bad season as long as they have a healthy number 24, Kobe Bryant. Kobe was the MVP of the league last year and is straight-up the best player in the league. He is clutch, can slash inside, can shoot the three—he is just unstoppable.

Although Kobe is amazing, the Lakers are not a one-man team. They had some bad injuries last season, but if they are healthy, they will be even better then last year. Too bad the Hornets will be better also.

The Lakers are full of stars and role players, and really have the make of a great team. This year, they will have European star Pau Gasol for the full season instead of just half. They should have a starting center with Andrew Bynum staying healthy. They also have Lamar Odom returning.

This would create a backcourt of Kobe and Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar trading off, with a huge frontcourt of Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom.

The Lakers aren't short on role players, either. They also have three point specialist Vladimir Radmanovic, a great scorer in Sasha Vujacic, and slashers Trevor Ariza and Luke Walton. I cannot see them finishing worst then second, and maybe even repeating as first over the Hornets.


3. Utah Jazz

The Jazz don't have quite have as star-studded of a starting lineup as these other two teams, but it's still pretty damn good! And out of all of these teams, they probably have the most balanced bench, as they have a solid backup at each position.

Their starting lineup will consist of Deron Williams, a fantastic young point guard, Ronnie Brewer, a young up-and-coming slashing guard, Andrei Kirlenko, a great defensive forward, their best scorer and rebounder Carlos Boozer, and a center that is an outside threat in Mehmet Okur.

It's still a drop off from starter to backup, but they are still good at every position. They have Brevin Knight backing up Williams, Ronnie Price and Kyle Korver replacing Brewer, Harping or again Korver replacing Kirlenko, Milsap replacing Boozer, and Jarron Collins or again Milsap replacing Okur.

With the same core as last year, the Jazz look to continue their greatness at home and play better on the road.

Honorable Mentions:

Portland Trail Blazers: Full of potential, but need a year or two more to bloom.

San Antonio Spurs: Will still be good, but won't improve.

Houston Rockets: T-Mac one year older, injuries will hurt.

Phoenix Suns: Still can't get it done on D.

Dallas Mavericks: Still a playoff contender, but they aren't on top anymore.

Denver Nuggets: Too much controversy, trade rumours involving most of their players, won't get it done.


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