NBA Western Conference Not Looking As Dominant As Previous Years

Justin MorganCorrespondent INovember 10, 2008

Few teams in the Western Conference should be thinking they actually have a shot at making it to the NBA Finals. Heck, there are only five teams that should be thinking about the playoffs.

The LA Lakers, Utah, Phoenix, New Orleans, and Houston are the only teams that should have the playoffs in their minds right now. I know that leaves three playoff spots open, but no one else appears to look like a playoff-quality team.

I know what you are thinking, "The season is only 5-7 games old, (insert team) is just having a rough start" or "(Insert team) is just having a hot start, but they will fade away into mediocrity."

What I say to you is to just think about your team or whatever team you think I am giving the shaft. Do they have what it takes to make it to the playoffs and out of the first round? Probably not.

Let me start by eliminating the teams at the bottom of the barrel: LA Clippers, Minnesota, Oklahoma City, and Golden State. That leaves Portland, Denver, Sacramento, Dallas, Memphis, and San Antonio to fight for the Nos. 6-8 spots.

Denver, Sacramento, and Dallas are all organizations that are not in the best shape. The A.I.-Melo thing didn't work in Denver, and acquiring Billups for A.I. isn't going to make them that much better, if at all.

For Sacramento to make it very far, there needs to be better play in the post. Brad Miller and Spencer Hawes need to step up. Plus, the Maloof brothers want to move the team to Las Vegas, so they are probably praying for a bad season.

Dallas really messed up with the Jason Kidd-Devin Harris trade. It was a trade for a run last year that didn't work, and now the Mavs are a veteran team that doesn't have the fire they did three years ago.

I'm still curious about San Antonio, Portland, and Memphis. San Antonio is obviously a very good team when healthy, but can it get healthy and make a run? Can Tim Duncan still go a seven-game series outplaying the likes of Amare Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, Yao Ming, and Carlos Boozer? I think that this team can get healthy and make a playoff run.

Early last year, Portland showed us signs of being a good, young team, but then fell flat. Can the Blazers play more consistently this season? Will Oden get healthy and be as good as hyped? Portland should squeak by and get a playoff spot.

Memphis is a very young team that should be good in the next few years. If the Grizz stay together and play together, they should be a staple in the playoffs. Can they do that this year? It is too early to tell, but if they grow up quick and use their youth to their advantage, they can earn a spot.

All in all, does it really matter? Does anyone think that the Western Conference champions won't be either LA or New Orleans? Fact is, unlike last year, the West is not as powerful, and the power will soon shift back over to the Eastern Conference.