8. Memphis Grizzlies (8th seed)
It'll be a battle of strengths when the Grizzlies face the Spurs in round one. Memphis thrives on creating turnovers and scoring off of them while the Spurs play smart, protecting the ball and taking high percentage shots. Whichever of these two teams that can get the other off their game will have the huge edge in this series. The bad news for the Grizzlies, however, is that the Spurs won't be rattled.
7. Portland TrailBlazers (7th seed)
The TrailBlazers match up well with the Dallas Mavericks, their opening round foe, and the 2-2 regular season record between the two teams shows that. The key for Portland is stopping Tyson Chandler. Chandler is a force that the TrailBlazers have no real answer for. When he's playing, Dallas wins against Portland, when he doesn't, they lose. As it looks like he will be ready for this series, Portland better be devising a plan to stop him or it will be a short exit, stage right.
6. New Orleans Hornets (6th seed)
The Hornets face the biggest opening round challenge out of all the Western playoff teams, stopping the Los Angeles Lakers. This is something they couldn't do in the regular season, going 0-4 against the two time reigning champs, and it doesn't look like they will be able to turn it around now. But, as the saying goes, that's why you play the games and upsets can happen. Even when you really don't expect it.
5. Denver Nuggets (5th seed)
It's teamwork over starpower for the Denver Nuggets since trading away franchise player Carmelo Anthony. Easily the deepest team in the playoffs, the Nuggets have the skill and the talent to push any of these playoff teams to the brink. Time is the Nuggets friend, if they can extend a series or even advance, that depth will be key as the opposing teams stars start to feel the wear of too many playoff games.
4. Dallas Mavericks (3rd seed)
The Dallas Mavericks finished the season with more than 50 wins, which is nothing new considering they have done it 10 straight times before this season, and are looking to end a recent history of playoff futility. Since reaching the NBA finals for their first and only time in 2006, the Dirk Nowitzki led Mavs have won a single playoff series. They've gone out in the first round three of the last four years. Losing can sometimes be contagious so it's up to Nowitski to keep his team focused and past round 1.
3. San Antonio Spurs (1st seed)
The Spurs are very similar to the Lakers, minus the past two Championships, in that they are an older team. The good thing about that is that they have the experience to get the job done while the bad is whether or not they have the drive or the energy to do it. The Spurs faded late down the stretch, almost losing the number 1 seed in the West, and they did manage to lose the overall top seed to the Bulls. This may not mean anything in the long run, good teams know when to turn it on, but it does raise more than a few warning flags.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (4th seed)
Young and hungry, the Thunder are the Lakers biggest threat in the quest for their third straight ring. Between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder have arguably the most dynamic one-two punch in the league. Unfortunately, the also have the toughest first round matchup in the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets will press the Thunder hard and with a long first round series, Oklahoma City may not have the energy to go much farther.
1. Los Angeles Lakers (2nd seed)
The Lakers are on a collision course with destiny and rare NBA company as they enter this playoff looking to give head coach Phil Jackson yet another 'three-peat' on his resume. While the desire to win is still strong in the Lakers, they aren't getting any younger and all the miles on Kobe Bryant's legs are starting to show. He still has the will and the fire but can he translate that into one more run? Also on the list of Lakers worries is the knee of Andrew Bynum. Bynum hurt his knee in the season final and will not be 100% for the first playoff series. If he can't overcome the injury and return to form by the second round, look for the Lakers to struggle.