Monday , Apr , 19 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Front Row View- Western Conference Playoff Teams

Playoff time and the West will more then likely decide who gets the crown, with dominating teams like the Lakers, Timberwolves, Kings, Mavericks, and Spurs. The talk of late has been who will grab the #1 seed, and in a surprise Minnesota thanks to their 9 game winning streak has grabbed the top seed and home court throughout.

Front Row View- Western Conference Playoff TeamsMinnesota Timberwolves – Kevin Garnett may finally get out of the first round, thanks to the additions of Sam Cassell, and Latrell Sprewell and the continued MVP play of “KG”. Whether or not the T-Wolves will turn their regular season success into playoff success remains to be seen, but the fans in the 10,000 lakes have high hopes of a deep playoff run. Troy Hudson is a key off the bench giving them a 3-point and scoring threat, while Gary Trent gives them some muscle, big thing will be if Michael Olowokandi brings his game and gives something he hasn’t given the Wolves all year, a consistent inside threat.

Timberwolves Starting 5

c- Michael Olowokandi

f- Kevin Garnett

f- Latrell Sprewell

g- Trenton Hassell

g- Sam Cassell

Los Angeles Lakers – Thanks to the Kings late collapse and the Lakers getting healthy and picking up some momentum, the LA Lakers are your Pacific Division champs. With the “Big 4” of Bryant, O’Neal, Payton, and Malone healthy it will come down to whether their bench can give them anything and if they can all keep their egos in check. Kobe and Phil Jackson seemed to have a slight problem the other night after Jackson again made comments about Kobe’s shot selection Kobe came out, in a blow out loss to Sacramento, and took only one first half shot. Come playoff time things like that can quickly sink a team.

Lakers Starting 5

c- Shaquille O’Neal

f- Karl Malone

f- Devean George

g- Kobe Bryant

g- Gary Payton

San Antonio Spurs – The defending champs are on a roll (11 straight wins) and healthy. The early injuries to Tim Duncan might have actually helped this team to better get Hedo Turkoglu and Robert Horry more accustomed to their new team and ready for the playoffs. Big key will be the same as last year, Tony Parker. Parker again has to step up and be that consistent second scorer behind Duncan, otherwise the Spurs will be asking allot of Ron Mercer, and Rasho Nesterovic. A first round match-up with Memphis will not be a walk in the park expect this one to go at least 6.

Spurs Starting 5

c- Rasho Nesterovic

f- Tim Duncan

f- Bruce Bowen

g- Ron Mercer

g- Tony Parker

Sacramento Kings – Nobody fell as fast or as hard as the Kings did, going from the #1 seed all the way to #4 in a matter of basically a week. After Webber’s return the Kings were flying high and winning will all their starts in the line-up then they went on a late season east coast trip and watched it all disintegrate. Now they have to face a tough Dallas team  who is one of the handful of teams to win in Sacramento this year. The Kings have to regroup and remember what got them where they were before ,which is great passing, rebounding, fast breaking, and just enough defense to get by. With Dallas and Sacramento you know it will be offensive oriented and should favor the Kings, also Webber has to come out ready to make up for missing last years losing series against the Mavs. Final note as bad as the Atlantic division was this year in the East, in the West the Pacific division sent only 2 teams to the playoffs (Kings, Lakers) I know the Midwest was real tough this season but 2 teams ?!?

Kings Starting 5

c- Brad Miller

f- Chris Webber

f- Peja Stojakovic

g- Doug Christie

g- Mike Bibby

Dallas Mavericks – Mavericks fans are getting ready for another “small-ball” playoff run which many teams (including Dallas) has tried in the past and all have come up well short. With Steve Nash, Michael Finley, Antoine Walker, and Dirk Nowtizki all starting the offensive questions are tossed out but the bigger question will be can they stop anyone. And as the old saying goes “Defense wins championships” well apparently Don Nelson and the Maverick brain trust disagree, but until this team does at least make it to the Finals the questions of this team philosophies will be more in question then their talent level.

Mavericks Starting 5

c- Antoine Walker

f- Dirk Nowitzki

f- Michael Finley

g- Marquis Daniels

g- Steve Nash

Memphis Grizzlies – The surprise team of the West for sure maybe even of the NBA. The once basement lottery hound Grizz find themselves starting at a first round match-up against the defending champs. Health problems cost Memphis from moving up higher in the seeding, but if they can get Pau Gasol, Jason Williams and Mike Miller fully healthy and ready to go the Grizzlies could be up for an upset against the Spurs. Key for the Grizzlies is rebounding and the pace of the game, their not as fast-break as one might think but they need to convert opponent turnovers into points to be highly successful. Also they are one of the deepest teams with a bench that includes Shane Battier, Earl Watson, Bonzi Wells, and Stromile Swift.

Grizzlies Starting 5

c- Lorenzen Wright

f- Pau Gasol

f- James Posey

g- Mike Miller

g- Jason Williams

Houston Rockets – If Yao Ming and Steve Francis are both on, and the Rockets cut down on their turnovers (bottom three in NBA in most per game) then Houston has a shot to surprise allot of people. With veterans like Kelvin Cato, Jim Jackson, and Mo Taylor playing their roles and deferring to Stevie and Yao the Rockets are a dangerous team that can hurt you inside (Yao, Cato, Taylor) or outside (Francis, Cuttino Mobley, Jackson). Consistency has been Houston’s biggest problem one game looking like a championship caliber club the next turning it over 20 times and getting blown out, the playoffs are all about consistent great basketball and Jeff Van Gundy has seen it before ,with the Knicks, and now needs to get these Rockets ready for the same.

Rockets Starting 5

c- Yao Ming

f- Kelvin Cato

f- Jim Jackson

g- Cuttino Mobley

g- Steve Francis

Denver Nuggets – I guess one player can make a difference. Carmelo Anthony sure did help turn the Nuggets into a contender but also the additions of Andre Miller, and a fairly healthy Marcus Camby have helped propel the Nuggets into the playoffs for the first time in 9 years. With Anthony as the ultimate swingman, Miller and 3-point champ Voshon Lenard have held down the outside with Camby, and Nene handling the inside duties. The bench has been solid with Early Boykins and Jon Barry handling the backcourt, and Mr. Energy himself Chris Andersen being the top front court reserve. The Nuggets started this season on fire but slowly fell back to earth and had to fight it out with Utah and Portland to make it, so to expect them to give Minnesota problems is understandable but to beat them would be a major upset.

Nuggets Starting 5

c- Marcus Camby

f- Nene

f- Carmelo Anthony

g- Voshon Lenard

g- Andre Miller