Dallas Mavericks

2009 NBA Playoffs Preview – Western Conference

Best Team in the Conference – Los Angeles Lakers

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure this one out. The Lakers have the NBA's best player and arguably the NBA's best leader. They have an assortment of talented big men in an NBA that suffers from far too few talented big men. They also have the NBA's deepest bench. Combine those factors with the stinging memory of just how the Boston Celtics closed them out in last year's NBA Finals and will be hard to find another team in the Western Conference that is any better.

Team Most Worthy of Not being in the Playoffs – Utah Jazz

The team that faced the Los Angeles Lakers in last year's Western Conference Finals, is simply not the same team from a season ago. Key players like Carlos Boozer have either been injured or under-productive. They're not as good defensively as they were in 2007-08. More than that, the Jazz have not played with the same consistency that helped get them to a high seed in the playoffs last year. They will be an easy-out for the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round.

Upset Special – Mavericks over the Spurs

While the Mavericks have shown the tendency to completely disappear when the pressure is on, the San Antonio Spurs do not have the offensive fire-power to beat the Dallas Mavericks. Add G Manu Ginobili to the Spurs lineup and they are a Championship contender. Remove him and they become just another team in black and white jerseys. The rest of their aging roster will not be able to fill Manu's void.

Mavericks in six games.

Most Important 'X' Factor in playoffs – Lamar Odom

If Odom can be the player that he has been off of the bench this season, in the playoffs, he could make the Lakers virtually unbeatable. If he's the player that folded under pressure in last season's playoffs, then the Lakers will have to find contribution from others. Odom has the potential to make other teams' benches look like garbage squads.

Team to make it to the Finals – Los Angeles Lakers

Let me repeat this: young, talented, motivated and oddly while being so young, experienced. Combine those factors with the fact that they have the best player on the planet playing for them, the Lakers could open a lot of eyes by beating the West easily, again.

Finals Pick – Cavs vs. Lakers

It'll be exactly what the fans, the networks and the NBA will want: the two best players on the planet, slugging it out for NBA supremacy. It will also be time for people to stop saying that Kobe Bryant can not win an NBA title without Shaq. The Lakers depth and fire-power along with their ability to defend any team in the post will prove too much for the Cavaliers. Still, the rivalry shall begin.

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