Friday, February 8, 2008

Bestern Conference

The big story in the NBA this year has been the logjam in the Western Conference. As of right now, there are currently 10 teams within 5.5 games of first place in the West, including 6 within 2.5.

The general story of this is that there is a fairly good chance that a 50-win team (or at least 45-win team) will miss the playoffs. Portland is the most likely candidate, currently holding onto the 10 spot, but already with its ups and downs this season. Another semi-long downturn could send them tumbling. Golden State could join them if they continue to give an aging Chris Webber minutes.

5.5 games is nothing. On December 29th, roughly a month and a half ago, the Utah Jazz were 16-16, trailing the 18-11 Denver Nuggets by 3.5 games. One Kyle Korver induced winning streak later and the Jazz are leading the division by 2 games.

With the recent turmoil around the top of the West, things could get interesting from here on out. Will the addition of Pau Gasol and eventual return of Andrew Bynum be enough to push the Lake Show to a top seed in the West (2.5 games)? Will Damon Stoudamire fill the shoes of an injured Tony Parker and allow the Spurs to catch Dallas and guarantee home-court in the first round (1.5 games)? Will Jason Kidd's decision start a team on a surefire path to the title (No.)?

The Marion-for-Shaq trade has had its fair share of critics so far. The Basketball Jones put a one-year statute of limitations on Shaq's usefulness to the Suns team. However, if the team takes too long to gel, or if he doesn't fit altogether, we might not just see the Suns drop out of the top spot, they could miss the playoffs altogether. If that happens, Steve Kerr should hope that TNT and Yahoo! still want him back, because the city of Phoenix won't.