With the NBA Finals underway, it’s
time to look at the top teams in the
playoffs this year, and try to predict
who will be back next year and
which teams may struggle to repeat
their 2010-2011 performance. This
is the first of a two part series, this
issue covering the top teams in the
Western Conference, and the next
covering the Eastern Conference.
Western Conference.

Dallas – This
season has been
a Cinderella
story for Dallas.
They’re an older
team with a history
of choking
in the playoffs. They went from being
the team most likely to be upset
to the team that
may win the Finals
this year. Most
NBA fans will
be happy to see
perennial All-Star
Dirk Nowitski
finally get a ring
if the Mavs win
it all, but this
may be their last
chance to do it.
With a 38-yearold
point guard in
Jason Kidd, and
Notwitski nearing
his mid-30s as well, this might very
well be their last shot. I still see
them in the playoffs next year, but
not as a legitimate title contender.
Oklahoma City –The
Thunder is a
young team
with two of the
most exciting
players in the
game, Kevin
Durant and Russell Westbrook.
They also have a solid young front
court in Kendrick Perkins and Serge
Ibaka to complement their potent
scoring duo. Expect to see them
vying for the top spot in the West
next year.
Los Angeles
Lakers
– The
Lakers got old
suddenly in the
playoff series
against Dallas. Kobe took a visible
step back this season; Lamar
Odom is getting up there in age, and
Andrew Bynum struggles to stay
healthy. If the Lakers don’t make
some noise in the off-season, it’s
very likely they’ll fail to get a topfour
seed next year.
Memphis
The Grizzlies
were everyone’s
favorite underdog
this offseason
coming
in as the eighth
seed and beating
the top-ranked Spurs. However, the
Grizzlies relied on Zach Randolph
and Tony Allen to get them there,
both of whom have historically been
volatile players.The team also has
contracts up this year, including
Center Marc Gasol. While getting
back the injured Rudy Gay next year
will help, it’s unlikely that the Grizzlies
will be able to repeat their success.
I don’t see them in the playoffs
next season.
The Rest – The end of an era,
the Spurs this year got the top seed
in the West but showed their age
against the Grizzlies. This may be
the Spurs’ last hurrah. Portland
will be back next year, but they are
relying on the health of two injuryplagued
players in Brandon Roy
and Greg Oden. New Orleans will
always be competitive with Chris
Paul around, but their financial issues
could keep them from acquiring
the pieces they need. Denver has
the look of a team on the rise with
young stars all over the court. Look
for them to be active in the off-season
and exciting to watch next year.
Some teams in the West that could
take the next step include: the Clippers,
with emerging superstar Blake
Griffin; the Rockets, with a solid
backcourt in Kyle Lowry and Kevin
Martin; Golden State, with the electrifying
duo of Stephen Curry and
Monta Ellis; and perhaps Sacramento,
with volatile youngsters Tyreke
Evans and DeMarcus Cousins.
Brandon Niles has done online freelance
writing about the NFL since
2007. His articles range from NFL
news to team-specific commentary.
A Communication Studies graduate
student at the University of North
Carolina Greensboro, Niles is also an
avid Miami Dolphins fan, which has
led to his becoming an avid Scotch fan.