Western Conference Postseason Analysis Part II

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By Paul M. Banks & Andy Weise 
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Is Dallas going to hold on to a spot? If they have another postseason flop, does that mean an off season shakeup is on the way?
 

Dirk came back (and thanks to someone who actually dropped him in a fantasy basketball league I am in!) and played last night, which provided the team with a boost. Just having Dirk on the floor makes things a lot easier for all the other players. Let me just say this, there’s a good chance Dirk or Avery Johnson are no longer with the Mavericks if they don’t make the playoffs this year. Mark Cuban is going to have a hard enough time if they lose again in the first round yet alone not make the playoffs completely. They already traded their future in Devin Harris for the immediate help in Jason Kidd. I think Johnson would rather have a power forward who is willing to get physical in the paint, something Dirk shys away from. It will be an interesting off season in Dallas.
 

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Who looks like the winners and losers now in the Phoenix and Dallas’ trades?
 
I still think Phoenix had to do the Marion-Shaq trade. Was Marion better for the Suns’ style of play than Shaq? Probably, but Shaq’s presence has been a huge benefit to Amare Stoudemire’s game. Even Steve Nash is coming out and saying that Amare should be MVP. I think that’s a bit of a stretch but you have to take notice of how much better Stoudemire has played since the arrival of Shaq. As far as the Kidd trade, it’s a win-win for both teams if Dallas makes the playoffs and does some damage (i.e. get passed the first round) and if New Jersey can bounce back next year and make a run in the weaker Eastern Conference.
 

What fuels the Rockets, when they don’t have Yao?
 
Great question! It’s hard to figure out — even McGrady isn’t 100%, so what gives? I think Rafer Alston has actually started to play well this year. Mentally, he might finally be getting it. Shane Battier is a great piece to the Rockets puzzle and rookie Luis Scola has shown that he has belongs in the NBA. Remember Scola was actually property of the Spurs until this past offseason when his rights were traded to Houston. Yes, Scola could have been on the Spurs. I think you have to give some credit to Mutombo, he continually proves he can compete night in and night out with players much quicker than him. It shows that if you stay in decent condition and are still mentally strong enough, you’re still very capable of being a good NBA player. Bobby Jackson has also been a solid pickup for the Rockets. Can you believe Jackson is already 35? Where do these years go?

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And with the tough grind ahead for the Western teams, the west winner will really have a challenge to reach the finals, the Celtics on the other hand have it all wrapped up and a much easier time…how will this change the complexion of the Finals?
 

It’s kind of funny, if the playoffs started today Boston would get a seven game series with the Atlanta Hawks. That’s a four game sweep right there unless the Celtics play horrible one game. On the other side, New Orleans starts off with Denver and the Spurs get Dallas. I’d be very surprised if both of those series went less than 6 games. If the Hornets and Spurs both win in six, then let’s say Phoenix and the Lakers advance. The Suns get the Hornets and the Lakers face the Spurs. Do you see those series going short? Boston on the other side faces Cleveland probably. The Celtics would have a decent test but probably win in 5. The only test Boston really faces is against Detroit in the ECF. Boston could come away playing around 15 or 16 games total whereas the Spurs or Hornets could easily play 18 or 19, and against much tougher opponents. I’d be very surprised if a beat up Western Conference team beats the Celtics in the NBA finals at this point.

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Banks’ questions in italics, Weise’s answers in normal type

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