The others out West

The Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs dominated the NBA’s Western Conference in the 2000s. The two teams combined for nine conference titles over the last 10 seasons.

It’s clear the Spurs are not as strong as in previous years, so the West is open to contenders looking to knock off the defending champion Lakers.

Dallas Mavericks

Outside of the Lakers and Spurs, the Mavericks were the only other team out west to earn a Finals berth. After losing to the Miami Heat in six games, Dallas hasn’t been able to regain its 2006 playoff swagger.

One trade, though, has the Mavs thinking championship when Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood came over from the Washington Wizards before the deadline.

The Mavericks filled two spots in their starting rotation and now match up with the Lakers better than ever.

Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets are familiar with the Lakers in a playoff setting, but not in a good way. Los Angeles has sent Denver packing for two straight years in the playoffs.

Led by Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, the Nuggets are tough to count out thanks to its high-scoring offense. Denver is second in the NBA in points per game.

Denver hasn’t had difficulty beating the best teams in the league, as the Nuggets are 24-11 against teams .500 or better, as of Feb. 26.

Utah Jazz

Like the Nuggets, the Lakers have disposed of the Jazz for two years running.

The Jazz are an intriguing team. Every year, the talent is undeniable in Utah, but injuries always seem to get the best of the Jazz.

Utah is one of the few teams in the league that can play multiple styles and can match up with just about every team.

The Jazz experienced a ton of problems when playing on the road last season going 15-26. Utah has played well away from home going 14-12, as of Feb. 26.

Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer provide a solid foundation. As long as the Jazz can avoid injuries, they will be players in the West.

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