Looking Ahead to the Western Conference Finals

With both Western semifinals series tied 2-2, it’s anyone’s guess who will meet in the Western Finals. It may or may not be the best series of the playoffs. Boston, Detroit or Cleveland will have something to say about that. But it will be a dynamite series no matter the match up.

This is the traditionalist pick (and mine, for what it’s worth). The Spurs have owned the West over the past few years, and the Lakers are a stories franchise that appears on the brink of greatness again. With the reigning MVP and a cast of young talent – not to mention injured Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza – the Lakers should be contending for the next several seasons. This also doubles as a “team of the decade” battle. Only once since 1998 has a Western Final been played without either the Lakers or Spurs involved.

For the love of point guards, who wouldn’t love to see Chris Paul and Deron Williams go at it in a best-of-seven series with a trip to the championship on the line? The third year wonders were picked back-to-back in the 2005 draft are arguably the best point guards playing. But while Paul finished second in the MVP vote, Williams hasn’t even been voted to an all-star team. That figures to change as soon as next season, but he’d first like to add a ring to his résumé.

Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul were first and second, respectively, for the MVP. Why not settle it the old fashioned way? The top two seeds in the West have the home court edge to advance, though both are currently riding two-game losing streaks. Hornets coach Byron Scott won three titles playing with the Lakers in the 80s.

A rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals would be a great series, but it’s not a network favorite. San Antonio and Utah are not flashy cities, and the Spurs and Jazz are not flashy teams, which is indicative of their head coaches. San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich has been coaching the Spurs since the 1996-97 season. That would be the longest tenure in the league if not for Utah’s Jerry Sloan, who has been coaching the Jazz since the 1988-89 campaign. No other active coach has been with his team for more than five straight years. (Phil Jackson took a year off between stints as the Lakers head coach.

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