Entire West is best

Apr 15, 2008 7:00 PM

Feist Facts by Jim Feist | It’s been a long haul, this 82-game NBA regular season, but the playoffs are just around the corner. This week it’s the best of the West, the conference that has won seven of the last nine NBA titles.

Hornets: Where did these kids come from? At age 22, Chris Paul is the most electrifying guard in the league, with 21 points and over 11 assists per game. He runs fits around opposing defenses with his quickness and playmaking ability. David West (20 PPG, 9 RPG) and Tyson Chandler (11 PPG, 12 RPG) are rebounding machines in the low post.

Veteran Peja Stojakovic (16 PPG) has stepped into a good situation and adds the outside game. New Orleans is a sizzling 25-12 SU, 23-13 ATS on the road and 12-9 SU, 13-8 ATS as a dog.

Suns: Phoenix took a lot of criticism for changing in midseason, trading Shawn Marion for an aging Shaquille O’Neal. They wanted Shaq in a limited role, to play defense, pound the boards and do more pick and roles on offense.

A healthy Amare Stoudemire, at 6-foot-10 and just 25, leads the Suns with 25 points and 9.3 boards per game. Steve Nash just turned 34 but doesn’t show it. Nash leads the break with 11.2 assists and over 17 points per contest. The Suns are on a 12-4 SU, 11-4-1 ATS run.

Lakers: The question with LA is not how good they are, but how healthy? center Andrew Bynum, a 7-foot-center averaged 17.3 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots in six games in January before getting hurt. They hope he can return for the playoffs. Pau Gasol is back from an injury and rounding into form, though coach Phil Jackson didn’t like the early effort last week against Sacramento.

Combined with Kobe Bryant (28.7 PPG), Lamar Odom (14 PPG, 10.5 RPG), and outstanding role players in Derek Fisher and Luke Walton, this is a talented, young team when healthy. The Lakers are 15-6 ATS as a dog.

Jazz: The kids in Utah are getting better as they grow up. Utah has a dynamite 1-2 punch in workhorse Carlos Boozer (21.4 PPG, 10.5 RPG) and lightening quick Deron Williams (19 PPG). There is excellent depth with Mehmet Okur (14.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG), and role players like Ronnie Brewer, Andrei Kirilenko and Paul Millsap.

Utah is nearly unbeatable at home, starting 35-4 SU and 27-12 ATS. On the road, however, the Jazz are just 16-22 SU and 15-23 ATS. You’ve got to be able to bring your ‘A’ game on the road in the postseason if you want to advance.

Spurs: San Antonio knows what it takes to play championship basketball in the postseason, having won titles in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007. The Spurs allow just 44 percent shooting by opponents (fifth best) and an NBA West low 90 PPG.

This is a veteran team with defensive stalwarts Tim Duncan and Bruce Bowen. The Spurs have offensive stars in Duncan, sparkplug Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili along with role players in Brent Barry and Michael Finley. They appeared to coast in midseason while battling injuries, but are healthy now and on a roll (9-1 SU, 7-3 ATS). The last three years in the Alamodome, the Spurs have gone 27-20, 27-15 and 21-15 under the total. San Antonio is only 5-10 SU and 6-9 ATS as a dog.

Mavericks: No one knows what to make of Dallas. A year ago, they were the favorites to win the title after a dominating regular season. Then came another playoff flop, this time to Golden State in the first round. They really haven’t recovered, even going so far as to shake things up in midseason by trading away youth and depth for veteran Jason Kidd.

Dallas has star power behind 7-foot Dirk Nowitzki (23.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg) and Kidd, a quick guard in Jason Terry (15 ppg), sparkplug Josh Howard (20 ppg) and sixth-man Jerry Stackhouse. There’s enough talent to be a great team, but there appears to be something missing. Dallas is 4-10 ATS as a dog and poor 17-22 SU, 18-21 ATS on the road. The Mavs are the only team wouldn’t shock you if they made the Finals or got swept in the first round.