Updated: November 25, 2009, 2:57 PM ET
Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images Greg Oden, who has made 20 of his last 25 shots, has the Blazers' hopes at the tip of his fingers.

1. West Playoff Forecast: Thunder In, Spurs Out

By Tim Legler
Four weeks of action in the 2009-10 NBA season have given us a good outline of how this season might play out. In fact, I've changed my projection of how I initially saw the field of playoff teams in the West.

The Dallas Mavericks in particular have moved up. This team is playing with a lot of energy, getting guys to buy into roles. Notably, Jason Kidd has transformed himself into a consistent 3-point shooter, something you couldn't say about him in his last season in New Jersey. That shooting has helped open up the offense and spread the floor.

On the downside, the San Antonio Spurs have looked so disinterested, they actually moved out of the playoffs. I thought the additions of Richard Jefferson and DeJuan Blair would give them some energy, along with Manu Ginobili being healthy (he's not). But the Spurs, who moved back to .500 with a win Monday over Milwaukee, have not played with a whole lot of passion. Still, we've learned not to write the final book on them until spring.

Come April, here's how I see the Western Conference playoff seeds playing out from 1 to 8:

1. Los Angeles Lakers -- When Andrew Bynum is playing this well, this Lakers team is scary. Complacency is the only thing that keeps them from challenging 65-70 wins. Clearly the best in the West.

2. Dallas Mavericks -- They've been a nice surprise when this could have been a team headed in the opposite direction. They've played good defense. Dirk Nowitzki has been one of the 2 or 3 best fourth-quarter players this year. The Mavs have done a good job spreading around the job of helping him carry the scoring load, sometimes Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, J.J. Barea, Kidd and others. This team is playing with a lot more energy than it did a year ago.

3. Phoenix Suns -- Good to see the Suns back to being themselves. I understand that you need to be able to compete when the game slows down in playoff basketball -- but that doesn't matter if you don't make the playoffs in the first place.

So the Suns are back to letting Steve Nash make great decisions and pick an opponent apart better than anybody. The team has had some unexpected contributions from Channing Frye and solid play from Grant Hill, while Jason Richardson has just been great.

The Suns finally got back to who they were: Nash and Amare Stoudemire in the middle of the floor, running the pick-and-roll, surrounded by 3-point shooters outside.

4. Denver Nuggets -- Carmelo Anthony is in the best shape of his life and looks to be more committed to winning than at any point in his career. He's taken on a leadership role. It's much easier to get role players to follow when the best player sets the tone.

5. Portland Trail Blazers -- An improving team whose key will be continuing to get consistent play from Greg Oden, who had a big night Monday in the win over Chicago. He needs to be a guy who finishes around the rim (he's shooting an NBA-best 64 percent from the field) and is a deterrent at the other end. He's off to a good start.

6. Houston Rockets -- If you looked up the word "team" in the dictionary, you would find the Rockets. They take off fewer plays than anybody else in the league. They have very few blown assignments. On offense, it's going to be a struggle to score. Coach Rick Adelman keeps his fingers crossed that somebody will get hot.

Trevor Ariza has more than lived up to what was expected (18.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists) to earn his money. Regarding Tracy McGrady's injury history: If I'm Adelman, I coach the team as if T-Mac won't return.

7. Utah Jazz -- The Jazz are playing their best ball of the season now. However, until they learn to win on the road in a good team's arena, we can't take them seriously as a contending team, even with the talent they have. You must win on the road.

8. Oklahoma City Thunder -- Their day is coming. Russell Westbrook was my preseason pick to be a breakout player. Kevin Durant will be a scoring champ one day. James Harden has come in and done a good job as a rookie in the sixth-man role.

This team looks like they're having lots of fun playing together. They have the parts to become the next formidable team to rise in the West, whether it's this season or next.

ESPN analyst Tim Legler is a regular contributor to the Daily Dime.

Dimes past: November 6-7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13-14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 20-21 | 22

2. What's About T-Mac In N.Y.?

By Chris Sheridan

Brandon (RVC, NY): Do you see the Knicks making a move for Tracy McGrady? Motivation would appear to be present on both ends, and the knicks have expiring contracts to match up. Thoughts?

Chris Sheridan: I see the motivation on the Knicks' part -- I have always said McGrady is their panacea, if they can get Houston to take on Eddy Curry/Jeffries in such a deal -- but I think the Rockets would be silly to take either of those bad Knicks contracts unless what came along with it was too good to pass up, and I can't see N.Y. putting together a package of anything -- unless you start throwing in multiple future No. 1 picks -- that would make the Rockets bite.

To read the entire Sheridan chat wrap, click here

3. Daily Dime Live Recap

ESPN.com writers and TrueHoop Network bloggers chatted with fans and gave their in-game opinions throughout Monday night's slate of games -- all in Daily Dime Live.

4. Grizz Producing Up Front

Elias Sports Bureau

The Grizzlies' Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph each scored at least 15 points and shot better than 50 percent from the floor in Monday's game. It was the second time in less than a week that all three starters in Memphis' frontcourt did that, after not having done so in more than two years.

More from Elias Sports Bureau


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