Yes, I think that if they can make it to the Finals, I'd have them winning it all. Still, I will still put the Lakers there first. Should the Mavs and Lakers meet in the 2nd round or in the Conference Finals, I think that the series will go to 7 games. With that, Dallas could beat the Lakers; it's not out of the question (although I think it was out of the question about a month ago).
Most experts think that the Nuggets are the team that could beat the Lakers, but I just don't see it. Their BIGS are too injury prone, and I don't think they're all that good anyway.
You line-up Nene against Bynum, and I think that match-up favors the Lakers (albeit slightly because Nene is a little more savvy as a player, although not necessarily better and certainly less talented).
Chris Andersen vs Lamar Odom, again the advantage goes to the Lakers. Maybe Andersen gives his team more of a lift energy-wise, but Odom is a far better and more productive player. The only edge Andersen has over Odom is his shot-blocking; although he's not necessarily a great defender (and Odom is an underrated defender because no one ever gives him credit for his defense).
Finally amongst the BIGS, there's Kenyon Martin vs. Pau Gasol, where Gasol is unquestionably the superior player in every way. People will say that Gasol isn't that tough (perhaps that true), and that Martin is a physical force (perhaps that's true too), but I think that Martin only really shows his nasty side once his team is blowing-out the other team; which should tell you everything you need to know about Martin's character.
If Artest has lost a step - and he probably has - he's still mobile enough to stay with Carmelo Anthony. Actually, Artest can't keep up with the quick guards anymore, but I happen to think that Artest's best match-up (defensively) is against SF-type guys like Anthony and LeBron. Carmelo is actually quite strong, physically and mentally, and I think he can he'll ultimately win that match-up (he is after all the superior player), but Artest's focus is to take Anthony out of his comfort zone, while getting Anthony to exhaust most of his energy (which I think he'll be able to do).
Considering that the Nuggets don't really have a player who can shut down Kobe, at least from the shooting guard position, then the Lakers have a considerable advantage right there. I'd have to think that Carmelo can actually play great defense against Kobe - he's done it before - but that means he's going to have to switch on the defensive end, and again, that'll require him to expend too much energy, which isn't a good thing because he's their most valuable player on the offensive end.
If the Nuggets somehow defeat the Lakers, it would have to be because they match-up favorably at the PG position. Derek Fisher is just too slow these days, and although Chauncey Billups isn't necessarily a speedy PG, he's quick enough to blow past Fisher, and sharp enough to nail deep shots. Shannon Brown would be a better match-up, but Phil Jackson loves playing Fisher first. So, if Melo is tired from taking a beating on both end of the court (Artest/Bryant), Billups will have to be 'ON' for the entire series. He can very streaky for games at a time, but I don't see this happening. Amazingly and surprisingly, Billups choked in the Western Conference Finals versus the Lakers last spring.
I can't see the Nuggets getting past the Lakers. The Lakers win pretty much every match-up, except at PG. While I agree that Trevor Ariza (given his age and his ability to nail long-bombs consistently) was probably a better long-term fit for the Lakers, I think that Artest - at least against the Nuggets and the Cavs - is actually better in the short-term.
Should the Nuggets be so fortunate as not to have to face the Lakers, they match-up well against most other teams in the entire league. It's all about match-ups, and I just don't think that the Nuggets match-up well against the Lakers.
The Mavericks on the other hand, do. I think that the threesome of Nowitzki/Dampier/Haywood is almost a wash against the Lakers front-court of Gasol/Odom/Bynum. I think that the Lakers BIGS are more talented, but the Mavs have a bit more bulk. Gasol is an awesome low-post threat, but Dirk is an equally impressive threat from long-distance.
If the Lakers starters are better, or even players 1-through-6 are better, the Mavs are better 1-though-8, and certainly 1-through-12 (although I'm not so sure that the end of the bench matters THAT much). I also think that literally at each position, the Mavs have a completely different kind of a line-up than the Lakers do. I think in a series, that bodes well for them. I would pick the Lakers to win this series, in 7 games, but I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Dallas wins it either. Kidd and Nowitzki have a very short window of opportunity to win the whole thing, and this is as good of a time as any. As far as I'm concerned, this is easily the best overall Mavs line-up over the past decade. Yes, even better than the team that went to the Finals 4 years ago (much better actually), or any of the deep teams while Steve Nash was there.
I would also think that the JAZZ could potentially beat the Lakers, although, again, I would pick the Lakers as the favorites (winning that series in 6 games). The Jazz are another deep team (not as much as the Mavs though), although their SG position is the one weak-link (why did they get rid of Ronnie Brewer?). Boozer, Okur, and Millsap, are a more favorable match-up than what the Nuggets can throw-out there. I think that the Lakers have a superior front-court, but not by much. They're playing great over the past while, and they've got one of the top PG in the game in Deron Williams who's as solid and consistent as they come. As a team, I think that they can shoot the ball better than the Lakers can (18-feet and out).
Between the Mavs and the Jazz though, I don't think the Jazz could win it all, whereas I think the Mavs can.
From Micro-donk, to SuperNova in 12 months!