Dirk hopes Jason means no more awful first round exits. Jason hopes Dirk is healthy. Getty Images

Dallas Mavericks
Would Rather See: Rockets, Suns
Would Rather Avoid: Jazz, Spurs

The Yao-less Rockets will give Jason Kidd & Co. the ability to do damage insideand out, if they opt to find the open man. And if you think the Suns' interior D is bad now, imagine Shaq or Amaré being forced to defend Dirk Nowitzki (assuming he's healthy) on the perimeter. Different story with the Jazz, which have the Turkish Dirk in Mehmet Okur and Deron Williams, a point guard Kidd can't post. The Mavericks also should be wary of the Spurs because Dallas has no answer for a healthy Manu Ginobili.

Golden State Warriors
Would Rather See: Hornets, Suns
Would Rather Avoid: Jazz, Lakers

Now that Phoenix has Shaq, the Warriors are the NBA's best true up-tempo team. They wouldn't mind seeing the Suns or the Hornets, since they have the perfect antidote for Steve Nash (Baron Davis) and Peja Stojakovic (Stephen Jackson). But the Lakers and Jazz present problems. Both have the depth and athleticism to run with the Warriors, plus the half-court, low-post threats to take them apart when the pace slows.

Houston Rockets
Would Rather See: Hornets
Would Rather Avoid: Jazz, Lakers, Spurs

Come the playoffs, the Rockets' 22-game win streak won't win them any more games; they'll live and die by their experience in the crunch. A matchup against the Hornetsled by Chris Paul, David West and Tyson Chandlerfavors Tracy McGrady, Rafer Alston and Shane Battier. But the Jazz, Lakers and Spurs all have core players who've marched deep into the postseason, a path way easier to find if you've been down it before.

Los Angeles Lakers
Would Rather See: Rockets, Warriors
Would Rather Avoid: Spurs

Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant won't be rattled by Oracle Arena's crazies or Golden State's helter-skelter style. As for the Rockets, it's still all about T-Mac. Can you see him making his playoff bones against Kobe? Neither can we. The Spurs, though, have muscled many an upstart out of the playoffs. And if the Lakers have a weakness, it's that a couple of key playersnamely, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasolare known to wilt in the postseason.

New Orleans Hornets
Would Rather See: Rockets, Suns
Would Rather Avoid: Jazz, Spurs

The Rockets have barely more playoff experience than the Hornets. Plus, Houston's best D against a penetrating Chris Paul is 41-year-old Dikembe Mutombo. Meanwhile, New Orleans is 40 against Phoenix this season. On the flip side, the Jazz stalled the Hornets' attack to the tune of 90 ppg in three head-to-heads this season. And Williams gives Paul fits. Another tough matchup for Paul: the Spurs, who have the discipline and strategy to keep him contained.

Phoenix Suns
Would Rather See: Hornets, Rockets, Spurs
Would Rather Avoid: Lakers, Mavericks, Warriors

Getting Shaq was all about beating the Spurs, so Phoenix wants to prove the gamble wise. Houston, meanwhile, with its slow pace and second-tier big men, is the only team that can't run Shaq off the floor. The Hornets can, but their bigsnotably Tyson Chandlerhave little playoff run. Now the bad news: Shaq will have a hard time staying with the small and fast Warriors. And his having bolted the Lakers and beaten the Mavs in the 2006 Finals means those folks want revenge.

San Antonio Spurs
Would Rather See: Hornets, Rockets
Would Rather Avoid: Warriors, Mavericks

Vast playoff experience vs. none sums up a Spurs-Hornets series. As for the Rockets, the thinking league-wide is that Tracy McGrady still doesn't have the grit to improve upon his 06 postseason series record. (By comparison, Tony Parker has a mark of 153.) A record-setting regular-season win streak doesn't change that; it puts him under more pressure. Meanwhile, Spurs boss Gregg Popovich doesn't love battling his pals. That's what would happen if San Antonio drew Pops' ol' drinking buddy Don Nelson (Warriors) or ex-PG Avery Johnson (Mavs).

Utah Jazz
Would Rather See: Hornets, Rockets, Warriors
Would Rather Avoid: Lakers

Utah fouls more than any other NBA team (24.34 pg), which is why it wants the worst free-throw-shooting, playoff-bound teams, Houston and Golden State. Plus, with Deron Williams at the point, the Jazz can run with up-tempo teams, especially at home, where they average 107 ppg. Their weakest link? Shooting guard. Against the Lakers, that translates into a slower game, with Kobe setting up shop at the free throw line.