Once again we have reached that time of the year. The time where mediocre teams fade into oblivion, great teams showcase their superiority, unknown players rise from obscurity to become household names and legacies are cemented. That’s right! It is win or go home time, also know as the NBA playoffs! Considering all the moves made during the past season, this year’s playoffs should be an exciting journey for all sports enthusiasts.
Though there are 16 teams that make it to the postseason there is really only a need to discuss five or six of them as real contenders to make it to the finals. However, I’ll start with the obvious pretenders.
To begin, you can count Indiana, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Memphis, New Orleans, and Portland out of the championship series. To keep it short and plain, these teams just do not have what it takes to contend with teams like Miami, Los Angeles and Boston. It is that simple.
Now there are some teams that look like contenders put are really just pretenders in disguise.
At the top of that list I have the Dallas Mavericks and Orlando Magic. Both teams possess most of what it takes to win a championship. They have star power, deep rosters and good coaches however; they lack the mental and physical toughness to be true contenders.
In addition these teams, you have others that are a maybe one year or two away from being legitimate contenders.
The teams that fit this description best include Denver, New York and Oklahoma City. I think all three teams have great potential and are one year or one great trade away from being true contenders. However, I do not think they have what it takes to go all the way this season. Oklahoma just needs a little more experience and both Denver and New York need to make one miracle roster move (i.e. the Lakers in 2008) to become great.
Now lets move on to the true contenders.
First, lets begin the Boston Celtics. They could definitely be my pick to come out the Eastern conference. They have everything needed to become champions again; great coaching, a deep roster, experience and multiple stars. However the one thing they don’t have is health. Teams won’t win if they can’t put their best players on the court and the Celtics definitely need a healthy Shaquille O’Neal to beat Miami , Los Angeles or Chicago.
The San Antonio Spurs are the healthy version of the Boston Celtics. The one thing that may hold them back is their age. Do they have the legs to compete for an entire postseason? I don’t believe they do but time will tell.
The Chicago Bulls have had a wonderful season. The Bulls haven’t played this well since Michael Jordan retired the second time and its all due to the play of leading MVP candidate Derrick Rose. The Bulls great play begins and ends with Rose and that could be a bad thing. Even great players occasionally have nights off in the postseason and great teams have other players that they can turn to during these times. Unfortunately, I am not sure if Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng are ready for the spotlight.
Ever since LeBron James uttered those infamous words, the Miami Heat have been everyone’s pick to make it the championship, and for good reason. They have arguably two of the top three players in the NBA and we’ve seen that formula work before (Jordan and Pippen’s Bulls as well as Kobe and Shaq’s Lakers). However ,will the lack of depth and good coaching cost Miami in the end?
Now we have all heard the critics of Los Angeles. Kobe is too old! Pau Gasol is too soft! Andrew Bynum can’t stay healthy! However, despite all of this the only thing the Lakers have done is go to three consecutive NBA finals including winning the last two. No matter what anyone says about the Lakers, they have proven they have what it takes to win. In fact, winning too often maybe their Achilles heel as they Lakers have proven to play unmotivated at times. If anything costs the Lakers a championship it will probably be this.
No matter who wins the NBA championship, one thing is for certain. This years playoffs will be memorable. Could we possibly see the Knicks and Heat renew their rivalry from the late 90s? Will Oklahoma continue to play beyond their years? Could we finally see Kobe versus LeBron in the finals?
Whatever happens, I am sure this years playoffs will be one of the best in recent memory.