We are coming towards the end of another strong NBA season & of course, that means the NBA Playoffs will be coming our way very soon. This season, there are quite a few teams who look like they could be contenders to the Miami Heat & their championship throne, & we will break down each one of the contenders that we think could have a strong run to an NBA Finals or even the NBA Championship.
Now, I think I have been pretty much spot on with many predictions this year, with the big exception of the Detroit Pistons, who definitely didn’t live up to the expectations that I had for them going into the season, but that’s cool though. The Eastern Conference ended up not being as strong as I thought they would be early on, but as the season continued, everyone got straight & teams started to learn how to play with each other on a stronger level.
A team in the East that I thought would have been a lot stronger was the Cleveland Cavs, especially with the leadership of young point guard Kyrie Irving. Now, unlike the NFL where one player doesn’t fully decide the fate of your entire organization on a nightly basis (unless you are Peyton Manning), the NBA is far more individualized & more stylized & one player can affect the fortunes of your franchise.
It has been rough sledding for the Cavs in the sense that there isn’t any help around Irving in terms of any other great scoring, but Irving & Dion Waiters need help in order for the franchise to get better, but I will comment more on that another time.
Tonight’s post is about teams who can win the NBA Championship, so here we go.
The Miami Heat Can Just Win The NBA Championship Again.
While we talk about competitors to the throne & all, the Miami Heat are in decent enough position to just go ahead & win the NBA Finals for a 3rd straight time, which would be the first time since the Lakers did it in the early 2000s.
|The Miami Heat trio of LeBron James (left), Chris Bosh (right) & Dwayne|
Wade (center) could have tough competition in the NBA Playoffs this year.
Obviously, the Heat have the Big 3 in LeBron, Wade & Bosh, but this team is far more than just those three. Mario Chalmers has been strong at the point guard position, Shane Battier brings great defense & timely shooting, Ray Allen brings the experience & timely shooting as well, & Chris “Birdman” Andersen brings great energy & hustle on rebounds & banging down low in the post.
To go up against the Indiana Pacers, the team that everyone feels as though will be their toughest test to the NBA Finals, the team picked up F Michael Beasley from Phoenix as well as C Greg Oden, who both have played well in spot minutes this season. The players are really on the team just to bring extra bodies against the Pacers in a potential Eastern Conference Finals matchup but can be important in drawing fouls on Roy Hibbert, David West & Andrew Bynum.
Why The Miami Heat Won’t Win The Championship
Health. Flat out. The team is pretty much healthy going into the playoff run with the exception of one of the big three in Dwayne Wade. Wade has been through the grind of many seasons in the league & with the nature of the way Wade played early in his career in terms of taking many falls & hits to the floor, his knees & body overall, he has had to miss a variety of games this season in order to get ready for a playoff run. There is the possibly that Dwayne Wade could be thinking about retirement soon & if so, that could end up being a motivational factor for the Heat to have one more championship for one of the cornerstones of the entire Heat franchise. No one knows if Wade’s body is ready for the grind of a championship run since his body probably feels as though he has gone through a grueling NFL season as opposed to an NBA season, but if Wade is not healthy enough to be effective in the playoffs, this is going to be a tough situation for the Heat to go up against the Pacers or a team from the west where its only LeBron James being the main primary scorer. Bosh will be a help but he has to also think about rebounds & assists & sometimes shot blocks in the post.
It Could Be The Indiana Pacers’ Time To Shine.
The Pacers have been a franchise on the rise for the last 3 seasons, ever since Head Coach Frank Vogel came in & made the Pacers into a tough-minded, defensive club that will grind, hustle & fight for every point they receive.
|Indiana Pacers Forward Paul George will be a big key|
to the Pacers going back to the NBA Finals & beating
the Miami Heat.
Center Roy Hibbert has become one of the most dominant big men in the NBA this season, Paul George has become a go-to player with his strong wing play & the ability to get to the basket as well as shoot the three-point shot consistently. The team got rid of Danny Granger, who was destined to become one of the best shooters in the league for a while before injuries slowed down his progress, but guards George Hill & Lance Stevenson have made up for not having Granger in the lineup the last few seasons & have given the team more of that edge that they will need to go up against Miami.
The Pacers hung in with the Heat last year in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals all the way until the Heat showed their championship experience in Game 7, but the Pacers have clearly learned from that experience & make no bones about the fact that they want to get back to the NBA Finals & specifically want to go through the Miami Heat to get there. As mentioned earlier, the team signed free-agent & many-time malcontent center Andrew Bynum to spell Hibbert & to neutralize the Heat big men in Oden, Bosh & “Birdman” Andersen.
Why The Pacers Won’t Win The NBA Championship.
Talent. Simply talent. The Pacers have everything else to win the East & get to the NBA Finals, but if the Miami Heat turn up their intensity & play to another level, there isn’t a team in the league that can hang with the Heat for 48 minutes. The Pacers have very few weaknesses, but sometimes, when you are going against one of the greats of all-time in LeBron James & couple that with Wade, Bosh, Allen & the rest, & they are on their game, not too much that can be done.
The Oklahoma City Thunder Are Playing Like An NBA Championship Team.
This has been an interesting season for the Oklahoma City Thunder who have had to deal with a variety of injuries – particularly Russell Westbrook, great play from MVP candidate Kevin Durant, strong play again from Serge Ibaka & great leadership from Derek Fisher & young player Jeremy Lamb.
|Oklahoma City Thunder F Kevin Durant has taken the next step this year|
to becoming one of the most elite players in the NBA as well as the favorite for the
NBA MVP award.
The Thunder have put it all together this season & Durant has become more comfortable in terms of leading a team for long stretches of time during the season when it wasn’t clear about the state of Westbrook’s knee. In January, Durant was unstoppable, seeming like every night he was putting up anywhere from 30 to 50+ points a game & really throwing his name into the race for the MVP & making people question if he is the best overall player in the league right now.
An important addition for the Thunder this season for the stretch run is F Caron Butler, who will come in & give great offensive firepower to team, that has been looking for another offensive threat that can at least give half of the contribution of what James Harden & Kevin Martin gave in the past seasons.
Why the Thunder Won’t Win The NBA Championship
The West is absolutely loaded with teams that can match up with OKC very well. Golden State is a far better shooting team than the Thunder with Stephen Curry & Klay Thompson & the strong play down low from Andrew Bogut & David Lee able to knock around the Thunder some.
The Spurs have far more experience than the Thunder & will know how to have a man in Durant’s face every time he tries to step out for the 3 or go zone when Durant drives his head to the hole. If Durant is having a great night, the team will run that same zone style to stop Westbrook from going to the hole on a consistent basis & make him a pure jump shooter, which we know Westbrook has the tendency to take wild jump shots & lose composure in big situations.
The Clippers are playing far better defense this year & has the athletes that can run with OKC & if Fisher is seeing any extended time on the court if Reggie Jackson or Jeremy Lamb are on the bench, Chris Paul & a healthy Jamal Crawford will eat that backcourt alive. In the frontcourt, Blake Griffin & Deandre Jordan can be a nightmare for Durant & Ibaka.
The Blazers, Warriors & Clippers Are All Almost Identical Teams.
The Blazers, Warriors & Clippers all pretty much play exactly the same way & I would group them all in together in that they are exciting & young, have great athletic skills & can surprise teams on a nightly basis, but I can’t see where any of these teams have the grit & desire to beat the Heat, Pacers, Thunder or the Spurs in a 7-game series. All can shoot like crazy, but while all of these teams play better defense than in years past, the Thunder & Spurs have proven that they can grind it out in low scoring games in a series, so I am going to have to dismiss these three squads.
What about the Houston Rockets & San Antonio Spurs?
These two teams are the two teams in the West that can give Oklahoma City a true run as well as beat the Heat or Pacers in the NBA Finals.
For the Rockets, Dwight Howard has improved leaps & bounds this season & has become a quiet, low-key superstar all year. He is averaging his usual double-double in points & rebounds, but he now has great talent around him that takes the pressure off on a regular basis. Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin, & James Harden make Howard’s life so much easier with their great shooting & exciting brand of basketball, which feeds perfectly into Howard’s high octane game on offense & defense.
|Dwight Howard has become one of the most dominant centers in the|
NBA over the last few years. The Houston Rockets will need every bit of Howard’s skill
to get through the West & on to the NBA Finals.
On the Spurs, its just being the usual slow, boring style that may not draw big ratings for the NBA, but it wins games & championships. With the experience of being Oklahoma City in the past in the NBA Playoffs, the Spurs will not be scared of any team, anytime. With Tim Duncan in San Antonio, the Spurs have 4 NBA Championships & have to be considered one of the greatest franchises in all of sports, not only the NBA.
The Rockets can win the NBA Championship based on the fact that they have the best mix of offensive proficiency & defense in the league, which includes the Miami Heat. On the defensive end, the Rockets would be just good enough to slow down the Thunder, Heat or Pacers.
The Spurs could give the Rockets a challenge because of Tiago Splitter & Tim Duncan working to take Howard out of the game & the combination of Tony Parker & Manu Ginobili being able to match up against Lin & Harden. In the forwards area, Danny Green & Kawae Leonard will get great matchups against Chandler Parsons & Terrance Jones.
The NBA Playoffs are shaping up to be some of the most exciting in many years, especially among the top teams in the league. I won’t make a prediction right now, but I do believe that at least the Heat & Pacers will make it into the East Finals & the Thunder & Rockets will be in the West Finals.
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