NBA Power Rankings – Top 8
By Guest Blogger Tyler Daly:
With the NBA’s regular season quickly coming to an end, many teams and fans have begun to look towards the postseason and what it could hold for their respective squads. Everyone believes their team has a shot at the title, but how realistic are the expectations for the top teams? Here are the teams with the best shot at winning a championship:
1) Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers struggled by their own fans’ standards throughout the first half of the season, and there’s no mistaking that they didn’t look like the Lakers of old. But as many championship-caliber teams do, Los Angeles has turned up the intensity since the All-Star break, going 15-1 in that span. The Lakers have the deepest team in the NBA, and their physicality on the boards through Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum will pay dividends in the playoffs. They also have two things that no one else in the league has, Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson.
2) Chicago Bulls: The Chicago Bulls are peaking, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. With top MVP candidate Derrick Rose as their leader, the Bulls have climbed atop the Eastern Conference and shown everyone they are a force to be reckoned with. Rose does it all for them, attacking the basket, hitting jump shots, and dishing to Deng and Boozer. Joakim Noah gives them a great physical presence inside, something they will need to match up with Orlando or Boston in the playoffs. The only thing that seems to be a weakness for this team is their lack of outside shooting ability.
3) San Antonio Spurs: Despite dropping five straight, the Spurs still have the NBA’s best record at 57-18. The losing streak is mostly due to the injuries to Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli, a sign to some that this veteran squad may be slowing down. The Spurs are a nightmare offensively, dominating from the inside-out through Duncan and Parker. This is an experienced squad who has seen it all so don’t be surprised when they have a strong showing in the playoffs, regardless of where they finish in the Western Conference standings.
4) Dallas Mavericks: The Mavericks are arguably one of the deepest teams in the NBA this year, and they use their bench to the fullest. They share the ball extremely well, averaging a league-best 23.7 assists per game. Dallas is a group that consistently sees all five starters in double figures, as well as Jason Terry coming off of the bench as the league’s most valuable sixth man. Tyson Chandler has given the Mavericks a presence inside they have often lacked, and Dirk Nowitzki has proven he is not too old to carry this team. One large looming concern for Dallas is their recent playoff woes, with consecutive first round exits at the hands of the Hornets and the Spurs. A key factor will be the pending return of Caron Butler from a knee injury that has kept him out for most of this season.
5) Boston Celtics: The Boston Celtics are a team that somehow still flies under the radar despite their star-packed roster. Consistently they shake off attention near the end of the season by dropping easy games and “showing their age.” Forget about what you see and hear, Boston is more than ready to compete for another title. The C’s share the ball extremely well, especially through Rajon Rondo. He’s second in the league in assists, and has plenty of teammates to hook up with a highlight play. Don’t sleep on the Celtics, they will be ready come playoff time.
6) Miami Heat: The Heat have been in the spotlight from the first tip of the season and will remain there until their final buzzer sounds. When that will be is a hot button topic at the moment. Miami certainly has all the tools to win a championship on paper, but we all know games aren’t won on loose leaf. The trio of stars in South Beach have struggled against top talent across the league this season, especially when teams have forced them into the half court offense. Lebron James and Dwayne Wade have begun to show they can share the ball with each other as of late, but the lack of conversions in clutch situations has all Heat supporters nervous. Look for this team to wear down their opponents in a seven game series by slashing to the basket and getting out in transition.
7) Orlando Magic: Orlando is a team that has found themselves consistently on the cusp of winning a title. They have the most dominant physical presence in the league behind Dwight Howard and have great shooters all across the floor like Redick, Nelson and Turkoglu. Their defense is also ranked 5th in points allowed, so many are scratching their heads as to why this team can’t seem to get it done. A major hindrance for Orlando is their lack of a go-to scorer down the stretch. Thy have struggled in clutch situations, and after trading away key role players like Pietrus and Gortat, this team will need a little more than magic to seriously entertain title hopes.
8) Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder are the last team that any Western Conference foe wants to see in the playoffs. This extremely young squad, led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, plays with an incredible amount of energy and owns one of the best home court advantages in the league. This team can score in all ways, especially after acquiring Perkins from the Celtics. Teams have had success against the Thunder when they play physical, as these youngsters play a predominantly finesse style of play. Oklahoma City surprised many by pushing the Lakers to the limit in the playoffs last year, but a looming first round matchup with the new-look Denver Nuggets could prove troublesome for this inexperienced group.