Monday, April 23, 2012

Who has the best shot to win it all?

NBA Power Rankings: Best title chances?

(Note: These are not your typical power rankings. I am ranking who I believe has the best shot to win an NBA title, not necessarily who is best right now. For example I think the Miami Heat are the best team in the league, but I do not think they have the best shot to win the title.)

1) Chicago Bulls: A few weeks ago I said the Bulls had the best overall chance to win a title if Derrick Rose could prove to me he was healthy and ready to go. I believe now that he is, and all this rest he has been getting will be very beneficial to the Bulls. The Bulls look like they will finish with the 1 seed in the east, and have been able to rest a lot of guys down the stretch. Rose will be able to get back in the swing of things in the first round and should be fully healthy and back in game shape by round two. As long as he is healthy for the potential Miami series, the Bulls will be in good shape.
Key Player: Derrick Rose
Toughest Potential Matchup: Miami Heat

2)  Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant is back, and looks to be rested after missing a stretch of games in which it looked like the other Lakers were able to prove to Mr. Bryant they could shoulder some of the load off his back, and contribute down the stretch. With Dwight Howard out for the playoffs, Andrew Bynum is the best big man left playing, and along with Kobe and the upstart Metta World Peace (although his looming suspension will be something to keep an eye on) the Lakers have a veteran team that has the fire power to keep up out west. Sunday’s comeback win over the Thunder will provide the team with great momentum going into the playoffs. I love the Lakers going into the playoffs, but one thing the team needs is Andrew Bynum to dominate.
Key Player: Andrew Bynum
Toughest Potential Matchup: San Antonio Spurs

3) Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder have the best team equipped to win the title right now. Depth, talent, size, youth, and just enough experience to cause tons of problems for the veteran teams out west.  The biggest problem may be confidence. The team is faltering at the wrong time. I d think they would have beaten LA Sunday had James Harden stayed in the game, but that loss could be one that comes back and really hurts OKC.  Russell Westbrook really struggled and so did Kevin Durant. The team may not get home court and even worse may have to play the Lakers round two. This team needs to get its confidence back quickly, and its PG needs to get back to his all star form he had a few weeks back.
Key Player: James Harden (Health) Russell Westbrook
Toughest Potential Matchup: LA Lakers

4) Miami Heat: The Heat have more pressure than any team in the league to win this title. If LeBron James wins the MVP as expected, and does not win a championship he will be the first 3 time MVP to not win a title. We know the expectations for Miami will be high, the question is, are the Heat healthy enough to get the job done? Dwayne Wade is banged up, and a few of the role players are also battling injuries. The Heat, unlike the above contenders could have a tough series right off the bat with the potential matchup with the New York Knicks and Carmelo Anthony on the horizon. After that could be Indiana, a team that is great at home and would likely push Miami to at least a 6 game series if not 7. I believe Miami will have a tougher battle than last season and a big shakeup could happen this off season if the team does not get the job done.
Key Player: LeBron James
Toughest Potential Matchup: Chicago Bulls

5)  Los Angeles Clippers: Lob City. Excitement. Man the Clippers are a fun team to watch and with the potential series vs. the Grizz looming first round they will be pushed right off the bat. I think Chris Paul will be a difference maker and push the Clippers into the second round where they will be put into a perfect situation to pull the upset over the Spurs. This team is young and doesn’t have a lot of playoff experience, but with a guy like Paul leading the way I believe the Clipps will embrace this new opportunity. If you’re following me you can see what I see on the horizon. Battle of Los Angeles for the right to play in the NBA finals. The Clippers will need Blake Griffin to provide more than just a few highlight dunks but I believe he can deliver.
Key Player: Blake Griffin
Toughest Potential Matchup: Memphis Grizzlies

6) Boston Celtics: This team needs to get healthy, but as long as Rajon Rondo is at the helm they have a solid shot of making some noise in the East. The team should cruise by the Hawks first round and that would setup a potential matchup with the Bulls. I think Chicago would be too much for the C’s, but with Rondo you never know. KG looks like the guy the C’s got from Minnesota a few years back and Paul Pierce is still one of the best closers in the game. The Celtics have a lot of weapons, and are certainly on Miami and Chicago’s radar.
Key Player: Kevin Garnett
Toughest Potential Matchup: Miami Heat

7) San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs may get the number one overall seed in the NBA. Tony Parker could be a sleeper for the MVP. They are healthy, and Gregg Popovich has been able to rest his players. In a typical power ranking I may have the Spurs top 3. So why are the Spurs so low on this list? I just don’t see this old team getting by the Memphis/LAC winner. Both those teams’ posses’ very athletic deep rosters and I believe the Spurs could be in a lot of trouble round two. Tony Parker will have to continue his excellence and someone other than Manu Ginobili will have to score. If the Spurs can get by that round two matchup, they do have the tools to get by LAL or OKC.
Key Player: Tony Parker
Toughest Potential Matchup: LAC/Mem winner

 Other Potential teams: I don’t think any of these teams will win the title, but they do have an outside shot. Memphis just missed being on this list. I like their team a lot, but having to take out the Clippers and then the Spurs and finally the Lakers or OKC just to get to the finals is a huge task. Not having home court in any of those matchups could prove costly. At time of publish they still did have a shot at 4 seed and home court 1st Rd. They are one game back of LAC. The Knicks are a team a lot of people like, but there is no way they get by Miami and Chicago. Carmelo just doesn’t have enough help, and this team lacks the type of consistent D that a team needs t have in the playoffs. Indiana is a team I love in the East, but with D-Rose back and the fact the Pacers would have to beat Miami in Rd two and then the Bulls, I just don’t see it happening. If D-Rose remains banged up they are a sleeper in the East. They play great at home and always play Miami tough.

(Note) The Mavs are not the same team they were last season. They just don’t have it this year, and other than Dirk, there isn’t anyone on this roster that scares teams. I don’t see Dallas getting out of round 1.

My finals picks as of now (subject to change before the playoffs start Saturday) Are the Bulls over the Lakers in 7.

--Lee Kunkel


  1. Nice article, but everything is right except for the heat not being #1! All I your details are on point, and definitely analyzed every key thing for each team. However, the heat will live up to the almighty high expectations around the world!!! #LetGoHeat!

  2. Wade needs to be healthy. If he isnt they are in a lot of trouble. No doubt they have as good a shot as any, but until Miami proves me wrong I am going to bet against them. Last year there weren't many title threats that Miami had to go through. This year Miami could have a much tougher road. LBJ better step up and play like has in regular season.