There are several “contenders” this year and even more teams that can pull off an upset in the NBA this season. The true “contenders” are the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Chicago Bulls, and the Miami Heat. There are teams like the San Antonio Spurs, and the Los Angeles Lakers who are not “contenders” but are definitely threats who would not surprise anyone by making it all the way to the Finals. Teams like the Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies, Denver Nuggets, and the reigning champion Dallas Mavericks are all teams that can upset any of the five previously mentioned teams.
In this post I am not talking about upsets, I am not talking about who will win it all, I am talking about who is the best team heading into the playoffs with less than three with left in the season.
The Oklahoma City Thunder in my opinion have the strongest trio in the NBA, no knock on the Miami Heat. The Thunder have two top 15 players with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant then they add the best 6th man in the NBA with James Harden, those three can easily put up 90 any given night. The Thunder also have some great defensive bigs in Serge Ibaka who is in the conversation to be the defensive player of the year and he has had the 17-foot jump shot to his game, they also have Kendrink Perkins who can clog the lane on defensive and is a great rebounder. The average age for the starting five of the Thunder is 23. That youth can make or break this team in the playoffs because if they run into the San Antonio Spurs their lack of experience can cost them the series, or their young legs can exhaust the elder Spurs. The addition of veteran and 5-time champion in Derek Fisher will be a big help this team when it comes to keeping their composure and he will help guide them down the road to the Finals. The Thunder have the best offense in the league but what concerns me about them is what if Kevin Durant has an off night? Russell Westbrook is not the most reliable and James Harden does not have the shoulders to carry this team.
The Miami Heat are definitely the scariest team in the NBA because the opponent must play as close to a perfect game to them as possible. A missed 3-pointer can lead to a fast break play for the Heat and then they have the momentum. The Heat are scary but very inconsistent and that is due to they can only depend on “The Big Three”; LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh on offense. They have four strong defenders in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, and Joel Anthony. Their biggest weaknesses are their bench, the point guard position, and the center position. The addition of rookie Norris Cole, veterans Ronny Turiaf and Shane Battier were huge boosts to their depth especially at that point guard position. With all of those problems the Heat are still no joke with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James being two top 5 NBA players and Chris Bosh being one of the best power forwards in the NBA. With the Heat playing in the Finals last year in a losing effort they may have a little more motivation this year and that makes them even more scary.
The Chicago Bulls are a true team. The Bulls have a superstar guard who can score anywhere on the court in Derrick Rose, they have probably the strongest bench in the league, a great rebounder in Joakim Noah, a great defender and perimeter scorer in Luol Deng, a good post-up power forward in Carlos Boozer who averages a double-double, and a great scoring veteran guard in Richard Hamilton. The Bulls currently have the best record in the league even though Derrick Rose has missed 18 games, and Richard Hamilton has missed 36 games. Last year the Bulls had the best record in the NBA also but the problem with the Bulls was they relied on Derrick Rose scoring so much to the point that teams were able to beat the Bulls by solely shutting down Derrick Rose. Last year the Bulls lost because they had Keith Bogans at shooting guard, although Bogans was an exceptional defender, he was a liability on offense, team left Keith Bogans to double-team Derrick Rose without a worry. This year with the addition of Richard Hamilton teams can’t double-team Derrick Rose with as much ease.
The Chicago Bulls are the best team in the NBA because they are the most complete team and they have depth at every position. The Bulls also have the reigning Coach of the Year in Tom Thibodeau, who might be the first coach int NBA history to win the award in two consecutive years.